Game of Thrones: The Lion and The Rose Review

game-of-thrones-title-cardWhen you come into a season of Game of Thrones, you know that it’s the ninth episode of the season that everything is building up to. That’s where something big happens. But what happens when the writers and producers change things up on you and make it the second, rather than the second-to-last episode that changes everything. We’re about to find out this season after The Lion and The Rose.

Spoiler Alert: If you saw this episode, you’d understand why you wouldn’t want this episode spoiled. If you haven’t watched this episode, watch it now and come back. Also, no book spoilers.

Well, there ain’t no wedding like a Westeros wedding. Because, at a Westeros wedding, EVERYBODY DIES!

How many times have we said it? How many times have people said something to the effect of “I wish someone would just kill Joffrey.” Ned Stark couldn’t topple King Bieber. Stannis was turned back at the gates. Robb Stark didn’t even get the dignity of being taken down in a glorious battle.

Through it all, Joffrey has somehow survived. Any time someone stands up to him, he cowers. Sometimes it’s subtly when the likes of Tywin, Tyrion or even Ser Barristan Selmy stand up to him. Stannis was the one that actually caused him to turn tail and run. But regardless of the number of times Joffrey looked like he was going finally get his, he escapes and comes back worse than ever. Killing Ned, torturing Sansa, killing and torturing hookers, embarrassing Tyrion at a massive feast after 25 minutes of show time of him being a massive, evil dick… I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen the world so universally united against a fictional character… Except Jar Jar Binks.

So when Joffrey finally got his, it was surprising and bittersweet at the same time. No one expected him to die. He’s the #1 heel on the show. The big bad guy doesn’t die before the end of the show and he certainly doesn’t die at the beginning of a season. Maybe this played out at a different point in time in the books but it’s a very odd time for a TV series.

While we’re all happy that Joffrey’s dead (that’s the sweet part), the question is where it goes from here. Obviously, there’s going to fallout from this and I would hazard that the trailers showing scenes at King’s Landing do a good job of hinting at where they’re going, especially after this week’s ending.

I think I will miss having that character we could all rally around. We all hated Joffrey and we loved to hate Joffrey. That was the common point we all had with GoT. I don’t know how Martin could write another villain as hateable and memorable as Joffrey. The people who’ve read the books (no spoilers in the comments please) probably know that answer. I suppose that The Whitewalkers are a big deal but I don’t think you can hate them the same way we hate Joffrey, especially since they only ever really show up to remind us that they exist rather than acting like a proper threat.

The arc with the Tyrells will be interesting from here. Maggie wanted to be the Queen and was for a couple of hours. You don’t immediately want to peg her as villain material but all she wanted was power and was willing to shack up with the homosexual Renly and pure evil Joffrey to get it. Her conversation with Brienne last week cements it for me.

The thing about Maggie is that she’s manipulative but very subtle about it. Even the most eagle-eyed viewers might overlook her in a sea of other untrustworthy characters, especially because she seems so outwardly kind. Of course, most gentlemen watching take one look at Maggie, let their jaws hit the floor and immediately stop thinking about what she’s up to and focus on what she’s wearing. Maggie might not make much of a big bad but having her on the side of evil will freshen things up.

Of course, that’s assuming that’s the way they’re going with Maggie Tyrell. When you look at how the wedding played out, it looks like Maggie’s grandmother, Olenna Tyrell, is the obvious suspect. She was the closest to the cup when it was on the table unsupervised. The cutaways to an annoyed looking Varys could be a red herring but he also said he serves the realm. No one would argue that the ultimate service to the realm would be killing the king. And Prince Oberyn says that the Lannisters aren’t the only ones who pay their debts. That seemed fairly threatening but it would almost seem a cop-out to introduce a character to serve on purpose and such a significant purpose as this.

Interestingly, even when we get as close to a happy ending that Game of Thrones can give us, it’s tempered with sadness and impending doom. Lena Headey got to put in a masterful performance as the grieving mother. It’s a wonderfully over-the-top performance that reminds you that you should almost feel bad about someone’s son dying. Almost. It is Joffrey after all.

And perhaps the worst thing of all is the anti-climactic way in which Joffrey died. Being poisoned certainly isn’t the way that we wanted him to go. Depending on who your chosen heroes are, you were looking for Jon Snow to skewer him or Arya to take his head off as payback for Ned or one of Dany’s dragons to swallow him whole.

I’m sure most people think it’s great that Joffrey’s dead but I’m sure most would have preferred a more spectacular death. He’s always been portrayed as the final boss at the end of a video game. He’s the most evil person in Westeros and the King so he’s the logical final boss. Perhaps it’s not Joffrey but Tywin who is the true final boss. He does run things for House Lannister, even if his grandson is the King. His transition to being the Big Bad is the most logical.

If every other season is about the journey to a destination and quickly dealing with the immediate consequences, this season will be about the opposite. We quickly get the payoff and will see eight more episodes of consequences. When something as big as the King’s murder happens, fobbing off the fallout in one episode just wouldn’t do the magnitude of this event justice.

Elsewhere this week, there were moments with Shae, Brann, Theon and Stannis this week but I don’t think anyone is really concerned with those. Sure, the Brann arc was a big deal seeing as he had some sort of vision from the faces in the trees but I couldn’t make heads or tails of what it’s supposed to mean. There’s a delicate balance between not confusing people and not giving everything away so there’s no reason to come back the next week. I think this edges toward confusing me.

The Shae plotline from this episode might be the most interesting long-term. Tyrion thought he was doing the right thing by pushing her away. It would be a Game of Thrones-ian irony if Cersei thought she could hurt Tyrion by taking Shae away but perhaps she could use Shae against Tyrion. Given how the Lannisters seem to be able to use their power to get anyone to join them, including the Tyrells jumping ship from Team Renly and House Bolton stabbing the Starks in the back (and everywhere else), the precedent has been set.

The thing about those plotlines is that they might be important or could be fantastic pieces of writing or acting but we’d never notice. They were presented as your bog standard GoT scenes and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the wedding was presented so differently from everything else. The wedding and reception consisted of one long stretch that covered the second half of the episode and overshadowed everything else. That’s not a complaint. That wedding deserved to overshadow everything else. It’s just an observation.

But you don’t need me going on for over 1,000 words to tell you how great this episode was. The bait and switch was just epic. The first half of the episode seemed like such a standard episode of the show, quite unlike Blackwater which was all about the battle. It even hit some of the hopeful beats of The Rains of Castamere by making you think that Theon was going to pull a face turn and kill Ramsey Snow. That gets pulled out from under us and we get a game changing ending. Unlike The Rains of Castamere, I guess you could call this a happy ending.

Other random points of note:

  • Maggie, the STATE of your hair, mate.
  • Jaime had some good scenes during this episode with Bronn and Loras. Okay, everyone has good scenes with Bronn. That back and forth between Jaime and Loras was just epic.
  • More Charles Dance and Diana Rigg, please. Two great actors working together while playing villains. It’s just wonderful.
  • So how long until we get the long reaction compilation videos? This should be pretty interesting considering how people reacted to the Red Wedding.

Next week’s episode is The Breaker of Chains. Since this episode has Dany in it, I’m guessing she continues on her quest to free all the slave of Essos. At Castle Black, Jon and Sam try to find a way to defend the Night’s Watch from the impending Wildlings attack. We also get a continuation of the King’s Landing story, not that anyone is really concerned about that.

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About Steve Murray

Steve is the founder and editor of The Lowdown Blog and et geekera. On The Lowdown Blog, he often writes about motorsports, hockey, politics and pop culture. Over on et geekera, Steve writes about geek interests and lifestyle. Steve is on Twitter at @TheSteveMurray.

Posted on April 15, 2014, in TV/Movie Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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