'Game Of Thrones’ 'The Lion And The Rose' Review: The Purple Wedding And A Truly Shocking Death

Purple Wedding
The Purple Wedding happened in the second episode of "Game of Thrones" season 4, "The Lion and the Rose."

The Purple Wedding, named after the color of the poisoned wine, happened in "Game of Thrones" season 4, episode 2, "The Lion and the Rose" and that means Joffrey Baratheon is dead. The young king's death is arguably the biggest moment in the "GoT" series.

Since the first season of "Game of Thrones," we, as fans, have been prepared to expect the worst with the first shocking death of Ned Stark.

Ned's death goes against what viewers have been taught to expect from a series and the fantasy genre. Sean Bean was the most well-known actor and surely HBO would not cast someone like Bean for one season, right?

HBO did and Ned's death propelled the series into a cultural phenomenon. Three years later, the significance of Ned's death has been dulled a bit as the story has progressed but it was a "game changer" if there ever was one.

With the War of the Five Kings raging, surely Robb Stark, Ned's son would gain vengeance for the unjust beheading of his father. The King of the North would pay back the Lannisters, the clear villains of the show, and order would be restored.

The fantasy genre has trained the reader, and viewer, to expect tropes like the hero quest as well as the victory of good over evil. "The Lord of the Rings" to the "Harry Potter" franchises are perfect examples of the fantasy genre but George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series is a different thing entirely.

Instead of playing nicely within the genre, Martin is subverting it. Ned's death was the first example and the Red Wedding in season three made clear the series would not follow convention.

The death of Robb and his mother Catelyn was shocking for two reasons, the way they died and how viewers were still ensnared in the long-held traditions of the fantasy genre. Who was the hero now? Would the Stark children ever see a victory?

The "GoT" series has proven Westeros is no place for good, just and honorable people. With Joffrey's death, Westeros is not safe for even the most corrupt or the ones in power.

Robb's death, looking back, was inevitable. An honorable man that broke one promise and chances are he would have been doomed even if he stayed true to his promise to Walder Frey due to the last promise that was broken by a Stark.

Joffrey's death, while desired, was not inevitable. The young king, the embodiment of everything the Lannisters have done to gain, and keep, the Iron Throne is now dead. The Lannisters have been in control from the start and, while there may have been cracks, this is the first devastating defeat for the House.

The obvious question following the Purple Wedding is "What is next?" Out of the five kings battling for the Iron Throne, only Stannis remains although the focus will be on Lannisters' next move.

Tyrion is quickly accused of killing Joffrey, by Cersei, and his future seems bleak. There are too many examples, from Joffrey's treatment of his uncle throughout the episode and in previous seasons, which provide a clear motive for Tyrion to kill his nephew. After all, didn't he hand him the glass that killed him?

Leading up to Joffrey's death, we see countless cruel and petty displays of power. Each of these moments, from the destruction of Tyrion's gift to egging on the crowd to throw food at Ser Dontos to pouring wine on his uncle to the War of the Five Kings skit, has the audience going from anger to disgust. That feeling is mirrored in many of the faces of the characters, acting as a surrogate for the viewer. Margaery, try as she might, can't make the situation a joyous one whereas the Queen of Thorns and Sansa look on in silent dismay.

The only ones having any fun are Joffrey, who laughs so hard he spits out his wine at one point, and Cersei. As the "mother of madness," as deemed by Tyrion, she is content to see Joffrey wield the power she has always wanted.

Unlike the season 4 premeire, "The Lion and the Rose" has thematic structure beyond catching up with the characters. This unity in storytelling helps to enhance the episode while adding greater impact toJoffrey's death and the final scenes of the Purple Wedding. 

Power is an obvious theme as Joffrey, Cersei and Ramsay are concerned with displaying how much control they have over a kingdom, a queen and an enemy, respectively. Cersei asserts herself by reversing Margaery's decision to give the leftovers from the royal feast to the poor of King's Landing. Ramsay wants to prove his worth to his father Roose and shows off his control of the tortured Theon, now known as Reek. Ramsay being able to sit in a chair with a sharp razor at his throat while informing Theon that Robb was killed as a result of Roose's betrayal was a painful scene to watch unfold and Ramsay was rewarded with the chance to take Moat Cailin and become a Bolton.

Speaking of Ramsay, I really liked how George R.R. Martin used this supporting character as a parallel to several of the main themes in "Game of Thrones." A son proving their worth to their father has been a theme since the first season, and most recently in the season 4 premiere with Jaime and Tywin.

Ramsay and Joffrey are like cruel, parallel universe twins. Each are monsters that delight in torturing other people and serve as great bookends to the episode.

"The Lion and the Rose" may have been one of the best episodes of "Game of Thrones." While the Purple Wedding and Joffrey's death will dominate the conversation, the episode also contained some great character development from Bran and Stannis.

We get the first look at Bran’s greensight ability which leads to a message from the three-eyed raven the group has been chasing as well as a vision loaded with important images. We have seen Bran warg and control Hodor and Summer but being able to see the past, present and future from touching a heart tree, a weirwood tree with a carved face, is something else entirely and shows how much potential Bran has as a character. The voice of the three-eyed raven wants the group to travel north and there is a lot to unpack in Bran’s prophetic vision.

In the vision Bran sees his father cleaning Ice as well as his fall from the tower. We also get some quick glimpses of what appears to be one of the Children of the Forest, a deserted Iron Throne left in ruins and a final image of a dragon’s shadow over what appears to be King’s Landing. That last scene could lead to speculation to the end of the series and Daenerys’ return to Westeros.

Stannis continues to be the life of the party and the only thing he seems to have some sort of affection for is his daughter, Shireen. Stannis and Melisandre have not played a huge role in the series of late and the sacrifice of Alester Florent, Stannis’ brother by marriage, is a stark reminder of the power the Lord of the Light has over these characters. The dinner between Stannis, Selyse and Melisandre was painfully awkward and Melisandre’s inspirational chat with Shireen was also quite depressing. Among Melisandre’s best words of encouragement, “There is only one hell princess, the one we live in now.”

The strong narrative focus of “The Lion and the Rose” proves less is more and adding one more character or storyline would have hurt the overall flow of the episode. From the flirting between the Red Viper and Ser Loras to the way Lady Olenna talks shop with Tywin, the Purple Wedding has so many little moments that fans have come to love and expect from the “Game of Thrones” series.

Peter Dinklage, once again, shines as Tyrion and the character continues to gain new depth and complexity. Varys informing Tyrion that Cersei and Tywin know who Shae is forces Tyrion to do the only thing he can do to save her. Time and again he has told her King’s Landing is a dangerous place and Tyrion has no choice but to push her away in a heartbreaking scene. Whether or not you fully believed Shae and Tyrion’s relationship it represented a decision made by Tyrion that was his and his alone, free from the burden of being a Lannister, which is now destroyed by the threat of his family.

Tyrion’s day goes from good, the opening scene with Jaime, to awful by the time the wedding is over. Jaime has always been the only Lannister that has cared for Tyrion and, in a reversal of sorts, Tyrion is the one helping Jaime as he sets his brother up for some sword training with Bronn.

Prior to Joffrey’s death, the nuptials were going off without a hitch although there were many scenes of defiance, large and small, against the Lannister rule. Oleanna discusses how she paid for half of the wedding and money issues to Tywin as equals was a quietly powerful moment and one that shows the Queen of Thorns is not afraid of the Lannisters. I really liked Oleanna’s scenes and her prophetic words to Sansa, “War is war but killing a man at a wedding? Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing?”

Ser Loras gets the last word in after Jaime’s advice to not marry his sister and Oberyn Martell makes it clear Cersei no longer has any power now that Margaery Tyrell is queen. The Red Viper and Elaria have some great lines and he makes his intentions quite clear and reminds Cersei her daughter, Myrcella, is in Dorne.

By the time Joffrey introduces the War of the Five Kings skit, Tyrion, Sansa, Margaery, Loras, Oleanna and Oberyn can no longer pretend to be enjoying the events. To humiliate his uncle further, Joffrey makes Tyrion his cup bearer. Before the situation gets any worse, Margaery tries her best to distract Joffrey but that does not last long and he once again wants to humiliate his uncle. Tyrion gives the cup of wine to Joffrey and the young king starts choking.

Joffrey’s death is shocking and the final moments of “The Lion and the Rose” focus on his face. As Joffrey struggles for breath, blood coming out of nose and turning red, it’s a scene that will remain with the viewers. Joffrey’s last act, pointing to his uncle, seems to doom Tyrion as he is accused of murder by Cersei. As for Sansa, Ser Dontos is able to get her away from the scene while is everyone is distracted.

For viewers, they will have to wait a week to see what's next but there will be plenty of time to speculate about the future of Tyrion, the Iron Throne and the Lannisters. The death of Joffrey goes beyond the death of a hated king. It reveals the Lannisters to be vulnerable and with enemies that can truly hurt the family and disrupt their power. During the War of the Five Kings, the Lannisters never were threatened, save for a few lost battles offscreen and the capture of Jaime, but now, the Lannisters are no longer in control. It will be interesting to see how Tywin reacts to being backed into the corner. Joffrey's death could be a huge blow to the Lannisters or could make the family that much more dangerous.

"Game of Thrones" spoiler discussion

They really made Joffrey's death memorable, huh? I liked the way Martin showed the power of the Tyrells. Margaery and Oleanna are ambitious and as intelligent as any male character and they are playing their own game to gain power.

- The power battle between Margaery and Cersei will be a fun one to watch. Lena Headey and Natalie Dormer are great actresses and will get plenty of screen time in the next few seasons.

- They are really shuffling Bran's story from the books. The series changed the introduction of greensight and are speeding through Bran's "A Dance with Dragons" storyline. I still think they are going to slow down a bit and the group will only make it as far as the cave of the three-eyed raven by the end of season 4.

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