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].
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