This article contains spoilers. If you read it regardless, well that is your Red Wedding.
For those who thought the first episode was a bit tame and prone to vague hints and foreshadowing, the second episode certainly livens things up a bit. It seems to be the case that the most important episodes in Game of Thrones are becoming the second and ninth episodes of each series (the ninth episodes of Seasons 1, 2 and 3 being the death of Ned Stark, the Battle of Blackwater and the Red Wedding). There is much to talk about concerning this episode but seeing it centres around the ‘Purple Wedding’ and as this is probably what people are most talking about, this will be addressed first. This is also evident from the title, as the episode is called ‘The Lion and the Rose’, specifically referring to the wedding between King Joffrey of House Lannister and Margaery Tyrell of House Tyrell.
The wedding seems, in contrast to other literature and concordant with real world weddings, to be the setting within which disagreements and discontents are allowed free reign. This was really the opportunity for the Lannisters (Tywin, Jamie and Cersei, though not Tyrion) to try and push other people around. This was evident in Jamie’s attempt to ward off Loras Tyrell from an arranged marriage with Cersei, perhaps an attempt in light of their growing apart demonstrated in the previous episode, to scare off the potential competition. The encounter, however, simply underlined the fact that Jamie is no longer as powerful and manipulative as any good Lannister should be, when Loras simply shrugs off his warning, leaving Jamie looking foolish for revealing his incestuous love for his sister.
That said Cersei does still seem to have a greater grasp (no pun intended) on power than the disabled Jamie. Her expert cross examination of Brienne of Tarth, finding out that she fancies Jamie, is evidence that she has not gone soft. This said, Cersei’s power is also slipping, as clear by Margaery’s influence on Joffrey, and although she forces Maester Pycell to send the scraps of food from the wedding to the dogs rather than the poor, it is a hollow victory and is rather a testament to her loss of influence.
It does seem, rather, even before the episodes end, that the Lannister’s are losing ground to other more ambitious houses. Notice the nod given by Loras Tyrell to Oberyn Martell and the exchange between Tywin, Cersei, Oberyn and Ellaria Sands. The snobbishness and ruthlessness of the Lannister’s was here contrasted very effectively with the egalitarian approach and wish for justice on the part of Oberyn – the fact that the Lannister’s are not the only ones who pay their debts likely to be a key point in future episodes. The episode, therefore, is plainly one cleverly crafted to evidence how unsuited the Lannister means of operating is outside of a war, and their poor understanding of popular politics. Such subtlety and nuance is why Game of Thrones is such a profoundly interesting, realistic and dynamic show- and this episode succeeds particularly in this regard.
Another thing that also is, basically, traditional at Game of Thrones weddings are deaths. To paraphrase Illyrio Mopatis in the first episode “a Game of Thrones wedding without at least one death is considered a dull affair”. Thus it was finally the end of the line for everyone’s least favourite King, Joffrey Baratheon. After three seasons of working his way from a sadistic young prince to his final brutal end as a sadistic young King, Joffrey hasn’t really changed much. From about the second episode onward, where Joffrey nearly killed Arya’s friend the butcher’s boy, Joffrey has probably slowly got worse and worse, from beating up prostitutes, to killing prostitutes, to bullying Sansa and Tyrion. This could very easily have lapsed into caricature, but due to the fantastic acting by Jack Gleeson, Joffrey has been endowed, not necessarily with depth, but certainly with a certain tiny amount of believability. It is therefore his fine work that should be commended, and also George RR Martin’s, for taking the character out at this point as there probably isn’t anything else horrible for him to do.
Speaking of horrible characters, and the only person in Westeros or Essos who probably has a claim to be everyone’s least favourite character now Joffrey is dispatched, is Ramsay Snow. The newly crowned ‘King of Being A Sadistic Twat’ cemented his reputation by hunting a woman down with dogs and then setting the dogs on said person. Like Joffrey this probably results from parental issues, (Joffrey’s being that Robert Baratheon never showed him very much love and the fact Jamie falls into both Uncle and Father category) as Ramsay is the illegitimate son of Roose Bolton now Warden of the North. That said, given that Roose’s banner is of a flayed man, maybe this one is just genetic. Anyway Roose dispatches Ramsay to take Moat Caitlin, to secure the North and prove himself to be worthy of Roose’s name, which interestingly echoes Balon Greyjoy’s comments to Theon in Season 2. This is ironic given the fact that Theon is now Ramsay’s dogsbody, after being mercilessly tortured over the entirety of season 3. Theon is so broken by the experience that he cannot bring himself to kill Ramsay when he is shaving him even though he learns of the death of his former friend Robb Stark. This therefore seems to be more evidence of George RR Martin shaking things up and introducing new story lines and characters to keep things fresh and interesting.
The only other occurrence really of note in the episode was the reintroduction of everyone’s favourite part giant, (except for maybe Hagrid) Hodor. In this episode Hodor continues to travel over the wall with three adult actors trying to pretend unsuccessfully to be children. What they had to say essentially amounted to the fact that they finally know where they should be going, which wasn’t particularly interesting to me, but I can promise that Hodor says “Hodor” a lot which is, to be honest, the only thing anyone really likes about this part of the story. On a serious note, I am sure that in the grand scheme of things Bran’s journey will be as important as the series goes on, but based on this particular episode not a lot happened, probably because of more important occurrences down South.
9/10 (or the best bits were 10/10 with some other parts bringing the score down)- This episode lights a fire under the series, delivering on many of the hinted promises in the first episode, and illustrates the sudden shocking changes this series does so well.
Game of Thrones is broadcast on Sky Atlantic at 2AM on Monday mornings, and repeated at 9pm.