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Episode 2 - The Lion and the Rose

16 April 2014

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Ramsay demonstrates to Lord Bolton that Theon is now thoroughly broken in as Reek. Bolton gives orders to drive the Iron Islanders from Moat Cailin and track down Bran and Rickon. Tyrion sends Shae away to Pentos and gets Bronn to help Jaime learn to fight left handed. Bran is spending more time inhabiting Summer. He touches a Weirwood tree and learns where they must go next. Stannis burns more of his people. Melissandre is sent to talk to his daughter. Joffrey and Margaery get married. Afterwards all manner of entertainment takes place along with much tension as various characters interact. Joffrey takes his torment of Tyrion to another level but after eating his wedding pie he collapses in agony and dies.

The Good: I guess two things are very clear after this episode. One is that we know why last episode was designed to get everyone oriented and on the same page. And the second is that Game of Thrones  really is going to avoid anything that even resembles predictability or trope. If Arya had gone with Jaqen H'ghar, spent a decade in Bravos learning how to change her face, joined the King's Guard and then one day cut Joffrey's head off it would have been pretty satisfying. But even that series of events was too straightforward for George R R Martin to comprehend. We may all be about to be tested as to how far we can accept a narrative that lurches far away from expected results.

For now though I am extremely satisfied. Obviously any wedding sequence was going to be tense after what happened last season. But this had quite a different effect on me. At the Red Wedding I had a sense of unease but no idea the extent of horror the show was capable of. Now I was so hyper-aware of it that every single conversation that took place reverberated with tension. Was Shae going to reappear? Were Loris and Oberyn going to start shagging behind the marquee? Was Pycelle going to be executed on the spot? All manner of craziness seemed possible given how well the character conflicts have been established and obviously just how consequential the Red Wedding was.

Instead it was Joffrey tormenting Tyrion that began to emerge as the focal point. Was Tyrion going to snap? Or was Joffrey about to kill him? With Tywin and Cersei refusing to intervene it seemed for a moment like the worst might happen. Instead Joffrey is gone and a major thorn in the side of pretty much everyone is swept aside. Once again my mind is blown by what exactly is going to happen next. Or more to the point who did it? Other than the Tyrells and his own parents (who emotively end up as the ones cradling him) almost everyone has a motive for killing him. Even Tywin, though that seems far fetched. Ser Dontos seems to be involved but surely he can't be behind the whole thing can he? Surely the necklace didn't infect Sansa in some way that her merely holding the goblet could poison Joffrey? It seems more likely the pie was poisoned which makes it much harder to easily establish who did it. And amidst all the wild speculation one has to think of Melissandre right? She put leeches on Gendry and then tossed them into the fire. One for Robb, one for Joffrey and one for Balon. If I were Balon I wouldn't think about getting remarried anytime soon.  

All of that speculation is just to give you a taste of my thought process and to confirm what a great job this episode did of delivering another shocking twist with far reaching consequences. I really enjoyed the portrayal of Joffrey as the sadistic prankster. He is Caligula come to life, a sociopath with desperate insecurities who is suddenly handed absolute power. His decision to have the little people mock his enemies in front of the Tyrells and Sansa was exactly the kind of tasteless pantomime he would delight in. Seeing everyone's sickened reactions was tremendous and Margaery was put in a fascinating position as she tried to rein him in while sounding positive. Poor Tyrion's attempts to maintain his dignity were emotive and as a viewer I really absorbed the sense of powerlessness of those standing next to the King.

The theme of powerlessness was carried very strongly in the Theon story too. His terror at being tortured any more has reduced him to nodding servitude even when holding a sharp blade to Ramsay's throat. You can see he hasn't lost the sense of who he used to be and his despair at the news of Robb's death. But he is hanging on to life as best he can. Another mirror to this scenario was Varys coldly telling Tyrion that he would betray Shae if Tywin asked him because he would lose his own life should he play favourites.

Back at the wedding I was a big fan of almost every interaction, right down to Pycelle sleazing around another woman. Cersei's fury at Margaery courting the people, Oberyn poking the Lannisters hard with his disgust, Loras eyeing up the Dornish Prince and brushing Jamie off and Lady Olenna reminding Tywin of his debts to the Iron Bank. As I said earlier every interaction was pointed and interesting and carried the potential for disaster. The depth was truly impressive.

Tyrion being forced to drive Shae away was very sad, though I suspect we haven't seen the last of her. I really liked that Jaime could be honest with Tyrion in a way we've only seen him be with Brienne so far. And of course Bronn is a delight as he helps Jaime learn how to fight again. Bran's vision at the Weirdwood tree was interesting and used imagery that Daenerys saw at the House of the Undying. Finally I thought the direction of the opening sequence was excellent. We hear the laughs of joy from Ramsay and his girlfriend and assume that some pleasant scene has begun only for the true misery of what was on display to come fully into view.

The Bad: Nothing as such.

The Unknown: As I did after the Red Wedding I think it's worth asking the question of whether we've lost something by losing Joffrey? I felt there was a fascinating showdown with Tywin coming one day, long before Arya or Jon or Daenerys could get to him. Perhaps this twist will only deepen my appreciation for the narrative but we should acknowledge the possibility that it won't. If the Gods or the Lord of Light or fate or medieval realities or just George R R Martin's refusal to be predictable have robbed us of satisfaction, is that a good thing? We shall see.

Brienne's inability to answer the question which Cersei poses her (whether she loves Jaime) was an interesting moment. In another show it would have been obvious that Brienne did have feelings for him. But here she has a dozen reasons not to answer the question including the issue of whether she knows about Jaime and Cersei. She must have heard the rumours. And from what point of view is Cersei coming from? Is she jealous? Is she looking to fob him off on someone else or use this against him? Intriguing stuff.

So Tommen would now become King right? He is even younger than Joffrey and so this should put Tywin in an even more powerful position as he can rule without the irritation of keeping his mad Grandson happy. Plus Cersei will now be back at the forefront of events as Tommen will rely on her for advice and presumably Margaery will no longer be needed.  

I will need someone at Dragonstone to mention the call to head north to the Wall soon. It was the concluding note of last season and even if I swallow the fact that every other Lord in Westeros is ignoring this summons I can't let Stannis be silent on the matter much longer.

Best Moment: I was really conflicted in the moment of Joffrey's choking. I was genuinely pleased that he might be about to get a richly deserved painful death. But I was also sad at the thought that simple poison would do what a righteous sword could not. Still it was a shock and a massive moment for the show.

Conclusion: A superb episode of television, so rich and dense that I feel mentioning every moment I liked would become unreadable.

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  • I feel like I noticed several shots that were there to show us that there are a number of possible suspects and set it up as kind of a whodunit, and I plan on rewatching later. One that was definitely apparent that someone else noticed was a single second close up of the cake after Joffrey cut it with the sword, where you could see what I assumed to be blood from a bird spilled on it. I also noticed that Margery immediately started feeding it to Joffrey without eating any herself, which raised my eye a little even before he died. If she knew he would die quite suddenly then she would know that no one else would be able to eat the cake before he succumbed. She did seem shocked when he started choking but as we know Margery is a capable actress, and it is quite possible that the tyrell's have been playing a long con on the lannisters. The other shot I noticed right away, however, was when Joffrey kicked his cup under the table. We saw Sansa hand it to Tyrion but we didn't actually see her pick it up with her hand. This along with the moment the fool approached her in the chaos and told her to leave makes me see her as one of the prime suspects. I am split 50/50 between her and the tyrells. I am also now thinking of the several times the queen of thorns pointed out that her family paid for all of the refreshments, which would give them the opportunity to arrange for caterers to bring poisoned food or drink anywhere. There are more things I need to find out, like whether or not Margery keeps her position of power now that the king is dead or if the tyrells could've just been attempting to send a damaging blow to house lannister so that they could become the most powerful family in westeros. My head is telling me it was the tyrells but my gut is telling me it was Sansa, and that somehow Jamie will learn of this and then we will get to see if he will if his oath to catelyn and brienne to protect her is the one he is finally unwilling to break. But for all I know it could have been Lord Tywin, the Dornish prince, or even an angry maester who decided to take out one of his poisons after his life was threatened. In any case, this was a brilliant episode that will undoubtably have huge ramifications and was filled with tension and spectacular direction throughout. I was completely sucked in and I eagerly anticipate the rest of the season. In the short term I am most curious to see who wears the crown now the Joffrey is gone. His younger brother has to be too young at this moment, right? So does Tywin go from the power behind the throne to the power sitting in it, or does Margery get to take a seat and rule the seven kingdoms? I can't wait to find out.

    Viewer score: 86 / 100

    Posted by Dan B, 15/04/2014 1:46am (6 years ago)

  • This was a great episode! Nearly every individual storyline showed some progress and was enyoyable to watch on its own.

    The one criticism I would bring forward is the sheer overwhelming „positive“ reaction to Joffreys demise. Sure he was an undoubtedly evil character but the lack of sympathy for him unsettled me a bit. I never found him to be that interesting either. He was kind of one-note and never got a chance to show at least some redeeming qualities like so many other evil characters on the show have. This made him a bit boring despite the flawless depiction of Jack Gleeson.

    I really doubt that most viewers wish for Tywins death as much who truely is much more despicable.

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Robert, 14/04/2014 9:21pm (6 years ago)

  • I’ve been listening to your Game of Thrones podcast for quite some time, but only recently decided to join the fray now that you’re walking dead podcast is on hiatus.

    I found this to be a remarkable episode on many levels, and don’t have any noteworthy criticisms to raise. In the unknown category, there is an easy-to-overlook scene at the wedding that “may” provide some hint as to how Joffrey was poisoned. After Joffrey struck the wedding “pie” (as they referred to it) with his sword, the camera briefly lingered in the break in the pie made by Joffrey’s sword, highlighting many dead birds lying inside. At first I thought the director was trying to illustrate Joffrey’s malevolence by having killed a number of the birds with his sword, but after the poisoning I re-evaluated my position. Perhaps the cake itself was poisoned, thus killing a number of hungry birds in the process.

    Playing devil’s advocate to my own theory, if the cake was poisoned, did other guests also eat from the same cake and die? The death of other guests would vindicate Tyrion.

    Viewer score: 84 / 100

    Posted by Michael S., 14/04/2014 6:15pm (6 years ago)

  • Poor Margaery can't seem to marry and produce heirs. First Renly now Joffrey. Who dare goes next?

    Posted by Fluids, 14/04/2014 4:16pm (6 years ago)

  • Long Live the King of Cruelty…Even his death was a bit shocking for me.

    It’s pretty clear that Dontos had a hand in Joffrey’s demise. The fact that Sansa was puzzled at his urgencies clears her (I think) of any wrong doing. He was very anxious to get Sansa Lannister out of there as quickly as possible for some reason.

    There was also a close up shot of the pie and a red substance in it that the camera held on for a few seconds (before the poison really took affect in Joffrey). Joffrey starting choking once he ate the pie, so the pie was poisoned not the wine. Tyrion also used three different cups:

    The kings cup which Joffrey kicked under the table; the one Sansa handed him and lastly Margaery’s.

    Everyone was in shock at this death: Jaime, Cersei, Tyrion, Margaery, Mace and Olenna. Jaime and Cersei rightfully rushed to try and help him.

    The throne now goes to Tommen now and I believe the Tyrell’s are out of the picture since Margaery never bore Joffrey an heir.


    Good:

    Yes, finally Joffrey is no more. As much as it’s a shocking relief he is out of the way, why is it though I feel robbed of a just ending for him? After all the cruelty this young man has dealt out to Ned, Robb and Catelyn Stark; the bastards of Robert Baratheon; and countless undeserving souls I still feel empty inside after his death.

    Bran and company are clearly headed towards a huge Weirwood tree in the North.
    His greensight visions in this episode were compelling: the shadow of a dragon over King’s Landing; the Iron throne in ashes; the vision of the Wight girl from episode one.

    The wedding scenes were very well done. I loved the costumes, pageantry and the conversations and maneuvering.


    Bad:

    Why don’t I feel more joy that Joffrey is dead or at the very least why am I not relishing his demise? I would have been more satisfied I suppose if he was tortured and then had his head on a spike on a wall inside of the Red Keep. Your comments Robin about Arya going with Jaqen H'ghar, spending a decade in Bravos learning how to change her face, joined the King's Guard and then one day cut Joffrey's head off it would have been pretty satisfying to me as well. Poison was a bit convenient. Isn’t that the weapon of Ladies and Eunuchs not vengeful jesters? Joffrey was hated by a lot of subjects at King’s Landing. You would have thought he would have improved his security after the dung flinging episode. Don’t kings usually have food tasters? Why was Joffrey allowed to eat the pie without it being tasted first? I am sure Tommen will have one.


    Unknown:

    Will Shae make it to Pentos and live there?

    Did Tyrion kill Joffrey? I don’t think so. It was Dontos. Was anyone working with Dontos or was he alone in his plan for revenge? I don’t believe so because everyone was truly horrified at what happened. What was the source of his vengefulness?
    Was it being nearly killed and humiliated constantly by Joffrey that made him do it?
    To your point Robin, Tywin would have more control over Westeros with Joffrey out of the way and Tommen on the throne. That’s a strong motive right there.

    Is it Rickon safe since Lord Bolton thinks he is at Castle Black? What about Jon Snow?

    Is Theon (Reek) truly broken? Will Lord Bolton end Ramsay’s life if he cannot attain Moat Cailin?

    Who was the girl Ramsay was hunting with the other girl? What was the point in killing her? Was it just to show sadistic and evil Ramsay is?

    Bran’s Greensight visions were compelling “Look to me beneath the Tree, North”
    Who was saying that to Bran? Was it the god of that mega weirwood tree? Was it Benjen? Judging from its size it’s been there thousands upon thousands of years (most likely it was there long before the arrival of ‘The First Men.’)

    Brienne is clearly in love with Jaime. (These feelings may go back to the bear rescue in S3E7.) Cersei has already rebuffed Jaime since he has gotten back. Why is she asking Brienne about Jaime? How does Jaime feel about Brienne?

    Was the vision of the Iron throne in ruins just a foresight to Joffrey’s death or a long term vision of Daenerys coming invasion? The dragon’s shadow appears to foreshadow a Targaryan invasion.

    Will the wedding between Loras and Cersei continue? If something happens to Tommen would the throne then go over to Stannis? If Loras and Cersei do get married and don’t bear children and Mace Tyrell dies, who will be Lord over The Reach?

    I look forward to hearing your podcast and seeing and listening to everyone’s feedback.

    Viewer score: 79 / 100

    Posted by Fluids, 14/04/2014 3:56pm (6 years ago)

  • I had the ending of this episode spoilt for me online last year, oh the joys of the Internet. So I felt like a book reader for an hour but it was still a great episode from my perspective.

    Am I the only dissatisfied with Joeffreys death? I always imagined him being tortured or at least being beheaded by Arya Stark. I think he got it too easy but at least he's dead. I will miss the actor portraying him though, you know when you get hate in real life that you're doing a good job playing a villain.

    I was relieved to hear that Shae had left because I don't see any purpose she has other than getting Tyrion into trouble but I suppose the rule is on tv, if you don't see it, it's not confirmed.

    Lastly I really am starting to wonder if George RR Martin knows that happy weddings do exist and tend to be very common..

    Viewer score: 75 / 100

    Posted by Tiarnan, 14/04/2014 12:03pm (6 years ago)

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