4×02: “The Lion and the Rose”
JOFFREY IS DEAD.
At long last, the sh*tfaced little turd we’ve all hated ever since that awful night he managed to get Arya’s friend Mycah and Sansa’s direwolf Lady killed is finally freaking dead.
Ring out the bells! Declare a national holiday! I’ve been waiting for this for ages, so it was a relief to finally laugh at Cersei’s wails and point a finger at Joffrey’s purple face, because the sadistic boy-king–the boy responsible for Ned Stark’s death, Ros the prostitute’s murder, not to mention countless instances of terror and torture–is finally, finally dead.
… at least, that’s what I thought I’d be saying.
But I’ll get to that.
This episode revolves around four main storylines. First we see Theon, a hobbling wreck of a man who’s been completely broken by Ramsay Snow, Roose Bolton’s bastard. Theon has been beaten, flayed, and forced to witness wanton acts of cruelty, like the pursuit and murder of some poor girl who was in the wrong place at the wrong time and made to run for her life. He’s been through so much by this point that he’s no longer the proud Ironborn; he’s called Reek, and he’s a stinking slave tortured for his master’s amusement.
As a test of Theon’s loyalty, Ramsay forces him to shave his face with a straight razor, which Theon does. And even when Ramsay lets spills that Robb Stark is dead, Theon is obviously grief-stricken, but he keeps on shaving the man who broke him without even glancing at his bare, vulnerable throat. That’s probably the hardest thing to see, even after everything he’s been through in the last season. As a direct result of his betraying the Starks, Theon has lost everything that mattered to him: his home, his family, even his name (not to mention other important parts of himself).
But I’d like to raise a question, and hear me out: did he deserve it?
And just as soon as I’ve asked it, we’ll table that question for a few minutes.
Next, the whore Shae comes to see Tyrion again, after him telling her time after time that it’s too dangerous for them to be together, especially now that Cersei knows about her and has revealed their relationship to Lord Tywin. Tyrion says he can’t be with her, that she can’t father his children, that she’s just a common whore who doesn’t deserve him, and he essentially frogmarches her onto a ship that’s leaving for Pentos across the Narrow Sea. And it almost kills him to do it.
Because while he’s fond of Sansa and would like to do right by her–which extends as far as not forcing her to do the do even though they’re married, because she doesn’t want to–he knows she wouldn’t particularly care if he were seeing a whore on the side, because Sansa has buried her emotions so deeply that it would take a mining crew to excavate them. No, he does it because he can’t stand the thought of losing Shae. And it’s that sacrifice that makes Tyrion one of my–and everyone else’s–favourite characters.
Then there’s Bran and Co. They’re travelling north of the Wall in search of the three-eyed crow (which is still weird to me, but whatever. I’m sure it’ll make sense by the end). Bran has started spending more time inside his direwolf Summer (no, not that way), in part to escape his hunger. But in the process, it looks like he’s about to start indulging some of his more animal instincts. On top of that, he gets all intimate with a heart tree, gets some directions from the tree-eyed crow, and gets all mysterious about their destination. Yawn. Not very exciting. I’m only mentioning them because they appear, not because they’re relevant to the overall story. Moving on.
And finally there’s the royal wedding. Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell are married, and the wedding quickly goes from a stately affair to a bit of a joke as Joffrey sends out dwarves to re-enact the War of the Five Kings. Of course immediately after that he sets about abusing Tyrion, forcing him to pour a goblet of wine.
But finally irony gets the better of him, and his cruelty is his downfall. The wine is poisoned, and the choking Joffrey’s last act is to point an accusing finger at his uncle. The king is dead, Cersei screams for the guards to seize Tyrion, and Tyrion can only stand there, stunned, with his bleeding, purple-faced nephew dead at his feet. Cue “The Rains of Castamere.”
Now let’s come back to the question of “did he deserve it?”, shall we?
The thing about this show is that morality isn’t often presented in black and white. There are shades of grey, and every action is coloured by self-interest or selflessness, depending on the situation. There is no action that is always considered to be right, and neither is there any action considered to be wholly and forever wrong. Tyrion hurt Shae with the intention of saving her, making it an evil act with a good intent. Theon killed and burned two young boys to keep Bran and Rickon Stark alive–another evil act, poisoned by selfishness and the desire to save face, but tinged with good all the same.
And then there’s Joffrey. In the whole of his life, I don’t think he’s ever done anything with the intent of being good. Admittedly, he and Lady Margaery wanted to donate their wedding leftovers to the poor of King’s Landing (such sacrifice), but that was obviously Margaery’s idea, and he only went along with it because there was no personal satisfaction to be gotten out of refusing her.
This is a boy who has beaten and killed prostitutes, who tortured his fiancee, who takes pleasure from torturing the weak, who would rather execute someone for the sake of seeing their blood than make peace with them for political gain. He doesn’t think, and what’s worse, he doesn’t even do most of this stuff himself: he orders other people to do it for him. Joffrey abuses his power and turns that abuse against his subjects, making him not only a bad ruler but a dangerous one, because he doesn’t realize–or if he does, he doesn’t care–that everyone hates him for it. And despite what he may think, being king in Westeros is not a Seven-given right.
But let’s look at something that some people might ignore when they’re bashing on Joffrey. There’s a reason King Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King, was mad: you’re not supposed to mix genetics like it’s jambalaya. Cersei and Jaime did something careless (for the sake of staying on track, let’s keep the “you really shouldn’t bang your brother because eww” aspect out of it) by not taking precautions to prevent creating exactly this kind of problem. Maybe people didn’t know back then about genetics, but they did know that the Targaryens were gross for doing it. So they can’t exactly claim complete ignorance there.
In my opinion, Joffrey was Cersei and Jaime getting off lightly for what they did. One of their three kids was a psychopath, but the other two actually turned out reasonably normal, considering. Cersei once wondered if it was a curse for what they had done, and in the context of the story, I think she’s right. Honestly, I don’t think Joffrey is entirely responsible for what he grew up to be. Even with a crazy, power-hungry mother and a “father” who preferred the company of whores, he had the potential to be something else–if it wasn’t for where he came from.
So maybe that’s why I watched this episode with a twinge of sadness. Obviously I’m glad to see Joffrey dead because that’s one more evil out of the kingdom, and with Tommen as the new king (spoilers, but you probably saw that one coming), that more or less leaves the way clear for Daenerys to come swooping in and take back the throne (if she ever stops flirting with Daario and gets her head on straight, that is).
But that doesn’t change the fact that I was still, in a small way, sad to see Joffrey die. Not because he deserves to live, or because he in any way should be spared the horrible way he died after what he did to his people. It’s because he died as he lived: a monster, with no hope of redemption. And as someone who always likes to see the best in people and hope they can change, it’s hard to see that book slam shut on someone’s story, knowing they’ll never overcome who they were born as and become the person they should have been.
Final Grade: A- (because who cares about Bran)
- I love how Lady Tyrell just shuts down her son. “Not now, Mama’s busy with her political intrigue. Come back later.”
- I like that Bronn is teaching Jaime how to fight with his left hand. I feel like they will either hate each other because Bronn will make jokes about boinking one’s sister, or they’ll become best friends for life.
- So they’re actually coming right out and saying it: Brienne is in love with Jaime. I mean, I knew it, and I think they’re oddly perfect together, but it’s weird to hear it said out loud. Especially when it’s Cersei saying it because she knows Brienne has a better chance of marrying Jaime than she herself does.
- I love Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand. They’re just filthy.
- On that note, favourite line of the episode: Jaime: You’ll never marry her. Loras: Neither will you. HABURN.
- Why is it so weird to me that the wedding’s outside? I don’t even know. All I know is, I was expecting it to be in the Great Hall, because that’s how it was in the book. I understand the reasoning for it to be outside. But I still don’t like it. Apparently I’m one of those fans.
- I don’t think anyone apart from Jack Gleeson has ever been so hated for doing his job well–except for maybe Billy Zabka. You may have played the worst human being of all time, but you did a good job, Jack. That is all.