Look, the pie!
Written by: George R.R. Martin
Directed by: Alex Graves
Weddings in Game of Thrones are nothing but bad news. That's a lesson that "The Rains of Castamere" drove home with the force of a thousand and one angry gods. There was always at least a little misery to be had in earlier weddings: Daenerys being used for sex by Khal Drogo, and Tyrion threatening King Joffrey after getting drunk during his wedding reception. So when the time has finally come for Joffrey to wed Margaery Tyrell, how could you not expect a lot of tension, especially when the Lannister family is struggling to put their new differences aside and get along? The exciting part is not when the celebration breaks down into glaring and caustic exchange of words, but what the final result will be because of how so much tension is boiling up.
"The Lion and the Rose" is a lot like "The Rains of Castamere", in that the climactic wedding at the end dwarfs everything else that comes beforehand. All the featured story lines outside of King's Landing serve to build excitement for some up and coming plot convergences, such as the Boltons setting out to track down Jon Snow. I think when measured by levels of pure evil, the Boltons are the strongest house in all the Seven Kingdoms. Nearly every other villain in Game of Thrones like Cersei and Petyr Baelish can be regarded as, "evil, but with understandable motives". They choose to do evil deeds because they have some sort of end goal in mind and are willing to do almost anything and everything in order to get there. Not the Boltons. Sure, they'd like a giant castle to live in and a gorgeous woman to take to bed every night, but that doesn't get to the point of who the Boltons are: morbid people who do terrible things because they like it.
Ramsay shows us just that as the episode opens with him chasing a young girl through the woods, shooting her leg with an arrow and letting the girl be ripped to shreds by hounds. I do not care that Ramsay's sadistic acts slows down the pacing of his story line; there is no way we can take this character seriously as one of the most satanic beings in all of Westeros if we don't get the implication and, at times, observe the cruel acts that he likes to perform. It hurts especially to watch Theon,, er, excuse me, Reek, as he now goes by, to now serve Ramsay's every whim without question. We are now seeing a boy who lost his manhood and his dignity, reduced to no better than a slave. Man, I feel like such a bad person typing that.
Let's move on to something a bit happier before this review is taken over by complete doom and gloom. Bran learns a little more about his connection to the three-eyed raven, and his group comes across a weirwood, where Bran taps into his warging abilities to figure out where the group must head next. Bran also gets a series of visions of events that have already happened, as well as events that have yet to occur. D&D have been no strangers to foreshadowing, and when we eventually learn of how the three-eyed raven can connect the past, the future, and the present, it not only serves to fuel how important Bran is going to be Game of Thrones' most significant story line (The Great War against the Army of the Dead), it also ups the suspense as to how the final events of the series will play out. The one future vision that sticks out is the sight of a dragon flying over King's Landing, but *SPOILER ALERT* through the end of season seven, no dragons have flown their way over the populated sections of King's Landing. Daenerys eventually makes her way to King's Landing, but it's to go be a part of a grand ol' meeting and not launch a full-scale assault. Maybe a dragon will eventually fly over King's Landing like we see in Bran's vision. All the more anticipation for season eight....
Finally, we come to the heart and soul of this episode: the Royal Wedding between Margaery and Joffrey. An event that should be full of love and celebration is instead bubbling with insults and arguments. Tyrion and Shae's fragile relationship finally shatters, while Tywin and Olenna continue to take subtle jabs at each other. The break-up between Tyrion and Shae especially hurts, knowing that Shae was the one person in all the Capital that Tyrion could feel happy and fulfilled with. True, Tyrion has become good friends with Bronn, and Tyrion's strong relationship with Jaime hasn't suffered since Jaime made it back home. But with Shae? She was the one person that helped Tyrion keep his head on straight and be a primary source of motivation while serving as the surrogate Hand of the King. Tyrion had been thinking, maybe, just maybe, if everything would turn out alright, he could find a way to live a happy and long life with Shae. It wasn't meant to be, unfortunately, and now Tyrion is left with nobody to love, to comfort, and to share his life with.
Sadly, no one else at the wedding seems to care for Tyrion's sorrows. Joffrey looks for any means necessary to humiliate his uncle, slicing up a rare book that Tyrion presents to him as a gift, as well as putting together a play in which dwarves reenact the War of the Five Kings. Joffrey then has Tyrion be his cupbearer, taunting him by purposefully dropping the cup on the ground and then kicking it. Joffrey then demands for Tyrion to fill the cup and then kneel before his King. Tyrion remains defiant, and the two engage in a long stare down. Out of all the tension-filled scenes that Game of Thrones has given us thus far, this is easily one of the best. We know Tyrion and Joffrey have never been able to get along, and now what we have is the ultimate confrontation between the two: on the day of Joffrey's wedding, with all eyes on them, Tyrion refuses to let his King humiliate him. This entire scene is drooling with suspense, and sure enough, something awful (well, not awful for us) happens: Joffrey takes a bite of pie and then drinks some wine. Suddenly, he begins choking. He falls over, and as Jaime and Cersei rush over to try and help him, Joffrey's face turns purple, leading people to dub this episode the Purple Wedding. Just before he dies (*cue the mad cheers of Game of Thrones fans everywhere*), Joffrey points a hand towards Tyrion. The King is dead, and Tyrion is immediately blamed for the crime. Such is the life of a dwarf in Westeros.
If you were thinking season four needed to have something shocking happen in order to move some plot lines along, this is it: "The Lion and the Rose", with a perfectly paced and an incredibly tense wedding reception, delivers another jolt to the system and accelerates season four into high gear. Everything else happening in this episode outside of King's Landing, meanwhile, such as at the Dreadfort and Beyond the Wall, are nice progression scenes to ensure us that there is still plenty happening in season four outside of the Lannister family crisis. But those scenes are nothing compared to the wedding that takes up the majority of the episode's 52 minute run time, a scene that ranks right up there with the likes of Ned Stark's execution, The Battle at Blackwater, and the Red Wedding. The tension on display is the kind of tension that Game of Thrones loves to let explode into something devastating, and, in the case of "The Lion and the Rose", it was the death of the King (even though everyone and his brother hated his guts). We're only two episodes into the season and already another major character gets the axe. The end of season three and now the start of season four has been the show's deadliest stretch yet.
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