TV REVIEW: Game of Thrones - The Lion and The Rose

As ever, major spoilers in the following review... Please don't read ahead if you haven't seen this episode.

It's an outing at the writer's desk for George RR Martin himself this time as we enter the second episode of this season, The Lion and the Rose. It's a fairly big sign that something big is coming if you see Mr Martin's name in the opening credits and so it proves once again. The episode opens in brutal fashion as Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) engages in a human hunt with companion and the newly christened Reek (Alfie Allen) by his side who has cast off his old identity as Theon Greyjoy. Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) continues his journey north with Jojen (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), Meera (Ellie Kendrick) and Hodor (Kristian Nairn) and has visions of where they must go next. Then, to King's Landing, where the final preparations are being made for Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margeary's (Natalie Dormer) wedding.

With a show such as Game of Thrones, there are always going to be those episodes where certain moments will overshadow the scenes that have gone before it for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is from the sheer shock of what you had just seen, such as the Red Wedding. And it is to another wedding we turn for the other reaction that might overshadow the episode; sheer, unadulterated glee. It seems morally wrong to revel in the death of a character, but Game of Thrones doesn't exactly operate on an even keel when it comes to moral codes. Then there is the fact that the character in question is one of the most odious, most hated and downright evil characters to have ever walked across the screen.

Jack Gleeson's performance as Joffrey has always been one of the best in the series, capturing the Boy-King's maniacal love of power and the torture he inflicts on others. He's slowly grown into the character everybody loves to loathe and in some ways, it will be sad to see him go. However, just in case we had any sympathetic feelings at all, Martin leads up to the fatal moment with one of the worst acts of Joffrey's brutality not involving a crossbow. A not-so-subtle power-game between Joffrey and Tyrion showcases the King's hatred of his uncle, using a play with dwarfs to illustrate the War of Five Armies, not only humiliating Tyrion, but also torturing poor Sansa with some graphic attacks on the player representing her brother, Robb. Tyrion slowly placing his hand over his wife's during this scene was one of the sweetest moments in a dark episode.

And so to the death itself. Book readers will know how it is done, but I'm enjoying reading everyone's various theories around the internet (I won't be detailing it here). The episode had already been fairly brutal before we even got to King's Landing (more on that shortly), but there was an over-riding sense of things coming to an end slowly building throughout. With Shae sent away by Tyrion, Stannis and Melisandre regrouping at Dragonstone and the Boltons on the move, the episode felt more characteristic of the usual 'Episode 9' dramatic turns rather than the second episode. By the time we got to the wedding, the tension mounted slowly with every cruel comment or prank that Joffrey played. The moment itself was built beautifully as everyone slowly realised that he was choking; some hesitated, some rushed in gallantly, some stood back and watched it happen. And then for the fans, there was a nice, extended close-up of Joffrey's purple, bloated face, just so we could all make sure. It's not hard not to cheer at that.

Now to the scenes that we saw prior to the Purple Wedding. The episode opened far more brutally than it would later end, as Ramsay Snow uses his authority to engage in a hunt, chasing down a young woman with hounds and his bow-toting companion. The hunt itself was composed well, building throughout and getting considerably more graphic as the victim was chased down. Whilst not quite at the Joffrey level of hatred just yet, Snow is putting in a decent bid to replace him as the show's most reviled character. Theon may have been an ambitious but useless leader, but his plight is a sympathetic one and Allen's performance of the transition from the brash, over-compensating Theon to the maligned, broken Reek has been excellent. The look on his face when he found out that Robb was dead was heartbreaking.

Amidst all the death, we also got a few quieter scenes to highlight some of the underlying issues in Westeros. A particularly good scene was that between Tywin and Olenna (Diana Rigg is just marvellous isn't she?) which reminded everyone of the Westeros financial troubles. Tywin may shit gold as the saying goes, but the crown still owes a hell of a lot of money. Can we also have a round of applause for Oberyn, the sassiest man in Westeros? Seriously, Pedro Pascal is knocking this role out of the park. I want to see him go toe-to-toe with Tywin and Cersei at least once a week for this season. I also loved the scene between Jaime and Bronn. I may still remind myself that Jaime once pushed a child out of a window, but the fact I have to do this is a testament to Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and the writers for giving him such a compelling, sympathetic arc.

The fourth season is clearly set to pull no punches, starting with a major demise in the second episode. The big, dramatic moments will always be the ones that people remember, but where Game of Thrones really excels is those scenes in between.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of the previous episode, Two Swords, here.

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