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Game Of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 Reviewed

Apr 14 2014, 5:29am CDT | by

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Game Of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 Reviewed
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Game Of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 Reviewed

Spoilers through the fourth season of ‘Game of Thrones’ follow.

One of the great ironies of Game of Thrones is that so many different people want to be king in spite of the career hazards.

After all, with great power comes great responsibility, and so far nobody with a firm grip on the crown has managed nearly so firm a grip on their own skulls. Heads roll, and no head rolls faster or further than a king’s.

Especially at a wedding.

Weddings, it turns out, are really quite deadly in Westeros, especially if your name starts with “Joff” and ends with “rey.” At least, that’s the case in Sunday night’s episode “The Lion and the Rose” (the “lion” being house Lannister and the Rose belonging to house Tyrell of Highgarden, even though perhaps that family should adopt the symbol of the Thorn rather than the Rose.)

Joffrey is merely the latest casualty of nuptial regicide I can recall; we can add his name to that of Robert Baratheon (killed during a mysteriously dangerous boar hunt) and Robb Stark (shot down by marksman musicians courtesy of Walder Frey and Ramsay Bolton.) Not to mention the many kings who fell before him, including the Mad King who Joffrey’s uncle Jaime killed in his one great act of infamous bravery.

Karma is alive and well in the seven kingdoms, if only in short bursts. But at least Margaery Tyrell won’t have to bed Cersei’s eldest psychopath—a stroke of incredibly good luck.

We’ve grown accustomed to watching our favorite characters die, so it’s a nice change of pace to see one of the show’s most grotesquely evil ones to shuffle off this mortal coil. As wonderfully despicable as Joffrey has been these past few seasons, it’s high time he choked to death on a poisoned wine goblet. And it’s fitting he’d make his final exit at a wedding, with only Cersei shedding any tears.

There’s always a downside to this sort of thing, and once again it’s Tyrion who takes the brunt of it, thanks to the rage of his big sister, Cersei. When Tyrion protected King’s Landing from Stannis we had a case of “no good deed goes unpunished.” This time, Tyrion is even more blameless.

As was the case in the books, this doesn’t work nearly as well as it ought to in the show. Tyrion is too clever by half to poison his nephew in front of an audience while Joffrey publicly humiliated him. But nobody, including Tywin, intercedes on Tyrion’s behalf. It’s not odd that Cersei would accuse her brother of the murder; it is a bit odd that nobody would step in on his behalf. Then again, few people ever publicly stand up for Tyrion because few characters in this story are as brave as he is.

Beyond Joffrey’s timely death, several more stages were set.

See Also: ‘Game of Thrones’ Premiere Review: Swords and Vipers

We get a (thankfully brief) glimpse of Theon Greyjoy, now going by the name “Reek.” As much as I’ve really disliked the Theon/Ramsay scenes that began in Season 3, I found the confrontation between lord Roose Bolton and his bastard quite gripping. And there was no flaying of body parts in Sunday night’s episode, which we can all be thankful for.

Ramsay is utterly insane, but he’s obviously no idiot, and it doesn’t take long for him to win back at least some of his father’s trust. Theon’s transformation is grim and disturbing, but the rise of Ramsay Snow as a true villain in this story is perfectly timed against the death of the king. As bad as the Lannisters have been, the Boltons seem even more horrifying. Joffrey may be a bastard, but the bastard Ramsay Snow makes Joffrey look like a little boy playing at villain.

Bran and his entourage also made a short appearance, with Bran communing with one of the weirwood after coming out of a warg-trance in which he inhabited the hunting body of his direwolf, Summer. I keep wanting more Bran vignettes in the show, and more of the clues we’re privy to thanks to his visions and his friendship with the children of House Reed.

But so much of Bran’s storyline exists to flesh out the details of the past it’s hard to imagine how much use he’ll be to the HBO adaptation. After all, that version does very little to incite our imagination about the past lives of Ned Stark and the war he and Robert were once a part of.

Beyond these moments, we have Tyrion in various states of intolerable humiliation, going so far as to send away his concubine and lend his bodyguard, Bronn, to his brother Jaime for sword practice. For all his efforts to do the right thing, the Imp always ends up on the wrong side of history—recent or otherwise. His wife Sansa is approached by Ser Dontos who urges her to make her escape as Joffrey writhes on the floor, only further incriminating her husband. I get the feeling we’ll finally see a bit of Petyr Baelish next week.

This was another top-notch episode of Game of Thrones, cementing the quality that Season 4 started out with last week and turning up the volume a notch.

Everything from the acting to the writing to the cinematography have been excellent so far this season, and this marks the second episode in a row where the show has managed to reel us in with an enormously well-balanced mix of drama and action.

Meanwhile, Oberyn—prince of Dorne—watches as Joffrey dies, an odd look on his face. The Queen of Thorns, Margaery’s doting grandmother, looks on as well. And we can’t help but wonder why anyone in their right mind would suspect Tyrion of Joffrey’s murder. Then we remember: Cersei is the instigator of that claim, and she’s hardly what we might describe as in her “right mind.”

Though she did warn us all long ago: “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die.”

Follow me on Twitter or FacebookRead my Forbes blog here.

 

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