Monday, April 14, 2014

“Game of Thrones” Season 4, Episode 2: The Lion and the Rose

When will these people hire a competent wedding planner?!

Posted By on Mon, Apr 14, 2014 at 10:24 AM

You would think that at some point, these people would stop throwing elaborate wedding ceremonies/receptions and just settle for an intimate civil service and an after-party at Shoney’s. Think of all the money that would be saved, and the number of dead Westerosi kings that would still be around.

Yes, folks -- Joffrey is dead. Last night I got a text from my best friend expressing disbelief. But he’s dead. Dead dead deadski. Afterlife kids. The victim of what is referred to by fans of the books as “The Purple Wedding.” That is one of the events -- but only one -- that happen toward the end of Book 3 that help to balance the scales of justice a bit after the seemingly endless campaign of terror that has consumed the Starks since the beginning of the story. So the Lannisters were dealt a massive blow this week, but brace yourselves: it is only the first of many to come.

Here’s what else went down this episode, along with some thoughts on how things are differing from the book. Spoilers ON!

-Bran Stark still exists! I had completely forgotten about him last week, I will be honest. Bran, the Reeds, and Hodor continued their trip north of the Wall, in an attempt to seek out the mysterious three-eyed crow from Bran’s dreams. They are cold and starving and miserable, and worse, Bran keeps shifting his mind into Summer, his direwolf. His companions warned Bran that wargs can get lost in that kind of mindplay, and cautioned him to stay rooted in reality.

However, Summer led Bran to a weirwood tree. When he touched it, he experienced an intense vision with flashes of the past, present, and future. Someone is going to have to Zapruder that footage, but I saw a few interesting things -- Ned Stark, the Iron Throne covered in either snow or ash (I believe Dany had a similar vision in S2), and a monstrous dragon shadow flying over what looked like King’s Landing (I hasten to point out that it looked like only ONE dragon, not three). Bran also heard a voice telling him to find him beneath a tree.

Bran’s storyline is about to pick up significantly. Although I believe at this point in the books, that party had another member who joined them right on the other side of the Wall and who has yet to appear in the show. He would be difficult to execute on TV, he’s mysterious as all hell (even in the books we don’t know who/what it is -- but there are plenty of theories), and I desperately hope he pops up soon.

-Over at the Dreadfort, Reek -- nee Theon Greyjoy -- continued his new life as a human dog serving the thoroughly deranged Ramsay Snow. Ramsay and his equally sadistic galpal went on a little hunt, stalking and then murdering a poor girl in the woods. Reek joined them. Then Ramsay’s dad, Roose Bolton, came back from the Red Wedding at the Twins and gave us a crash course on why Ramsay is so deeply fucked up: Roose is cold, calculating, and vicious to his son.

These scenes basically served to show us how broken Theon is, to establish that Roose knows that the youngest Starks are still alive, and to put Ramsay to work taking back Moat Cailin from the Iron Borne. None of this stuff happened in the books. Theon is gone for the entirety of Book 3, and when he returns in Book 4 he has been turned into even more of a shell physically and mentally -- his torture in the books is excruciating to read. The Moat Cailin plotpoint is brought up in the books, but I don’t believe Ramsay had anything to do with it. My fear is that they’re going to move Yara to that plotline and jettison her story arc, which is totally separate from everything else but really cool in a lot of ways. But I truthfully expect the show to ignore most of the more far-flung arcs in Book 4.

-On Dragonstone, Stannis Baratheon and the Red Priestess threw a barbecue -- specifically they burned heathens at the stake. Among the victims was Stannis’s own brother-in-law, who refused to turn his back on the Seven in favor of the Lord of Light. Stannis’s wife, Selyse, showed just how full-blown nutty she is (the theme of this episode was “Extremely Crazy People”) by watching her own brother go up in flames with a kind of relief. She also told Stannis that she wanted to start beating their daughter, Shireen, but Stannis is having none of that. Instead he sent the Red Priestess to talk to her.

Again, none of this happened in the books (well, the Red Priestess burning people happens -- quite a lot, actually). Stannis and his crew are almost totally out of the picture until the end of Book 3. What particularly interests me is that the writers seem to be focusing Melisandre’s attention on Shireen’s grayscale, the disease that has left parts of her skin like rock. Grayscale is repeatedly brought up in the book, and it clearly has some larger context -- I believe it’s going to be associated to either the Lord of Light or the Drowned God in the end. I wonder if we’ll find out its larger implications on the show before we ever see them in the books. Because Mel sure seems interested in Shireen’s affliction…

-As usual, the major action of the episode happened in King’s Landing, with Joffrey marrying Margaery. I was honestly stunned that the wedding went down this episode. I thought for sure they’d stretch that out a little longer. But after a brief ceremony, a lavishly filmed reception saw Joffrey repeatedly acting like a sadistic bastard (which he literally is), Cersei picking fights with both Pycelle and Margaery, Oberyn essentially putting the Lannisters on notice, Jaime making it clear to Loras that he will not marry Cersei, and the Queen of Thorns having an intimate chat with Sansa.

That last part is on what people should focus. In last week’s recap I mentioned that the show changed some elements of the Dontos/Sansa scene. Specifically, Dontos gave her a necklace instead of a hairnet, as he did in the books. Regardless, Sansa wore that gift to the wedding -- and the Queen of Thorns fussed with Sansa’s hair shortly before Joffrey drank the poisoned wine. In the books, Sansa later notices that one of the purple jewels in her hairnet is missing, and the reader at least (possibly Sansa) realizes that she was basically the vector for the poison that killed Joffrey. In the show, I watched Sansa’s necklace like a hawk, and I never saw any of the jewels on it go missing. They all seemed to be there, even after the Queen of Thorns walked away. So I’m not sure if they’re going a different direction with Joffrey’s poisoner or what. But Cersei accused Tyrion of the crime in what is essentially her first step to full-blown lunacy. Yes, if you thought Cersei was nuts before, just you wait. She is about to become unhinged and it is going to get CRAZY.

Remember last week, how I said that the Jaime/Cersei scenes made no sense? This is why they made no sense. In the books, Jaime and Brienne arrive at King’s Landing after Joffrey’s wedding; Joffrey was already dead. A grieving, bonkers Cersei rejects Jaime because he was not there to protect their son. That is the wedge that drives the two of them apart, and it makes more sense than, “You took too long to come back from being held hostage.” Similarly, last week it was weird that Brienne didn’t even speak to Sansa even though she had been sworn to find her for Catelyn Stark. But again, Sansa was out of King’s Landing before Brienne ever arrived -- Brienne never interacts with Sansa. (Speaking of, the exchanges between Brienne and Margaery suggest to me that Brienne will be grafted on to the Marg plotline on the show, instead of Brienne’s own story as she has in the books. I’m OK with that, mostly because the Brienne storyline has a very upsetting ending.)

That is a bit of a spoiler to say that Dontos is indeed taking advantage of the post-wedding chaos to spirit Sansa out of King’s Landing. But why he’s doing it, and who he’s working for, I will leave to next week’s episode to reveal. Some other thoughts:

-The Bronn/Tyrion/Shay scene was difficult to watch, but also very interesting because at this point in the books I am fairly sure that Bronn is no longer in King’s Landing. He gets married off, has his own land holdings, and more or less retires with what passes for a happy ending in Westeros. Bronn still being in the capitol while Tyrion is imprisoned somewhat complicates that plotline. I’ll be curious to see how they address that.

-Last season I expressed surprise at how the show was portraying Shay, given that she has some really complicated material coming up in the next chunk of story. I feel like the show has done a fairly good job setting all of that up at this point. If you think she really got on that boat, you’re nuts.

-The discussion between Queen of Thorns and Tywin about the Iron Bank wanting its due was a smooth way of introducing a subplot that will apparently be far more important in the show than it was in the books, based on the well-known actor cast for the part.

-This episode was written by George R. R. Martin himself, the author of the “Song of Ice and Fire” novel series. So all of those little things that seemed so little -- like the grayscale thing I mentioned -- are maybe not so little after all. Martin is a master of seeding small details that grow into huge plot points. That said, I wish he would stop writing episodes of this show and FINISH THE GOD DAMNED BOOKS, GEORGE. Seriously!

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