Game of Thrones: The Lion and the Rose

“There’s only one hell, Princess. The one we live in now.”*

A few weeks ago, I was putting together the schedule for this, our first multi-reviewer season of Game of Thrones. I was very proud of letting someone else take the ninth episode (have fun, Mark!), and I’d originally assigned myself to the season premiere, but Juliette asked to swap for scheduling reasons. “Sure,” I said then. And now I say: “Hee hee hee” and blow a raspberry in her general direction. Look what I got!

I mention all that for two reasons. Mostly, to fill the first paragraph with non-spoilery material for the site’s front page. But also because this episode had an exciting event that radically rewrites the political landscape of Westeros. And it’s only the second episode—I had expected Joffrey’s death to come much later in the season.

The “Purple Wedding,” as it’s known by fans, will likely impress newbies for the simple delight of watching that smarmy little brat Joffrey finally get his comeuppance. Although one reviewer opined that our desire to see Joffrey dead makes us little better than the death-dealing villains of Westeros, I think we enjoy watching someone like Joffrey die because his death shows there is some small accountability in this terrible world.

Once you know what’s coming, though, the real pleasure of this episode is the lead-up to the death scene. The feast was a series of small interactions between various characters who had not met or spent much time together before. Tywin and Oberyn were a pleasure to watch, and Cersei stayed true to form by attempting to subvert Margery’s desire to feed hungry people and insult the Maester in the same conversation. Brienne’s small scene was fascinating: her speech to Joffrey and Margery was so earnest, but Joffrey didn’t let her finish, and she was quickly outmaneuvered by Cersei, who is foolishly jealous of Brienne’s friendship with Jaime.

The wedding feast wasn’t all cocktail-party poinards, though. It also reminded us that Joffrey is not only a sadist and a psychopath, but an unsubtle one at that. The show opened with a Ramsey Snow scene, which forces a comparison: Ramsey is more than a less-privileged Joffrey. Ramsey likes pain and the thrill of inflicting it; he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, either. But he shows more political and personal acumen than Joffrey ever would. Joffrey was a rather dumb psychopath who likes to break people. Ramsey knows how to break a man and then rebuild him. Joffrey is the sort of idiot who insults someone and then explains the insult (“It wasn’t meant as an honor”). The sort of idiot who slaughters a book and then names his sword.

Joffrey’s clumsy cruelty was difficult to watch, especially the performance of little people reenacting the war of the five kings. That vicious spectacle allowed us to see so much about individual characters, though: future-king Tommen laughing with youthful and thoughtless pleasure until he meets Tyrion’s eye. Margery attempting to weave the peace and struggling with maintaining self-control. Tywin eyeballing Cersei, whom he blames for Joffrey’s character. Most of all: moments later, Sansa handing Tyrion the goblet, her first—and last?—act that shows they have more in common than Sansa had heretofore been willing to admit.

That goblet is an object of some interest, given that we don’t know who killed King Joffrey. Did Sansa put poison in the goblet before she handed it to Tyrion? Did Margery sneak it in there after Joffrey put it down to insult his uncle? Did Tyrion slip a poison pill into the goblet as he poured the wine? Did Oleanna eyeball the goblet like she knew something, or was she just looking disdainful and snarky? Cersei certainly has an opinion. I wonder how that will work out for Tyrion.

Of course, Joffrey’s death wasn’t the only event in this episode. Tyrion and Jaime had some wonderful brotherly moments. We don’t often see those two together, but their interactions had that easy, untroubled quality that most sibling meals do. Most siblings in Happyos, the Westeros bizarro world, that is. In Westeros, you might wind up with Cersei as a sibling, in which case it’ll be a drunken incestuous debauch that winds up with something getting fed to the hounds as Loras and Jaime bicker about their pretty sisters in the background.

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• *That asterisk at the lede quote exists to remind you that life is pain, your highness, and anyone who tells you differently is selling something.

• I don’t have much to say about Theon/Reek, but I do find it comical that the show is still cutting from his face to someone else eating a sausage, just like they did last year. I wonder if that sausage had more taste than the joke?

• I can’t remember if the show has directly addressed this, but did you notice Lord Bolton’s plump wife? Lord Frey gave him a choice of wives, promising to provide her with a dowry of equal weight in gold. Bolton chose well.

• Margery chose less well, at least in terms of stylists. Her up-do was a little too stripper-at-the-prom for my taste.

• Tywin and Oleanna should have more scenes together.

• I hope Pod and Loras both get a chance to hook up with Oberyn and Ellaria.

• So, Stannis burns people and “hate[s] a good many things, but…suffer[s] them all the same” and Bran is seeing visions. Check and check.

• Here’s Sigur Ros’s version of “The Rains of Castemere”

Four out of four goblets.

Reminder: The comments on this episodes are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our new Season Four spoiler thread.

Josie of Kafka reviews The Diaries of Vampires, Detectives of Truth, Game of Thrones, and various other Things of Fun. She is a full-time Servant of Cats and part-time Hunter of Rogue Demons. Inspired by the epic success of George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire, she will now refer to all things as the [noun] of [nouns].


sunbunny said...

Olenna Tyrell is the only person in Westeros able to go toe to toe with Tywin Lannister. LOVE her. Between her and Oberyn's incredible unsubtle dig at the Lannisters, it was a very snarky episode.

Totally agree about Margaery's hair. She usually looks so pretty. :/ I loved watching her face during the feast. Barely containing her resentment of her new husband. Also, my favorite line of the episode: "Look! The pie!"

Can we just take a minute to appreciate Lena Headey? Her grieving mother face actually made me sad about Joffrey's death for a minute. That takes some doing as he was a psychopathic sadist I continually wanted to punch.

Great point about Ramsey and Joffrey. Perhaps the difference is that Joffrey, being a prince, was given so much false validation whereas Ramsey is a bastard and had to work hard to gain renown as an evil genius. Ramsey. *shudders* Alfie Allen does such a great job as Reek. He is breaking my heart.

Colin Peabody-Verteuil said...

Well, I'm still the only one but I cried and cried for Joff. Mainly because he was such a great character, but also because that means we're losing Jack Gleeson who has been consistently INCREDIBLE as an actor (and a human being, as well.)
And to think some book readers were worried the dwarf joust wouldn't be included for time! (Myself included.) Not only was there dwarf jousting, but George made it five times worse by mocking absolutely everyone. I can never unsee Dwarf-Stannis riding that Melisandre. Never.

Morgan India said...

Colin, you're not the only one. I had to hold in my tears while I was at work today while Sunny kept laughing at me over Twitter.

Colin Peabody-Verteuil said...

Oh, thank God! Didn't it feel like the whole of Twitter was laughing at us, though?

Freeman said...

Sad to see Jack Gleeson go, glad to King Buttface go. That whole feast was an incredibly tense event. I knew the hammer had to drop at some point, but I don't know why poison didn't occur to me at the time. It's kinda awkward asking "whodunnit" when so many read the book. But I guess I'm putting my money on Sansa, though I'm not ruling out some hidden shadowy figure.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but poor Theon. He's practically subhuman now man. Kudos to the actor for making a character I found rather insufferable into a convincingly sympathetic figure.

By far the worst thing in the episode was the scene where Tyrion finally "gets the message across" to Shae. The dialogue felt clumsy and Shae's "reaction" felt so fake. Is it possible for someone to be as dense as her? Is she that stupid in the books? I remember people being excited about her being introduced on the show but I could never stand any scenes with her in it. She just ended up being an unnecessary liability for Tyrion.

Lena Headey really sold that scene with Joffrey man. Both characters are absolutely terrible people, but I still felt bad seeing her mourn her son that way. I'm sure Cersei will take this whole sequence of events with grace and poise. She wouldn't attempt to do something extreme out of spite and rage would she? Nah.

That Lord of Light gets stuff done man. What is that like two out of three now?

Jess Lynde said...

I was starting to get concerned we were going to run out of time for the main event. But then Margaery announced the arrival of the pie and I started hooting "Yea! The pie! The pie!" I always remember the arrival of the pie as the beginning of the end for Joffrey.

I think my favorite part of this one was the reaction shots during the 'War of the Five Kings' reenactment. In particular, that hollow, traumatized look on Sansa's face, and the way the others seemed to be reacting to her. So haunting.

I was rather amused that they recast Tommen with the same kid that played one of the young Lannister cousins murdered by Karstark last season. At least we can chalk it up to Lannister family resemblance, right? :)

I'm not convinced Shae got on that boat. Bronn is well established as a guy who cares about coin more than loyalty (which they reinforced with his sparring with Jaime). If Tywin or Cersei were willing to pay him more than Tyrion, he'd sell him out in a heartbeat.

Paul Kelly said...

Yeah, Bronn was particularly careful not to actually say that he'd seen the boat leave with Shae on-board. Potentially, she could still be around. I'd like to believe she's cleverer than we give her credit for and that she didn't fall for Tyrion's 'whore' speech.

And although I loved seeing King Shit-head bite the big one, far more interesting to me was the guests' expressions throughout. There was only Cersei who seemed genuinely happy to be there. Even Tywin looked pissed off.

And, as was the case with others, I found Sansa's reaction to the re-enactment the most affecting. Joffer's really did try to be wise at the beginning, but his nature got the better of him half way through, and by the time his eyes were bleeding and his face covered in vomit, there was no doubt that he was an utter monster deserving of his fate. Great job by Jack Gleeson. I hated Joffrey with a passion, but the show will be the poorer for his absence.

Luce said...

Sadly for me, I'd gotten spoiled for three events that are due to happen this season (I haven't read the books). The first one being, of course, Joffrey's death. I didn't expect it to happen during his wedding. That said, as soon as he started acting like the brat he was, gunning for Tyrion, and laughing at what has got to be one of the most awkward "reenactments" at a Westeros wedding, I knew he was done for.

I really don't know how to feel about everything that's happening at Dreadfort. Ramsey is horrible, Theon is a character I never really warmed up to (though his fate after being captured by Ramsey, and I'm nowhere near rooting for Lord Bolton. By the way, yes, Lord Bolton does mention that he picked the wife he did because Frey promised to give him his wife's weight in gold. IIRC, he mentions it in either ep. 7 or 8 of Season 3.

Who I *am* worried about is Stannis' daughter. Melissandre caught on how important the little girl is to Stannis. I hate to think that any harm came to her.

The scene between Jamie and Tyrion was great.

Many props to Oleanna and Tywin hanging out at the wedding. Their vibe was very frenemies with a lot of sympatico.

I'm worried about Sansa and Tyrion, of course. Wish I could muster some of that towards Shae. Truthfully, I don't know why her characterization suffered so much in Season 3. Her behaviour as far as going against Tywin is tremendously naive.

Glad to see that Bran and co. have a bit of direction as to where to go. Though, now that Lord Bolton knows the truth as to the fate of the younger Stark boys...

Don't know how, but I'm finding myself rooting for Oberyn and Ellaria. I love a potential villanous couple who can back up their threats. (BTW, Josie, I'm totally seconding your idea of Oberyn and Ellaria spending some "personal time" with Podric and Lloras.

Great episode. I can't wait where it's going to take us next!

Heather said...

Everyone's covered pretty much everything...
Great review, Josie.
Have you seen that those who haven't read the books are now being called 'The Unsullied?" Oh boy.
Thanks for including the Sigur Ros clip... a nice touch. :) They also made an appearance at the wedding and it was uncanny how perfectly they fit in.
What struck me about the wedding, was that those random, fumbled somehow remarkable interactions are exactly how weddings are! What a brilliant use of the hulking 32 pages of the script dedicated to that one event.

Barbara Klein said...

I believe it was at the Red Wedding where Bolton talked about his wife to Catelyn Stark.

However, it was the wife's weight in silver, not gold.

Juliette said...

Josie, I hadn't thought about the differences between Ramsey and Joffrey that way before, that's so true - Ramsey is evil but very clever (perhaps even more so in this TV version and in this scene? He did make a pretty stupid mistake when he castrated Balon's heir, but came across as pretty bright otherwise).

Was anyone else slightly disturbed by the implication that torture works though? Perhaps that's something that will be dealt with later in the series. And it does give them a new plot with Ramsey chasing Bran and Rickon.

RIP Joffrey. Jack Gleeson will be missed :)

ChrisB said...

I don’t watch this show, but even I know what happened during this episode. TVLine gave Jack Gleeson their Performer of the Week for it.