“Killing a man at a wedding… horrid. Only a monster who do such a thing.” — Olenna Tyrell
Is it less horrid if the person who gets killed is himself a monster? King Joffrey Lannister-Baratheon — a petulant, malicious byproduct of incest whose pointlessly spiteful actions killed thousands in Westeros and agitated millions of “Game of Thrones” viewers — finally died of apparent poisoning.
Joffrey died in strikingly similar manner as his arch nemesis and polar opposite, the saintly King of the North, Robb Stark. Both met their ends when their guards were down, when they were surrounded by their supposed allies and friends in relative peace and comfort. Danger seemed far away, but it found them both. ‘Game of Thrones’ is intent on driving home — over and over and over again — the message it sent in season one when Ned Stark lost his head: No one is safe, and pure chaos is always the ultimate champion. (RELATED: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ season four, episode one)
Joffrey’s death is no less shocking than Robb’s or Ned’s, but it is harder to mourn. For one thing, it’s essentially cosmic justice. On “Game of Thrones,” bad things happen to good people all the time. But bad things also happen to bad people. The Lannister victory had grown a bit too absolute — Joffrey had to die to rebalance the scales. And so, the evil little boy-king who named his brand new sword “Widow’s Wail” lived just long enough to widow his new wife.
By setting Joffrey’s death in front of throngs of characters who despised him as much as GOT viewers, the writers also create a wonderful mystery. After all, someone had to poison the wine, or the pie, or the grapes. Was it bitter, broken Sansa? Vengeful Prince Oberyn, a self-described enemy of all Lannisters? Perhaps the Tyrells, who spent lengthy amounts of time with their new king, and found him considerably lacking? Was the fool, Ser Dontos, involved in the plot? How about career schemers, Varys, Pycelle and Littlefinger? Or even Tywin Lannister himself? The most powerful man in Westeros has more than one grandson, and young Prince Tommen could prove to be more suitable to the throne — or at least, more bearable.
The episode skillfully hides clues to the identity of a possible culprit, and any viewer who would like to know who killed King Joffrey should give the episode another, closer look. (Or, just read the books.)
Cersei immediately declared the perpetrator to be Tyrion, who is in the wrong place at the wrong time, and not by choice. Though the least-liked Lannister is gone, he might have just brought the best-liked Lannister down with him in his wake.
“The Lion and the Rose,” hits on a theme from last week: the power of swords. In a chaotic, often lawless medieval world, choosing the right weapon is everything. Joffrey is presented three gifts at his wedding: a mighty sword, a book of a wisdom and a cup for pleasure. He uses the sword to destroy the book, and is later killed by a cup.
Similarly, Jaime — who has spent his life making a name for himself as the world’s greatest swordsman — has a powerful weapon but no ability to use it. His brother instructs him to set it aside and train himself as a commander. He has grown wiser and possesses better perspective, and would likely make a fine leader. But he still aspires to wield the blade.
Theon Greyjoy, now “Reek,” has the right blade in an able hand, but has lost something more serious than what Jaime lost. He is unable to cut the throat of his cruel master, who hunts women for sport and feeds them to his dogs. Can damaged people do anything to improve themselves and their positions, once their spirits are lost?
Across the bay, one person offers a semi-hopeful tale. Melisandre, the fire sorceress of King Stannis, shares the information that she was born a poor, abused slave girl. Now, she has become quite possibly the most powerful person in Westeros. Every time Stannis has asked her to kill a rival king, she has produced undeniable results. It’s a curious position for her rival, the morally-upstanding Davos Seaworth. One one hand, everything Melisandre predicts comes true, and she can back up her claims with fire magic. On the other hand, she burns innocent people alive, and Davos is perpetually on the side of the innocent.
And as Melisandre says, “There is no hell, except the one we live in now.” If that’s true, at least the death of Joffrey leaves the world a little less, well, hellish.