The Purple Wedding : A Review of Game of Thrones Season 4, Episode 2 “The Lion and the Rose”

Posted: April 14, 2014 in Game of Thrones, Reviews, TV
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Episode: 32
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)

We’re only two episodes into Season Four of Game of Thrones, but tonight’s outing saw some major events, game changers on par with anything that has usually been saved for much later in previous seasons. This suggests that we’re going to see some heightened narrative over the next eight episodes, with kings clashing and allegiances shifting. And will anyone remember the threat from the north before it becomes too late? Winter is coming.

<<Spoiler Alert: This article is a review and complete recap of Game of Thrones S04E02 – “The Lion and the Rose” – it will discuss major plot points and events in detail; read further at your own risk!>>

Before getting into the complete plot synopsis and my take on the meaning of various events, let me just say: the King is dead! Long live the King! I can’t remember a character who has been more universally reviled than King Joffrey Baratheon [Jack Gleeson], and for most viewers, his death could not come soon enough – and what a death it was. That last lingering shot on his bloodied and bruised face was almost loving in its care and attention to detail, and it may do something to mitigate the still painful thought of Robb Stark’s death in last season’s Red Wedding (read my review of “The Rains of Castamere” here). The ledger is still in the red – way in the red – but maybe the Lannisters are finally going to start paying their debts.

We open in a forest, Ramsay Snow and his newest paramour, Miranda, running with bows at the ready. In their train is Theon, who looks broken and bowed, stumbling along the forest trail. Ramsay refers to him not as Theon, but as Reek – he’s destroyed him and rebuilt him with a new persona. Ahead, two dogs are hounding after a young woman dressed in a simple shift. Ramsay is taunting her, telling her she can go free if she gets out of the forest, and then loosing an arrow, narrowly missing her. As they close in, Miranda hits the girl in the leg; Ramsay won’t let her finish the girl, instead allowing his hounds to tear the girl apart. Close in on Theon’s face – he’s ashen, unkempt, and dirty. In addition, he keeps twitching like a broken thing.

Cut to King’s Landing, where Podrick is serving wine to Tyrion who is hosting his brother, Jaime. They talk about his new hand, and Jaime accidentally knocks over his wine. Tyrion offers to pour him more – a foreshadowing for events that will happen later at the wedding between Joffrey and Margaery. Tyrion offers a toast to the Lannister children: the cripple, the dwarf, and the mother of madness. They drink, but Jaime complains about not being able to fight. Tyrion suggests he commands instead of fights, but Jaime will have none of it; instead, Tyrion offers the services of his sellsword Bronn – he’s discreet, and can train Jaime to fight again.

We cut to the seawall, where Bronn assures Jaime that they’ll not be heard – he brings a woman he’s bedding here, and she’s very loud; if she doesn’t draw attention, their sparring certainly won’t. They fight for a while, Jaime looking uncomfortable using his off hand, but Bronn not letting up on him.

We head to the north again, where Roose Bolton is arriving at the Dread Fort, accompanied by a few men, including Locke (the man who cut off Jaime’s sword hand). Ramsay doesn’t look overly please to see his father, who is quick to remind his bastard, “You’re not a Bolton. You’re a Snow.” Roose is particularly unhappy at Ramsay’s treatment of Theon. He intended to use Theon to regain Moat Cailin from the Greyjoys, but fears they won’t want him back, flayed and damaged as he is. Ramsay tries to prove his worth to his father. He shows his father that there is no Theon, only Reek, by allowing his new servant to shave him with a straight-razor. As he does so, he lets it drop casually that Robb Stark is dead, and that it was Roose himself that stabbed Theon’s step-brother through the heart. Theon hesitates, twitches a bit, as Ramsay asks, “How does that make you feel, Reek?” Theon continues to shave Ramsay after a couple of moments. Ramsay then forces him to tell Roose what happened to Bran and Rickon – that the two escaped, and he doesn’t know where they are. He does, when prodded, point out that their half-brother Jon Snow is at Castle Black. Bolton sends Locke north, with the promise of a thousand acres and a keep if he finds the boys. They’re competition; the North loves the Starks, and will rally around them if the boys are alive – Bolton needs them dead in order to stake his own claim. He then offers Ramsay something he can’t resist: take Theon/Reek and some men, and retake Moat Cailin. His reward? Bolton will reconsider Ramsay’s last name, hinting at legitimization.

In King’s Landing, Tyrion is approached by Varys, who takes him aside and tells him, “Shae has been noticed.” Cersei has been informed, and she in turn will tell Tywin. Tyrion asks Varys to lie for him but he refuses – he knows he won’t survive long if he lies. He points out to Tyrion that his “father has promised to hang the next whore he finds you with.” Tyrion tries to pooh-pooh this, but Varys asks him if he’s ever known his father to bluff. Silence.

We head to a pre-wedding feast, hosted by the Lannisters for the Tyrells. Mace Tyrell, head of his house (and Olenna’s son), presents Joffrey with a large golden chalice. Again, foreshadowing. We focus briefly in on Cersei as she leans toward Tywin. She points out Shae, and tells him that she’s the one she told him about. He asks that Shae be brought to his tower prior to the wedding. Tyrion, who doesn’t appear to hear them, gives his nephew a beautiful and rare book, “The Book of Four Kings.” He suggests that every wise ruler should read it, and Joffrey is relatively gracious, saying he’ll read it when the war is over and there is more time. Tywin gifts his grandson the second of the two Valyrian swords made from the melting and reforging of Ned Stark’s Greatsword Ice. He unsheathes it, barely able to hide his glee. He swings it widely, nearly lopping off a few noses, and asks what it should be called. Several likely names are thrown about, and he settles on “Widow’s Wail.” People warn him to take care, as Valyrian steel can cut through anything. He turns back to the banquet table, and slashes down on the book Tyrion just gave him. So much for graciousness. He slashes away until he completely destroys the book. This is not only foreshadowing for the way he’s going to treat his uncle at the wedding feast, but it is also a clear metaphor for his entire reign to this point: rule without wisdom. Tyrion’s toast to Jaime earlier, when he called Cersei the “mother of madness,” is particularly pertinent.

We go to Tyrion’s chambers. He’s standing looking out the window, when Shae enters behind him. She’s looking for love, but he rebuffs her. He’s tried to get her to leave for her own good before, but now he knows things have grown far more serious. She tells him she’s not afraid, that they can fight Cersei and Tywin together, but he tries a different tack, calling her a whore. He tells her he intends to honor his vows to Sansa, and that she is suitable to bear him children; Shae is not. He pushes her verbally, asking how many men she’s slept with. She turns it back on him, asking how many whores he’s had; he does admit that she’s been his favorite, but that, ultimately, that is all she is: a whore. He tells her she’s going to Pentos, where there will be a home and servants for her, and that Bronn is to escort her to her ship. Bronn enters, and she slaps him, running from the room in tears.

We smash cut to Dragonstone. It’s night, and three pyres are built ready for firing. Tied to one is Lord Florin, Stannis’s brother-in-law. He reminds Stannis of how well he’s served him, but Stannis ignores him, allowing the sacrifice to go forward. Melisandre commits Florin and two others to the flames, thanking R’hllor and smiling as the people scream and burn. Stannis’s wife, Selyse, looks rapturous as she gazes into the fire. She asks Stannis if he saw, if like her he saw their souls departing in the flames. Stannis looks stoic (as always), but the fact that Selyse is rapturous at her own brother’s sacrifice is not unnoticed by Ser Davos, who looks like he’s trying to avoid throwing up. He follows Stannis, reminding him of the service Florent rendered him over the years, of the ships he brought to Stannis’s cause. Stannis will have none of it, saying that Florent was a heathen, refusing to remove his pagan figures. Davos reminds Stannis that he himself isn’t that far removed from worshiping those same gods, but Stannis doesn’t bite.

At table, Selyse is still waxing poetic about the beautiful sacrifice earlier. She suggests that her daughter, Shireen, is a sinner who needs punishing – why else would R’hllor have given her a debilitating skin disease? Stannis puts his foot down – he will not allow his daughter to be punished, suggesting that he is still somewhat in control, despite all that he’s done in the name of R’hllor. This brings up an interesting possibility – does he really believe everything that Melisandre preaches, or is he using her just as much as she’s using him? The conversation continues, with Selyse taking a different tack – perhaps Melisandre can teach Shireen? Melisandre goes to the girl’s chamber, waking her. She asks Shireen if she saw the sacrifice, but Shireen didn’t want to go – she’s very upset that her uncle was murdered. Melisandre asks her what she knows of religion, and Shireen tells her that she’s read “The Seven-Pointed Star.” Melisandre tells her it’s all lies, and that there are only two gods – one of light and hope, and one of darkness (methinks she may have her gods confused…). She tells the girl that her uncle and the others are in a better place now. Shireen asks why her uncle and the others screamed then, and Melisandre responds that women scream in childbirth, but are in bliss thereafter. “But they aren’t ashes,” Shireen responds. Melisandre doesn’t answer this, just saying, “You’re full of questions, aren’t you?” I think she doesn’t answer because, simply put, there isn’t one. Melisandre may be fooling others regarding her god, but I don’t think that she herself is fooled – she knows that what she’s doing is perceived as evil by most sane people in the world; she simply doesn’t care. Melisandre sits on the bed beside Shireen, and tells her that the only hell is the one they’re already living in. Shireen doesn’t seem to buy it – I think I like this kid.

We go further north, to Bran and his companions. We’re watching a deer through Summer’s eyes, and we get to see his perspective as he takes the deer down and begins to feast. Hodor wakes Bran at this moment, and he’s upset – he was enjoying being in the wolf’s body. Osha encourages him to eat, while Jojen warns him that spending too much time in Summer’s skin is dangerous, that he may forget who he is. Meera affirms this, saying “If we lose you, we lose everything.” They move forward, and soon see a god tree. Bran asks Hodor to take him to it. In the midst of the encroaching winter, the tree is still showing autumn colors, holding onto life while all else slips into slumber. Hodor places Bran on the ground before the tree, and Bran reaches out, touching it right below its face. He immediately goes into trance, experiencing visions of the three-eyed raven, his family tombs, his father’s sword and his father himself, and a voice: “Look for me, beneath the tree.” He then sees himself falling after seeing Cersei and Jaime together, and then one last word: “North.” It is not a description – it is a command. He opens his eyes. “I know where we have to go,” he says.

Back in King’s Landing, the marriage is underway. We see Joffrey and Margaery in the Great Sept of Baelor, their hands bound and their marriage pronounced. As the viewers applaud, Sansa says to Tyrion, “We have a new Queen,” to which he replies, “Better her than you.” He doesn’t mean this in a nasty way – he’s honestly happy that it isn’t Sansa. Margaery clearly understands the game, while Sansa is still a bit of a naif. Margaery is much better suited to power and politics.

Outside, after the ceremony, Olenna walks with Tywin, and the talk about debts and how much the wedding is costing. Her son, Lord Mace Tyrell, approaches, but she dismisses him out of hand, showing where the real power lies in House Tyrell. As people are arriving at the post-wedding feast, Bronn catches up with Tyrion, and tells him that Shae is gone. At the head table, Olenna comes up to Sansa and tells her the wind has gotten to her. She straightens out Sansa’s hair, and then her hand slides down over the young woman’t left shoulder. If you look really closely in this moment, you can see that the leftmost amethyst on her necklace is now gone – Olenna has apparently palmed it. She tells Sansa that now that things are settling down, she really must come to visit her in Highgarden. She returns to her seat.

Joffrey begins to act like the complete royal ass he is. First, he throws coins at the musicians performing for him, telling them to leave. Margaery tries to distract him from his ill-humor, asking if she can make her announcement, one that they’ve apparently discussed already. She gets everyone’s attention, and tells them that in honor of the wedding, Joffrey is sending all of the feast’s leftovers to the poorest inhabitants of King’s Landing. Interestingly, as events are unfolding, we keep seeing Varys sitting at a table, looking distinctly uncomfortable. Is there something he knows?

Ser Loras is watching the celebrations, when Oberyn Martell, the Red Viper, catches his eye. They nod at each other – could there be a tryst in the making? Jaime approaches Ser Loras, and their banter quickly devolves to threats, as Jaime tells him that, even if Loras marries Cersei, she will kill him on their wedding night. “You can never marry Cersei,” Jaime says, to which Loras replies, “Neither can you.” This throws Jaime for a moment – apparently his secret is not so secret after all.

At the head table, Lady Brienne approaches to offer her congratulations. As soon as Joffrey realizes that she didn’t actually kill Renly, he loses interest and is terribly rude and dismissive. Cersei calls her a Lady, but she denies the title. As she walks away, Cersei approaches, all smiles and friendliness. She thanks her for returning Jaime to King’s Landing and for saving him, but Brienne disagrees – she tells Cersei that it was Jaime who saved her. Cersei’s smile freezes, and she accuses Brienne of loving her brother; Brienne can’t reply, but looks stunned, and then stares briefly at Jaime. She walks away, and Cersei approaches Grand Maester Pycelle, who is trying to seduce a young woman. Cersei sends her off to see Qyburn, which deeply offends Pycelle. Cersei, however, does not give up her momentum, and orders Pycelle to leave the celebrations, and go directly to the kitchens. There, he is to order the servers to take all of the leftovers to the kennels, rather than to follow Queen Margaery’s edict to feed the poor with them. Cersei simply can’t handle losing power, and she’s going to claw and scramble to maintain what little she still has.

Tywin approaches her, and the two are met by Oberyn and his consort, Ellaria Sand. The four spar verbally, with Oberyn and Ellaria quickly getting the upper hand. Cersei tries to insult Ellaria, saying, “I don’t think I’ve ever met a Sand.” Ellaria responds that she has ten thousand brothers and sisters, and Oberyn points out that in the south, bastards are “born of passion,” and are honored, unlike in the north where they’re considered an embarrasment. The threat is thinly veiled – the Dornishmen are stronger than the Lannisters realize, is the implication – and that isn’t the last of it. Oberyn presses home, reminding them that Myrcella is “safely” in Dorne. Cersei, for once, is rendered speechless.

Back at the head table, Joffrey is being his usual pissy self. He stands, admonishing the guests, pointing out that royal marriages are not to be taken lightly, that they are historical events. He calls for a suitably historic entertainment. A large lion’s head is wheeled out, and its jaws open, a red carpet rolling out as if it were a great tongue. From inside the head, five little people come out, dressed as the five kings. “Joffrey” is in the lead, along with “Renly,” “Stannis,” “Robb Stark,” and “Balon Greyjoy,” representative of each of the declared kings. They run around on “mounts” and fight, mostly playing for comic effect; however, no one save for Joffrey himself and Cersei is laughing. Initially, Tommen does laugh at his brother’s entertainment, but an admonishing glance from his uncle Tyrion quickly quietens him. Joffrey manages to insult nearly everyone present, from his wife to his former fiancee, and not least of all his own uncle, who is the obvious butt of his joke in using little people. Ser Loras, visibly upset, leaves as the Renly surrogate, called a “degenerate,” is mock-killed by being hit repeatedly in his exposed buttocks with a phallic club. Tyrion is visibly angered, andt in a low voice orders Podrick to give each of the performers twenty gold when they are done. “We’ll have to find another way to thank the King,” he says, his voice under tight control. Sansa is having a hard time controlling herself, as she watches “Robb Stark” being killed by “Joffrey.” People are mostly silent, politely clapping – notably, Varys sits unmoving, not applauding along with the others. “Joffrey” picks up “Robb Stark’s” wolf’s head helmet, and begins to hump it.

Joffrey suggests that his uncle should take to the field, but Tyrion turns it back on him, suggesting that the King himself should do so, so that others may see his prowess on the battlefield, just as Tyrion has seen in the past. Of course, this is very harsh and direct insult, as the only time Joffrey came close to seeing action he was hit in the face with a clump of dung, and panicked in the face of opposition. Joffrey walks up behind his uncle, and pours his wine over his head. “Good vintage,” Tyrion quips, “A shame it was spilled.” Joffrey doesn’t take the proffered olive branch, and tells Tyrion to act as his cup-bearer. Tyrion continues to do his best, saying he’d be honored – but Joffrey is like a dog with a bone, and seems intent on beating his uncle into submission. He hasn’t forgotten the times Tyrion has slapped him and put him in his place, and Joffrey is nothing if not a little man – much smaller inside than his uncle’s stature on the outside.

Tyrion realizes he needs to play along for the moment, and walks over to take his nephew’s cup. Joffrey drops the goblet, and then as Tyrion bends to pick it up, he kicks it out of his uncle’s grasp. Sansa stands, and walking around the table picks up the cup and hands it to Tyrion. He looks gratefully at her, and tries to hand the cup to Joffrey. Joffrey, not satisfied, asks him what good an empty cup is? He tells him to fill it, which Tyrion does, using the carafe from in front of Joffrey’s seat. Joffrey does not take the cup, telling Tyrion to kneel – you can almost see the cogs in his head turning. He’s embarrassed his uncle, publicly humiliating him, but that isn’t enough – he always has to push for the extra win, the sense of petty victory that will feed his petty heart. Tyrion just stares at him, turned slightly away. Joffrey repeats himself, and Tyrion, though shaking, refuses to move or say a thing. Finally, Joffrey says, “I said…KNEEL!” The tension is thick enough to cut with a knife. Suddenly, Margaery stands, and shouts, “Look, the pie.” Joffrey shakes his head, as though breaking out of a trance, and then smiles at his bride. A huge pie is wheeled out in front of the head table. Grabbing Widow’s Wail, he steps forward with a flourish, and slices down into the middle. A burst of white, and a dozen doves fly out of the pie; the camera lingers briefly on the cut, where we also see several dead and blooded doves. This is symbolic of Joffrey’s inability to see what his actions result in. He sees only the glory, what he thinks the people see when they look at him, and fails to see the collateral damage and real costs of his kingship.

Margaery feeds a couple of morsels of pie to Joffrey, and Sansa asks Tyrion, “Can we leave now?” her emotion choking her voice. Joffrey notices them getting up, but he won’t let them go. He accosts Tyrion once again, asking where he’s going. Tyrion tells him he thought it prudent to change out of his wet clothing, but Joffrey reprimands him, reminding him that he is his cup-bearer and may not leave without permission. He tells Tyrion that the pie is dry, and he needs him to bring his drink. Tyrion does so, handing Joffrey the goblet. Joffrey takes a drink, and starts to speak, coughing. He takes another drink, and begins to cough more, unable to speak. His eyes start to bulge, and Margaery yells, “Help him! He’s choking!” Olenna yells for the guests to help their king. Jaime runs forward, as Joffrey falls to the ground face first. He pounds him on the back, as Joffrey begins to vomit, mucous streaming out of his mouth and nose. Cersei screams, rushing forward to her son. At the table, Ser Dondas appears behind Sansa, saying, “If you want to live, you have to leave.” Everyone else seems frozen, and the one person who might have helped – Grand Maester Pycelle – has been sent away on Cersei’s orders. She and Jaime turn Joffrey over – he’s still choking, and blood begins to stream first from one nostril, and then the other. His eyes bulge, the whites turning blood red, and his cheeks become purple and bruised. He raises a shaking hand, a finger crooked toward Tyrion, who is standing on the dais, reaching down to grab the goblet Joffrey dropped. Joffrey shakes, and then stills, eyes gone askew as they stare sightless at the sky. Cersei cries, “My son.” Her face, at first grief-stricken, turns to resolve and hatred. She looks up at Tyrion. “You did this,” she whispers, “you poisoned my son.” “Take him,” she orders, spittle flying from her lips as she says it four times, each louder than the last. She rocks, and stares down at Joffrey’s lifeless body. The camera focuses in on his face, distorted in pain and death.

At long last, Joffrey is dead, and the whole of Westeros is the better for it. It is unlikely he’ll be mourned by anyone, save for Cersei, and her form of mourning is strictly vengeful. She sees Tyrion as the assassin, and it won’t matter to her whether or not he actually did it: he’s guilty in her eyes. Of course, it wasn’t Tyrion at all, and the evidence quite clearly points to Lady Olenna.

Last week, Joffrey’s fool, Ser Dontos, approached Sansa and gave her his family heirloom, the necklace she wears to the wedding. When Olenna straightens out Sansa’s hair, we see her right hand linger over the necklace, and in the next shot, the leftmost amethyst is missing from the chain. We don’t see what she does with it, but she somehow gets it to Margaery. When she tells Joffrey about the pie, he hands his goblet to her. Look carefully – she takes the goblet with her right hand, but her left comes to the lip, and lingers for a moment over top the wine. She’s putting the amethyst – certainly a form of crystallized poison – into the drink. It happens in this moment, because just as he hands it to her, he takes a quick sip, and doesn’t suffer any ill effects. The poison is placed there in the moment he hands her the cup. To further confirm that this is all part of a Tyrell conspiracy, Ser Dontos appears out of nowhere as Joffrey is choking, imploring Sansa to leave with him. We know that Olenna has a soft-spot for Sansa, and she’s trying to protect her from the inevitable suspicion that will fall on her, as Tyrion is clearly implicated in the assassination.

The question then becomes, why? Well, less why, than what will happen next. Clearly, killing Joffrey is literally in everyone’s best interests. Olenna and Margaery do it to protect Margaery from Joffrey’s depredations, but they time it so that Margaery is clearly and by law the Queen, removing Cersei’s legal power. As there is no issue from their unconsummated marriage, the most likely heir becomes Tommen, Joffrey’s younger brother. He is much more tractable (read: less crazy) than his brother, and as there will be no suspicion on the Tyrells (due to Tyrion being framed), there is still the possibility of a royal wedding and alliance, as the Lannisters still desperately need Tyrell support. Olenna and Margaery would see Tommen as being a) less dangerous, and b) infinitely more manageable. Who will be the power behind the throne? Will Cersei manage to hold onto power through her younger son? And how far will the Lannisters fall, now that they’re turning to in-fighting and accusations, and the most intelligent and able of all of them, Tyrion, is being taken into custody on the charge of Regicide?

The other storylines, while getting much less attention, were nonetheless not only interesting, but important. Roose Bolton is attempting to unite the north under his banner, and we see just how little control he has over his bastard. In the shaving scene, I was waiting for his man Locke, who is obviously friends with Ramsay, to turn on his Lord and slice his throat – I think Ramsay may have saved his father’s life by asking Reek to shave him first.

Bran is taking to his skinchanging like a natural, although it is a good thing Jojen is there to help temper his eagerness. His visions with the god tree are of particular interest. It’s told him to go north, and to look for “me” under the tree. Bran has a meeting with someone – or something – and I suspect it will be a representative of the divine north.

Religion played an important role tonight in all three storylines: Bran’s god wood and vision in the north; the marriage at the Great Sept of Baelor in King’s Landing (along with Shireen’s mention of the holy book of the Seven that she’s read); and Melisandre’s sacrifice of people to her god of fire, R’hllor. It isn’t just kings vying for control of Westeros; it’s the gods themselves.

In only two weeks, we’ve lost a king, gained a new power player in Oberyn of Dorne, seen the real power behind the Tyrell family, watched as Arya turns into the killer she’s been threatening to become since meeting Jaqen, and cringed as the most popular character in the series, Tyrion, is taken by the King’s Guard and accused of killing his own nephew. Game changers like these are usually reserved for the end of a season; the fact that they’re happening now bodes well for the rest of the season to come.

On a last note, wondering why Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding is referred to by fans of the books as “The Purple Wedding?” The color of Joffrey’s face when he dies, the color of the wine that he drinks, and the color of the amethyst that is the hidden poison are all purple. That, and it acts as a nice chromatic counterpoint to the much bloodier Red Wedding from last season. Now, if only someone had been present to cut Cersei’s throat as well, things might begin to even up.

Steve’s Grade: A
An excellent episode that saw yet another king fall, as both gods and kings maneuver in order to gain the power they need to conquer Westeros. Topping tonight’s episode will be a tall order, but Benioff and Weiss have shown a consistent ability to increase the stakes; perhaps a little warfare in Meereen next week?

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