Monday, January 16, 2017

Game of Thrones Rewatch 4.2: "The Lion and the Rose"

Read the previous entry in this series here.
Read the next entry in this series here.
4.2 “The Lion and the Rose”
Written by George R.R. Martin
Directed by Alex Graves
Commentary by Natalie Dormer (Margaery), Jack Gleeson (Joffrey), George R.R. Martin, Alex Graves

As with “The Rains of Castamere,” it’s sometimes hard to remember that there’s other things happening in this episode besides the Purple Wedding. Martin actually wanted to do the whole thing as the wedding, like they did with “Blackwater” and “Watchers on the Wall,” but Benioff and Weiss told him they really needed to cover a few other storylines, as well. Graves was happy about that; he says if he’d had to do an entire episode with nothing but this wedding, he might have gone crazy. This is also the last episode Martin has written for the show to date, and since he doesn’t seem terrifically happy with the direction the show’s gone (and since the show will [thankfully] be over before he finishes A Dream of Spring), I don’t think he’ll write another one. I’ll miss his episodes for the rest of this rewatch, especially when we get to season six, where the writing is abysmal. But, again, we’ll get there.

So we’ll start with the stuff that isn’t the Purple Wedding and work in. There’s a lot going on at the Dreadfort; Roose has returned and is deeply unhappy with how Ramsay has been conducting himself. He’s angry about his mutilation of Theon, in particular. Ramsay shows him that his treatment of Theon has made him into a tool rather than a person, and Roose definitely sees the possible uses there.

Earlier, we “got” to see one of Ramsay’s infamous hunting trips; Myranda’s apparently gotten jealous of Tansy and demanded her death, and Ramsay’s delivering. Something about Ramsay having a willing play-toy rubs me the wrong way; his treatment of girls is in the books (to an extent), but for some reason, adding a just-as-sexually-sadistic partner seems extraneous. Later, of course, she fills out the “Shae” part of rehashing the Sansa-getting-married drama, but we’ll get there when we get there.

Over at Dragonstone, Melisandre’s burning people, and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for it other than to burn people. She says he’s an infidel, blah, blah, but if they meant to conflate him with Alester Florent, who was burned for trying to negotiate a truce with the Lannisters, then “he wouldn’t stop worshipping the Seven” seems like a really lame reason to burn him. Especially since this is the only time he shows up; they only put him in the show so that they could burn him. Maybe it’s supposed to show that even being family won’t spare someone from burning (and thus foreshadow Shireen’s death)? If so, it’s still not set up well and just comes across as Melisandre burning people because she likes burning people.

Then follows the most awkward dinner ever, with Selyse trying to ride the high from burning her brother and Stannis and Melisandre not cooperating with her attempts at conversation. The important part of the conversation is that Selyse doesn’t really like her daughter that much, and especially resents that she refuses to convert. This leads to a scene anyone familiar with fairy tales will recognize: the witch visits the innocent princess. Melisandre tries to explain why they burned Axell, but since it’s a stupid reason, Shireen’s having none of it.

This episode also shows the first time Bran wargs into a tree, because it totally makes sense that that would even occur to him. This is how they figure out where they’re going, because apparently the showrunners are trying to use their secondary characters as little as possible, only bringing them in when there’s no other choice (Dontos, Coldhands, etc.). Unfortunately, this means they’re not at all set up and turn into plot convenience and/or deus ex machinae instead of, you know, characters.

The wedding takes up the biggest part of the episode. It’s a whole-day thing, starting with a small breakfast with the Lannisters, where Joffrey gets his presents for the day. Widow’s Wail makes its appearance and is dutifully named, then used to destroy Tyrion’s present—a book—just to show once again how awful Joffrey is. The whole day is clearly written to show Joffrey in the worst possible light leading up to his death. There’s also a brief moment where Cersei points out Shae to Tywin, who orders that she be brought to him after the wedding (dun dun dun).

Between the breakfast and the actual wedding, Tyrion breaks up with Shae and sends her away. Of course he does it in the worst possible way, trying to get her to hate him so she’ll leave. He calls her a whore, tells her she’s not fit to bear his children the way Sansa is, and sends her away with Bronn.

After the wedding comes the feast, which is a massive set piece that allows for all sorts of characters to have moments to show alliances, rivalries, and temperaments.

  • Olenna and Tywin argue over the cost of the wedding and Olenna points out that the Tyrells paid for half the wedding and will probably end up paying for half the war and half the debt to the Iron Bank. She tells Mace to piss off when he tries to get involved in the conversation. While this establishes her as undisputed matriarch of the family, it doesn’t quite jibe with how the patriarchy is set up to oppress Cersei and Sansa later.
  • Bronn tells Tyrion Shae got on the boat and she’s fine.
  • Oberyn drools over a contortionist to display half of his characterization (he likes sex).
  • Olenna greets Sansa and adjusts her hair and necklace, conveying her condolences for the Red Wedding and Sansa’s losses.
  • Oberyn flirts with Loras, and Loras backs into Jaime. Jaime tries to warn Loras against marrying Cersei for his own safety; Loras thinks Jaime’s just jealous.
  • Brienne pays her respects to Margaery and Joffrey; Cersei laughs at her for bowing like a man instead of curtseying. Joffrey congratulates her for killing “that deviant” and Margaery and Brienne look awkward.
  • Cersei corners Brienne and tries to stuff her back in the “lady” box, then drops the truth bomb on her that she’s in love with Jaime. Brienne flees. Jaime looks concerned.
  • Cersei saves a young woman from Pycelle’s lechery and then tells him to make sure the leftovers from the feast are fed to the dogs instead of the poor.
  • Dontos is juggling; Joffrey gets bored and has people pelt him with fruit.
  • Oberyn, Ellaria, Tywin, and Cersei encounter each other and Cersei nearly has vapors over Ellaria’s dress (and I’m sorry, any show that wants me to take this dress seriously does not get to claim to be historically accurate/authentic. That goes for a lot of the wardrobe choices, actually). They exchange subtle and not-so-subtle digs that show us the other half of Oberyn’s characterization (he hates Lannisters).

Then comes the dwarf show, during which every single noble at the feast gets insulted in some manner or another. Joffrey tries to get Tyrion out there to fight, too, and Tyrion manages to graciously decline, which is quite the talent under the circumstances. Joffrey stomps over and pours his wine on Tyrion’s head, then demands that Tyrion serve as his cupbearer, getting more angry when Tyrion says it’s an honor, because it wasn’t meant to be. Margaery tries to save everyone by announcing the arrival of the pie, and it works for a minute, but Joffrey isn’t easily distracted from tormenting people. He demands Tyrion bring him some wine to wash the pie down, drinks it, and starts coughing. And keeps coughing. And falls over. And starts oozing out the face. And dies.

For a poison that’s supposed to make it just look like you choked to death, it’s doing a terrible job not looking like poison. Which makes Cersei look much less psychotic when she screams that Tyrion killed him than she did in the books.

Meanwhile, Dontos ex machina spirits Sansa away, making Tyrion look even more guilty.

Axell Florent
Joffrey Baratheon, First of His Name

Next week: Yet another rape scene that wasn't supposed to be one. Petyr pervs on Sansa. Tyrion tries to build a case.

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