Spoilers are coming…
At the end of the last episode, all our beloved and not-so-beloved characters were facing their own unique conundrums. And things get off to an equally problematic start this week for an unnamed woman we see running through the woods. Chasing her are Ramsay Snow, the Artist Formerly Known as Theon (henceforth called Reek) and new sadistic addition Miranda. We find out that the woman has been promised her freedom if she can escape the forest. So, naturally, she is shot in her leg by Miranda and promptly torn to pieces by Ramsay’s dogs. Charming.
We cut to King’s Landing and join Tyrion and Jaime as they share a meal together. The two of them have always had an affectionate and surprisingly normal relationship and that shines through here, with the Imp trying to cheer up the cripple with some of his trademark humour. It is nice to see the two of them together again, albeit in slightly morose circumstances. Tyrion suggests that his brother should train himself into using his left hand with the help of Bronn. Not because he is a great swordsman but because he would keep his mouth shut about Jaime’s ineptitude if he is paid. Cue quick training session where the proud Lannister is effortlessly schooled.
(Side note: the books had Ser Ilyn Payne teaching Jaime, but actor Wilko Johnson was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer and the writers decided to rewrite the scene out of respect instead of recasting him.)
Back to the Dreadfort and Roose Bolton arrives home with his contingent. Ramsay creeps out his new stepmother by trying to be nice to her and then starts mucking about with Locke, who seems to be his only friend. When he brings Reek forward, his father is furious at the damage done to the hostage. Ramsay tries to reason with him about the flaying being a traditional thing to do, but is constantly put down. Looks like a lot of the things on this show wouldn’t be so messed up if fathers were nicer to their children. Nonetheless, Ramsay proves how broken Reek has become by forcing the erstwhile Greyjoy into shaving him while getting taunted about Robb Stark’s death. He is also made to reveal the truth about Bran and Rickon. Roose dispatches Locke to kill the remaining Stark boys before promising Ramsay legitimisation of his name if he can retake Moat Cailin from the Ironborn.
King’s Landing again – we’ll be coming back here quite often – and Tyrion is on his way to the royal wedding breakfast when he is intercepted by Varys. The eunuch warns him that Cersei knows about Shae, which is then confirmed by a shot of her telling her father. He does not look pleased. Joffrey and Marge are presented with a giant golden goblet by the finally-introduced Mace Tyrell, who really does look as idiotic as his mother said. Tyrion and Sansa give the engaged couple a rare book, which Joffrey then rips to shreds with Tywin’s present – one of the two Valyrian steel blades from the previous episode. He then proudly names his sword Widow’s Wail. Melodramatic much?
Tyrion leaves the boy-king to his devices and meets Shae in his quarters. He tries to get her to leave but when she keeps refusing, he lies about not loving her because she is lowborn. I am not a huge fan of actress Sibel Kekilli, but her heartbroken face is definitely her best-acted scene. She storms off and we get the feeling things did not go as Tyrion planned.
“There’s only one hell princess: the one we live in now.”
We move to Dragonstone for the obligatory religious ceremony scene as Melisandre burns a bunch of sinners (i.e., believers in the Seven Gods) at the stake. Her cold stare is chilling enough, but even more terrifying is Selyse Baratheon’s fanatic chanting while her brother is one of the victims. Davos tries to reason with Stannis, who keeps shutting him up. It does not seem to be going well for the Onion Knight, but at least he is alive.
Stannis, Selyse and Melisandre then have the most awkward dinner ever shown on television. After failing to make small talk, Selyse begins to call their daughter Shireen a sinner because of her greyscale. Stannis defends her because of her age, but grudgingly acquiesces to Melisandre teaching her about the Lord of the Light. Which she then does by telling her there is only one god, one heaven and one hell – where they are living now. Looking at the décor, one is inclined to agree.
It wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without seeing a direwolf, so we move on to Bran warg-ing in Summer’s head while he is hunting. He is annoyed at Meera and Jojen for waking him up just as the wolf was about to eat, but though the Reeds sympathise with his desire to walk again, they warn him that he could get stuck inside Summer and forget who he is. They pack up camp and come across a Heart Tree and, with some hodoring from Hodor, Bran goes up and touches it. He sees a montage of events from the past, including his father, and a dragon’s shadow over King’s Landing, as the Three-Eyed Raven tells him to travel to another tree further North. So we know where they are going.
Wedding time! Spoiled-Brat King and Marge exchange vows in Baelor’s Sept while Sansa and Tyrion share a nice moment in the crowd. Looks like the Stark girls have a knack for making friends in unexpected places. The guests then move on to the main feast and the best thing about it is the sheer number of characters who are there to interact with each other, and we are taken through rapid-fire sequences of these quick exchanges. We start off with Olenna making sly jibes at Tywin about his loan from the Iron Bank of Braavos, while simultaneously humiliating her son. I love that woman. She then goes on to express her condolences to Sansa about her brother’s death, and inviting her to Highgarden; we see a fleeting smile on poor Sansa’s face.
“War is war, but killing a man at a wedding — horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.”
Bronn tells Tyrion that Shae has been successfully sent back to Pentos and Margaery continues to win over the entire universe with her compassion, much to Cersei’s irritation. Cersei’s betrothed, Loras Tyrell, flirts across the pavilion with Oberyn Martell, before he is interrupted by Jaime. The Lannister tries to embarrass him and says he will never be able to marry Cersei. Walking away, Loras quips that neither will Jaime. Tyrells 2, Lannisters 0. Brienne arrives to congratulate Joff and Marge, and Cersei starts to thank her for saving Jaime, but ends up jealous over the fact that it was Jaime who did the saving. After demeaning the knight by asking her if she loves Jaime, she storms off to bully Maester Pycelle and undermine Margaery’s new authority as queen. She seems to be happy for a bit until she is joined by her father, Oberyn, and Ellaria Sand. The two parties trade veiled insults until Oberyn shuts them all up by name-dropping Myrcella, Cersei’s daughter, who is now in Dorne. Ouch. The Lannisters cannot seem to win a single argument this episode.
“You’ll never marry her. ”
“And neither will you.”
All of these meetings are simply leading up to the main event though, as Joffrey kicks off the entertainment by first humiliating his fool, Dontos Hollard, and then orders a troupe of dwarves to mockingly act out the War of the Five Kings. The Brat is thrilled of course, but no one else seems to be; indeed, Cersei is the only one at the high table to show a smile throughout the display. Particularly hurt are Loras, who storms off at Renly’s caricature (oh the angst!), Sansa, who is on the verge of tears when she sees the re-enactment of Robb’s death, and Tyrion. Joffrey tries to get Tyrion involved but simply gets insulted for his trouble. Undeterred, he makes his uncle become his cup-bearer.
Things are about to get tense when Margaery, bless her, diffuses the tension and orders a massive pie to be brought out. Said dry pie makes Joffrey demand more wine from Tyrion… and then it suddenly happens. The Brat falls to the ground and starts to choke. Jaime and Cersei rush forward to help but when they flip him over, we realise that something more sinister is afoot. The king has been poisoned. With blood pouring out of his mouth, nose and eyes, his face a ghastly purple, he silently points a finger at Tyrion, who is bending over to examine the goblet of wine Joffrey just dropped, before taking his last grotesque breath. Just like that, the most hated character in Westeros is dead. Cersei screams for Tyrion’s arrest and, after one last lingering shot of Joffrey’s corpse, the screen cuts to black.
And there you have it. In the blink of an eye, the plot just turned again and the Game has been completely changed, and not even in the penultimate episode as in last series. Join us again next week as we see what repercussions the Purple Wedding will have.