Considering I was endlessly whining that the last season dragged, stretching out half a season’s story to fill ten episodes, season four hasn’t half started with a bang. The above the spoiler line is going to be short this week, because I have a lot of things to discuss.
So if you’re reading this on the home page, then beware of clicking the Read on… link. If you’ve clicked through to the article itself, be warned: here be spoilers.
Okay, so as I suspected from the title, this episode was indeed the so-called Purple Wedding. Yep, well-known little shit Joffrey and determined social-climber Margery Tyrell tied the knot. But before we get to that, let’s cover the other things which happened in this episode.
In the north: we rejoin Ramsay Snow and what’s left of Theon, now called Reek. With the Starks having mostly met untimely ends, it looks like we’re going to be spending a lot of time with House Bolton this season. The first thing I noticed is how well-cast Roose has been. Michael McElhatton is terrifying.
Whereas the Theon-torturing scenes in the last season languished into dull, and not really leading anywhere, this was better. Theon is broken, ruined, to the point where even having a razor to Ramsay’s throat and being told that Robb Stark is dead, he can’t finish the job.
Stannis meanwhile is still doing not much of everything. Mellisandre is burning people, Davos isn’t too thrilled at the idea but is keeping schtum for now, and Lady Selyse is even more zealot-y than the Red Woman. All in all, Stannis’ daughter Shireen seems the most sensible one of the lot.
And north of the wall; the Bran story is still boring, and is still going nowhere fast.
Now to King’s Landing. Before we even get to the wedding, Tyrion’s life starts to come apart as Cersei tells daddy about his pet whore, forcing him to cruelly turn her away for her own protection. It’s probably about time, as the show seemed to have run out of ideas for Shae. But it emphasises how trapped Tyrion has increasingly been since the end of season 2.
The wedding itself is what you’d expect. The ceremony itself is skipped over quickly, in favour of an extended wedding party which showcases just what a cruel little shit Joffrey really is. After having cut Tyrion’s gift of a book to pieces with his new sword (Widow’s Wail this time, rather than Hearteater), he taunts his uncle with a show of circus dwarves, and then by forcing him to serve as his cup-bearer.
And once again “Rains of Castemere” features in the music. You’d think they’d stop playing that at weddings, it never seems to end well. And sure enough, Joffrey finishes out the episode as dead as most of the Starks.
It is shocking. But that’s more down to the manner, given that most of the episode is spent showcasing how bad Joffrey is in seemingly a justification of his death. Which in my opinion, the whole series from episode 1 has been.
But Joffrey chokes on poisoned wine, it is a long, ugly, drawn-out death with Cersei and Jaime running to his side. Before he points to Tyrion, and the youngest Lannister child is siezed as the royal assassin. So we’re well and truly in “Who shot Phil Mitchell?” territory.
Now, there are probably endless options. I myself would point to a scene during the wedding ceremony, where the septon says:
“…cursed be he who would seek to tear them asunder…“
And at that moment, over Margery’s shoulders come into focus a number of the guests.
- Prince Oberyn Martell: the last episode devoted a fair amount of screen-time to showing us how much Oberyn hates the Lannisters, and wants revenge for his sister’s murder. Joffrey is a Lannister, grandson of the man who Oberyn blames for his sister’s death, and is sitting on the throne which should have belonged to his nephew. He certainly has the motive.
- Grand Maester Pycelle: Pycelle is notionally a Lannister loyalist, but there is a pointed scene at the wedding feast where Cersei lays into him. He also has a knowledge of poisons; it was he who gave Cersei the poison which she almost used on herself and Tommen in the Battle of the Blackwater. He definitely has the means.
- Ser Loras Tyrell: Maybe the least likely to do it, but he had already rowed with Jaime — which included a pointed reference to the incest of which Joffrey is a product — and he stormed out of the feast during the circus performance, when it started mocking Renly. A thin motive, but not neccesarily a bad one.
- Lady Olenna Tyrell: Now remember when I said the episode showcased the worst of Joffrey? That is what Olenna just watched her granddaughter marry. Second thoughts are definitely in order. And when Tyrion hands Joffrey his cup just before he drinks the poison, he picks it up from the table in front of Olenna. Opportunity, right there.
I don’t believe Tyrion did it, though I suppose he would be justified. There is the wildcard that it could be Ser Dontos, who appears as Joffrey is choking to whisk Sansa away to safety. If that’s the case, he’s almost certainly working with someone.
So we finish the episode with the king dead and Tyrion accused. This season is moving at lightning speed, with its usual trend of sharp plot twists. But for now, there is only one thought to end on: