Tales From Westeros – The Lion and the Rose
Hi guys, are you ready to discuss this week’s Game of Thrones? I hear something crazy happened…
This episode begins with what seems like a lovely frolic through the green Northern woods. At first I thought it was children frolicking, but upon closer inspection it’s Ramsay Snow, some hounds, and two girls. There is someone else tagging along too, someone called “Reek.” This obviously does not bode well, as The Bastard of Bolton is a legit sociopath that favors torture infused with heavy-handed metaphors. It could be said that you should never accept a gift from Ramsay Snow. If his “gifts” are so terrifying, please spare me from his vengeance, thanks.
What at first glance seemed a happy occurrence quickly turns into a hunt. Ramsay and the fierce (also possibly sociopathic) girl called Miranda pursue and eventually take down the other, more unfortunate lady. Miranda fires the winning shot from her bow as “Reek,” also known as Theon Greyjoy, watches in stuttering terror. This lovely sequence punctuates just how much joy Ramsay feels when others suffer (as if last season’s sausage fest wasn’t enough). It’s all fun and games to him, and the once arrogantly proud Theon has been reduced to a shadow of his former self.
Back in King’s Landing, we are treated to a rare sight: Tyrion and Jaime Lannister sitting down at table. The two characters haven’t shared many scenes together in recent seasons, and Peter Dinklage has said in recent interviews that this changes in the fourth season, which I am fully on board with. Jaime is being emo and refusing his supper; Tyrion notes that no one’s hungry in the capital anymore, as if something called pigeon pie is supposed to be appetizing. In typical Tyrion fashion, aka thinly veiling awkward truths with glib humor, he proposes a toast “to the proud Lannister children: the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness.” But Jaime is not in the mood. He has a real problem. His new golden hand may look nice, but it can’t wield a sword—and Jaime’s formidable prowess with a sword is his only real currency. It’s what’s keeping him relevant and safe in this place where loyalties turn on a gold dragon. It’s his identity. Not only that, it’s what he needs to stay in King’s Landing, close to Cersei.
So Tyrion proposes something other than a toast: his buddy Bron, a “proper discreet swordsman” will train with Jaime so he can practice until he feels comfortable again. We leave Jaime and Bron sparring dangerously close to the cliffs of Blackwater Bay, Bron wiping the floor with Jaime and his lefty skills. Jaime doesn’t have an easy task ahead of him.
Amidst the sound of pounding hooves, we travel back to the Dreadfort, the Bolton castle in the North. In a dark chamber, Roose coldly inspects Theon/Reek and makes his displeasure known. “You flayed him.” Let me translate this for you, if you don’t know what “flay” means: “You peeled the skin off him” Got that? Ok, moving on. This is a very interesting scene because as Roose notes, Theon was Balon Greyjoy’s son and heir. Holding him captive, whole and alive, was strategically useful. Roose Bolton is the acting Warden of the North, but Starks have ruled the North for basically forever, and he has his work cut out for him. Part of his plan was to use Theon to barter for an Ironborn-held castle stronghold called Moat Cailin. An entire article could be written about Moat Cailin, and I’ll wait to see if the show elaborates on it, but for now it helps to know that whoever holds it commands the causeway, the only road through the Neck connecting the northern and southern parts of Westeros. That is very useful, indeed.
So Roose is irritated and reminds his natural son that he’s not a Bolton, but a Snow. But something extremely creepy happens to show us that we may have underestimated Ramsay. The Bastard of Bolton sits down and hands Theon a straight razor. He commands him to start shaving. As the blade slowly scrapes across Ramsay’s neck, Theon has a hundred opportunities to slice it open from ear to ear yet…he doesn’t. Instead, he fields questions, giving up valuable information to the Boltons. Roose learns that Bran and Rickon are definitely still alive, and we learn that Theon is even more afraid and broken than we realized. And Ramsay? He gets Daddy’s approval, because a couple of live male Stark children are way more valuable than a dozen Greyjoys.
Meanwhile, King’s Landing is a hot mess, especially the affairs of Tyrion Lannister. He needs to get his lover Shae to safety, but she is proving seriously stubborn about it. He’s also dealing with Joffrey being even more of a colossal brat than usual, if that’s even possible, as the preliminary ceremonies begin for his upcoming wedding to Margaery Tyrell. In an epic fake-out, Joff is actually pleasant as he accepts Tyrion’s exceedingly thoughtful, rare, and useful gift (a copy of Kaeth’s Lives of Four Kings, of which only four still exist). Instead of realizing its value, and the overall concept of the value of knowledge, he takes his newly forged Valyrian sword and hacks the book to pieces.
And Shae? She visits Tyrion again, after being expressly forbidden to do so. There is only one thing left for Tyrion to do, if he wants her to remain alive. He tells her she’ll have a nice life in faraway Pentos, and calls her a whore. It’s a brutal breakup, the only kind they have in Westeros, apparently.
As all this is happening, the land surrounding Dragonstone is dotted with fires. What’s Stannis burning, you ask? Denouncers of the Lord of Light, it seems, including Stannis’ own brother in law. The Lord of Light is Melisandre’s god—and everyone else’s god too, if they know what’s good for them I guess. Yet there are still some people not swayed by all this madness. Ser Davos does his usual logic thing with Stannis, a fool’s errand if I ever saw one, but it’s his daughter Shireen that asks the questions we all want to ask. Shireen’s face is marred by greyscale, an awful disease she survived as an infant. Of course, her mother thinks it’s a curse; she seems like a nice lady. Melisandre addresses Shireen’s arguments with her usual “my way or the highway” style, telling her “There is only one hell, princess. The one we live in now.” MIC DROP.
We’re back in the snow and cold of the North. Bran is having wolfdreams—he is so connected to his direwolf Summer that he slips inside her body and hunts, runs, eats—all the things he can’t do at the moment himself. Seems legit. (Those crazy Starks, eh?) Bran doesn’t understand why this is a bad thing; he’s addicted to the escape. Luckily, there are Meera and Jojen to talk some sense into him. The more time he spends in Summer’s body, the less he will recognize himself when he returns. Bran will slide away bit by bit—and we need Bran to complete this journey, even though we’re not exactly sure why yet. In the distance a large tree glows. It’s a weirwood, a holy tree—we know this by the face carved into it. The group is drawn to it, and as Bran places his hand on its trunk we are treated to a medley of visions both beautiful and terrible. Brandon seems to have made sense of them however. As he comes to, he declares that he now knows where they have to go…
And now we approach the main event: another wedding! Even as Lady Olenna complains the affair is too scaled-back for her tastes, it looks pretty opulent to me. As the ceremony concludes, Sansa whispers to Tyrion: “We have a new queen,” and he responds “Better her than you.” Not only does he imply that Sansa is out of the line of fire, but Margaery truly knows how to handle Joffrey better. (She also looked lovely in her white dress with Tyrell rose thorns.)
Since the actual ceremony went so smoothly, we know we can rely on the upcoming wedding feast to provide much needed dramz. I literally don’t even know where to start. There’s Olenna inviting Sansa to visit Highgarden (no invitations are innocuous in this world), Oberyn flirting with Loras, and Jaime darkly threatening Loras, who is set to marry Cersei. Loras definitely got the last word in that argument, though. There’s Cersei accusing poor noble guileless Brienne, her big eyes blinking at Cersei like a stag in its final moment of life, of being in love with Jaime. There’s Margaery deftly diverting Joffrey so many times, it’s becoming a joke. There’s Cersei’s spite towards Margaery as she renegs on the promise Margaery made to send the poor the leftovers, ordering them to be sent to the dog kennels instead. There’s an amazing scene where Cersei and Oberyn slickly trade insults disguised as polite chitchat—so much ground was covered in a minute of conversation (Prince Doran of Dorne’s weakness, the fact that Cersei’s daughter Myrcella is in Dorne so she should start watching her mouth, the different bastard culture of Dorne) that my hat goes off to the writers.
But nothing—absolutely nothing compares to what Joffrey has in store as entertainment. As he petulantly commands the crowd’s attention, we see the mouth of a giant lion statue open. And what tumbles out but several dwarf minstrels costumed as the recent contenders for the Iron Throne. They proceed to fight, sparing no indignities. This is an insult to all the major players. Not only does this poke juvenile fun at his uncle Tyrion, but as the camera pans over the pained expressions of important wedding guests (including his wife, who was married to Renly Baratheon) we see all the atrocities and painful deaths, some incredibly recent, that they have experienced written on their faces. Simultaneously awkward and indicative of Joffrey’s sincere mean-spiritedness, it also lifts the curtain on this mummer’s show of a wedding. We’re forced to consider the pageantry of it all and how it disguises power plays and the survival tactics of the Westerosi rich and powerful.
As the minstrel show comes to close, Joffrey wants even more. He puts Tyrion through unending public insults, insisting he be his cupbearer. What can Tyrion do but oblige? And he does, though full of rage. And in the end, what happens? Joff chokes on his wine. The scene is pandemonium as guests scatter to help or run (where does Sansa go?). Cersei sprints to her son, her expression pure shock as she watches the life fight its way out of him—his face gruesome, contorting and leaking bright red blood. In the end, his face in death shows what he is: a scared little boy. And in the end, Tyrion stands accused of murdering the new king.
So that’s it. Who do you think killed Joffrey during the Purple Wedding? And how %&*^%&%$ happy are you that he finally ate (drank) it?! Did you catch Sigur Ros as the wedding band?
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