TV Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Pays Out For Better and For Worse in ‘The Lion and the Rose’

TV Review: 'Game of Thrones' Pays Out For Better and For Worse in 'The Lion and the Rose'

If you have not watched “The Lion and the Rose” — the second episode of “Game of Thrones” season four — be warned: spoilers to follow.

Rejoice! Rejoice! The king is dead! 

Ah, if only it were that simple. In true “Game of Thrones” fashion, George R.R. Martin — who wrote Sunday’s episode, “The Lion and the Rose” — cannot give us even a minute of uninterrupted happiness. Though I didn’t count the seconds from when I realized the despised King Joffrey’s reign was about to come to a most welcome end and when Cersei pointed at the unlucky in love, unlucky in life Tyrion, screaming he be taken away, I don’t think a full 60 seconds was given to properly praise the death of the most despicable television character since Marissa Cooper on “The O.C.” (or Thomas and O’Brien on “Downton Abbey,” Dana on “Homeland,” or whoever you truly can’t stand) So let us take the time Martin and director Alex Graves wouldn’t and appreciate the end of young King Joffrey’s far too lengthy reign.

Let’s start with some praise. No, not for the King. I cannot and will not remember anything kind he ever did, and even if there was an example, he was undoubtedly tricked into it (though feel free to share some loving memories in the comments section, or as it will be known for this post: Least Favorite Joffrey Moments). I’m speaking of the actor who embodied a real and fictional world’s worth of hatred these past three seasons, Jack Gleeson. The 21-year-old Irish actor laid his teeth into a role so dark and despicable it would have been easy for a lesser thespian to end up being comic relief. Sure, there were moments when we would laugh at Joffrey’s wimpish immaturity, but never because the actor reached too far or failed to capture his character’s deep-rooted Napoleon complex. Gleeson was a true master of malevolence. Even the way he held the fatal goblet of poisonous wine conveyed arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence all at once. Though I can’t say I’ll miss seeing Gleeson every week — especially after the subtle and obvious reminders of his role in Ned Stark’s death sprinkled throughout the episode (Ned’s eye in Bran’s visions as opposed to the reenactment of his murder, this time with extra head-humping) — he did provide an anchor of vehemence that looks to be taken up quickly by his unforgiving mother.

Cersei’s maniacal — and rather overcooked — scream to close out “The Lion and the Rose” places her as the top contender for “Worst Villain” on a show with many, many contenders. Not only did she relegate everyone’s favorite drunkard to an indefinite prison sentence, but she also took food from the mouths of starving children, ordering the leftovers from the wedding feast be fed to the dogs instead. Cersei’s status as lead scoundrel was first set in motion in the season premiere when she turned away the advances of Jaime, an unwholesome man himself who’s gone through a bit of a rebirth since losing his hand. Seeing her spurn a fan favorite, or, if you haven’t forgotten the attempted murder of Bran, the cold denial of a man that despondent did her no favors, and now she’s the judgmental and irrational rage-monster who’s imprisoned poor Tyrion.

Though “poor” does not begin to describe the depths of Tyrion’s sorrows in “The Lion and the Rose.” After being reminded once more of the danger facing his dearest lover Shae as long as she remains in the city, Tyrion is forced to send her away. In one of the more well-intentioned heart-wrenching scenes in “Game of Thrones,” Tyrion calls her a whore, saying she could never bare his children. His passionate speech is convincing enough for her to finally flee the kingdom, but not before she slaps Bronn and runs weeping from Tyrion’s bedroom. At this point, we know all Tyrion wants to do is get incredibly hammered, and he tries to do so quickly after King Joffrey’s wedding. Sadly, he’s interrupted by his King’s torturous teasing in a grating scene that at first seemed to be setting up Tyrion’s final breaking point. As Joffrey demanded more and more of his uncle, making him get on his hands and knees to search for the purposefully dropped goblet and then demanding he kneel when presenting him with the drink that would be his undoing, I kept waiting for the honorable man to lash out against the tyrant as he’s done before but wouldn’t get away with now.

Instead, it was the King who met his match on his wedding day, and the only question now is, “Who did it?” All signs point to Dontos Hollard who appeared shortly before Joffrey’s death to whisk Sansa away to safety. Hollard has a history with the King. In season two, he was almost wine-boarded to death at Joffrey’s order after appearing to be drunk at a joust on the King’s name day. Sansa saved him, making him the fool, and he reappeared in last week’s episode to give Sansa his mother’s necklace as repayment for saving his life. Was thanking Sansa not enough? Did he need to seek vengeance on the boy who humiliated him and then beat the girl who saved his life? It certainly seems that way, but I wouldn’t put it as past anyone involved with “Game of Thrones” to infuse one of their patented surprise twists into this revelation as well.

While there were certainly other happenings in Westeros this week — Bran’s visions, human sacrifices (Stannis Baratheon seems to be getting a little queasy of all this black magic, right?), Bronn training with the Kingslayer (cute couple alert!) and witnessing a man at his most broken in Theon Greyjoy, now the whipping boy of his new master, Ramsey Snow — all of it still takes a back seat to the most welcome of twists and its most unwelcome consequence. The theme of the week seems to be balance, or, more accurately, unbalance. Joffrey’s death was expected to be one of the happiest moments in a series lacking many. Instead, it was tarnished by the unjust blaming of Tyrion, making us worry for his life when we should be celebrating the loss of Joffrey’s. Simultaneously, Cersei is elevated to the top of every fan’s “most hated” list while also ascending in the power rankings right behind Joffrey’s new wife, Margaery. 

As is the consistent theme of “Game of Thrones,” evil outweighs good. The scales always seem to tilt in the favor of misfortune, from the death of Ned Stark to The Red Wedding to Sunday night’s mix of good and bad news. It’s a delicate road we’ve started down at the end of “The Lion and the Rose,” but one that has begun with a beautifully orchestrated moment of chaos. We’ll see soon enough where it takes us and if the scales start to even out. If not, Tyrion’s plight may only continue to grow.

Criticwire Grade: A-

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Comments

UNoNuthinJonSnow

Wasn’t this episode awesome? I was so shocked when they arrested Tyrion for something he would never do. If he wants to kill somebody he would never poison this person. But who will sit on the throne now?
Furthermore I’m really interested in Bran’s story. Will we see him transforming into an animal at the end of the season? (this is not a Spoiler I didn’t read the books ^^)

If you’re interested in a funny comic related to the 2nd Episode of Season 4, just search for #BOUT2

Craig

I think the poison was in the pie, not the wine (at least on the show, confess have not read the books). When Geoffrey cut the pie the doves flew out. Then there was a very brief glimpse of the cut open pie and something fell out–a dead dove. Geoffrey then complained about the pie being dry and drank the wine. Something in the pie killed the bird, and then the King. What do other fans think?

Michael Paul Goldenberg

Anyone who has read the books and follows the series can attest to the fact that changes from the books happen all the time, sometimes due to the necessarily compressed nature of filming books that run on average to more than 1,000 pages. Characters are omitted, combined, have their names changed, a few (e.g., Roz) are added, and perpetrate things someone else did in the books (e.g., Jaime's practice partner was indeed someone who couldn't speak of it – literally- namely Sir Ilyn Payne. Wilko Johnson, who played Payne in Seasons 1-3 has terminal cancer of the pancreas and will need to be replaced if Payne is going to continue in the series (in the books, he's still with us as of the end of A Dance With Dragons). Johnson is so perfect in the role, maybe Martin decided to write him out of the series.

At any rate, while readers know who done it in the case of Joffrey's murder, and most signs point to the same perpetrator in the series, I'll believe no changes have been made when it's played out on screen. Otherwise, don't make too many assumptions.

I have no complaints about the timing of Cersei's quick accusations against Tyrion. I don't think we're meant to gloat over Geoffrey's death, for a lot of reasons. First, to do so would put us in the same ethical category as, well, Geoffrey himself. Look at his sickening joy at the news of Robb's death, for starters. He's a sadistic little pimp, and while no one is going to mourn him much other than his twisted mother (I doubt Tywin is sad to see him go, knowing that little brother Tommen will be vastly more docile and less likely to order messy executions that cause needless war-related slaughter and expense), his death doesn't compensate us emotionally for the deaths he's caused directly and indirectly. I've rarely found retribution to be all that satisfactory when it comes in the form of death. Of course, had Geoffrey had to duel Arya Stark publicly and she dispatched him, I might have actually enjoyed that. A little. Okay, a lot.

Another problem with Geoffrey's death bringing deep satisfaction is that he's a simplistic sadist, not a cunning opponent. We've got those aplenty in this story, and none of the really evil movers and shakers in GOT have been dealt with by the gods. Geoffrey's death is more like that of Viserys Targaryen: yeah, he's a creep and a petty sadist, but what really changes with him gone in terms of things being better? He had already lost when he is dispatched. And Geoffrey had been put in his place by Tyrion and Tywin so often, did we really believe he was going to be able to continue being the biggest douche in Westeros indefinitely? Hell, given enough time, I suspect he could have gotten Jaime to cut his head off, left-handed.

Lucid

Actually, Cersei isn't behind Margaery in the power rankings, but above.
The marriage was never consummated, so Margaery misses the boat (again).
Which is why it makes no sense to me for Olenna to have poisoned Joffrey, since the Tyrells have (seemingly) nothing to gain from killing him so soon.

The way it looks right now the Lannisters actually benefit the most from his death, Tommen is next in line, and he will probably prove to be more manageable than Joffrey.

And though I'm not sad to see him gone, I think I will miss the loathsome little prick, Jack Gleeson's performance throughout the series has been excellent.

Taso

"I don't think a full 60 seconds was given to properly praise the death of the most despicable television character since Marissa Cooper on "The O.C."

How could you ever compare Game of Thrones to the OC? How are you a contributing writer??

Robert

Who did it? My guess is that it was no accident that the gift of the necklace to Sansa was planned. Olenna Tyrell gave the necklace to Dontos Hollard to give to Sansa. At the wedding we see Olenna Tyrell come over to talk to Sansa and in the parting shot it looks like one of the stones in the necklace is missing. Maybe the stone carried the poison. The cup was conveniently sitting on the table in front of Olenna before Joffrey drank from it. Could it have been preplanned? Maybe just coincidence but Dontos showed up at the end to whish Sansa away.

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