by Matthew Thompson (Images from HBO. The Game of Thrones site can be found here)
For three seasons now Game of Thrones has developed a pattern of unleashing the biggest events of the season in its ninth episode. Of course, plenty happens all season, but I do think it helped add to the shock value of last night’s episode since Joffrey’s death certainly feels like Episode 9 material. This also speaks to the kind of packed season this is going to be, the obvious result of focusing on the second half of one of the novels. There is less buildup this year and climaxes should be peppered throughout the whole season.
It’s hard to not start with how things ended. Another wedding in Westeros and another death. This time it’s King Joffrey Baratheon. He goes in quite the gruesome manner too. I loved the makeup work they did on his face during his final moments going almost purple (like the fan-coined nickname for this Royal Wedding) with blood trickling from his orifices. As someone who read the books, it is hard to not compare big show events to the source material and I feel like they did this one justice. Before he went out, Joffrey was certainly in rare form. From the tasteless dwarf re-enactment of the War of the Five Kings to his constant badgering of his uncle throughout the day, George R.R. Martin (who penned this episode) made sure no one was going to feel bad for him on his way out even having him finger fan-favorite Tyrion for his death in his final moments. And it is enough for Cersei to have Tyrion taken away for the crime of Kingslaying.
This was certainly a more enjoyable death than last year’s gut-wrenching Red Wedding that saw many of the Stark family perish. But with it goes the wonderful performance of Jack Gleeson. He played the evil boy king with a touch of madness to a tee bringing the character to life on-screen exactly how one would hope. I still remember all his terrible deeds. One small moment that comes to mind is him gleefully hopping into the room to deliver the news of Robb Stark’s death to Tyrion in last year’s finale. And that was true of many of his worst moments. Joffrey enjoyed being an asshole and Gleeson is part of the reason we all hated him so much and can revel in his demise now.
Of course, Joffrey’s death wasn’t all that happened at the wedding. Besides him being a world-class prick leading up to his final moments, the show took the opportunity to check in with the Royal gathering’s many guests. Cersei tears down Maester Pycelle and questions Brienne’s relationship with Jaime. Jaime warns Loras about marrying Cersei and Loras gets in a burn with the line, “And neither will you” (you know Jaime is out of sorts if Loras is getting some digs in on him). Last week I talked about what a big fan I was of Oberyn’s introduction and his short scene with Tywin this week was another winner. They exchange thinly-veiled words while at the same time shedding a bit more light on the difference between Dorne and the rest of Westeros (like their treatment of bastards and women). And as someone who knew Joffrey’s death was coming it was fun to see all the little machinations leading up to it, even those before this week. I could see the wheels turning and appreciated the attention to detail by the writers.
Two other key things happen in King’s Landing outside of the wedding. Knowing his family is onto Shae, Tyrion puts together his most asshole-ish speech so he can send her packing to Pentos where she can continue to live even if he can’t be with her. Tyrion also helps set up Jaime with a new sparring partner in Bronn, so that Jaime might be able to learn to fight with his left-hand. There is some great potential with this pairing. Two of the show’s funniest characters trading barbs between blade swings could be a ton of fun. It was also great to see Tyrion and Jaime share a scene. They have an interesting bond, but events have kept them apart for most of the show’s run.
Elsewhere, we check in with the three storylines that were absent in last week’s premiere to varying results. With Joffrey dead, I feel the Boltons, Ramsey in particular, will now wear the crown for most hateable characters on the show. In the opening scene of the episode, we see Ramsey Snow hunting down a girl fleeing for her life before sicking his dogs on her. This along with a later scene shows just how much he has broken Theon. The best part here is when he proves to his father just how loyal his new toy is, letting Theon shave him while breaking the news that Roose killed his almost-brother Robb. He also gets Theon to reveal that Bran and Rickon Stark are alive and headed North. From here Roose sends Locke to track them down and Ramsey to take Moat Caitlin which is held by the Ironborn and a key to taking over the North.
We also get a brief scene with Bran, the Reeds, Osha and Hodor north of The Wall. Jojen warns Bran of staying too long in Summer’s skin, but the big moment of this part of the show are Bran’s visions. A number of visions play out in Bran’s head as he touches a Weirwood tree. Visions and dreams are important in the world of Game of Thrones often revealing future events in one way or another. Bran sees scenes from the past like Ned sharpening his sword and him locked up in the cells below the Red Keep before his death. He sees the three-eyed raven and hears where he is supposed to head next. More interesting to me were a couple grander visions of the future. One saw a dragon’s shadow being cast on King’s Landing as it flew overhead. The other showed a destroyed, snowy throne room, a vision that Daenerys also saw in The House of the Undying back in the Season 2 finale. I love stuff like this and it makes me excited for what they might mean for the future of the series.
The lowpoint of the episode for me was the bits surrounding Stannis, Davos and Melisandre at Dragonstone. Stannis is burning members of his wife’s family for their worship of the Seven (or perhaps disobeying orders I guess) and Mel is talking to Stannis’ daughter Shireen about The Lord of Light. Oh and there is an awkward dinner as well. It felt like a perfunctory check in on one of the series’ characters. The show’s portrayal of Stannis continues to fall flat for me and Davos didn’t even get any moments to shine this episode. I am hoping they can turn things around for Stannis’ character this season because I remain sort of baffled at what they are doing with him here.
A few more things:
- Scene of the Week: It has to be the Joffrey death scene. Not only is it satisfying to see him bite it, it is incredibly well done. It looked brutal.
- When I first read it, I was a little disappointed a Stark hadn’t cut him down. I think most people probably wanted to see Robb initially get revenge on Joff. My hopes then shifted to Arya in perhaps a sneakier kill down the line. But I guess this is kind of how things go in this world. Not the cliché way and I love it for that too. I do hope for some direct Stark on Lannister revenge at some point though.
- I guess because Ilyn Paine’s actor is very sick, they subbed Bronn into the role of Jaime’s sparring partner. In the books, he chose Ilyn because he wouldn’t talk (since he can’t). Bronn will be much different obviously, but I see this as a good potential change if for very unfortunate reasons.
- I found the wildfire part of the dwarf show to be pretty clever. Got to give them some credit there.
- “Now go drink until it feels like you did the right thing.” Sounds about right Bronn.
- “Not now Mace, Lord Tywin and I are speaking.” Olenna and Tywin share a bond in their joy of dumping on their children.
- The Sigur Ros cover of “The Rains of Castamere” is pretty awesome though I feel like the song is losing some of its punch at this point.
- Missing in Action this Week: No Dany, Arya, Jon or Ygritte. Not the best trade-off when compared to last week, but I appreciate them not trying to cram every character in every episode. And I did like the Bran scene for those visions at least.
I didn’t love all the scenes outside of King’s Landing. Theon’s storyline to this point in the show has been my least favorite (though this week’s did have some purpose) and the show still struggles with its portrayal of Stannis, but the “Purple Wedding” and all that surrounded it more than makes up for those less desirable storylines. It also throws the whole world of the show into upheaval. The death of Joffrey may have been enjoyable for those of us who have grown to loathe him over the years, but it will also shake things up in King’s Landing and have ripple effects throughout Westeros. This means that despite the big moment here, the rest of the season is sure to be full of excitement. And there is no arguing that it is off to one hell of a start.
What did you think of the Royal Wedding and the episode as a whole? Were you happy with the way Joff went out? Who do you think was behind his death (fellow book readers keep quiet on this)? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be back with a review of Episode 3 next Monday. Thanks for reading!