OH MY GAWWWWWWWWWWD! "The Lion and the Rose" was straight-up awesome from start to finish, and with the Lord of Light as my witness, I declare it one of my favorite episodes of Game of Thrones ever. Not only did the hour focus on the weirdos, psychos, and horrible people of Westeros, it crammed almost all of them together at the most problematic of occasions: an arranged marriage between two families that plain don't like each other. Even the check-ins with characters who weren't attending the "Purple Wedding" were amazing, as the episode rocketed them into the fold with heaping doses of cruelty and dementia. "The Lion and the Rose" eschewed nobility and honor in favor of showcasing how truly awful Game of Thrones' characters can be, and that's what makes the series such a great fantasy soap opera. Plus, Shae (ugh, I hate Shae) cried tears of sadness, which was the icing on the pigeon pie.
Anyway, pour some barbecue sauce on your brother-in-law and let's discuss what happened in the "The Lion and the Rose"!
"My banners, not yours. You're not a Bolton, you're a Snow." —Roose Bolton
I will firmly state that Game of Thrones characters who are awful people are much more interesting than those who abide by the rules of honor and generosity, because the idea of a noble knight who defends a maiden's virtue or an elf who starts a charity for broken-horned unicorns is just not for me. The fantasy genre is stuffed full with so many nice people who we're supposed to root for, and I'm sick of it (I was Team Sauron all the way in the Bored of the Rings movies, and Team the Nothing in The NeverEnding and Never Interesting Story films). Well, because of the big event at the end of "The Lion and the Rose," I'm going to have to find a new asshole to cheer for on this show, and there's a good chance that Ramsay Snow might fill that void.
Ramsay, played perfectly by Iwan Rheon (Misfits), is a non-stop comedy show for a guy like me; I just love watching him sever penises and hunt down pretty girls in the woods. Remember, this is the guy who sacked Winterfell and was party to Roose Bolton's traitorous ways against the Starks, so he's not exactly nice. But when he puts on that boyish "Oh golly!" grin while shaking some sausage in his castration victim's face or meeting his dad's meaty new bride, it's hard not to appreciate the joy that Ramsay gets out of exacting cruelty on others. I can appreciate a man who really takes pride in his job.
In the opening scene of "The Lion and the Rose," Ramsay hunted a woman in the woods with Theon and an archer named Miranda for whatever reason, probably because he was bored, and after Miranda felled their prey with an arrow, Ramsay let his dogs eat her. Meanwhile, Theon looked on disapprovingly, and I guess Game of Thrones wants us to feel bad for Theon. Nice try, show, but I won't forget that Theon is a jerk who felt up his own sister's boobs. Having his cock cut off might have suited him well, too, because instead of maintaining his troublemaker status and making dumb decisions based on what he thinks is pride, he's now a docile little slave to Ramsay.
But Ramsay's dad Roose Bolton wasn't as impressed by Ramsay's hard work as I was, and in keeping with Game of Thrones' theme of disappointed fathers, he tsk-tsk'd Ramsay for ruining Theon's hostage value (I'm guessing George R.R. Martin and his dad have a terrible relationship). Since Theon isn't in mint condition, there's no way that Balon Greyjoy will swap his possession of Moat Cailin for his son (though there's no guarantee that Balon would want Theon back anyway). Ramsay was smart, though, and revealed Theon's value to his dad when Theon admitted to never killing Bran and Rickon Stark. So Roose sent Locke (the guy who cut off Jaime's hand) toward Castle Black in search of Bran and Rickon, and he gave Ramsay another shot at winning his favor with the chance to take Moat Cailin by force. Go be somebody, Ramsay! A Bolton-Greyjoy war might not sound too interesting, but it's a fine opportunity for a battle involving a bunch of people we're not too invested in, so let the heads roll, I say! Who would we want to win, though? I'm siding with the Greyjoys, because the idea of Roose Bolton ruling the North makes me want to vomit in my mouth.
"There's only one hell. The one we live in now." —Melisandre
Our first taste of the bumbling losers of Dragonstone came in the best way possible: with people burning to death on stakes and Melisandre screaming her New Age mumbo-jumbo at them. "Accept these tokens of our faith, my lord, and lead us from the darkness," she said as the "tokens" howled like lobsters in a boiling pot. The heathens deserved to cook, though, because if you're not following the Lord of Light, then you aren't witnessing his many miracles across Westeros. In my recent interview with actress Carice van Houten, I admitted that I'm a believer because of what I've seen—namely, the Shadow Baby, Baric Dondarrion's resurrection, and Melisandre's rockin' bod. These are events I can put my faith behind. And in this scene, Melisandre uttered the now-familiar line that still sends shivers down my spine, "Lord of Light protect us, for the night is dark and full of terrors!" and then WHOOOSH! All the simmering flames became mini-infernos and swallowed up their victims. Seeing is believing, folks!
Stannis's wife Selyse has chugged the Lord of Light's Kool-Aid to the point where her tongue is dyed bright red, even though the religion's priestess is grinding on her husband. That's fanaticism! Selyse didn't even complain when her own brother was burned at the stake for refusing to throw away his idols worshipping the wrong gods. In sum, Selyse is absolutely insane. She's so cuckoo and stubborn in her beliefs that when she told my boy Ser Davos that the barbecued people's souls were with the Lord, the disappointed Onion Knight could only say, "I'm sure they're more than grateful, my queen." Haha, Davos. Always a crack-up. The amount of bullshit that was spit at royalty through gritted teeth in this episode was off the charts.
Elsewhere during this visit to Dragonstone, Selyse and Stannis's daughter Shireen challenged Melisandre with regard to Melisandre's rituals, and we learned that Stannis knows how to grill seagulls and make book soup. In a TV.com exclusive, I got Stannis's secret recipe:
Stannis's Book Soup (Serves 4)
– 1 book, preferably something by Dan Brown (George R.R. Martin books tend to fill the soup with too many extraneous details, and new flavors only come out once every six years)
– 1 pot of boiling water
Put book in boiling water. Declare it "book soup." Serve to your freak of a wife immediately.
"I know where we have to go." —Bran Stark
For the first time this season, we also caught up with Bran, who was up to his old tricks of spirit-riding his direwolf, Summer. And in his vision, he murdered a deer supposedly because he was hungry. It sure beats waking up to a half-eaten pillow! Jojen warned Bran that if he spent too much time warging, he'd lose all sense of himself and forget everything, kind of like that CrossFit pandemic that's turning people into monsters. "If we lose you, we lose everything," Meera said. But do the Reeds really even know what they're doing? Meera, if you lose Bran, you get to turn around and go south for some carefree tanning!
A bit later, the group came upon a tree that Summer was yapping at, so Bran touched it and saw Game of Thrones clips from Seasons 1, 5, 6, and 7! If I were Bran, I would have kicked the crap out of that weirwood. No spoilers, tree! But what Bran saw was pretty awesome: visions of Ned, the crypt beneath Winterfell (I think), the room that holds the Iron Throne all covered in snow, maybe Superman's Fortress of Solitude or something equally crystallized, and the shadow of a dragon flying over King's Landing. Umm, awesome? But what does it mean!?!? Bran said, "I know where we have to go," and I waited and waited but he still didn't say it. "North," boomed a voice in his vision. So I guess they're going to continue north. I've given Bran's storyline a hard time in the past, but at least this time he experienced his coolest vision yet, even if his travels are developing awfully slow. Even Dany is looking at Bran's plot and beeping her horn.
"A toast to the proud Lannister children: the Cripple, the Dwarf, and the Mother of Madness." —Tyrion Lannister
A dejected Jaime, still smarting after his sister turned him down for sex, supped with his brother Tyrion—but Jaime couldn't even raise a glass with his golden hand of uselessness. He party-fouled an entire glass of wine and then whimpered about it, so Tyrion decided that Jaime needed to get some mojo back and arranged a sword-training session with Bronn so that Jaime could learn to fight with his left hand. Bronn took him to a picturesque little nook that overlooked Blackwater Bay. It also happened to be the nook that Bronn uses for nookie, as he explained to Jaime that it's where he bangs a knight's wife in secret 'cuz she's a screamer. Anyway, Jaime is a pretty crummy swordsman with his left hand, is what I got from this scene.
After hearing that Cersei's spies had noticed Shae's visit to Tyrion, Tyrion chatted with Shae. And by "chatted with," I mean "broke up with." It was glorious! Tyrion booked Shae a one-way cruise to Pentos, and I know it was to save her life, but I like to think it's because he couldn't stand her anymore. He went for the rip-the-Band-Aid-off approach and delivered this whopper of a goodbye: "You're a whore! Sansa is fit to bear my child and you are not. I can't be in love with a whore. I can't have children with a whore. How many men have you been with, five hundred? Five thousand?" Shae cried real tears, but sorry, I didn't feel bad for her at all. Get out of here, Shae! Good riddance! I hope her boat sinks.
But while love failed between Tyrion and Shae, wedding bells were ringing elsewhere. And now...
You are cordially invited to
THE PURPLE WEDDING
It was a royal holiday as King's Landing prepared for the union of the lovely Margaery Tyrell of House Tyrell and His Royal Heinous King Joffrey Baratheon of House Lannister and House Baratheon and House Incest. The city was all aflutter with plenty of grumpiness, despair, and hate. I knew this wedding and its fun ceremony were coming because I read up through the third book in George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire series, but I honestly didn't expect it to happen so soon on the TV show. The whole extended sequence was top-notch entertainment, and one of the few times so many of Game of Thrones' major characters were used in one setting.
"Now that the war is won, we should all find time for wisdom. Thank you, Uncle." —King Joffrey Baratheon
Before the actual wedding, Joffrey was presented with gifts, because a king can never have enough stuff. Margaery's father gave Joffrey an ornate cup. Gee, thanks Mr. Tyrell. Tyrion followed with a book the size of A Dance With Dragons, and Joffrey looked as excited to receive it as Tyrion was to get rid of it. Finally, Tywin presented Joffrey with that other Valyrian steel blade, and it would have been a heartwarming moment if either Tywin or Joffrey had a heart. Joffrey immediately used the sword to hack up Tyrion's book. Classic Joffrey! Sansa was not impressed:
But my favorite part of the episode was when Joffrey asked the crowd what he should name his sword and people just started shouting out death-metal band names.
Joffrey went with Widow's Wail because it sounded the coolest and would remind him of Ned Stark's death, which was so not cool with Sansa. I don't know why Joffrey insists on torturing Sansa so much still. It's like, dude, let it chill. Sheesh.
"With this kiss, I pledge my love." —King Joffrey Baratheon
The actual wedding was no-big-deal affair, and Game of Thrones smartly decided to get this part over with as soon as possible. Do you? Do you? There, you're married! And then Joffrey tried to swallow Margaery whole. Let's all give Margaery some credit, folks—she put up with a lot of crap in the name of enjoying unlimited power as Queen of Westeros.
But around this time, "The Lion and the Rose" did start to offer hints that something big was about to go down. There was a sneaky camera pan from Tywin to Lady Olenna, the Queen of Thorns, and Olenna's face read something other than joy over seeing her granddaughter getting married. I saw it as, "YESSSSS POWER IS MINE!" But as we would find out later, it may have been something even more.
The wedding reception was where all the fantastic action took place, as Joffrey got to remind us what a terrible person he was. In fact, I don't think anyone was happy to be at the event. People were straight nasty to each other for the duration of the post-wedding festivities. Tywin moaned about having to pay for half the affair, Tyrion was still fretting about kicking Shae off the continent, and Oberyn called out the Lannisters as supporters of rape and murder, plus he repeatedly called Cersei the "former queen regent." But the real claws came out from both Jaime and Cersei, as Jaime threatened Loras about marrying Cersei and Cersei accused Brienne of loving Jaime. And Brienne didn't deny the allegations, because Brienne would fall in love with a brick wall if she leaned against it long enough. However, it was nice to see that Brienne spent last week reading some fashion blogs or something, because she looked much better this week than she did in the Season 4 premiere. Cersei is playing some harsh head games with Jaime right now; she refuses to sleep with him, but still threatens girls who talk to him? Oooooh girl, you cold!
"A royal wedding isn't amusement. A royal wedding is history." —King Joffrey Baratheon
And with that line, Joffrey turned a semi-jovial reception into an awkward display of little-person abuse as he had his court of fools reenact the War of the Five Kings and open old wounds for all the attendees who'd lost relatives as part of it. Loras was pissed off when little Renly was booted out of the skit, and Sansa could only look on in horror when little Robb had his wolf's head taken off. But things turned downright uncomfortable when Joffrey took his loathsome behavior and channeled it into berating Tyrion.
After pouring wine over Tyrion's head, he forced his uncle to be his gofer, and taunted Tyrion to defy his orders. For his part, Tyrion mostly went along with the routine until he was saved by Margaery, who was overjoyed to see that the pigeon pie had arrived. After Joffrey cut open the pie and the birds poured out, he asked for his wine and took a gulp. Then it happened...
[Choking sounds] —King Joffrey Baratheon
Slightly uncomfortable swallows were followed by gasps for air. Joffrey was choking to death. You may have been jumping up and down for joy, but I was feeling some real emotion here. I was actually sad. And when Cersei leaned over her boy in a fit of hysterics, I may've even squeezed out a tear. "The Lion and the Rose" marked the end of an era, guys. You call it a reign a terror, I call it a reign of terror for my own amusement. Regardless of what you think of him, you have to admit that Game of Thrones is going to be a lot more boring without Joffrey. Take me with you, Joffrey! *Jumps on top of coffin weeping*
So, what do you think happened? Clearly Cersei thinks it was Tyrion who poisoned the wine, and Joffrey pointed at his uncle while taking his last dying breath, but c'mon, it wasn't Tyrion. There were moments during the reception that transformed the scene into into a whodunnit before a who had even dunnit. Some mysterious lingering shots focused on specific characters that should raise some suspicion.
Olenna Tyrell is a candidate, isn't she? Couldn't she have murdered Joffrey as soon as Margaery was named queen so she could have the control? There was a shot of Varys, too, and he's been known to spin his web in high places "for the good of the realm." Why did Ser Dantos try to grab Sansa and get her to leave immediately? Did he know what was going to happen before it happened? And let's not forget about Oberyn, the Lannister hater who attended the wedding despite despising its hosts. He wanted revenge for his sister, and killing Tywin's grandchild would be a good way to achieve that.
Each week, I'll rank the episodes of Season 4 from best to worst. But remember, these are just my opinions! Feel free to post your own in the comments!
This week: Wow. Just a stellar episode of Game of Thrones that will be hard to top. "The Lion and the Rose" was both shocking and hilarious, through and through. Joffrey is dead!
1. "The Lion and the Rose" (Episode 2)
2. "Two Swords" (Episode 1)
– Okay, who else is shipping Loras and Oberyn?
– Hey, that was real-life Icelandic band Sigur Ros playing music at Joffrey's wedding reception (and their version of "The Rains of Castamere" is now available for purchase at Amazon)! I'm glad Joffrey cut their set short and kicked them off stage, though. We should send Joffrey to Coachella and have him turn the three-day festival into a two-hour event.
– Haha Pycelle, cornering young women and offering them personal examinations. What a pervy old man. And I love how honest Cersei was with him: "Every breath you draw in my presence annoys me." Cersei is the best.
– R.I.P. (rest in pie) to that one bird that didn't make it out of the wedding dessert.
– Do you think we're actually rid of Shae, or is she hiding in a barrel somewhere?
Kindly avoid posting book spoilers in the comments.