What do they call the movie Four Weddings and a Funeral in Westeros?
That may be an exaggeration, but you know the concept of matrimony is in trouble in the seven kingdoms when an adult dwarf marrying a teenage girl who hates him is the least-depressing of all the nuptials we’ve seen on Game of Thrones. Sunday night’s much-anticipated royal wedding episode continued the trend, with one high-profile member of the wedding party biting the dust in memorable fashion.
But like a good wedding, “The Lion and the Rose” made sure we were entertained even before the closing-act fireworks. Here’s everything that happened in the fourth season’s second episode.
Major spoilers below. Proceed at your own risk!
Above the Wall
Besides the Royal Wedding, this week we’re getting brief glimpses of the characters we didn’t check in with during the season premiere. Briefest of all is our time with the Bran Gang on their mission to find the Three-Eyed Crow north of the Wall.
We meet up with the young lordling as he’s sating his hunger by hitching a ride in the consciousness of his direwolf, until he’s pulled back to his own body by an unfortunate instance of hodorus interruptus. Jojen reminds Bran that eating while warging is a zero-calorie diet, but the direwolf proves useful in another way, pointing out a heart tree in the middle of a clearing.
Bran touches the tree and is treated to a series of visions: his father, the White Walkers, that shot of a dragon shadow that’s been used in all the promos. The three-eyed crow makes an appearance, and we hear him speak for the first time: “Look for me under the tree.” A little vague, seeing as they’re in the middle of the woods, but at least Bran has a road map.
We enter the Dragonstone storyline through a smash cut to a bunch of people being burned alive – never change, Westeros’s grimmest location. One of the victims is Stannis’s brother-in-law, who begs for his life; Stannis seems unconvinced of the efficacy of burning family members, but he does nothing to stop Melisandre from offering up the victims as a sacrifice to the Red God.
Later, Stannis and his wife have Melisandre over for dinner while they share what passes for happy memories on Dragonstone, a heartwarming story about eating seagulls during a siege. Eventually the conversation turns to parenting; the Baratheons are having trouble raising a child in an atmosphere of violent religious fanaticism, so they send Melisandre over to Shireen’s cell to talk whatever the opposite of sense is into the girl. The Red Priestess tries to tell Shireen about the glory of the Lord of Light, but the little girl is skeptical; she still worships the seven gods and seven hells. “There’s only one hell,” Melisandre assures her, “the one we live in now.” Dragonstone: always a barrel of laughs.
Season 4 brings good news and bad news for Theon Greyjoy. The good news: He’s no longer having his genitalia cut off. The bad news: everything else. His personality has broken down completely; he’s now a battered shell of a man who exists only to do Ramsay Snow’s bidding. Ramsay himself is just as bad as ever, indulging in depraved hunting expeditions with human women as targets. He’s uncowed by the surprise arrival of his father Roose Bolton, who scolds him for damaging a valuable hostage like Theon and reminds Ramsay that he has to remember his name: Snow, not Bolton.
Ramsay plays his trump card, revealing that Bran and Rickon are still alive and showing Roose just how much control he has over Theon. Impressed, Roose send his hunter Locke out to look for the little Stark boys, then tells Ramsay that the Ironborn are preventing his army from returning to the North. If Theon can clear them out of their defensive stronghold, Roose says, Ramsay might get to be a Bolton after all. Ramsay smiles; even deranged psychopaths want their father’s approval.
Speaking of deranged psychopaths, it’s Joffrey’s wedding day! Jaime is dealing with the loss of his right hand by training with his left; his new trainer is Bronn, who takes delight in beating the Kingslayer six ways to Sunday. Tyrion, meanwhile is forced to attend Joffrey’s wedding breakfast, where he gives the young king a heartfelt gift, a lengthy tome called Lives of Four Kings; Joffrey shocks the world by giving his uncle a surprisingly sincere thank you in return. Unfortunately, that uses up Joffrey’s supply of basic human decency for the year. When Tywin presents him with the Lannisters’ second Valyrian steel sword, Joff tests the blade by chopping his uncle’s book to bits. He then gives it the totally-metal name of “Widow’s Wail” because he is a teenage boy.
Back at the palace, Tyrion tells Shae they’ve been found out, and she needs to leave town – for real, this time. She vows to stay and fight Tywin and Cersei alongside him, so Tyrion deploys the nuclear option. In one of the most brutally emotional scenes the show has ever done, he throws all of Shae’s insecurities in her face, calling her a disgusting whore who doesn’t deserve to bear his children. Even if we can understand why he’s doing it, it’s still an absolutely ugly scene to watch. Shae leaves in tears, and Bronn assures Tyrion he’ll get her on a boat across the Narrow Sea.
But there’s no time to dwell on Shae’s tears – it’s the royal wedding, and anyone who’s anyone in King’s Landing is there. Author George R. R. Martin wrote the script for this episode, and he enjoys throwing his characters together in unexpected combinations. Martin’s essentially using the show to write fanfic for his own series, and the result is like a Robert Altman version of Steel Magnolias – so many characters, so many varieties of shade. The king of the passive-aggressive retort turns out to be Oberyn Martell, who goes from insulting the Lannisters’ poor court etiquette to accusing them of rape and murder in the space of about a minute. Fortunately, we’ve also got saintly Margaery Tyrell on the scene, who announces that she’s donating the wedding’s leftovers to the homeless like some sort of medieval Pret A Manger.
Then it’s time for the day’s entertainment: a dramatic retelling of the War of the Five Kings, staged by dwarves. Like Martin’s recently released preview chapter from The Winds of Winter, it’s a thrillingly meta touch, and director Alex Graves does a good job of getting across just how obscene the performance is to everyone forced to sit through it.
After the dwarves are have finished their battle, Joffrey commands Tyrion to duel the winner; when his uncle refuses, the boy king pours his wine all over Tyrion’s head. Then he takes his sword and goes to town on a gigantic pie – which is filled with pigeons! Hey, weddings in Westeros are all right after all. Except that after he grabs a slice of pie and washes it down with some wine, Joffrey starts coughing. Then he collapses. Then his face turns a peculiar shade of eggplant. (If you’ve heard book readers talking about the Purple Wedding, this is why.)
Jaime and Cersei both rush in to save their inbred love child, but it’s too late – Joffrey’s dead. Fans have wished for this moment for years, but that doesn’t make the moment any less gruesome. Still, at least Joffrey got to die in his parents’ arms, which is more than most people in this series get.
Whodunit? Literally everyone has a motive, but suspicion seems to have settled on Tyrion, who was serving as Joffrey’s cupbearer. As the episode ends, guards arrive to take him away; all the one-liners in the world aren’t getting him out of this one.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.
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