GAME OF THRONES “The Lion and the Rose”
So this week we check in with some of the characters that weren’t in the season opener, and the wheels of their individual stories start, ever so slowly, to turn.
Ramsay Snow is still making Theon’s (renamed by Ramsay as Reek) life a living hell. Roose Bolton, Ramsey’s father, returns to the Dreadfort to be informed by his (crazy) bastard son that if he intends on taking the north then they will need to find its current heirs, Bran and Rickon Stark. Reek believes they’ll be heading to Castle Black to find Jon Snow, someone else the Bolton’s may need to eliminate.
Theon’s storyline last season was by far its weakest, which was a shame because that character’s misguided betrayal of the Starks, a family that cared for him, for his own family, a family that didn’t, back in season two was compelling television. Now it looks like Theon’s story might bring him back into the larger world of Westeros, a much needed development, but it is still one of the least interesting threads in the show. With Rob and Catelyn both dead the people Theon betrayed are gone. Theon may one day share another scene with Bran or Jon, and get a chance to apologise, atone, or even redeem himself, but it will surely lack the weight of a Rob and Theon showdown. I have a concern that Theon’s story will be the runt of the litter this season, as it was last year.
As for Bran, he is spending more and more time inside his dog (phrasing). Revelling in the freedom that comes with running wild and hunting. He is warned that this may cost him his sense of self. Like Theon’s scenes, Bran’s have only the slightest push of narrative. Bran has a vision offering a glimpse at what may be to come. The most tantalising prospect shown to both Bran and us is the sight of a hulking dragon’s shadow swooping across King’s Landing. Bran claims he knows where he and his rag tag gang have to go, setting them off on their journey for the season.
Melisandre is burning people because, well, that’s just her thing. Stannis’s wife is worried about her daughter’s lack of devotion to the Lord of Light, and after Stannis forbids his wife from striking his daughter, she suggests that the Lady Melisandre talk with her. My favourite parts of Game of Thrones are when the show finds interesting pairings and mines them for rich little insights into certain characters. There was a pairing at the start of the episode between Jamie and Bronn that, while brief, was most entertaining. Melisandre and Shireen is another unexpected coupling that I’m hoping to see more of. Melisandre’s creepy vibe juxtaposes well with Shireen’s sweet nature.
Over in King’s Landing Tyrion gave Shae the boot. He was basically Harry and the Henderson’s-ing her, shouting that he doesn’t want her anymore, fighting back the tears as he pushes her away. I can see why this was hard for Tyrion and why it was something he had to do, but I couldn’t force myself to care. I never liked Shae and didn’t really invest in their relationship. What did Shae expect their lives to be together? Tyrion had told her what life would be like and how they would have to keep their love hidden, and yet she’d disapprove and gripe all the time. I imagine she’ll be back (if she got away at all) but for the moment I’m glad she’s gone. Tyrion and Sansa’s (poor poor Sansa) dynamic is interesting enough without her.
And that was pretty much it for this episode.
Oh, wait, yeah… Joffrey died.
When Game of Thrones first started I, much like everyone else, thoroughly disliked that young man. But as everyone else’s dislike turned into disdain and then outright hatred, I came to enjoy his antics. The show started by presenting the Stark’s as the “good guys” and the Lannisters as the “bad guys”, but as in life, it quickly became obvious that each character on both sides had their flaws as well as their plus points. Even the great Ned Stark cheated on his wife. No one character was inherently good or bad, there was shades of both in all of them. And then there was Joffrey. In a show of moral complexities and multifaceted characters Joffrey was a cartoon. His EVIL was so over the top that it became almost laughable. The only reason it didn’t is because the characters around him were three dimensional. You buy that Roger Rabbit is there with Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? because Bob Hoskins sells it as real. The believable characters interactions with the cartoon ground them in the same world. And so it is in “The Lion and the Rose”. The celebration is in full swing for Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell’s wedding and Joffrey is at his most delightfully Joffrey-ish, hurling coins at the minstrels mid song, taking a sword to his uncle’s wedding gift, and just generally acting the twat. So far, so fun. But as the scene goes on it gets increasingly tense. Joffrey’s surprise wedding entertainment is a re-enactment of the war of the five kings that offends everyone of his guests, with the exception of his mother. He then proceeds to mock and torment Tyrion whilst leering at Sansa every time she fidgets uncomfortably. This goes on for half of the episode. It’s just awfully awkward moment after awfully awkward moment as each of the guests eventually drops their false, plastered on smiles and stare in disbelief at the little sadist. By this point I wasn’t enjoying Joffrey’s cruelty, it wasn’t fun or over the top anymore. It was unbearable. And then he fucking chokes and dies.
This is something the show does very well. It gives the audience these moments, but never in the way the audience expects them to come. From the moment Joffrey turns up we are waiting for him to get his comeuppance. Back in Season two I was sure Sansa was going to be the one to take her revenge on Joffrey. After all he put her through it just seemed right. But the more you watch the show the more you see it isn’t interested in offering you what seems right. It so rarely goes where you’re expecting it to go, and when it does, it takes a completely unexpected route getting there. And that’s just one of the reasons that keep us coming back.
After last weeks strong episode I expected a dip, if not in quality then at least in pace, but the ending of this episode actually kicks things into an even higher gear. The look on Cersei’s face after she watches the life drain from her son’s eyes, whoo boy, there may be trouble ahead. Certainly for Tyrion, very likely for Sansa, and probably for the Tyrell’s. And after Lady Olenna Tyrell’s comment about what kind of monster would murder someone at a wedding to Sansa, I’m guessing they’re supposed to be our prime suspects.
So it’s two episodes in, perhaps the strongest opening in the show’s run, and things are happening thick and fast. This kind of pace is something I’m not used to in this show, but am currently grateful for.