Monday, April 14, 2014

HBO Game of Thrones Recap: The Lion and the Rose

GRRM wrote this week's episode. It primarily takes place in King's Landing and may make some people quite happy. If it wasn't already painfully clear to you from last season, Ramsay Snow is a sadistic, twisted psychopath with poor impulse control. His idea of fun is to take his apparent girlfriend Myranda and Theon (Reek) to hunt a woman in the woods. Apparently this woman's crime was to make Myranda jealous. That's what Ramsay says anyway but the reality is he couldn't care less. He's just happy to have someone to torment. The woman is shot and crippled by Myranda before Ramsay orders his hounds to rip the woman apart. Believe it or not GRRM actually toned this down for television from his original source material. Torment of both the psychological and physical variety is extremely important and pleasurable to Ramsay although he may not necessarily have an eye for strategy. Roose Bolton has returned to the Dreadfort to retake command. He has brought along his new plus sized wife Walda Frey and his bounty hunter Locke. While Locke and Ramsay bond over Locke's mutilation of Jaime Lannister, Roose Bolton is less than pleased with Ramsay's actions in his absence. Roose points out that he needed Theon whole in order to trade with Balon Greyjoy. 
Ramsay snarkily points out that it's too late for that while Roose coldly replies that as far as he's concerned Ramsay is still a Snow and not a Bolton. The only thing that Ramsay may want more than hurting people is his father's love and trust. Annoyed that his father questioned his actions Ramsay, in what seems like a nod to similar scenes in Django Unchained, has Theon shave him with a straight razor to prove that Theon is completely and utterly broken. Ramsay even mocks Theon with news of Robb Stark's death and the fact that Roose killed him. Ramsay reveals via Theon that Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive. Slightly mollified and perhaps amused Roose orders Locke to find the Stark boys and for Ramsay to take Moat Callin. The success of this mission will determine whether Roose will legitimize Ramsay. The fact that Roose easily dominates someone as scary and as vicious as Ramsay gives you more insight into just how dangerous Roose is. Of course you knew that already if you attended the Red Wedding.

In King's Landing Tyrion is happy to have his big brother back. Bronn and Jaime start to spar together to get Jaime able to fight with his left hand. Varys, unusually a bit publicly unsettled, tells Tyrion that the jig is up as far as Shae goes. Cersei knows and has told Tywin. When Tyrion casually suggests that Varys attempt to deceive or misdirect Tywin about Shae's true status Varys promptly refuses. He reminds Tyrion that Tywin threatened to kill the very next prostitute he caught Tyrion with. And Tywin makes no idle threats. At the pre-wedding ceremonies Cersei points out Shae to Tywin while the churlish Joffrey uses Tywin's gift of a Valyrian sword (melted down from Ice last episode) to destroy Tyrion's gift of a history book. As usual Joffrey also jokes about Ned being executed on his orders. Tyrion calls in Shae to his private room. She's happy to see him because she thinks he finally wants her real good thing again but Tyrion is calling the whole thing off. She doesn't think he's serious until Tyrion, trying to be cruel to be kind, calls her a whore and says they can never be married or have children together and that she is to leave immediately. She breaks down. This was pretty good acting here. Tyrion is walking a tightrope. It's important that the viewer is uncertain, for at least a while, whether Tyrion is telling the truth of his feelings. Shae certainly thinks he is.

On Dragonstone, Stannis allows Melisandre to burn heretics, including his brother-in-law. This outrages Davos, but Selyse is not at all bothered by her brother's death. Stannis' wife Selyse is a true believer who, concerned that her daughter Shireen is insufficiently pious, sends Melisandre to talk to her. Stannis forbade Selyse from disciplining (i.e. beating) Shireen. In the ensuing talk between the child and the priestess we discover what we already knew. Melisandre is a fanatic who sees the world in starkly Manichean terms. She also wears the hell out of low cut gowns. Beyond the wall Bran is warging into Summer, who has just killed a deer. He is snapped out of this by Meera and Jojen Reed who soberly warn the sullen Bran that warging too long or often into an animal may cause him to lose his humanity. They find a weirwood tree. Bran connects with the tree and has visions of the recent past, as well as possibly the distant past and future. He also hears a voice calling him north. I hope that they don't have to recast as the actor playing Bran is going through puberty and its associated growth spurts.

The royal wedding takes place. Joffrey claims both of "his" houses , Baratheon and Lannister, though it looks like the cloak he places on Margaery is a Lannister one. We were previously introduced to Mace Tyrell, Margaery's father and putative House head. But we see who's actually running things when he tries to join his mother and Tywin as they bicker about the wedding cost and the Iron Bank. Lady Olenna tartly tells her son that this is an A and B conversation so he should C his way out. At the reception Bronn confirms to Tyrion that Shae is gone. Lady Olenna comforts and fusses over Sansa, adjusting her hair and necklace. She offers Sansa condolences over the murders of her brother and mother. Lady Olenna says it's horrid to kill someone at a wedding. Neither Jaime nor Cersei are happy about Cersei's upcoming wedding to Loras. Jaime warns Loras that Cersei would kill him and therefore he can't marry her. Loras scoffs that Jaime can't marry Cersei either. This was important because it shows that not only are the rumors about the incest widely discussed, many people believe them. 
For her part the increasingly paranoid Cersei won't take Brienne's wedding congratulations at face value. She insults Brienne's loyalty and honor. She accuses her of being in love with Jaime. Folks, this is what we call projection. Cersei also interrupts Pycelle, who was trying to run some game on a random serving girl. She countermands Margaery's order that leftover food should be given to the poor and instead orders Pycelle to give it to the dogs. Interesting bunch, those Lannisters. Prince Oberyn and Ellaria Sand run into Tywin and Cersei. The passive aggressive insults fly back and forth but end when Prince Oberyn reminds the Lannisters that in his realm of Dorne the rape and murder of a woman and her children is not considered a proper thing to do. As Oberyn sees it the Lannisters are indeed fortunate that Cersei's daughter Myrcella is in Dorne.

Joffrey has evidently tired of listening to "The Rains of Castamere" or having people throw things at his fool, Ser Dontos. He brings in a troupe of dwarfs to reenact the War of the Five Kings. This is meant in part as an insult both to Sansa and Tyrion. The dwarf playing Robb Stark has his head chopped off. The troupe makes very crude insults to both Robb Stark and Renly. Sansa gets a lot of disdain for different reasons. But imagine sitting at a table with your family's murderers. Imagine being forcibly married into that family and having to smile as people mock your loved ones' deaths. Sansa is close to having a breakdown but holds it together. That's a different kind of strength than Arya or Bran is developing but it's useful all the same. Joffrey orders Tyrion to fight in the reenactment and insults him. When Tyrion diplomatically declines, Joffrey insults him again and pours wine on his head. He then orders Tyrion to be his cupbearer, a grave insult. It's important to note that Tyrion's father appears completely bored or uninterested by his grandson's antics while Cersei LOVES them. She's smirking at every insult. Joffrey orders Tyrion to kneel while serving him, which Tyrion silently refuses to do. I thought that this was a great reveal and reminder of the essential nature of the two characters. The loathsome Joffrey simply isn't happy unless he's causing pain to someone. The closer they are to him the more enjoyment he gets from it. Tyrion can only defend himself via his intelligence and his speech. He's no warrior and can't count on anyone in his family to defend him from Joffrey.

The confrontation is interrupted when the pie is brought in. Margaery feeds Joffrey some of her pie (that sounds kinda dirty doesn't it); Sansa and Tyrion try to leave. But they are prevented from doing so by Joffrey who orders more wine. Joffrey has some more announcements to make, doubtless something about impaling first born infants or such.
However he has a coughing fit. This changes into a choking fit. And after that a vomiting fit. Ser Dontos suddenly appears by Sansa's side and tells her to come with him if she wants to live. Cersei rushes to Joffrey but it's too late. Joffrey's skin and eyes have turned various different colors and his face is swollen. He's incapable of speech but is bleeding from eyes and nose. He tries to speak and raise his hand but that's all folks. Crazy incest-boy is dead. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Cersei thinks that Joffrey was trying to blame Tyrion. She certainly does. In a bit of remarkable bad timing, Tyrion has picked up Joffrey's goblet and is examining it curiously when the hysterical Cersei accuses him of murder and orders his arrest. I guess you have to be careful what you wish for. Joffrey "won" the war but what did it profit him? Not very much in the end, I think. There are other powers in the world besides the Lannisters. Joffrey was a bad king and would have been worse had he lived. The question remains open. Who is the best man or woman to sit on the Iron Throne? And based on what we've seen beyond the Wall, does it really matter in the end. Also, everyone is a hero in their own story. Both Catelyn Stark and Cersei Lannister saw their first born sons die in front of them. One I had sympathy for and one I did not but that doesn't change the essential horror of the event. Or does it?

*This post is written for discussion of this episode and previous episodes.  If you have book based knowledge of future events please be kind enough not to discuss that here NO SPOILERS. NO BOOK DERIVED HINTS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS. Most of my blog partners have not read the books and would take spoilers most unkindly. Heads, spikes, well you get the idea....
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