Contains spoilers, naturally.
Let’s get right to the point. When people talk about the latest episode of Game of Thrones – ‘The Lion and the Rose’ – they are only going to be talking about one moment, the moment that fans of the show and book readers alike have been waiting for. It is every bit as spectacular and filled with fireworks as anyone could dream of.
‘The Lion and the Rose’ opens with everyone’s favourite sociopath, Ramsay Snow, on a nice hunting trip with his girlfriend. What is that they’re hunting? Oh, right. A woman. With a pack of dogs. Isn’t he a nice guy? Just the sort of person you’d want to take home to meet your parents. If your parents were serial killers.
I’ll be honest – I am no fan of the Ramsay/Reek storyline. It is heartbreaking. Theon is little more than a shell of the vibrant, arrogant man-boy we saw in season 1. Last season, we saw him tortured physically. This season, he’s tortured mentally. A blade in his hand, shaving Ramsay’s face, he is told of the death of Robb Stark. You are begging him – go full Sweeney Todd. Theon would do it. But he is now Reek, and Reek wouldn’t do that. The acting is exceptional – Alfie Allen should have awards thrown at him – yet it is almost unbearable to watch. For one of the first scenes, it is incredibly powerful, and it sets the tone excellently. The North Remembers.
Meanwhile, in Dragonstone, Melisandre is having a barbecue for the Lord of Light. Only thing is, it isn’t steak being burned to a crisp. It’s traitors. We have heard much about Stannis Baratheon and his penchant for burning people alive, but this is the first time we get to see it. It’s very effective.
There has been a lot of talk about how Stannis doesn’t get the screen time he deserves, and that is very true. There is something compelling about this man who believes he should be King. His surprisingly modern relationship with his wife and his mistress is of particular interest. They all seem to live quite happily together. Seven Hells, his wife seems more in love with Melisandre than he does. Looks like Stannis the Mannis may be hiding fire underneath that rock hard exterior. His somewhat loving relationship with his daughter proves that. Come on, Thrones. Give us a little more Stannis.
And now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The wedding of Joffrey Baratheon to Margaery Tyrell.
Let’s face it – it doesn’t matter about the rest of the show. We were only here for one thing. The wedding. The last time we saw a wedding on Game of Thrones, the guests were slaughtered and the King was betrayed and murdered. It was possibly the most shocking moment in television. When Joffrey’s wedding was announced, who wasn’t secretly hoping that there may be a repeat?
I’m not a fan of weddings. All too often, the bride and groom’s families hate each other. The mother in law clearly thinks that ‘that woman’ is not good enough for her baby boy. The black sheep of the family shows up, sending the older members into a frenzy. And there’s always one that gets far too drunk and ends up vomiting on themselves. Somehow, the Tyrannister [credit to @OccupyWesteros for that] takes all of this and makes it bucket loads of fun.
Much like the Hound and the Wolf last week, I would happily sit through an hour devoted to Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell, insulting each other. Something about those two brings to mind old screwball comedies from the 30s. They are so perfectly matched, the air crackles.
Oberyn Martell turns up the heat with just a raise of his eyebrow, eye fucking Loras Tyrell one moment, and sharing barbed words with Tywin and Cersei Lannister the next. And can we please talk about Ellaria’s outfit? Shades of Bob Mackie for Cher. It is divine. But, then, so is she. Barely covered insults fly around like arrows. Being there would be an absolute nightmare. But to watch, it is thrilling. It’s fun.
Until King Bitch starts. Presented with a sword, he proceeds to destroy an incredibly rare book that Tyrion gifted him with. Would you believe it? The sword has a name. ‘Widow’s Wail.’ We know what the Hound thinks about people who name their swords. Seeing the beauty of the book turned into confetti was enough to send my inner bibliophile into a rage. Ok, enough is enough. Bring out the executioner.
Wait. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. First, we must see the humiliation of Tyrion, of Sansa, and of Loras. Enter dwarves, acting out their take on the War of the Five Kings. It is a terrible sight. Sansa, ever the lady, does nothing. Loras walks out. Tyrion stands up. And it goes from bad to worse. And it just keeps getting worse.
Edge of your seat time. You know something is going to happen. Smug as ever, Joffrey starts to eat a piece of pigeon pie. And then something goes very wrong. He starts to choke. He vomits all over himself. You know what’s happening. You will it to happen. This insane boy King gave the order for Eddard Stark’s death. He made Sansa Stark’s life a living hell. He killed a defenceless woman, shooting her full of crossbow bolts as she hung from his bedpost. You want him to die. And there, in his mother’s arms, he does.
It’s funny. I thought I’d want to do a conga line across the Seven Kingdoms when this episode finally happened. Instead, I felt sad. There was something about seeing this boy dying that reminded me of the Red Wedding. For all Cersei’s faults, as she holds Joffrey in her arms, you know she loves her children.
And so ends the reign of King Joffrey Baratheon. Also ends the acting career of the magnificent Jack Gleeson. A young man who made us hate the character so much that we cheered for his death. He deserves huge amounts of awards. His performance has been underrated and overlooked in its brilliance. For that, he deserves a standing ovation.
The King is dead. Long live the King.