Airdate: April 13, 2014
Directed by: Alex Graves
Written by: George R.R. Martin (“A Song of Ice and Fire” by), David Benioff (creator), D.B. Weiss (creator), George R.R. Martin (written for television by)
Yes, you read that correctly: GRRM himself wrote this episode for television, and that can mean only one thing – something big is happening this week on Game of Thrones. He writes one episode per year: last year’s was “The Bear and the Maiden Fair,” which saw Jaime’s turn from antagonist to sympathetic character; in Season One it was “The Pointy End,” which saw the arrest of Ned Stark and Arya’s flight; and most dramatically, GRRM’s Season Two episode was “Blackwater,” the enormous naval battle at King’s Landing that saw the use of wildfire and the destruction of Stannis’s navy. Readers of the books will have some strong ideas what the major event drawing Martin to this episode is, and I will add my own speculations after the break. Click through for a breakdown of this week’s Promo video, and my thoughts on what the second episode of the season will bring.
<<Spoiler Alert: This preview of Game of Thrones S04E02 – “The Lion and the Rose” – will discuss major plot points and events suggested by previous events and the events shown in the Promo video; read further at your own risk!>>
We’ll begin with the episode synopsis: Tyrion lends Jaime a hand. Joffrey and Margaery host a breakfast. At Dragonstone, Stannis loses patience with Davos. Ramsay finds a purpose for his pet. North of the Wall, Bran sees where they must go.
So rather than the focus on four areas we had last week, we’ll get five. This allows us to get back into the swing of things with three groups we didn’t touch on last week:
Stannis is still a major player. The fact that he spared Ser Davos’s life despite his having released Gendry (in last season’s “Mhysa” episode – see my review here) against his explicit orders, means it’s going to have to be something pretty serious to get Stannis angry. Of course, Stannis seems to always be angry. Perhaps he needs more fiber in his diet.
Ramsay is, in a show filled with creepy characters and questionable ethics, the creepiest and least ethical character we’ve met (so far). “Finds a purpose for his pet” sounds ominous, and things aren’t likely to be getting better for Theon anytime soon. This is not to say that he deserves for things to get better, but I mean, c’mon, hasn’t he paid a high enough price for his betrayal of the Starks? At this point, killing him would be a mercy – but that isn’t in the cards for Theon for the moment.
Bran’s has been one of the slowest storylines of the past season. Even the clip we see suggests much thought and closing of eyes (more on that below). That said, Martin is a master at writing important characters in subtle and unassuming ways – until they’re suddenly ripping someone’s heart out, or the like. There are characters we’ve met who seemed tertiary to the main story whom we will find playing important roles down the line. Bran, although highly situated as the (unbeknownst to him) head of House Stark, is in a pretty bleak (see – I resisted saying “stark”) situation, alone with Hodor, unable to walk, and heading further and further into the deep north as winter approaches. But he still has an important part to play – likely a game changer, as he represents the old gods that families like the Starks honor, versus the new southern gods of Melisandre and her ilk. He likely won’t get a lot of screentime this week, but what we see will set up bigger things to come.
Now, let’s take a look at this week’s Promo video. After, I’ll parse out the events, and try to interpret what they might mean for our characters this week:
We open with Tyrion in voice-over, saying, “A toast, to the power of Lannister children,” as we see an aerial shot of Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding in the Great Sept of Baelor, which drops down to a shot of them from behind as they walk up to the dais, and then cuts to Tyrion sitting at table, physically proposing the toast to an unseen guest. He continues, “The Cripple” (we see Jaime standing on a seawall, weighing his new sword in his left hand), “The Dwarf” (Tyrion in profile, looking thoughtfully out a window as drapes move around him), and “The Mother of Madness” as we see Cersei kissing Margaery on both cheeks, and a quick cut to Joffrey, wearing his crown and holding out his sword with a grand flourish, standing in front of a large pie with Tywin and Cersei applauding behind him. We jump to a forest path near the Red Keep. Varys is speaking to Tyrion, saying, “Have you ever known your father to make an idle threat?” We cut to Tywin, looking dour and resolute (could he and Stannis be related? – of course not, but they’re the two most serious players on this stage). We jump beyond the Wall, where we see Hodor carrying Bran through a snowy forest. Bran says, “I know where we have to go,” and we cut to him in front of a god tree, placing his hand against its bark beneath a very detailed face, apparently asleep. Bran’s eyes roll back, much like when a skinchanger is possessing an animal. Next, we see a hand grasping a burning branch out of a fire, and pull back to see three stakes, forms tied to their bases, fully engulfed in flames as a group watches them burn. Focus in on Melisandre’s face – she smiles as she takes in the warmth (although it is more likely the deaths that are giving her pleasure than simply the flames themselves). We hear her: “There is only one hell – the one we live in now,” as we cut from her to Stannis, frowning, watching the flames as Ser Davos looks away, and then to Melisandre as she is speaking, earnest, trying to teach a lesson – it’s impossible to say for certain whom she is speaking with, but it could be Stannis’s daughter, Shireen.
Next, we jump to men riding hard through an open gate, and then to the marriage ceremony once more, as the taller Margaery leans in for a kiss with Joffrey. We see Cersei flanked by Tywin and, I’m assuming, Joffrey’s younger brother Tommen, applauding the newlyweds. Focus shot on Sansa, who looks almost ill, saying, “We have a new Queen,” and then we see Joffrey and Margaery turning to address the crowd. Jump back to the seawall, where we see Jaime sparring with Tyrion’s right-hand man, Bronn (this, then, is the “hand” he’s lending his brother). Next a quick flash of what looks like Shae slapping Bronn, Tyrion in the background; Joffrey bringing his sword down, presumably on the pie from earlier; a little person breathing fire at the wedding celebrations; Joffrey glaring down at his uncle, as Tyrion holds out a chalice to him, the King saying, “I said…KNEEL!”; and lastly a woman running through the woods and screaming, as two people chase after her with bows. After the final title splash, we get an aerial shot of King’s Landing, the Red Keep prominent, as a huge dragon shadow passes overhead, and we hear a dragon’s call along with the sound of beating wings. There has been some suggestion in forums online that this is actually an aerial shot of Mereen, seeing as how Daeneryus is still on her way there, but it is definitely King’s Landing. Have a look at the picture below of Varys and Tyrion standing below the Red Keep, and then compare the castle we see the dragon flying over – clearly the same building. This does not, however, mean that Dany is suddenly showing up at King’s Landing in this episode – it is simply a foreshadowing of things to come, and may not even figure in this week’s episode.
Varys and Tyrion getting some sun on the battlements
Some questions, and maybe a few answers, arise from this brief 35 second clip. Tyrion is in his cups, but as always he has wise things to say. When he calls Cersei the “mother of madness,” the question is, is Joffrey the only mad one? Or is Cersei herself mad? We saw hints of this as early as Season Two during the siege of King’s Landing, when she considered taking her own life, and the lives of all those being sheltered by her. Events are going to drive her closer and closer to the brink in the near future. Joffrey standing over the pie is doing his best to look powerful and charismatic, but he just comes across as supremely douchey. I genuinely feel bad for Jack Gleeson, the actor who plays Joffrey, because he plays him so well that he’ll likely never fully escape the character. Seeing Varys speaking earnestly with Tyrion is a direct continuation of Varys’s attempts to get Shae to leave last season; he’s not doing it to mess up Tyrion’s life – he’s doing it because he sees Tyrion as the only hope for the Lannisters to keep the Seven Kingdoms together, and Varys’s motivation has always been to keep the kingdom strong (outside of Tyrion himself, Varys is the wisest character – and he might be even wiser due to the things he knows that Tyrion doesn’t).
Melisandre – wow, did I actually say that Ramsay is the creepiest character earlier in this article? Being able to birth shadow-doppelgangers of the king you’re “serving,” which then commit fratricide with a shadow knife, is a pretty creepy skill to have, putting even the Bastard of Bolton to shame. Seeing her get pleasure in the death and pain of others here is not surprising – what is surprising is that she’s so obviously and powerfully evil, but Stannis – an otherwise intelligent man – blinds himself to it due to his desire to see his brand of justice done. Ser Davos is his necessary conscience, but may not keep his position for much longer if he continues to stand in the Red Priestess’s way. He doesn’t even attempt to disguise his look of disgust at the actions on the beach. Melisandre’s actions and human sacrifice are clearly being contrasted by Bran’s actions in the north. He represents the old gods, she the new, and the Great Sept of Baelor wherein we see the wedding the third divine faction, the Seven that are worshiped in the south of Westeros. These three divine factions must by necessity clash before things will be resolved, although that clash is some time off as of yet. Bran’s intensity as he touches the god tree, and his apparent communion with its spirit (as his eyes roll back), show a gentler, but perhaps no less strong, brand of divine connection than the fire and sacrifice of Melisandre’s R’hllor.
Sansa, looking ill and recognizing the new queen, is not even remotely jealous. In fact, I think she’s feeling relief. Margaery, and especially her grandmother Olenna, have set themselves up as clear allies of the beleaguered Stark girl, and now that Margaery will have real power, Sansa is a little less fearful of Cersei and her monstrous son. She also has allies in Tyrion (although she’s reluctant to accept his help), and unbeknownst to her, Jaime and Brienne. Being that this is a character created by George R.R. Martin, you just know this means things are going to go terribly, terribly wrong for her very soon.
Readers of the books will have some strong suspicions about what other events are going to happen in this week’s episode, and I’ll share my thoughts below. I’ll block the text out so that those of you who do not want to see the connections to the books may avoid reading it inadvertently. If you’d like to see my thoughts, simply use your mouse to click and scrollover the blacked out text.
Simply put: Joffrey will die. This is the Purple Wedding (not so-called in the books, but it’s become the popular name as a kind of fan-named counter to the bloody Red Wedding we saw last season). In the books, Joffrey drinks poisoned wine and dies, choking. Here, I suspect it will be the same manner – note that Tyrion is holding a chalice up to him? Tyrion is not his murderer, although it’ll be hard for him to avoid accusations as he pours his nephew’s drink. The necklace (a hairnet, in the books) that Ser Dontos gave Sansa in last week’s episode is the likely source of the poison – watch for Olenna to straighten out Sansa’s hair (or necklace), and in so doing, palm one of the “sapphires” on the piece of jewelry. It is insinuated in the books that this is how the poisoning occurs, but Benioff and Weiss have shown a willingness to change things around for their own narrative flow – don’t expect things to happen exactly as they do in the book. All of this puts into perspective Melisandre on the beach – her look of pleasure is not only for those dying in the flames, but it is likely also because she attributes Joffrey’s death to the blood-filled leeches she burned last season, filled with kingly blood courtesy of Robert’s bastard son Gendry. She’s honoring and thanking R’hllor for answering her requests. This, then – Joffrey’s death, and the repercussions it has across Westeros – is why we see Martin writing the teleplay for this episode, the earliest in the season he’s done any of his four episodes. There will be other big events this season (obviously, with eight more episodes to go), but the death of Joffrey is right up there with the Red Wedding for game changing events in this section of the books. This will begin the downward spiral of House Lannister, and especially of Cersei, as they turn to in-fighting and accusations. But who will rise to take their place?
One thing’s for certain: there will be some exciting and interesting events in this week’s episode. Last week served to establish trends, and this week will set them for the remainder of the major players. Kings will fall, Kings will rise, and the stakes of the game will get just a little bit higher. But where the heck is Littlefinger? I hope we get to see a bit of him this week – I do so miss his exquisite scheming.