Hohoho. This one was like Christmas in April. As a reader of A Song Of Ice And Fire, one of my favourite activities is to watch people freak out over Game Of Thrones. I knew what was coming this season, and I guessed that this second episode was going to create a massive reaction, seeing both the title and that George Martin actually wrote it. I was not disappointed.
What happened though? Let’s walk through it.
If you can make it out of the woods, you win! – Ramsay Snow
It’s interesting to see how Game Of Thrones, as an adaptation, is slowly working towards having a better pacing than the books. I can’t say if they always succeed in it, but Theon Greyjoy’s storyline is one that suffered a lot from the little problem caused by A Feast Of Crows and A Dance With Dragons. Thus, I always appreciate when the TV show addresses it.
So we find Ramsay Snow and his lover chasing after a poor girl in the woods, followed by a damaged Theon. The hunt is quite painful to witness, and mostly here to remind us that there is a man in Westeros who may be crueller than Joffrey.
Also, who is the girl with Snow? How likely is it that he found a girl as perverted as himself? My guess is that they gave him a love interest to make him seem a bit more human than in the books. You don’t want to know what happens to the women he marries in the books.
A toast to the proud Lannister children: the dwarf, the cripple, and the mother of madness. – Tyrion
Meanwile, in King’s Landing, Tyrion tries to enjoy a meal with Jaime. Tyrion tries to cheer up his brother and complains that no one around him wants to eat. Am I the only one who thinks this is a sentence Mr Martin himself uses a lot? I know I do. Food is life. Hail Food. Anyway, Tyrion’s toast finally makes Jaime break a smile, but he falls right back into grumpiness when he accidentally knocks over his goblet of wine with his oh-so-practical fake hand. This leads to Jaime finally reveal what everybody suspected: he can’t fight with his left hand and is therefore useless in a fight. Well, yes, Jaime, not training your left hand for over 30 years is not going to make you magically good with it. Duh. I know this. Tyrion knows this. Which is why Tyrion offers his brother a discrete sparring partner.
This part ends with Bronn and Jaime sparring with each other. Yay for Bronn sassiness and more Nikolaj Coster-Waldau!
Reek? How could you let me stand before my father unshaven? – Ramsay Snow
Lord Bolton is riding back to the Dreadfort! Every time I see his sigil, I wonder who decided to let the Boltons be lords. They have a flayed man as a sigil. How is that not bad news?
Anyway, Lord Bolton is back with his new wife Walda, who he introduces to Ramsay Snow. Walda is not yet aware of how mad Ramsay is. Lord Bolton, however, knows and asks to see how much of Theon his bastard daigned leave unscathed. Which, to be honest, is pretty much none. Theon does not look half as bad as in the books, but it’s still plainly obvious that he’s been broken. Lord Bolton is angry about Theon’s state, because he intended on using him to take Moat Cailin from the ironborn and secure his position in the North. Ramsay, however, demonstrates to his father how submissive Theon now is. Ramsay asks Theon to shave him, all the while making him confess how he let Bran and Rickon go and telling him how Lord Bolton put a knife through Rob Stark’s heart. Theon pauses for a second but finishes shaving Ramsay and sends Bolton and his men on the Stark boys’ trace. The scene ends with Lord Bolton promising Ramsay to reconsider his position if he takes Moat Cailin. Because that’s what Ramsay Snow needs. More power.
Widow’s Wail… I like that. Every time I use it (his valyrian sword), it’ll be like cutting off Ned Stark’s head all over again. – Joffrey
Tyrion discusses the Shae matter with dear old Varys. Tyrion wants Varys to lie to Tywin about Shae, which Varys refuses, urging Tyrion to put his beloved on a boat for any-fucking-where that’s not Westeros. I agree with him on that: Varys is a dangerous enough person as he is. He does not need to give a reason to Tywin Lannister to end him.
Tyrion then joins everybody else in a parade of gifts given to Joffrey. The first we catch a glimpse of is a giant golden goblet offered by Mace Tyrell, who still exists, somehow. Cersei reminds her dear father that he has to torture Shae somehow between brunch and the wedding ceremony. Then, comes a book from Tyrion. A great book about great ancient kings of Westeros… Joffrey reluctantly thanks his uncle, then slashes the volume within seconds of receiving it, this with the valyrian steel sword that his grandfather gives him. How dare you suggest that King Joffrey should read, Tyrion?
I can’t be in love with a whore. – Tyrion
Guys, I’m not going to lie. This scene is kind of heartbreaking and hard to watch. It doesn’t contain any kind of physical violence. But this is the scene when Tyrion finally decides to drive Shae away from him for good. He first tries to make it about Sansa, but Shae smells the bullshit miles away and asks Tyrion to fight for her and their love. Tyrion then has to use hard words. Words he thought he wouldn’t have to use, words that could have come out of Tywin Lannister’s very mouth. He spits them at Shae as brutally as possible, until he leaves her crying and broken. Bronn comes to take her to her ship, but she slaps him and walks away herself, leaving Tyrion alone and angrier with himself than he has ever been. There goes Tyrion’s only source of happiness.
I hate a good many things but I suffer them all the same. – Stannis
So after that emotionally intense moment, how about we see some people being burned alive?
At Dragonstone, Melissandre is about to burn heretics, who seem to include Axell Florent, Queen Selyse’s own brother. In case you didn’t remember it from the last season, Selyse is kind of a nutcase. “What about Melissandre?” you will ask me. Well, I consider her driven, not crazy, the difference in this case being in the amount of intelligence and power that each of those two characters show. Selyse has none of those: she is blindly faithful but she has no wits and no decision-making power whatsoever (at least so far). Melissandre is the one who actually gets to fuck Stannis. I know it sounds dreadful, but that’s what gave her the power to cast the spell that killed Renly. And even if she wasn’t Stannis’ right hand, she still has a shit load of power to herself. Anyway.
After the fire, Selyse, Stannis, and Melissandre share an austere meal. Selyse, after unsuccessfully trying to share fond memories with her husband, suggests that they should kill the Princess Shireen for being sinful. Now, Stannis does a lot of awful things because he thinks they’re right. This is apparently his limit, though: you do not get to touch his daughter. Selyse is still unsatisfied with the very existence of her child, but she only gets to send Melissandre to talk some sense into her.
So Melissandre goes to visit Shireen in her chambers, where she starts to instruct her in the ways of the Gods. Will Melissandre make another servant to the Lord Of Light?
Look for me. Look for me, under the tree. – Three-Eyed Crow
We are hunting in snow covered woods, from the point of view of a hungry direwolf. We kill ourselves a deer and are about to savour it when…
« Hodor » says Hodor. Bran jolts awake and out of Summer’s skin, panting. He snaps at his companions for waking him up from his wolf dream and… yeah, Isaac Hampstead-Wright hit puberty. He’s not the only one who grew up (take a look at Arya and Tommen), but he’s one for whom it is painfully obvious. Good thing that Bran spends most of his time lying down or sitting, so we can at least avoid seeing how tall he is now. To be fair, in a book, the characters only grow older as fast as the author wants them to. You can’t really prevent real people from aging.
But I digress. The purpose of this scene is to remind us that Bran is important, that he feels powerless, and that Jojen, Myra, and Hodor, are risking their lives to get him to the Three-Eyed Crow. As they continue their journey, the group encounters a weirwood tree. Strangely attracted by it, Bran demands to touch it. Visions ensues: the Three-Eyed Crow, Ned Stark, fire, timelapses, more weirwood trees, a child-like silhouette in the middle of the woods, more crows, and a zombie horse… hoho. The first picture announcing a character that I just can’t wait to finally see. Bran now knows where he has to go, and this finishes the first glimpse we get of his storyline for now.
Better her than you. – Tyrion
The second part of this episode begins with the wedding ceremony. It sure goes way better than Sansa and Tyrion’s wedding, with both Margaery and Joffrey looking happy to be there, and Margaery being all gorgeous and having the most complicated hair I’ve seen in this show. Despite the clapping and cheering of the rest of the audience, though, Sansa and Tyrion both look like they’re at a funeral, and Olenna Tyrell looks like she’s just delivered her grand-daughter to a serial killer. Oh wait.
You ought to try enjoying something before you die. You might find it suits you. – Lady Olenna
Lady Olenna and Tywin have a mostly passive-aggressive about who is paying for what and who owes money to whom in Westeros. Get used to the passive-aggressive discussions: this is a wedding, after all. This scene serves mostly to remind us how Olenna owns literally everybody. She even reminds Mace Tyrell that nobody cares about his existence.
No one knows she’s there but you, me, and Varys. – Bronn
I only want to mention this very short scene for one reason. Bronn insists so much on reassuring Tyrion on Shae’s departure that I wonder if she is really gone. If she is not, we’re in for a surprise or two at the end of the season. I mean, we are in for some surprises anyway, but I really want to see if they kept the one involving Shae. Anyway.
Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time I ate some of this food I paid for. – Lady Olenna
Tyrion crosses paths with Oberyn and Ellaria on his way to the royal table. Olenna talks to Sansa about both killing men at weddings and about having paid for this particular wedding’s food. She also suggests to Tyrion to get Sansa the hell out of King’s Landing.
Meanwhile, Joffrey is so sick of hearing The Rains Of Castamere that he throws golden coins at Sigur Ros so they stop playing it. Margaery then makes an announcement: King Joffrey is so generous that he wants the left-overs of the feast to go to the poor. But when Cersei kisses her daughter-in-law on the cheek, calling her an example, I feel like she’s giving her the kiss of death.
If you were to marry Cersei, she’d murder you in your sleep. – Jaime
A bit further from the royal table, Ser Loras Tyrell exchanges suggestive gestures and looks with Oberyn Martell, then bumps into Jaime. Jaime and Loras start joking about the latter’s future wedding to Cersei before Jaime makes snarky comments about his sister never wanting to marry Ser Loras. To which Ser Loras remind Jaime he will never marry Cersei either. Touché.
You’re annoying me right now. Every breath you draw in my presence annoys me. – Cersei
Brienne comes to present her respect to Joffrey, entirely out of love for Margaery, then gets cornered by Cersei as she tries to leave. Cersei accuses Brienne of giving away her allegiance like Cersei herself gives away sex, then openly asks her if she loves Jaime. Brienne intelligently avoids the question by withdrawing. Too bad the look on her face was so explicit.
When Brienne leaves, Cersei saves a serving girl from Pycelle’s unwanted attention, then commands the Maester to give her orders to the kitchen: the left-overs will go to the dogs. Cersei will not suffer that anybody, especially not her son’s wife, the queen, takes the slightest bit of power from her hands.
Meawhile, Joffrey, thinking he has to amuse Margaery, has the crowd throwing food at Ser Dontos. The fool flees and Margaery laughs. The kind of laugh that says “haha that wasn’t funny, you inbred psycho”.
Wearing the crown for so many years must have left your neck a bit crooked. – Oberyn
We then find Cersei conversing with her father. They soon encounter Prince Oberyn and his paramour in the biggest passive-aggressive discussion of the day. Cersei insults Ellaria Sand for being a bastard, Prince Oberyn calls Cersei “old”. Tywin calls the Dornish “decadent”, and Oberyn reminds him gently that in the country he comes from, the country where Tywin sent his own grand daughter, they don’t rape and murder women and children. What can I say? This is probably my second favourite scene of the episode.
We’ll have to find another way to thank the king. – Tyrion
Back at the royal table, Joffrey announces the main entertainment of the day: The War of the Five Kings, reenacted by little people. This pisses off so many people that it’s a wonder nobody gets up and just stabs him. Balon Greyjoy and Stannis are barely noticeable, but Renly is played up as a deviant man riding a naked Loras, and Robb Stark has a wolf head. Tyrion is livid, Tommen laughs until he sees his uncle’s face, Margaery cringes, Loras walks away in anger, and Sansa becomes as pale and still as a marble statue.
When the show is finally over, Joffrey of course has to humiliate Tyrion by offering him to joust with the other little people, to which Tyrion replies with one of his witty traits. Having nothing smarter to say, Joffrey pours his wine on his uncle’s head. Tyrion bears with it but at this point, the whole crowd is silent, most people looking away in shame, or discreetly staring daggers at the king. Margaery tries to get Joffrey under control again, but Joffrey isn’t listening anymore. He makes his uncle his cup bearer. Tyrion won’t let himself be humiliated, so when he graciously obeys, Joffrey throws his cup on the ground. Sansa picks it up, but Tyrion still has to fill it, all of this under Cersei’s unbearably satisfied look. Joffrey then commands his uncle to kneel, but that is the one things Tyrion won’t do. The tension grows until Margaery tries to save the day once again by deporting everybody’s attention on the wedding pie.
Joffrey has to momentarily leave his uncle alone to cut the pie open, freeing a dozen doves and killing the ones having the misfortune to be on the path of his blade. While Joffrey tries the pie, Tyrion and Sansa try to leave, but Joffrey, who grew eyes in his back, calls his uncle to his side to serve him. Joffrey’s lack of heart once again silences the crowd as Tyrion brings him his cup. Joffrey drinks. He forbids his uncle from leaving. Coughs. Drink some more. Coughs. Tries to breathe.
Don’t pretend you haven’t been waiting for this moment. Don’t pretend you’re not enjoying the sight of Joffrey stumbling, choking, and vomitting, while Jaime runs to his side, while Cersei shows a hint of human emotion for the first time, while Sansa is discreetly taken away by Ser Dontos. The crowd gathers around in shock, Margaery turns away, Tywin Lannister himself sways. But with his last strength, Joffrey still has the time to point an accusing finger towards Tyrion.
His Grace, Joffrey of the Houses Baratheon and Lannister, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms, and Protector of the Realm, dies in his mother’s arms. Cersei has Tyrion immediately arrested for kinslaying and kingslaying. The Gods help him.