There be spoilers ahead so if you don’t want to know what happened in this episode stop reading now.
Also, this post deals solely with the T.V. show because I haven’t read the books and don’t intend to until the G.R.R. Martin has finished writing them.
Okay, so for the most part is a table setting episode, one that sets things up for later in the season, but it does so with such a power that it does not feel like just a table setting. The episode opens with Ramsay Snow, also known as Roose Bolton’s bastard, and the man who chopped off Theon Greyjoy’s manhood, using hounds to chase down a defenseless servant girl. The girl stands no chance, and after a brief flight through the woods she is brought down by an arrow, and then ripped apart by Ramsay’s dogs. This scene serves to remind the viewer that Ramsay is a terrible and vicious person, setting up a kind of parallel with King Joffrey, the character everyone loves to hate.
After the hunt Roose Bolton arrives at the Dreadfort, home of the Boltons. Roose is most displeased that the Greyjoys hold an important castle, and that he had to sneak himself into his own lands because of it. He is also upset that Ramsay has tortured and mutilated Theon, who Roose sees as key to getting the Greyjoys to leave the North. Ramsay shrugs, tell his father that Reek, as Theon is now called, is a more loyal and valuable servant that Theon ever could have been. He then proves his point by having Reek shave his face with a straight-razor, and while the blade is at Ramsay’s throat, he tells Reek of Robb Stark’s fate at the hands of Roose Bolton. After a slight hesitation, with the blade at Ramsay’s throat, Reek keeps shaving, proving Ramsay’s point. As a reward for his ability to break men, Ramsay is tasked by his father to go and kick the Greyjoys out. He has to bring Reek with him, which should go over quite well with the Greyjoy forces.
Meanwhile, in King’s Landing, preparations for the Royal Wedding are in full swing, but before we see any of that we are privy to a scene between Jaime Lannister and Tyrion Lannister, in which it is clear that the two are now equals, at least in the eyes of Tywin Lannister, their father. Jaime used to be the golden child, and was set to become the head of the family, but after losing his hand he no longer feels that way. He says he can’t fight, and because he can’t fight he can’t protect the king, and is therefore worthless as a knight, if not a man. Add to the fact that both Tywin and Cersei disavowed themselves of him last episode and Jaime is going through some tough times. I do not feel all that sorry for him, though. Yes, last season did make him a more sympathetic character as we got to hear his story about why he killed the Mad King, and the loss of his hand has made him a pitiable character, but this is the man who pushed a ten year old boy out of a very high window, fathered Joffrey, attacked Ned Stark without provocation, murdered his own cousin, and has generally been an all around arrogant jerk-hole. He deserves to be brought down a peg or two, even if he did save Brienne from being raped as well as eaten by a bear. (I do have to tip my hat to him for those things because Brienne is one of my favorite characters.)
Tyrion, being the black sheep of the Lannister family, can empathize with what his brother is going through. He suggests that Jaime learn how to fight with his left hand, offering up Bron the trash talking, fights without honor, sell sword. The scene between Jaime and Bron is wickedly entertaining because we get to see Bron delight in humiliating Jaime, and take great pride in the fact that he fights without honor. I hope to get more scenes of these two sparring because I have always liked Bron, and it is nice to see Jaime eat crow. Aside from reestablishing the character of Bron, and showing the audience just how diminished Jaime is, this scene serves to remind us that cruelty comes in many forms. The episode opened with the hunting down and brutal evisceration of a servant girl, and now this scene, while not really physically cruel, demonstrates the cruelty of words. Bron mocks and taunts Jaime with his mouth as well as his skills with the sword, thereby making the scene a good thematic transition from the cruelty of Ramsay to the cruelty of Joffrey.
Now onto the wedding stuff, the true meat of the episode, and a real shake up for the series moving forward. A rehearsal dinner is going on, and gifts are being offered to the Royal Couple. First, Margaery’s father offers a golden chalice to Joffrey. The gift is accepted with kind and gracious words, maybe the first ones Joffrey has ever spoken. Then Tyrion gives his King/nephew a book. Joffrey is less than impressed, but he makes an effort to be gracious. It almost works, and Jack Gleason does a fine job of showing Joffrey’s struggle between giving in to his normal behavior and trying to act more kingly. This struggle does not last, though, as Joffrey baser instincts come out when Tywin Lannister gives him a sword made from Valerian steel. “One of only two in the Capitol,” Tywin tells his grandson, and everyone knows it was forged from Ned Stark’s (And then Robb Stark’s) sword, Ice. And here Joffrey shows his true colors once again, slicing up the book Tyrion gave him and commenting that every time he uses it will be like cutting Ned Stark’s head off all over again. What a little prick he is.
So then we come to the wedding, the end of Joffrey, and a false accusation. After humiliating Tyrion for a good bit of the wedding, completing the theme of cruelty that runs through the episode, and making him his cup bearer, Joffrey keels over and dies from poison. With his dying breath he points to Tyrion who is holding the cup, and looking guilty. Cersei cries out that Tyrion has killed the king and orders the guards to take him away, which they do.
It’s true that Tyrion might have reason to murder his terrible nephew, but I don’t buy it, nor do I think we as the audience are supposed to buy that Tyrion is responsible. He loves his family, even Joffrey, and would not do anything to directly hurt any of them. Cersei’s accusation is a red-herring, and it makes sense for her to make it. She has always had a disdain for Tyrion, and upon seeing him in that compromising position, holding the cup which held the poison, it makes sense that she would think he killed her son. But it wasn’t Tyrion. It was Olenna Tyrell who killed the king.
I think this for several reasons.
One, when she speaks with Sansa, and touches her hair, it looks like she palms something, and then when we see Sansa, it looks like one of the jewels from the necklace is missing on her left side. It’s subtle, and my eyes could be playing tricks on me, but I am pretty sure I am right. Two, Olenna’s comment about killing a man at a wedding, referring to Robb Stark and the Red Wedding in general, would imply that she thinks such things are atrocious, but the way she says it tips her hand, and makes me think that to those who perpetrate such acts deserve what they get. Now this might make her a hypocrite, but I don’t think she cares about that. She is old, and it is clear from last season that she bears no love for Joffrey, or the Lannisters in general. The third reason I have for thinking it was Olenna who killed Joffrey is that she was sitting closest to the last cup of wine he drank from, and therefore had the opportunity to slip the poison in. Five, poison is traditionally a woman’s (or a Eunuch’s) weapon of chocie. And six, the camera is all over Olenna during the wedding scene and the humiliation of Tyrion. It does not linger on her, but it shows her, then moves on, then returns to her. Why would she be such a focus for the camera if she was not responsible, or at least involved in the regicide? And finally, the Fool who gave Sansa the necklace is Johnny on the spot when the murder happens, whisking her away in the commotion and confusion of the moment, presumably to Highgarden, home of the Tyrells, and at the behest of Olenna, who most likely hid the poison in the necklace, and gave it to the fool to give to Sansa, so that she would have easy access to it when the time came. Or maybe she poisoned the cake. After all, she was quite fond of reminding everyone that she paid for the food and drink, but I don’t think she would have poisoned the cake because there was a chance that Margaery would eat some of it too, and I doubt she would want to kill her granddaughter.
So Joffrey is dead, and there is no doubt much rejoicing both in the world of Westeros, and the audience who watches this show and has been waiting for him to get his comeuppance. On one hand, I am glad Joffrey is gone. He was a terrible character, a villain so one dimensional that it was impossible to have any feelings other than hate and resentment toward, but at least you knew what you were getting with him. When Joffrey was on the screen you knew he was going to act terribly. There is some comfort in that because now there is no telling what will happen. In the world of Westeros there always seems to be some cruel and petty tyrant waiting in the wings, Ramsay Snow is a good example, and with Joffrey gone there is no telling who will step in to take his place. Plus, the circumstances of Joffrey’s death mean that things are about to get a lot worse for Tyrion, which I, for one, am not looking forward to.