Ah… there’s nothing better than a Westerosi royal wedding, all the romance, the pomp, the ever-present possibility that bloodshed and mayhem will abound. Find out whether it does, after the break!
The episode opens not with the wedding, but a hunt. A hunt of the most dangerous game: Man. Well, woman. And somehow I don’t think Richard Connell had a teenage girl in a flimsy nightgown in mind when he wrote that line. But, we’re in crazy Bolton bastard Ramsey land, so that’s what we have, he and one of his mistresses putting arrows and setting dogs upon the other mistress while Theon “Reek” Greyjoy watches. The purpose was really to see how Stockholm Syndromed Theon has become, and and actor Alfie Allen does an excellent job conveying the myriad of emotions: horror, resignation, and grief just below the surface. Later, as Roose Bolton returns to the Dreadfort, greatly disappointed in Ramsey’s decision to break Theon (whom he wanted to use as a bargaining chip in retaking the North from Theon’s people, the Ironbound), Ramsey informs Roose that Bran and Rickon Stark are still alive, and we get a new plot point (and potential death knell for even more Starks) as Roose promises Locke (the abhorrent bear-baiting, Kingslayer de-hander from season 3) land and title for the Stark boys’ heads. It looks like things are going to get interesting up at the wall as our Night’s Watchmen will have more than wildlings to worry about soon.
Bran Stark and the Hodor gang, however, are safe behind the wall (or as safe as a paralyzed boy, a mentally-handicapped giant, and two swamp kids are in the land of White Walkers, Wildlings, and Ice Zombies can be). Bran is skin-walking, running with Summer, trying to escape the hunger, the cold, and his own handicap. Jojen and Meera warn him that spending too much time inside the wolf is dangerous, he could get lost and never return, forgetting his life as a human. The look on Bran’s face suggests that’s very tempting to him, and Meera explains what is at stake. If they lose Bran, they lose everything. Looks like the little guy has some destiny to fulfill.
A little of that destiny may have been revealed a short time later. As they continue their journey, they find a tree with one of the Old Gods carved into it. Bran is drawn to the tree, and upon touching it sees visions from his past, and maybe from his future: The shadow of a dragon passing over King’s Landing, snow falling on the throne of swords. And a voice speaks to him. Tells him to find him beneath the tree. To go North. Bran awakens from this and tells the gang he knows where they need to go next.
Out on Dragonstone, we find that The Red Lady is continuing the burnings on the beach, the latest victims including Stannis’ brother-in-law, whose worship of the Seven gods (I guess these are the “newer” old gods) puts him at odds with the regime. We also find that dinner conversation in the keep is a little awkward, which I imagine happens when your wife and mistress share a table (even if your wife is a true believer who has blessed the union). The awkwardness really takes a turn when the subject of young princess Shireen is raised. Mom believes sparing the rod spoils children who ask too many smart questions, Stannis forbids any such action. They finally decide to have creepy “aunt” Melisandre pay a visit, and the red lady engages in a little religious re-education, telling the precocious princess that the only Hell is “the one we live in now.” Seeing how things are on Westeros, I’m inclined to agree with her.
But enough about these far-flung outposts to the North, we’re here to hear about a wedding, and all the fun pre-ceremony festivities leading up to it. We get to see the Lannister boys together at last, sharing a dinner and discussion. One of the things we’ve missed since the first season was the relationship between Tyrion and Jamie, so it was nice seeing them together, with Tyrion toasting to the Lannister children: “The Dwarf, the Cripple, and the Mother of Madness.” Jamie worries about his inability to fight, and the fact that he trusts his brother with that knowledge speaks volumes. Tyrion urges hims to train, and offers Bronn (who has proven a much better character in show than in book) as a trainer.
In other matters, we learn that Cersei continues her tattle-tale ways and Shae is in danger, a fact that Varys The Spider tries to convey to Tyrion. The bald eunuch certainly is a mystery, and he seems to be a moral counterpoint to the corrupt, opportunistic Littlefinger. It seems Tyrion gets the message, as before the ceremony he summons Shae and does everything but throw rocks at her to try to get her to leave Kings Landing. Shae’s not quite smart enough to understand that Tyrion is doing this to protect her, and doesn’t handle the break-up well. The last word we have is she’s on a ship to Pentos, but this is Game of Thrones, so who knows.
And finally, the wedding! Things get interesting at the gifting ceremony. Tyrion provides his nephew with a book, a history of kings. For a moment, just a moment we see the Brat-King act, well, almost King-like, as (with some prodding from Pop-Pop Tywin) he responds to the gift with words of wisdom and thanks. A few moments later, he’s back in the world of poor impulse control, as he uses Tywin’s gift – the second Valaryn Steel blade Tywin had made from the Stark Sword Ice – to turn the book into confetti.
The wedding itself goes off without a hitch. The bride looking radiant in back-bearing creme while the King stood tall and handsome in full regalia. Almost made you wish he wasn’t the kind of kid who would peel the wings off flies. The reception is where things turn ugly, as Joffrey grows more surly, he gets crueler and cruder and provides the world with a vision of exactly what kind of king he will be. He sanctioned a mocking tribute to the battle of five kings that left most of the party stone faced even as he sprayed laughter. Finally he humiliated Tyrion, ordering him to join the Dwarves on the stage, pouring wine on his head, and making him his cup bearer. And this proved his undoing, because at some point someone slipped poison into his goblet and the episode ends with the Brat King finally getting his just rewards, choking on his own vomit and pointing an accusing finger as he dies in his mother’s lap. The episode ends with all fingers pointing to Tyrion as the killer, Dontas appearing to urge the all-but-forgotten Sansa to flee, and Cersei screaming in rage and grief for the guards to cease her brother for the murder of their King.