‘Game of Thrones’ Review: Long Live The King

By  · Published on April 14th, 2014


This recap includes spoilers up to and including season four, episode two, “The Lion and a Rose.” Watch the episode first, then come back. We’re not going to tell you again.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: this episode changes everything. In past seasons, the single episode written by author George R.R. Martin has always been one of the pivot points of the show. He penned the “Blackwater” episode in season two (source of a monumental battle) and “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (an episode that was packed with foreshadowing). For his season four work, he’s given us a royal wedding and perhaps the show’s most triumphant death.

But before we get to the big nay, huge moment at the end of “The Lion and the Rose,” there is so much else to talk about. Because so much happens all over Westeros before the wedding.

The North is Alive

If the final moments of last weekend’s premiere weren’t enough of a sales pitch, this one solidifies the fact that plenty of interesting stuff is happening in The North. Winterfell might be burnt to a crisp, but things up there have not been this interesting since Ned Stark was in chains. The most intriguing situation is that of Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) and his shitheal of a bastard Ramsay (Iwan Rheon). If we’re attentive to what Roose is saying as he’s busy berating his son (at least now we know where Ramsay gets his winning personality), we find that The North is in shambles. The Iron Borne are all over causing problems for Bolton, who’s getting no help from the Lannisters even though he was named Warden of the North as a thank you for killing off Robb Stark (RIP).

The other fascinating thing happening up North is Bran’s vision. There’s enough in this 10-second clip to digest and dissect that we could sit here all night and talk about it. He sees a scattered group of events, both foreword and backward in time everything from his father right before his death to a very large dragon flying over King’s Landing. I’ve said for a long time that Bran’s story is boring. And it still is. But it’s neat to see the extent of his powers in this little moment. He can do a lot more than get inside his dog’s mind (and Hodor’s) and walk around. There’s stuff in Bran’s vision that even your snobby book reading friends don’t understand. At least not yet.

“There is only one hell, Princess.”

The stop-in with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) at Dragonstone seems a little brief and unlike Stannis himself, lacking in utility. But something important happens right at the beginning of our peek into the lives of the remaining Baratheons. Those fires are consuming a number of people, including his wife’s brother. This guy is sort of losing it if he’s begun burning up extended family. Then again, he also believes that blood leeches win wars.

The Dwarf, The Cripple and The Mother of Madness

In King’s Landing, early episode scenes show us that the dynamics between the Lannister children are changing. Cersei has been pushing Jaime away ever since he returned. She’s also not so taken with Brienne. This leads Jaime and Tyrion to do some brotherly bonding over sausage (tactfully cut to right after a scene involving Theon – these editors are messing with us). It will be interesting to see how Jaime is conflicted by the massive rift between his brother and sister following the events of the wedding. And one can only hope that we get more scenes between Jaime and Bronn. Those two are a match made in Seven Heavens, or however many there really are.


The Lion and the Rose

For a moment during the wedding shower (or presentation of gifts), we begin to see the influence of Lord Tywin on his grandson. Tyrion offers a book about four great kings and before Joffrey can be himself, grandpa leans in and turns him into a proper gentleman. Although only for a moment. That poor book, it never saw the Valyrian steel coming.

What’s most interesting to me about The Royal Wedding isn’t just the fact that fans get to feast on the death of the single most hated character on the show. It’s twofold. One: the wedding itself has a massive scope to it. The production design and visual effects really sell us a vision of the most expensive and extravagant wedding in all of Westeros. It takes up half the episode and looks beautiful, so great in fact that it almost lulls the audience into a sense of comfort. Hey look, everything is working out for the Lannisters. Sure, Prince Oberyn doesn’t like them very much, but this union with the Tyrells has really solidified the reign of Joffrey. As they’ve done so masterfully in the past, the creative minds behind the show make us feel somewhat warm and fuzzy right before the rug is pulled out from under us.

The second thing that The Royal Wedding does so well is to give Joffrey room to breath and become the absolute worst version of himself that we’ve ever seen. As he torments Tyrion, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more disdain for the character. It’s so strong that if you didn’t know any better, you would never have expected him to die moments later.

The Red Wedding was horrible and not many people saw it coming. But even before Robb and his mother were killed, there were breadcrumbs all over their storyline. “You don’t want to mess with Lord Frey,” the kept telling us. So we should’ve known better than to expect the Starks to come out of that alive. Joffrey’s death, on the other hand, this one comes out of nowhere. It has such immediacy and force that it really will change the course of the entire show.

Think about it. Tyrion is going to be blamed by his sister. Jaime is going to get caught between them. Sansa is left unprotected. The Tyrells are going to have to regroup. Prince Oberyn is still lurking around sniffing for Lannister blood. Oh, and there’s going to be a power struggle for The Throne again. Remember Tommen, Joffrey’s little brother? Who is going to be the one who watches over his rule while his mother is seeking vengeance for Joffrey? So much is at stake with Joffrey dead.

But we, along with the show, can deal with that later. Enjoy this, longtime haters of King Joffrey. As much as you can enjoy it. Just as we saw late last week, seeing teenagers involved in the violence is still unsettling no matter how justified it is. And Joffrey’s death is horrible. Probably not horrible enough for some, but downright hideous all the same. Kudos to the show for once again not holding back. Goodbye Joffrey, you will be missed (sort of).

We’ll always have this:


The Return of The Death Index

Last week I received several comments and emails about The Death Index, a fun project we started last year with a group of my friends who had not read the books. Instead of just inviting them over to watch Game of Thrones on a weekly basis, I decided to make them work for it by blindly predicting when certain characters would die. We didn’t think to bring it back for seasons four, but you’ve demanded it. So it’s back.

This year’s Death Index is a little different. A few new faces and a new list. In my attempt to make things interesting, I’ve devised the list of characters based on which ones seem like they are in the most danger. Daenerys isn’t there because she’s surrounded by a massive army. But The Mountain is on the list because we already know someone who wants to kill him. As well, each participant has selected a Wildcard, a character not on the list they think will die at some point during the season.

One final bonus: my friend Theo and I have both read all of the books, so it wouldn’t be fair for us to participate alongside everyone else. We’ve filed secret ballots that will be revealed as characters die or at the end of the season. Check out The Death Index below and place your bets just no spoilers from those who have read the books, please.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)