The [CENSORED] is dead. Hooray!
If you’re able to read this, then congratulations! The internet hasn’t melted down where you are. Why would the internet melt? Because the moment pretty much everyone has been waiting for since the first episode of Game of Thrones has finally arrived: Joffrey Baratheon/Lannister is dead! Weddings in Westeros never do seem to go well, do they?
As tempting as it is to just leave the recap at that, it wouldn’t make for very interesting reading. Only The Lion and the Rose didn’t really show its quality until the very end: unlike season two’s Blackwater or season three’s The Rains of Castamere, it arrived with little fanfare and there was nothing to signal that Something Big was was going to happen. The episode itself was low-key and light on plot, with most of it essentially amounting to Joffrey being a vile little monster at his wedding. So, fairly standard for Joffrey then. The fact that he actually died at the end, especially this early in the season, was a big shock as a result – or at least, it was for those who haven’t read the books.
Credit to all concerned, especially the marketing department, for not giving the game away and letting the ending be the twist it deserved to be. It’s not The Rains of Castamere, but it’s still a very good episode, and it’s particularly impressive that it was so calm and uneventful for the most part to allow the shock ending to actually be a surprise. This is a show that’s built its reputation on epic drama, so having a quiet episode is an admirable risk to take.
As an honorary award for the past three seasons, Joffrey Baratheon wins the title of Most Odious Little Shit in all Seven Kingdoms. At the same time, Jack Gleeson wins the prize for Most Under-Appreciated Actor: it’s tough being in as great an ensemble as Game of Thrones has anyway, let alone when you’re playing the character everyone hates. When your character is as evil as Joffrey, the talent it takes to convey that evil can be forgotten in the hatred for the character, and Gleeson’s performance has been a masterclass since episode one. He’s turned in one of the most truly despicable screen villains in recent memory, and deserves a huge amount of praise for it. Game of Thrones will have to work hard to find another villain as compelling to take his place.
The focus of The Lion and the Rose, quite rightly, was very much on the fan-nicknamed Purple Wedding, but there were a handful of other things going on. While not new as such, a couple of scenes featured which don’t happen in George RR Martin’s books until much later, but have been moved forward here because the TV show has a policy against flashbacks. So, we briefly see Bran north of the Wall, and get to spend a little more time with Ramsay Snow, the Bastard of Bolton.
Considering Joffrey’s death, the Bastard’s scenes can’t help but feel like a preview of things to come: one hateful little tyrant may be dead, so here’s another. And he’s even worse. At least Joffrey tended to kill people quickly, rather than flaying them, gelding them and breaking them to his will, as Ramsay has done with Theon. In the deeply unpleasant opening scene, we see him hunting a girl through the woods and setting his dogs on her after she’s been shot through the calf. If they’re sticking to the books as far as Ramsay’s character goes, then Joffrey has nothing on him for pure, terrifying psychopathy.
Oberyn Martell gets a lovely moment where he gives Loras Tyrell a meaningful look across the wedding court, implying that the two of them have slept together. It’s completely in character for both of them and a really nice addition to the story. And it wouldn’t be right to not give Diana Rigg’s Queen of Thorns her due: she remains one of the most consistently fun characters on the show, and her ongoing war of words with Tywin Lannister is always thoroughly entertaining, especially considering that neither of them gets chapters from their perspective in the books.
On Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon and his retinue make their first appearance of the season, burning three people alive, including his brother-in-law, for not worshipping the Red God. His priest Melisandre gives Stannis’ daughter a brief talk about how the only real gods are R’hllor, the god of fire and life, and the Other, god of ice and death. Her speech outlining her beliefs occurs in rather different circumstances in the books, though since those particular events could easily still happen this season, they probably count as spoilers.
It would also be a spoiler to reveal who was behind Joffrey’s death, which makes allocating the points rather tricky. Still, in celebration of the death of the king everyone hated, Houses Stark, Baratheon and Targaryen can all have 20 points. Weddings are a time for generosity, after all.
Lannister: 10 / Stark: 20 / Baratheon: 20 / Targaryen: 20
This episode’s death toll was relatively modest compared to last week: one girl torn apart by dogs, three men burned alive, and one dead king. This brings our running total to 178, with The Lion and the Rose only contributing five – but, since one of those was Joffrey, it would be churlish to complain about the relative lack of blood this week.
All images: HBO