And that's why you should never get married in Westeros.
King Joffrey, the first of his name and one of the most hated television characters of all time, has died, poisoned at his own wedding in front of thousands of guests. The people of King's Landing are probably celebrating just as much as everyone on Twitter. While that last shot of Jack Gleeson's purple face, shaking as blood pours from his nose and Lena Headey screams above him is no doubt the high point of the episode, it's the events that lead up to the poisoning that were truly entertaining, as all of the wedding guests took each other on with barely contained contempt.
First, though, we have the celebratory breakfast for the Lannister and Tyrell families, an event that is only really important because it seals Joffrey and Shae's fates. While the tiny tyrant brags about his military prowess and chops Tyrion's gift to pieces, Cersei and Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), set their sights on Shae, intending to take Tyrion down via his love. But Shae might be the only person this side of Dorne who isn't afraid of the Lannisters, which means Tyrion must force her to leave by insulting her and claiming that she never meant anything to him. It's a surprisingly heartbreaking scene, with Sibel Kekilli's proud determination breaking down into heaving sobs while Peter Dinklage struggles to maintain his disinterested facade. The relationship between Tyrion and Shae has been one of the show's stablest and most affectionate, so it's hard not to feel as if the Lannisters have won even if Shae managed to escape with her life. Although, like Tyrion, we have a feeling that Shae might not be gone for good.
But with a wedding to celebrate, there's no time to dwell on lost loves. The Purple Wedding receives most of the episode's attention, and with good reason. All of the characters present at the royal wedding hate each other, and the stakes are high. As Cersei wanders through the wedding, insulting Brienne and reversing all of Margaery's decrees, it's clear that she still percieves everyone who isn't her immediate family to be a threat, and she plans on picking them off one by one. Headey plays the interactions with the perfect note of pettiness — Cersei is upset about the wedding, about losing her son and her crown to a family who might be even more skilled at playing the game than she is — and yet she maintains an air of power and sophistication about her, never losing face even as prince Oberyn delivers his cutting remarks.
Whatever Game of Thrones is losing in Joffrey and the Starks, they are more than getting back with the addition of Oberyn. His interactions with the Lannisters are still incredibly entertaining to watch, and Pedro Pascal delivers every veiled insult and threat with a charming smile and a barely suppressed sense of glee. Cersei and Tywin don't seem to view him as a genuine threat yet, although his ending remarks condemning rape and murder make it very clear that he holds them personally responsible for what happened to his sister. Oberyn might also have an ally in Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones), who is possibly even more unhappy with his arranged marriage than Cersei is. Between Joffrey's "joust" insulting the memory of Renly and Jaime attempting to threaten him about the upcoming nuptials — a threat which Loras manages to cut down with a beautifully timed burn — it seems like Loras might be reaching his breaking point with his new in-laws.
But none of these interactions can hold a candle to the wedding feast itself, with Joffrey's despicable behavior making his sudden death seem well-deserved. Gleeson turned everything up to eleven for his final moments, swanning about and revelling in his percieved glory. Joffrey's always been a spoiled brat, but he's never seemed more childish than he did making the crowd throw oranges at Ser Dontos or pouring his wine over Tyrion's head.
It's this final showdown with Tyrion that really ratchets up the episode's tension, with Dinklage working hard to keep his face and reactions neutral even as Gleeson slips into open revulsion. One of the best things that "The Lion and the Rose" does with these scenes is to keep cutting back to how uncomfortable everyone sitting at the high table is during these exchanges, because it gives you hope that someone will intervene and brake through the tense, awkward atmosphere before something terrible happens. Once Joffrey instructs his uncle to kneel at his feet, a humiliation beyond measure for Tyrion, and one that the camera accentuates by filming Dinklage from above, we, like the wedding guests, can hardly watch.
The scene drags out every glare, every stony silence and every insult so that each time that Margaery interjects and distracts her new husband, the relief is palpable. Natalie Dormer plays up the character's innocent facade in these moments, finding just the right moment to put on her charm and pull Joffrey away from the situation before he does something irreversible. George R.R. Martin, who wrote the episode, times every beat of these scenes perfectly, so that the audience exhales along with the guests and feels the same kind of excruciating awkwardness that the characters feel in that moment.
And yet, when Joffrey finally does die in his parents' arms, the satisfaction and shock we feel is undercut with a tiny bit of sadness. Yes, this child is a monster, but he's also still a child in many ways, and the fact that we can feel sad as he convulses on the ground is a testament to Gleeson's talent. We might not miss Joffrey — and nor, it seems, will anyone else, as not a single wedding guest moved to help him — but we will certainly miss the actor who brought him to life.
Elsewhere in the Seven Kingdoms, we catch up with the characters who couldn't fit into the jam-packed premiere. Even though their expository scenes are undercut with a bit more action and violence than some of their counterparts, they all pale in comparison to what's going on at King's Landing. Ramsay Snow continues to be a complete pyschopath, although his pride at transforming Theon Greyjoy is cut short upon his father's return. Iwan Rheon is delightfully creepy in his scenes, and he hints at a desperate desire to please Roose Bolton underneath all of his bravado, but the real star of the scene is Alfie Allen, who literally shakes with timidity as the broken Theon/Reek. Meanwhile, Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) is heading further North himself, and his warging abilities are growing stronger, and over in Dragonstone, everyone has completely dedicated themselves to the Lord of Light, believing it to be all Stannis will need to win the war.
While we're not so sure if we agree with them, this would be the ideal time to strike, as it's only a matter of time before the King's death sends Westeros into complete chaos once more. Turns out that Joffrey's death has a bigger impact on the world of Game of Thrones than his life ever did. Farewell, Joffrey: You will be remembered, although not very fondly.
Episode grade: A, or three wise-cracking Tyrions.
Boy does Ayer have it in for crooked cops. He’s on a one-man crusade to rid Los Angeles of anyone on the job who happens to be on the take. Heck he’s even willing to ferret out aspiring police officers whom he believes would only bring shame to the L.A.P.D. as shown by his directorial debut Harsh Times. Indeed Keanu Reeves’ maverick cop Tom Ludlow is much like Harsh Times’ whacked-out Jim Davis--had he been accepted into the L.A.P.D. and later made detective. Ludlow’s not corrupt but he’s happy to shoot first and then plant evidence to make things look like they were done by the book. And he does it with the blessing of his boss Capt. Jack Wander (Forest Whitaker). Wander’s got Ludlow’s back because he’s got dirt on anyone who’s anyone. But now Ludlow’s ex-partner Terrence Washington (Terry Crew) is babbling to Internal Affairs’ Capt. James Biggs (Hugh Laurie) about all the bad stuff he did with Ludlow. By sheer coincidence Washington’s executed by masked gunmen right before Ludlow’s eyes. Evidence suggests that Washington was selling drugs and that he paid the price for double-crossing some dealers. Ludlow buys into this--at least until he and Det. Paul Diskant (Chris Evans) realize nothing is what it seems. Oh really? Sorry but even after Speed and The Matrix series it’s hard to accept the slacker formerly known as Ted “Theodore” Logan as a badass. As Ludlow Reeves doesn’t come close to capturing Dirty Harry’s spare-no-mercy swagger or conveying Frank Serpico’s unwavering belief in bringing down dirty cops. So Ludlow’s nothing more than your typical booze-filled race-baiting cop who has no qualms about breaking the law to enforce the law. Twenty years ago Reeves would had played young turk Diskant. Now it’s the turn of a student of Reeves’ “Whoa!” School of Acting. To be fair Evans shows some emotional range. The one-two punch of Sunshine and Street Kings indicates Evans is making headway in improving as an actor. He also brings more attitude to the illicit goings-on than Reeves does. Whitaker however may have mistaken Street Kings for a sequel to The Last King of Scotland. He storms through crime scenes gesturing wildly and barking orders with all the imperial pomposity of Idi Amin. At least he’s having fun. Same goes for Laurie whose testy “rat squad” bigwig is merely Dr. Gregory House with a gun and badge. John Corbett and Jay Mohr inexplicably try to pass themselves off as hard-as-nails cops right out of The Shield but fail hilariously. Street Kings--a term describing the cops who consider L.A. their personal fiefdom--is a great disappointment after Harsh Times. Ayer showed great ambition with that grim character study even if it felt at times like a civilian version of Training Day. With Street Kings Ayer and crime novelist James Ellroy--who previously collaborated together on Dark Blue’s script--seem content to rest on their laurels. Ludlow’s investigation takes him where you expect it to take him ensuring the big reveal at the end hardly comes as a shock. The characters never surprise you. If you suspect someone’s corrupt he’s indeed corrupt. And the dialogue? It’s an ear-grating mix of police jargon street drug slang and tough-guy BS. That said Ayer keeps things rolling at a brake-neck pace as he turns L.A. into his own personal war zone. The bullets fly fast and the bodies drop even quicker. He so draws you into this fascinating world that you can’t help root for Ludlow--a man of very little moral fiber--to dispense with all the human garbage who stand between him and the truth. Street Kings affirms that Ayer has his finger on the pulse of L.A.’s mean streets. He knows how the minds of the city’s cops clean and dirty and the gangbangers work. But after Dark Blue Training Day Harsh Times and Street Kings what is there left for Ayer to say about a good cop gone bad?