Published on April 16th, 2014 | by Bean0
Game of Thrones – Season 4 Episode 2 – ‘The Lion and The Rose’
WARNING – MASSIVE SPOILERS!!!
(Also, I have not read the books, so please do not post book spoilers in replies – thanks)
Hell’s Bells! In an episode quite literally peopled with psychopaths and abominable behaviour, The Lion and The Rose will be remembered mainly for it’s staggering denouement, which saw our very favourite baddy bite the big one. Yep. You very probably did not read it here first – King Joffrey is dead!
In the cold light of day I feel conflicted about this. I’m certainly delighted that GRRM can pull a classic Whedon on us yet again, and dispose of such a vital player; the mettle of any great drama lies in a true sense of jeopardy. The trick with jeopardy is that for it to have any meaning, we must care what happens to the characters involved. And here is my conflict; I care about his demise because I was so invested in it. Of course there is a certain amount of simple satisfaction inherent in the death of any great villain; I’ve been baying for Joffrey’s blood since before he beheaded Ned Stark. But I had a list of characters I wanted to do the deed, and I’m not sure any of them managed it! I imagine Ladbrokes have already got odds on “Who killed the king”. I’ll get to that in a moment, but first, here’s who I wished had…
Tyrion had plenty of reasons, not least that the King had tried to have him killed, though our hero would never stoop so low. Unfortunately, Tyrion is now the target of “Lady” (!) Cersei’s wrath, as it appears the cup he was made to bear held the poison. I thought it was in the pie myself… Arya has been fairly pinning her existence on avenging her father’s murder – I’m not sure if she’ll be happy he’s dead or just pissed she didn’t do the honours. The much maligned Hound could have run him through, someone ought to have paid Joffrey back for the terrible things he did to Ros and the prostitutes, and I was half hoping Tywin would at least give hime a good clip round the ear. But really Sansa had the most cause, as his ever-present victim – Joffrey’s glee at her perpetual torture was a throbbing vein of cruelty through the seasons, and I was hoping for a kick-ass moment from Sansa in recompense.
If this all sounds a little dark and brutal, well, that is what happens when you watch a non-stop double bill of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Life’s a bitch, now so am I.
And so to the whodunits… Prince Oberyn Martell seems like the obvious red herring, since he came steaming into the show last episode full of piss and vinegar, attacking, threatening, and generally posturing at any Lannister he met. I’d be surprised if it was him; poison from a noted warrior would be a bit lame. Also, I think he’d gunning for Tywin. Talking of… Tywin is a conundrum. I can see why he’s obsessed with wealth and power, as the son of a weak man who nearly bankrupted the family. I can even comprehend his horrible treatment of his children, who fall short of his impossible standards at every turn. But I cannot understand how he expects to rule over the seven kingdoms with fear and tyranny and not make an unmanagable number of enemies. Arrogant, yes, I get it. But he is also remarkably stupid for an intelligent man. Anyway, I digress..
The smart money in my house is on the Tyrells, who could have just pulled a masterful Check Mate. However, if Wikipedia is to be believed, since Joffrey and Margaery’s marriage was unconsummated, would she still be queen? I don’t think the uber-canny Olenna Tyrell is daft enough to have missed that small print if she was behind this, so perhaps not… The Fool, Ser Dontos seemed pretty in the know as he urged Sansa to get the frak out of there (what’s the betting she gormlessly did not leave?), but I would imagine him part of a larger conspiracy if he was involved. Varys could have played a sly card, as a Targaryen supporter, and his earlier protestations of a weak position could be a bluff, but…no, I don’t think so. I’m actually less interested in who killed the King, and more curious about what the ramifications will be… For what should be a ‘victory’ of sorts, I doubt it turn out rosy.
Aside from the distractingly vast events of the last thigh-squeezingly tense ten minutes, the rest of Ep 2 was pretty riveting. We got off to a chilling start, in what now seems like a set up for “Here’s your new favourite hideous lunatic” with Ramsey Snow and his vicious lady-friend out a-hunting some poor waif. “Reek” (Theon Greyjoy’s new pathetic alter-ego) bounds along in their wake, like the runt of the litter. Alfie Allen has done a great job of making such a contemptible man compelling; how will he let himself down this episode?! The razor blade scene is particularly gripping; Ramsey’s potty self-assurance even as he reveals Robb Stark’s murder to Reek is a sobering show of power to his father. Between Locke, Ramsey and his missus, it seems anybody connected with Roose Bolton is a horrendous wrong’un.
There is a brilliantly charged scene on the fly between Varys and Tyrion on the subject of Shae’s impending doom. Varys, for all his machinations and conniving ways, has proven himself a man of compassion and foresight lately; this is the second time he has attempted to urge Shae to safety. I think the damage is already done, and fear it is too little too late when Tyrion finishes with her; his insults stick in his throat, and she disbelieves them. He isn’t a good enough liar to convince her he means it, and whilst that makes the scene all the more heartbreaking, it imperils her further. Gods Tyrion!
Stannis steaks yet more of his “honour” on the dodgy Lord of Light with the sacrificial offering of his brother-in-law and two other nameless unfortunates, while Ser Davos looks on grimly. Tara Fitzgerald gives a queasy turn as his zealot wife Selyse (is everybody mad in this show?!) and Melissandre makes a smart move by beginning the indoctrination of their daughter Shireen. These scenes are all lovely character development, but I’m getting fidgety on Dragonstone; time for a move forward.
We also caught up with Bran and co. on their raven mission, the highlight of which was a vision at a Weirwood tree – this showed us a montage of past/present/future moments – most notably a dragon shadow over Kings Landing! Bring it oooooonnnnnnn! This led my better half to suggest a theory about Bran’s Warg-capabilities + the dragons in a combat situation which might surely prove pivotal if it comes true. I look forward to the show exploring Bran’s possibilities more and more. This information drip-feed strip-tease, hereafter known as a drip-tease, is tantalising and nicely mirrors the slow awakening of his powers.
On a final note, what I least expected was to be moved by Joffrey’s much longed-for death scene. I won’t lie – I was literally whooping as he choked to death (gods, that sentence is worrying), but as he lay dying in his mother’s lap, Jaime running to his side, it was their pain that leant it gravity. Tyrion noted early on that Cersei was a good mother, and she herself spoke of Joffrey’s charm as a baby. In their final moments together, he regresses to being powerless in his Mother’s arms once more. And I felt sorry for her. I expect I’ll miss Joffrey now. His worst scenes were like a torture-porn version of The Office – I squirmed but couldn’t look away. Of course, I came to love David Brent in the end. I won’t miss Joffrey that much, but he was a bloody great baddie.
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