I’m not a religious man, nor am I especially blasphemous, but the only thing I could say after ‘The Lion and the Rose’ cut to black was:
Say what you will about Game of Thrones’ sometimes ponderous storylines, but the show is a journey, and if you stick with it, it will reward you and punish in unexpected ways as all great works of fiction should.
As well-written (by George Martin himself this time round), directed, paced and acted as the last half of the episode is, the sophomore episode of the season couldn’t help but remind me how uninvolving I find the action that takes place outside of Kings Landing. But let’s deal with those fringe elements first.
By far the most engaging non-Wedding storyline comes from Theon/Reek as he continues to be mentally and physically abused by the Boulton family. Let me get his out of the way: To me, Theon’s entire storyline in season 3 was a huge waste of time. It was repetitive torture porn without subtlety or explanation. So let’s just forget any of that happened. Theon was never hugely interesting but he has been strongly and empathetically drawn as a walking disaster. If he were to have his own insignia, it would be #FAIL stamped on top of a thumb pointing downwards. But you can’t hate his character. Alfie Allen plays him with the right level of insecurity, something which has always existed behind his cocky, macho exterior. Allen also brings a great physicality to the role, that allows you to feel all of Theon’s losses and pains externalised as Reek. The scene where Ramsey shows off Reek to his father for the first time is the obvious highlight of the episode’s first half; masterfully constructed and performed. Every beat hits as it should and the tension is thick enough to cut with Reek’s razor blade.
We also checked in with Bran whose storyline finally seems to be getting some direction and urgency after an incredibly cool, but nonsensical montage of beautiful time lapse photography and eerie shots of foreboding apocalyptic imagery. Lastly, we caught up with Stannis, Melisandre and Davos in a plotline so dull and wheel spinning that I skipped it on my second viewing.
Now……to the Purple wedding.
‘The Lion and the Rose’ devoted roughly half it’s time to Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding and the entire sequence is a testament to the quality of this series. The sequence had to accomplish a number of things at once: It had to make Joffrey as dickish as possible to allow for a fitting send-off and a satisfying death scene. It had to set up Tyrion as the number one suspect by escalating their conflict and Joffrey’s disrespectful treatment of Tyrion. It had to establish Cersei’s pain at no longer being Queen regent and pettiness of her character in order to make her vengeance swifter and more hysterical. Lastly, it had to introduce a veritable rogue’s gallery of potential suspects with feasible motives: Sansa, Brienne, Oberyn, Olenna, and Loras amongst others.
The entire sequence manages to sustain a building tension throughout – not of the fate of Joffrey, that took me completely by surprise – the tension of just how far a tyrant like Joffrey can go without someone snapping and making a scene. The wedding scenes feed off the reactions of the ensemble to Joffrey’s antics. Jack Gleeson has never been better. His Joffrey is not just obliviously evil, he goes out of his way to be an awful person, from personally organising the event’s entertainment, to using his sword to hack into Tyrion’s gift, noting that it was reminiscent of the way *HE* cut off Ned Stark’s head. My personal favourite moment of the night was when Joffrey noted ‘now that the war is done, we should all find time for wisdom’, because that was such a bizarre thing to hear depart from Joffrey’s lips. Of course it was handily contrasted with his destruction of the book, acting like that little shit on the playground who people only like cos he has the coolest toys and the biggest house.
The final moments of the episode are truly horrifying, as Joffrey pale and splotchy chokes to death in his mother’s arms. That image of Joffrey’s face is most likely how I will remember that character from now on. Strangely enough, that doesn’t really bother me. I couldn’t be more excited with what is about to follow. So many opportunities for back stabbing, lies, violent retribution and general depravities. I love it!
Overall Rating: 8.5 Slices of pigeon pie out of 10.