This week’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose,” was written by creator George R.R. Martin and was directed by Alex Graves. Graves directed two episodes last season and is slated to direct three more episodes this season, including the finale. This is the only episode Martin will write this season. No doubt he is focusing on getting the novels finished before the series catches up!
Given the centerpiece of this episode, it was a natural choice for Martin to write. Apparently, he hasn’t been to too many happy weddings... The episode is gorgeously shot against a sumptuous background, particularly in King’s Landing. The episode begins and ends in madness and murder.
As the episode opens, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) has turned his sadistic tendencies on a young woman and is hunting her through the woods with Myranda (Charlotte Hope) and with Theon (Alfie Allen) – whom he calls Reek – in tow. The girl’s crime is that she’s made Myranda jealous. After Myranda puts an arrow through the girl’s leg, Ramsay turns his dogs on her to finish her. Back at Dreadfort, Roose (Michael McElhatton) arrives home with Locke (Noah Taylor). Roose is not at all happy that Ramsay has been amusing himself by flaying and torturing their prized hostage who is now basically useless to them, especially considering Ramsay’s botched attempt at using Theon as a hostage.
Ramsay demonstrates that he is a complete psychopath with no concern even for his own safety when he demonstrates just how much he has “trained” and broken Reek by having Reek shave him with a straight razor in front of his Roose. He is able to gain his father’s attention and grudging approval by having Reek reveal that he did not, in fact, kill the two youngest Stark brothers. In addition, Ramsay shows his complete control by telling Theon about Rob’s death while the razor is right against his neck. He even rubs salt in the wound by reminding Theon that he had been like a brother to Rob. Roose is quick to forget his annoyance with Ramsay over the torture and tells him he’ll consider making him a legitimate heir if he takes Moat Cailin.
Rheon is fantastic as the new heir apparent as the show’s psychopathic son. Allen also does a wonderful job as the completely traumatized Reek. His shaking and shuddering in the woods while the girl is being shredded by the dogs and the way he has to pull himself together after learning of Rob’s death were particularly good. Roose tells Ramsay to take Reek to Moat Cailin with him – I can’t see that ending well for Ramsey. Locke is told to go after the boys and look at Castle Black – Jon Snow is also identified as a possible threat to their taking the North.
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is spending too much time in his dire wolf to escape the confines of his body – both its physical limits and the hunger that is plaguing them all. Both Jojen (Thomas Brodie Sangster) and Meera (Ellie Kendrick) warn him that he’ll lose the human part of himself and forget all about everyone and everything if he spends too much time in the wolf. Bran stops at a Heart Tree and has a vision to return to the north and look beneath the Heart Tree there, changing the group’s course.
At Dragonstone, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) burns three people at the stake, including Lady Selyse’s (Tara Fitzgerald) brother. It is a tribute to the Lord of Light but Davos (Liam Cunningham) is unimpressed and let’s Stannis (Stephen Dillane) know it. Lady Selyse is completely caught up in worshiping the Lord of Light and wants to use her fervor to beat Shireen (Kerry Ingram). Stannis tells her she will never hurt his daughter but allows Melisandre to visit the Princess. Shireen has heard the screams of the victims and remembers her uncle only for being kind to her – something not many are. Shireen is not intimidated or duped by Melisandre and says the screams indicate that they were not happy about the sacrifice. Melisandre points out that women in labor scream but are happy afterwards. Shireen astutely observes that women are not left as piles of ash and bone after labor. Melisandre tells Shireen that there aren’t seven heavens and hells as she’s been lead to believe – there is just the Hell they’re all living in. Shireen seems to accept this; she’s certainly been living in her own Hell. However, she’s also close to Davos, and I’m betting he’ll have more to say about the Lord of Light.
While things are starting to heat up in the North, with both Bran and Jon facing threats, Dragonstone seems to be stagnating. Lady Selyse says that the larders are almost empty. Will that make them desperate to try something or too weak to do so?
The main action of the episode, however, takes place at King’s Landing. It was nice to see the bond between Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is still intact. There’s also a nice bit of foreshadowing when Jaime spills his wine and Tyrion remarks, “It’s only wine.” Wine will not be harmless later in the episode... Tyrion knows his brother though and doesn’t try to coddle him or ignore the fact that he’s lost a hand. Tyrion is ever the realist and this shows in his toast to the Lannister children: “The dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.” For his own part, Jaime can be honest with Tyrion and confides his concerns over not being able to fight.
Tyrion sets him up with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) as a sparring partner to help him learn how to fight with his left hand. For his part, Bronn doesn’t coddle the Kingslayer either. He is happy to sell his silence because he’s been told that Jaime “shits gold, just like his father.” It’s hard not to love every scene Flynn is in. I did find it curious that Jaime wouldn’t have gone to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) for help, but then, I don’t believe she would have pushed him as hard as Bronn no doubt will.
Tyrion, of course, is required to attend all the wedding festivities, and on his way to the wedding breakfast, Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) warns him that Cersei (Lena Headey) knows about Shae (Sibel Kekilli), and it’s just a matter of time before Tywin (Charles Dance) fulfills his promise to hang Tyrion’s next whore. Tyrion’s love for Shae clouds his usual good judgment and he tells Varys to lie for him. Varys refuses as he knows his own position is tenuous at best. It’s not until Tyrion sees Cersei point Shae out to Tywin at the wedding breakfast that he’s forced to acknowledge that she is truly in danger.
Dinklage and Kekilli are always a joy to watch together on screen, and the scene in which he tells her he no longer wants her is heart-rending. He calls her a whore, something he would never do, and tells her he must stay true to his vows to his wife. All the time, he can’t meet her eyes because she’s always been as clever as he is and would easily see the truth. He manages to convince her and has Bronn once again do the dirty work and put her on a ship for Essos. At least, Bronn later tells Tyrion that she got on the ship. But did she stay on the ship? She accuses Tyrion of being motivated by fear of his father and sister – of course he is, they’re psychopaths! – and swears they can fight them together. I have to wonder if she even got on the ship, or if she did, will she be plotting to help Tyrion from Essos? We know that Shae is clever after all and deeply in love with Tyrion. I’m betting we haven’t seen the last of her. You will no doubt have realized by now that I haven’t read the books. Please don’t give away huge spoilers in the comments below...
There is a lot of clever foreshadowing for the end of the episode throughout the episode, but much of it comes at the wedding breakfast. Lord Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) presents Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) with a wedding goblet and the sentiment that he should drink deeply from it and live long. Well, that’s not going to happen! Tyrion presents his King with a book on the lives of four kings. Joffrey, of course, is not amused by such a gift and actually surprises everyone by being gracious and stating that “now that the war is over, we should all find time for wisdom.” Dinklage is superb as his only reaction is a tightening of the eyes to indicate that he’s waiting for the sting in the tail of that comment. Tywin actually looks pleasantly surprised. But alas, there will be no time for Joffrey to learn any wisdom!
The final gift is from Tywin and is Joffrey’s Valyrian steel sword. Like any child, Joffrey must jump up to play with this new toy and he immediately slices Tyrion’s present to pieces with the sword. I don’t care what kind of blade it is, using it for such a thing is not good for the blade! Tyrion and Sansa (Sophie Turner) are both appalled at the treatment of their gift, but it gets worse for Sansa as Joffrey uses the opportunity to wound her. He asks for names for his new blade and is most pleased with the suggestion of Widow’s Wail. Oh irony! Little does he realize that the wails will be coming soon enough from his own widow and his mother who is also a widow. But he also makes a point of saying that each time he uses it, it will feel like taking Ned Stark’s head off.
Tywin and Lady Olenna (Diana Rigg) discuss the opulence of the wedding on their way to the feast, and it could easily have been the producers – the set and staging were the movie-level extravagance we’ve come to expect of this show. There is an interesting moment when Joffrey and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) turn to face the crowd after they’ve kissed, and you see just the flicker of a doubt pass over Dormer’s face before she smiles at the crowd. It seems to be dawning on her that she may have bitten off more than she can chew with her mad King. As the feast progresses, we see her increasingly less able to derail Joffrey from his cruel pursuits, and it seems only a matter of time before she will be unable to protect herself. Margaery is a clever politician and knows how important it is to keep the people on her side. If Joffrey manages to alienate the common people, Margaery will also be in danger from their wrath.
Watching two legendary actors in Dance and Rigg exchange barbs is the real extravagance of this show, however, and the wedding feast is full to brimming with such scenes. Olenna reminds Tywin that he is going to be in her debt both literally and figuratively for some time to come. He denies that the Iron Bank has any hold over him, but they both know he is lying.
As the newlyweds celebrate, we see the star-crossed lovers are somewhat envious. Brienne comes to pay her respects to the couple. Margaery welcomes her while Cersei tries to embarrass her for not curtseying. Cersei thanks Brienne for saving Jaime, but Brienne tells her that, in fact, Jaime was the one to save her. Brienne may be a skilled swordswoman, but she’s clearly never learned to play politics and wears her heart on her sleeve. Cersei quickly becomes jealous. She accuses Brienne of changing loyalties to suit herself and then accuses her of loving Jaime – which Brienne does not deny. Christie is simply outstanding in both of these scenes. Brienne has no idea of the enemy she’s just made – luckily for her, Cersei will likely be too distracted by exacting revenge for Joffrey to do anything immediately to Brienne.
Meanwhile Cersei’s intended, Sir Loras (Finn Jones) exchanges steamy glances with Prince Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) before sparring with Jaime. Jaime warns him that if Loras should marry Cersei, she will kill him and any of their children in their beds. I was pretty impressed that Loras was far from intimidated and twisted his own verbal knife by telling Jaime that Jaime wouldn’t be marrying Cersei either. Clearly the entire Tyrell clan are a force to be reckoned with – with the possible exception of Mace...
Once again, Pascal impresses as Oberyn in the scene with Cersei and Tywin. Cersei is quick to insult Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), and Oberyn comes quickly to her defence, stating “people of low birth are not looked down upon” and women and children are not raped in Dorne. He also reminds Cersei that her own daughter is being protected there. Oberyn gives even better than he gets as he keeps reminding Cersei that she is the former Queen regent – she’s lost her power. I found it interesting that Tywin was perfectly happy seeing his daughter raked over the coals; he’s every bit as sadistic as she is.
Taking that sadistic streak on a through line brings us squarely to Joffrey. I want to take a moment to comment on Gleeson’s stunning portrayal of this psychopath that we’d all come to love to hate. He’s at his very best in this, his last performance. He’s a spoiled little brat as he throws money at the musicians to get rid of them. Margaery attempts damage control with their subjects by immediately announcing that the leftovers of the feast will be distributed amongst the poor. Cersei compliments her as an example to them all, but later tells Pycelle (Julian Glover) to give the food to the dogs.
There’s another lovely bit of foreshadowing as Lady Olenna pays her respects to Sansa and gives her condolences over Rob’s death. She says “killing a man at a wedding! What kind of monster would do that?” What kind of monster indeed. It was great to watch as the entire wedding party becomes increasingly less amused by Joffrey’s antics.
Joffrey’s amusement of the war of the five kings is amusing mainly to himself and Cersei but Tywin and even Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) are as well. Tommen can be excused as he’s only a child. Lady Olenna and Margaery are clearly embarrassed and disapprove and Sir Loras actually gets up and leaves. Tyrion tells Podrick (Daniel Portman) to give each of the players 5 gold pieces - but for an accident of birth, Tyrion might have shared their fate and he knows that Joffrey will find a way to stiff them. He also vows to find a way to pay the King back too. I wonder if Podrick will be called upon to testify against Tyrion. Sansa is close to tears and the amusement is largely to wound her and Tyrion. Afterwards, Joffrey baits Tyrion, but he refuses to bite, choosing to suffer the embarrassment and protect both his own life and Sansa’s.
Joffrey escalates his tormenting by first pouring his wine over Tyrion’s head. At this point, we can clearly see that Tommen is not at all happy as he’s sitting right next to Tyrion. Tommen is next in line for the throne, and while he is Cersei’s spoiled son, he is also close to his uncle and doesn’t appear to share his brother’s madness or streak of sadism.
Joffrey insists that Tyrion act as his cup bearer and Margaery tries and fails to call him off. When Joffrey drops his cup, Sansa actually comes to her husband’s aid and hands it to him – this was a nice turning point in their relationship. Unable to humiliate his uncle, Joffrey now insists that Tyrion kneel. This was the moment I was waiting for – Tyrion finally reaches his breaking point and refuses to kneel – the tension in this scene is exquisitely tightened until Margaery breaks the spell and announces the pie has arrived.
Joffrey cuts open the pie with his sword, killing at least one of the doves before it can escape – that has to be bad luck, right? Margaery does her best to maintain Joffrey’s attention, but Gleeson is superb as you seen him just unable to leave well enough alone. Tyrion is trying to make a quick exit with Sansa but is stopped by Joffrey’s insistence that he bring him his wine and his cup. At this point, even Tywin has had enough, but he knows he can’t challenge the King in public without weakening his rule, so he says and does nothing.
I re-watched this scene a number of times, and could not for the life of me figure out exactly whose cup Tyrion eventually picks up to give to Joffrey. It seems pretty clear that Tyrion did not intend to poison Joffrey. For one thing, Tyrion is not that stupid to do something like that in full view of so many witnesses. So whose wine was it, and was it intended for Joffrey at all? Had Cersei been trying to poison someone – Margaery or Loras? – she would never have let her son drink the wine. Could it have been Lady Olenna? I have to admit that she is my first choice. Meanwhile, Dontos (Tony Way) spirits Sansa away to safety while Cersei has Tyrion arrested for killing the King.
A wedding once again ends in death on the show. This time, however, I’m betting there were more cheers than cries of horror. Joffrey – Gleeson – will be missed. And it will be impossible to ever watch a wedding on this show comfortably from now on! What did you think of the episode? Were you shocked by the ending? Will this be the catalyst to jump start the war again? Is Tyrion doomed? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!