Well that happened. “Game of Thrones” has literally been killing it with their episode finales so far, first with the death of Polliver at Arya’s hands, and now the death of Joffery at…someone’s hand. “The Lion and the Rose” was a fantastic episode that kept tensions high for the entire episode almost exclusively through veiled conversations between the Lannisters and their enemies, before capping everything off with a bold sequence, notable for just how long it is.
First off, the production values in “The Lion and the Rose” are spectacular. The wedding of Joffery and Margaery takes up most of the episode, as all of King’s Landing is forced to come out and celebrate. The sets stretch on into the distance in nearly every shot, and are packed to the brim with street performers and guests. One shot in particular was particularly stunning: as Joffery walks through the crowd the trees in the background part to reveal the castles looming over them. The castle was only seen for a moment, but it must have cost a fortune. Thankfully the shot isn’t just for show, since briefly showing the castle, where the Iron Throne resides, emphasizes that the machinations between all of the houses cannot be avoided, even during a wedding.
“I said kneel!”
Wedged between scenes of street performers (including Icelandic band Sigur Ros) trying to please their king, every major character in Kings Landing faces off with someone. Nearly all of the conversations focus on character conflicts instead of the Iron Throne, revealing where writer George R.R. Martin’s real interest lies. Malevolent queen bitch Cersei is in nearly all of the conversations, keeping everyone on their toes with her shrill iciness. The conversation between Her, Tywin, and Oberyn is the best of the lot, and also the least veiled. I’m still not sure what Oberyn’s plan is, but I’m looking forward to it. In my eyes he is the best new character since Stannis was introduced in season two.
Speaking of Stannis, he’s still back home being a moody bastard, burning people alive in a sacrifice to his god. I really like Stannis and his no holds barred attitude in conversations, but he hasn’t done anything since “Blackwater.” Across the sea and isolated from everyone, he is now just like Danerys, which is an unfortunate place to be. I’m not entirely sure what the point of keeping Stannis around is. I’m sure he’ll become important again later, like everyone in “Game of Thrones” does, but I want him doing stuff right now dammit!
Maybe everyone should just be common-law?
There’s a lot of really great stuff in “The Lion and the Rose,” but it will always be known as the episode where Joffery died. His death caps a brilliant and extended sequence that pushed audience’s hatred of Joffery to the very limit. After chopping Tyrion’s present in half with a sword, and having midgets enact his fictionalized victory over Stannis, he then makes Tyrion his cup boy, humiliating his already bruised uncle. Joffery takes his prickishness to the very edge and beyond, to the point where you know he’ll be dead by the end of the episode.
The moment itself is very sudden and painful to watch. At first it looks like Joffery is choking, but once his eyes start to bleed, it’s pretty obvious that he has been poisoned. Director Alex Graves makes sure to capture all of the panic in the crowd, to take away any enjoyment from Joffery’s death, which I think it a good call. Everyone wanted Joffery to die, but it would be too much to enjoy his death, especially on a show as harsh as “Game of Thrones.”
“A toast to the proud Lannister children: The dwarf, the cripple and the Mother of Madness.”
“The Lion and the Rose” does not do much with the momentum generated in “Two Swords,” instead starting from scratch at the beginning of the episode. Now that everyone has been introduced, and major stuff has gone down, I expect the momentum generated last week and this week will merge, and everything will start clipping along. It will be strange to see “Game of Thrones” without Joffery, since his petulance was the linchpin for many King’s Landing scenes, but I am certainly excited to find out.