Game of ThronesRecap

Game Of Thrones: Season 4 Episode 2 – The Lion And The Rose

If last week was all about picking up the pieces after the Red Wedding, this episode was clearly about re-establishing the powerplays of Westeros. Once again the lure of the Iron Throne has set in motion wheels within wheels of deceit, motives, jealousy and murder.

King Joffrey is dead. The irony is palpable, for those of us who watched Joffrey’s infantile glee at Robb Stark’s death at a wedding, Joffrey is now killed – poisoned, even, a coward’s murder – at his own wedding. Last week’s episode showed us how Tywin Lannister’s actions could bring about even more immoral actions and villains, this week we see that writ large. As Lady Olenna says to Sansa:

‘Kill a man at a wedding? Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing?’

This is Tywin’s monstrous world, and now he has to live in it. If the shaky hold House Lannister has on the throne was hinted at last week, it’s well and truly out in the open now, with all manner of machinations edging their way to usurp.

The wedding dominates this episode, almost like no other sequence has in the series’ run. There are only a few token scenes elsewhere, once again establishing King’s Landing as the setting-du-jour, and confirming that this season will focus on select characters each episode, rather than trying to show all.

It’s a necessary move, as the show was beginning to lack a core focus – the Red Wedding notwithstanding – and in trying to tell all the stories, previous episodes were coming across more as postcards from Westeros, rather than in-depth storytelling. This season we now have had two episodes that draw the reader into particular narratives, trusting that more time spent with one set of characters will allow us greater familiarity in transitioning back and forth.

There’s also still a sense that the show runners are reminding the audience of certain implications in the plot – also a necessary move after thirty hours of story – and when this episode does deviate from King’s Landing to other locations, it’s brief and yet to the point. We sense that the scant details of other characters are still highly significant, each scene screaming out ‘Pay attention! This is important!’

Firstly, at The Dreadfort, Ramsay is leading Theon (now answering to Reek) on a hideous chase after a woman, with Theon forced to watch as Ramsay first shoots an arrow through the woman and then sets his dogs on her. It’s horrible, and torturous, and this death is in strong contrast with Joffrey’s at the end. One has been called for by audiences everywhere, the other has not. In Game of Thrones, all death is bad, and it comes to all.

Once again reasserting some important characters, Roose Bolton shows up for the first time this season, demonstrating his hold on the North, and that until now, all believed Bran and Rickon dead. But as Theon reminds us, more of the Stark family are alive than many were aware, and Roose knows he must work to keep the North his.

And again with the irony, as Theon is forced to look at himself clearly, once complaining over his treatment by the Starks when he was their ward, now tortured and maimed as yet another ward to another family, in the spoils of war. This scene is unbelievably well-acted, with Alfie Allen getting to do perhaps his best work on the show so far.

At DragonstoneStannis is knee-deep in Melisandre’s control, and possibly beginning to wonder whether it’s leading him anywhere good. Selyse, his wife, has taken complete leave from the world of the sane, and Stannis suddenly realises that his daughter Shireen could be in danger with their obsession over the Lord of Light.

Given the curse placed on Joffrey by Melisandre, and his subsequent death, the drama now arrives in how much Stannis believes, or how much he is prepared to use his belief to get what he wants, with the throne now vacant. And how much is poor Ser Davos prepared to stand by and watch, given that he is the moral compass of Dragonstone?

And in the North, Bran is delving ever deeper into his warg powers, and Jojen and Meera warn him about forgetting himself, and his purpose. This strand has always bordered on tiresome with some viewers, though it clearly is important for the series. Bran is taken to what looks like a weirwood tree and has a vision of what appear to be things past, present and future, and undoubtedly this brief flash will be endlessly dissected until the show gives further clarification.

Either way, Bran’s journey clearly gets to the heart of where the series is heading. While all about him are concerned with war and the spoils of war, Bran has avoided all of this to head along his own path. Yes, it’s frustrating as there’s clearly information that is being withheld from us, but no doubt it will only grow in significance as the story continues.

But this episode is all about the wedding at King’s Landing. Joffrey and Margaery are married, thus confirming the Tyrell’s ties to the throne, and seemingly cementing the Lannisters’ hold as well. Behind the scenes, Tyrion is forcing Shae to leave, and is increasingly aware at just how low his stocks have fallen, and how precarious his position is, and is reminded of this fact by Varys, who we know only serves the realm.

If there’s a central character in this episode, it’s Tyrion. We repeatedly return to his perspective during the wedding, as he grows ever-more aware of his inability to cloak himself with the Lannister colours for protection. The threat now is from his own family – with Tywin discovering Tyrion’s ongoing relationship with Shae, Joffrey tormenting Tyrion to untold extremes during the wedding feast, and Cersei’s final accusation that Tyrion is to blame for Joffrey’s murder. It’s excruciating to watch Tyrion out of moves, and unable to extricate himself from peril, like he has done through all three seasons previously.

Joffrey’s tormenting of him is torture on a par with Ramsay’s flaying of Theon last season. The re-enacting of past challenges to the throne by hired short-statured people is manufactured by Joffrey purely for Tyrion’s mocking, and we can sense Joffrey’s rage in Tyrion’s refusal to play along. Never has the character appeared more in danger, and yet formidable, as when Tyrion refuses to kneel for Joffrey, and Dinklage plays Tyrion’s threatened stoicism perfectly beat-for-beat in this scene.

This episode was written by George R. R. Martin, and despite readers of the book knowing who was behind Joffrey’s poisoning, Martin scripts this sequence perfectly, illustrating how it’s not a question of who did kill him, but who wouldn’t want to. Almost every character present at the least had ample reason and opportunity – Tyrells, Martells, Sansa, even Brienne and Varys – though we are clearly led down the path of seeing how impossible it is to not accuse Tyrion, as Cersei does. For the careful viewer, we are shown exactly how Joffrey is murdered, and who is to blame, but that’s all beside the point when the drama now is whether anyone will care that Tyrion takes the fall.

The final moments of this episode give us further direction for the season, much like they did in ‘Two Swords’: Joffrey dead, Tyrion accused and Cersei vitriolic, while everyone else bristles with opportunity that this destabilising moment creates. There may not be open warfare this season, but there clearly will be a race for control, much like Season One offered up. Unsettlingly for Tywin and House Lannister, control and power are not tied to the throne anymore, and Joffrey’s death shows us how one can be a king and yet still vulnerable.

  • Valar Morghulis: King Joffrey, and the woman chased by Ramsay and Theon at the opening. Which one will be remembered more?
  • Noah Taylor’s character Locke turned up again, joining the immoral bunch at the Dreadfort. This can only mean evil things.
  • A note on poisoning: it was John Arryn’s death by poisoning that drew Nedd Stark to King’s Landing back in Season One. Then, he blamed Cersei. How do Nedd’s accusations stack up now that Joffrey has died by similar means?
  • There was some by-play between Cersei and Maester Pycelle at one point, which drew yet another reference to Qyburn, who is clearly going to become a character of greater significance, though he’s been rarely seen until now.

 

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