You know how when we all started watching Game of Thrones, there was just that one character who made every single viewer feel stabby and punchy? Well… his wine slash justice has been served. If you haven’t seen last night’s episode, “The Lion and The Rose,” SPOILERS, obviously, but if you haven’t seen that episode yet, you kind of have no business being on the Internet at all.
And before we celebrate Joffrey’s disgusting, dead face (the makeup department really worked overtime on that one), let’s quickly cover the rest of the episode… because, actually, a shitload of stuff happened. This episode did a phenomenal job of getting through a ton of set-up that was actually fun as hell to watch – I don’t think I took a full breath for about an hour. Okay, let’s go.
Joffrey’s death wasn’t even the only shocking one in the episode – the opening sequence featured a woman being chased by wild dogs and then torn apart by them. Jesus. The sick mastermind behind this is, of course, Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton’s bastard and the horrifying psychopath who turned the proud Theon Greyjoy into the snivelling, dickless Reek. Speaking of Reek, Roose is home, and he’s not terribly happy that what could have been his best pawn versus the Ironborn has been reduced to rubble (and is missing a few fingernails and… other things). After Ramsay demonstrates exactly how much power he has over poor Reek (it goes something like this – “Hey, Reek, Robb Stark is dead, and he was basically a brother to you, plus my dad was the one who murdered him!” while Reek holds back tears, because Game of Thrones is a deeply fucked up show), Roose tells Ramsay to go take Moat Cailin from the Ironborn, and he’ll reconsider son-dom. I don’t know. That’s definitely not a word, but Ramsay’s a bastard (and therefore not a real Bolton) and he whines about that a whole lot.
Speaking of random death scenes, I guess we HAVE to see what Stannis is doing, and it turns out he’s burning his brother-in-law and a few other guys at the stake as human sacrifices (obviously under Melisandre’s watchful eye). This episode managed to pull off a near-impossible feat by actually making the Stannis scenes interesting, but that’s probably because Stannis was barely in them and didn’t say much. The real standouts here were his wife, Selyse, who took unbelievable pleasure in giving her brother to the God of Light, and his daughter, Shireen, who felt exactly the opposite right up until a cryptic midnight pow-wow with Melly. We still don’t know how that one ended up, but I can only hope Shireen isn’t on fire or covered in leeches. Melisandre isn’t exactly a blast to hang out with.
Other things that definitely happened: Bronn is teaching Jaime how to swordfight with his left hand, which will surely lead to a ton of excellent banter between the two of them. Tyrion tries to finally send Shae away to Pentos (really for her own safety), breaking both of their hearts, but Cersei and Tywin have other plans for her in the Tower of the Hand, which I’m where I’m guessing she’s hanging out for now. Bran finds the Heart Tree north of the Wall and gets a nice little clip show from the first three seasons, and then announces that he “knows where they need to go now,” and whatever whatever (the only thing right now that’s interesting about the Bran scenes is how freaking old Isaac Hempstead-Wright is looking these days). But enough about the rest of the plot – let’s get to the motherfucking wedding.
We knew that the wedding sequences were going to be opulent, extravagant, and above all, tense. These scenes were brilliantly shot and written (even though Martin should probably be at home focusing on The Winds of Winter instead of writing teleplays), and it’s been a long time since we had so many main characters in one room – and goddamn, was that delightful. The pre-wedding antics don’t even go down peacefully. Tyrion gives Joffrey a book, which he chops up with his new Valyrian steel, naming his new phallic symbol “Widow’s Wail” and reminiscing about chopping off Ned Stark’s head (which, you may remember, he definitely did not do himself – that would be Illyn Payne). The wedding itself goes without a hitch, even though Margery’s hair is so clearly full of secrets (seriously, her hair alone is taller than Joff), while Sansa murmurs to her husband, “We have a new queen.” Pragmatic as always, Tyrion replies, “Better her than you.” (It’s worth nothing that this whole wedding is the first time Tyrion and Sansa both act as friends towards each other – or, at the very least, are wholly sympathetic towards the other.)
Oh, and the reception? The reception is an absolute blast. Jaime tells Loras he’ll never marry Cersei, to which Loras spits, “and neither will you.” Oberyn and Ellaria, in between eying Loras like two hungry dogs, have a quick verbal sparring match with Cersei, who’s already wasted and is seriously pissed off (I guess being stripped of your Queen Regent title is a bitter pill to swallow) and is wandering around telling Brienne that she’s clearly in love with Jaime. Oleanna, playing with Sansa’s hair while lamenting Robb’s death and throwing out invitations to Highgarden, throws out a quick line about how horrible it is to kill a man at a wedding.
Joffrey, on the other hand, is in fine form. It’s only fitting that in the episode where he meets an extremely ugly end, he’s on his most barbaric behavior yet, and it’s directed squarely at Tyrion (and, by extension, Sansa). From the midget minstrel show, featuring the Lannister little person humping a Stark wolf’s head and a small Renly Barathon with his pants around his ankles, to Tyrion’s new job as cupbearer after Joffrey empties an entire cup of wine on his uncle’s head, Joffrey’s attacks and attempts are cruel and calculated, and not even the other characters are impressed. The only people left laughing besides Joffrey are Cersei and Tywin (plus Tommen, who’s presumably too young to know any better), and even Margery, always the social actor, can’t hide her disdain. It’s when Joffrey asks his uncle to put on a costume and “join in the fighting” that Tyrion seems to hit his limit, delivering a composed and carefully crafted speech about how the king should be the one doing the fighting, but he might want to “watch his virtue” with the performers. They’re interrupted briefly by a pie filled with birds, which Joffrey, of course, gives a solid whack with Widow’s Wail, but a few birds remain bloody in the pie, and if rain on your wedding day means bad luck, I’m guessing dead birds in the cake is even worse. The whole scene, masterfully acted by Gleeson and Dinklage both, truly comes to a head when Joffrey tosses his goblet and tells Tyrion to fetch it (which he does, with a kind assist from Sansa). Tyrion refreshes the wine, and it’s no time at all before Joffrey begins choking and spluttering, with his mother and uncle-father rushing to his side. (At least he died with his parents holding him, you guys. So sweet.)
This episode did an excellent job of giving us a ton of reaction shots during the wedding, which seems to name any number of people as suspects for Joffrey’s poisoning, but in a truly epic shot, a dying Joffrey accuses his uncle with his last breath as the camera pans to Tyrion, holding the poisoned cup and looking truly baffled. Everything that happens afterwards is a blur – Cersei screams to have her brother removed for uncle-killing-nephew-icide (I don’t have any idea what the term for that is, if it even exists, but it’s incidentally also regicide), and Ser Dontos, whose monologue from last week’s episode now makes sense, appears alongside Sansa and tells her to run with him now if she wants to live. The last shots, with Joffrey’s terrified, blue face, are as haunting as they are awesome – and I do mean “awesome” in both senses of the word.
I really only have one closing thought here – guys, this is only episode 2. Get ready.