Another day in Westeros, another wedding to attend. Hotly anticipated by readers of the books, the Purple Wedding is the first truly major event of season four, and as such author George R. R. Martin was drafted in by showrunners D B. Weiss and David Benioff to help with scripting the episode (Martin has previously put on his screenwriting hat for The Pointy End in season one, Blackwater in season two, and The Bear and the Maiden Fair in season three).
In the past, Martin’s involvement has tended to come much later in the season, so the fact that he’s pitched in on episode two this time around could suggest that he’s stepping up his screenwriting game. And a good thing too, if The Lion and the Rose is anything to go by – it’s certainly in the running to be crowned the most skilfully put together GOT ep yet.
The episode revolves around Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding (which is marvellously filmed; never pass up an excuse to showcase the Sept of Baelor with a nice juicy shot from above). The actions and motivations of the other characters are weaved in gradually around the edges before being brought together seamlessly at the brilliantly executed climax – the untimely death of King Joffrey. By the time he chokes his last, the writers have muddied the waters so much that practically anyone, up to and including his own mother, could have done him in.
Having discovered that his father knows about his relationship with Shae, Tyrion sends her packing for her own good in a scene made heart-rending by the adept performance of Peter Dinklage – the pain on his face as he pretends to belittle Shae is palpable. It’s clear that Cersei is beginning to lose her influence over proceedings now that Margaery is becoming queen, although she proves herself still powerful by forcefully countermanding Magaery’s order that the leftover food from the wedding feast be given to the poor.
Oberyn ‘I hate the Lannisters’ Martell is a little underused here, unfortunately. His main function appears to be to hang around looking sneaky and lustful, although he does do a good job of riling Cersei with the fact that she is now only the former Queen Regent. Otherwise he doesn’t get up to much, so let’s hope that the function of his character won’t be reduced to King’s Landing’s resident sex pest.
Joffrey seems to have picked his wedding day to play ‘let’s see how much I can humiliate my uncle Tyrion before he cracks and (possibly) jams some poison into my goblet’. Already on edge due to his break up with Shae, Tyrion must suffer through Joffrey slashing up a book Tyrion gave him as a wedding gift, as well as a hideously contrived performance of the war of the five kings acted entirely by dwarves. It’s not surprising then that when Joffrey suddenly cops it due to what looks like some very nasty poison (was it in the wine? Was it in the pie? Or did he just choke on his own hubris?), the finger of blame is pointed squarely at Tyrion.
But there are more suspects here than you’d find gathered in the accusing parlour at the end of an Agatha Christie novel; literally anyone could have done it. Tyrion, Sansa, Cersei, Oberyn, the list goes on – they all had motive, and they all had opportunity. This is the first time in GOT that we’ve actually got a proper mystery on our hands. Usually the culprit is waving a red flag and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words ‘I dunnit!’
At this point, we really have to stop and hand it to Jack Gleeson. There aren’t many actors who could make us despise a character so thoroughly, but Gleeson did it, and did it phenomenally well. From the minute he first appeared at Winterfell to his last choking bloodied breath, Joffrey was the one we all loved to hate, and the character we prayed would be next in line for R. R. Martin’s finger of doom (if you remember, Joffrey was the one who, by proxy, murdered our dear old Ned). Surprisingly Gleeson has decided to quit acting, and plans to complete his academic career. We wish him luck; he’s actually a jolly nice bloke as long as you keep him away from crossbows.
Now we have a huge Joffrey shaped hole right at the centre of proceedings. Nature abhors a vacuum, so which of our cast of characters will rush to fill the void? And will they be able to top Joffrey’s levels of madness and malice? Keep your eyes on King’s Landing.
Joffrey being magnificently poisoned by….who knows?
Best Scene: Special mention goes to Alfie Allen for his performance as Theon, aka Reek, and Iwan Rheon as Ramsay Snow – brilliant and disturbing scenes at the Dreadfort
Best Line: “There is only one hell, princess. The one we live in now.” – Melisandre