Beware, big spoilers ahead.
There are game changing episodes in a season. Usually they happen right at a key moment. This week we were all cordially invited to the wedding of King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell but next week you might want to hold on to your invitations as they will probably be valid for the funeral of the recently deceased…
Let’s not jump ahead. This is Game of Thrones 4×02: The Lion and The Rose.
There was a hint of wickedness in the air already. I’m not talking about the opening scene in which Ramsay Snow and Myranda hunt down a girl followed closely by a broken down Theon Greyjoy, now named Reek. I’m talking about the fact that this episode was scripted by George R. R. Martin himself. That already made me think the game was afoot.
Ramsay is Roose Bolton’s bastard son, always trying to show his worth and earn his father’s favors. Breaking down Theon and turning him into a mentally traumatized slave he now calls Reek seems to have the opposite effect. Lord Bolton expected to trade the Greyjoy for Moat Cailin. Reek does reveal he didn’t kill Bran or Rickon Stark, which is a valuable piece of information. Locke, the same guy who cut off Jaime’s hand, is sent to hunt them down. Roose then offers Ramsay an olive branch: Take Reek and an army to recapture Moat Cailin for the Boltons. So ends another evening of the Bolton family quality time at Dreadfort. I guess Michael couldn’t make it.
Over in Dragonstone, self-proclaimed King Stannis oversees more non-believers getting burned at the stake in the name of the Lord of Light. Alongside for the fiery entertainment are his advisor, the priestess Melisandre, his wife Selyse and the reluctant Onion Knight, Sir Davos. Selyse is the zealot, speaking to anybody that will listen about her religious fervor. Nobody seems interested in listening. To quote the Hound from last week’s episode, she’s a talker. She’s also not shy about urging Stannis into turning their young daughter Shireen toward their religion by force. Stannis however will not allow her daughter be stricken by Selyse, but consents to Melisandre talking to her. After hearing the fanatic babble of Selyse, having Melisandre talk to the child is almost comforting.
North of the Wall, Bran is enjoying too much his skills as a worg. He’s woken up by Jojen and Meera who warn him that he might forget himself and his family if he stays as a wolf too long and force him to eat. Also, Hodor! They keep traveling up north until they see a tree with yellow leaves and a glow, with a wolf right next to it. The tree has a face on it. When Bran touches it, he gets a vision… A glimpse of his fall from the tower, Eddard Stark, the three eye crow and King’s Landing… with the shadow of a Dragon being casted upon it.
Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion is having a meal with his brother Jaime. He makes a toast to “the dwarf, the cripple and the mother of madness.” He also helps his brother Jaime out by offering him to train his left hand with Bronn in a secret place. Jaime could’ve really seeked out the services of Brienne for this one, but Bronn proves he’s up to the task since he doesn’t give a damn about lineage. Tyrion has another battle to fight. He has to break up with Shae and send her away to Pentos to prevent her from getting them both killed.
The wedding preparations are well on their way. Joffrey is the recipient of the other sword made from Valyrian steel by Tywin’s blacksmith. First thing he does is cut a book that Tyrion gives to him with the life of four of the wisest kings in Westeros. Really, Tyrion should’ve seen that coming a mile away. The marriage itself is a bit anti-climatic.
The wedding reception however is another story. Cersei subtly threatens Brienne against falling in love with Jaime. Jaime threatens Ser Loras against wedding Cersei. Ser Loras makes eyes at Prince Oberyn Martell and his paramour, who already subtly insulted Tywin and Cersei. It’s like a circle of life except with deep seething hatred.
Of course it wouldn’t be the same without King Joffrey. His Highness first spices up Ser Dontos turn as a fool by having people throw things at him. Then he throws money at a band of musicians that the newly appointed Queen Margaery was entranced with just to drive them away (the real-life musicians Sigur Rós singing “The Rains of Castamere”). Finally, he brings out a group of little people to reenact the Clash of Kings. I’ll spare you the description and say the book was better.
It’s all a planned insult for Joffrey’s own uncle, Tyrion, of course. Joffrey and Tyrion trade barbs for a while. Unable to out-quip Tyrion, Joffrey opts for emptying his goblet on Tyrion’s head and then demanding that he refill it. Tyrion attempts to reach for the goblet, but Joffrey drops it and then kicks it under the table. Sansa sighs, then ducks underneath the table and grabs the goblet, handing it to Tyrion. He finally fills up the goblet but now Joffrey wants him to kneel.
Margaery breaks the spell by announcing the pie is here. It’s actually a giant pie. Joffrey chooses to cut it using his new Valyrian sword which he has named… doesn’t matter. See the Hound in the last episode to hear about people who name their swords. Pigeons have been hidden inside the pie’s crust and fly away when it’s cut. We even get to see some dead pigeons that fell to his blade. Margaery then proceeds to feed Joffrey a piece of pie trying to steer him away from further confrontation.
Tyrion and Sansa get up to leave, but Joffrey still wants Tyrion to be his cupbearer. Tyrion starts to make excuses, but Joffrey…
Tyrion insists that Sansa is tired. King Joffrey insists they have to stay but can’t get the words out. He’s got to clear his throat.
Too much shouting. Or too much pie. Perhaps some wine to clear his throat. He empties his goblet.
Joffrey turns to Margaery. Tyrion seems concerned. We all are. What’s wrong, your Grace…
The King is unable to speak. Or this is an impromptu game of charades. How many words? Animal or mineral?
“He’s CHOKING,” screams Margaery.
Queen Margaery. Sorry, I forgot my manners for a second. Where was I? Oh yes, the King…
Joffrey stumbles down the stairs. Jaime pushes people out of the way. Olenna Tyrell scolds everyone, “Idiots, help your king!”
Ser Dontos reaches Sansa and whispers quickly to come with him. Sansa wisely follows.
Jaime gets there first, but it’s Cersei who the boy seems to really need. She reaches Joffrey, who has turned purple and red. His last act is to reach beyond his mother, to the spot were Tyrion is picking up the goblet that Joffrey has dropped. He raises his eyes to meet the vengeful stare of Cersei who commands the guards to seize him.
Tyrion, what were you thinking? You should not have been in the same zip code as the accursed goblet. So, what now?
Well, the reign of Joffrey is over. There will be a lot of finger pointing, but Cersei will not let Tyrion go. Everyone’s got something staked in this marriage. The Tyrells just got the crown. Prince Oberyn wants to kill everyone with the last name Lannister. As far as suspects go, you can practically include everybody in the list except for Cersei. Actually, you could include Cersei too. Book readers, zip it (yes, I’m a book reader too).
Since George R. R. Martin wrote the script for this week’s episode, we know that this one has to come straight from the books. According to The Hollywood Reporter, director Alex Graves said: “I tried to shoot it and then edit in such a way that if they reveal later in the season who did it, that it makes sense.”
Highs: I don’t think that killing Joffrey is necessarily a high. It’s just necessary at this point. We’re talking about a character that has been portrayed as hateful and spiteful for three season. It is high that he’s gone though because at this point, it’s a scramble. Power has shifted away from Casterly Rock (The Lannisters) and towards Highgarden (The Tyrells). This makes the game that we’ve been playing so far move and that means the lull is gone. Joffrey was not going to evolve into anything else at this point. This also puts one of the audience’s favorites in danger. Tyrion is not getting freed here. Cersei will have him executed by any means and regardless of whether he’s guilty or not. So the shift in power that is born from this death is extremely meaningful.
This also means that the Lannisters, who up until now had enemies lurking in the shadows will have to watch their backs. Their grasp on the Iron Throne has started to slip. That’s the biggest high of this episode, not because I particularly hate the Lannisters but because the status quo has been broken and it’s anybody’s game now. That makes for more entertaining episodes and a better season.
Also, Bronn telling Tyrion to drink until he thinks he’s done the right thing. Olenna telling Mace Tyrell to buzz off while talking to Tywin. Brienne being the only honorable character and not answering Cersei’s suggestion that she’s in love with Jaime, although she all but confirmed it with that stare.
Lows: Most of the episode is paced slow, but I enjoyed it. Okey, maybe having to look up the name Margaery. Perhaps I’ll do a ‘hardest name of the week’ feature. I would also add that Shae was shipped away too quickly, but all signs point to that not being a fait accompli. You’d think that the biggest low is that I already know what happened, but the series adds so much to the story with visuals and hidden gems that it’s an entirely new experience on its own.
Alternate Titles For This Post That I Didn’t Use: The Lion Sleeps Tonight. It’s Not Always Good To Be The King. One Wedding and A Funeral. A Lannister, A Tyrell and A Martell Walk Into A Wedding Reception.
Anybody got a lozenge? My throat is killing me…
That will do for now.