Here’s the thing, the end of ‘The Lion and the Rose’ made me rather happy and yet somewhat sad. I won’t lie, there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with the sort of ending that the Purple Wedding (deemed so by the fans) provided us with this episode. Because as Joffrey started to really struggle, and you realise that David Benioff and D. B. Weiss had pulled the glorious Purple Wedding forward and you start to feel that each cringe you endured before this point in the episode may not have been felt in vain, there’s a triumphant swelling as you recall just how much you hate this kid with the power of Seven Hells. And yet, as Cersei’s tears rolled down her face and the brutal final wheeze squeezes itself out of Joffrey’s purple, red-splattered, lips- you get the sense that this is heartache even if it isn’t yours, the audience’s.
The episode could be summed up nicely by Melisandre’s words to princess Shireen, “There’s only one hell, princess, the one we live in now.” The episode is tied together by this idea that the world our characters live in has always been hell and that in order to move through it they need to make sacrifices. So many sacrifices, whether for self-preservation or at the expense of others; sacrifices must be made. Valar Morghulis and all that jazz. The very principle on which George R R Martin, who also penned this episode, has always seemed to operate.
We start with Bolton’s bastard, Ramsay Snow, and Reek- oh Theon. I’m still on the fence about the identity of Reek being known from the get go. But seeing as there’s no reading Theon’s thoughts and putting two and two together for that satisfactory ‘a-ha’ moment for television, one must make do. And Alfie Allen’s brokenness is so well portrayed that the sympathy you feel for Reek in the books manages to manifest from the moment you see him on the show with Ramsay Snow in the woods. “If you can make it out of the woods, youuuu win!” Iwan Rheon’s complete glee is unnerving and a little frightening in a way that Joff’s hateful spite never was.
Who’s that female psychopathic archer with Ramsay, hunting down some poor girl, in the woods? Her name’s Miranda and she’s petty, we know that. I suppose we’ll discover more about her in episodes to come. Seeing just how cowed Theon’s become makes you realise that he’s sacrificed his dignity and the bare minimum of what made him human, in order to survive. Theon has become Reek, Ramsay’s ‘plaything’ as Roose Bolton puts it. However Bolton is more annoyed than amused by Ramsay’s flaying and maiming of the heir Ironborn who hold Moat Cailin, the only thing standing in his way of total control of the North. Not realising that Bran, Rickon are still alive and would post the biggest threat to taking the North.
Bolton sending his rabid bastard after Bran and Rickon upon discovering via Reek (reek rhymes with speak) that they’re alive should serve to keep those lamenting the loss of one of our most unsympathetic characters- for the sake of having someone to hate for their complete lack of redeeming qualities- placated. I mean until we get more of The Mountain, anyway.
Lannister brotherly bonding, I’ve always liked Jaime and Tyrion’s relationship. Which will become so complicated after the end of this episode, because you know Cersei’s always hated her little brother but Jaime’s always seemed to be Tyrion’s advocate, no?
In any case, Tyrion’s toast to Jaime wins this week’s ‘straight up’ award. “A toast, to the Lannister children; The Dwarf, the Cripple and the Mother of Madness.” Followed up very closely by his response to Joffrey trying to make him take part in the dwarf farce, an uncomfortable scene on all fronts. It’s so obvious from everyone’s expressions that Joffrey as king was never going to be in anyone’s best interest. Kid was batshitcray. Margaery appeared to have the hardest time concealing her distaste for her new husband.
How about the subtle (not so subtle at all!) clues as to who could be responsible for the regicide. See below in the Honourable Spoilers section. Poor Tyrion, now he’s being framed for the murder of his nephew and boy-tyrant, I mean king.
When Joffrey seemingly accepted Tyrion’s gift I held my breath and waited. Didn’t have to wait long for him to use Tywin’s gift of a sword made of Valyrian steel (the other half of Ned Stark’s sword- Sansa totally noticed) to needlessly annihilate the history book gifted to him by his uncle and former betrothed. Trust the deplorable little git to rub it in her face even farther, “Every time I use [Widow’s Wail], it’ll be like cutting off Ned Stark’s head all over again.” Sophie Turner has mastered the art of masking anguish while simultaneously exuding it.
Tyrion trying to get Shae off safely, was heartbreaking. In the books it’s clear, when we discover what we discover, that Shae never really loved Tyrion. In the show, well. They really made us like her, didn’t they? I really just don’t want this character development to not have been in vain. There’s something about Bronn’s demeanour when he assures Tyrion that Shae got onto the boat that just screams ‘lies!’ However we’ve known from the get go that Bronn’s a sell-sword through and through, he goes where the money goes. I know it’s not fair to think he might have been paid a handsome amount of money to look the other way should Shae not have safely been put aboard the ship to Pentos- but well, this is Game of Thrones. We don’t cry for spiders, or whores. Oh I don’t know, I think I’d cry for Varys and Shae, especially show-Shae.
Stannis warning Selyse about punishing Shireen was probably one of my favourite parts of the show. “She’s my daughter, you will not strike her.” Because Selyse doesn’t seem to like their daughter very much. And if she can’t burn Shireen at the stake, she seems happy to have Melisandre speak with the princess, who’s understandably upset about her mother’s brother being burned alive. “My uncle, he was kind to me.” The Red woman’s attempts to manipulate the girl fail a bit. As she doesn’t readily, like her mother, accept the Red Woman’s explanations.
“Afterword they aren’t ash and bone.” Shireen even has some on-point comebacks in response to Melisandre comparing a mother’s love after the pain of childbirth to those people being sacrificed to R’hllor. There’s no denying that Melisandre has power, I mean we’ve seen her birth the creepiest man-shadow-baby.
Speaking of creepy power, it was good to see some warging! Even if it mean more sullen Bran. Sullen Bran is the worst, however you can’t help but sympathise with the kid. Lacking legs, food and safety why wouldn’t he want to lose himself in the body of a direwolf? How about that weirwood premonition! Methinks I know what, or who, is a’comin’! Look for me, beneath the tree. North. (West?)
Honourable (Spoilery) Mentions:
– In the book Jaime doesn’t make it back to Kings Landing before the Purple Wedding, am I right? I swear I remember because Cersei blames him for Joffrey’s death- saying it was his fault for not being their to protect their son and Jaime thinking he didn’t really like the kid all that much. I like that change, in the series, that the last two people to be cradling the little monster are his biological parents.
– Oh look, Sigur Ros- singing…The Rains of Castamere? Just any chance to pull that song back into syndication huh?
– Jaime training with his left-hand with Bronn, Tyrion’s bestie sell-sword. “He tells me you shit gold, just like your father.” Times like these I bet Jaime curses not being ambidextrous.
– Totally the Queen of Thorns doing! No doubt about it, she doesn’t want her grand daughter married to a psychopath, and there’s no way Margaery wasn’t aware. There’s a particular shot where we see Lady Olena intensely staring at Joffrey with his goblet of wine not too far from her at all. “War is war, but killing a man at a wedding, horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing?”
– Methinks we’ll see Littlefinger next week, for some awkward interaction with his former obsession’s daughter for the rest of the season.