This was a pretty wonderful episode. No Dany Sue, few Starks, plus a dead Joffrey. What's not to love?
We open with Ramsey hunting a young woman through a forest, with Theon as Reek attending.
In King's Landing Tyrion and Jaime share a nice meal together. I'm pleased to see that Jaime is growing into his haircut. It's really nice to see the pair of them together. Jaime confesses he can't fight left-handed, and Tyrion sets him up with Bronn as a sparring partner.
Back in the Dreadfort, Roose Bolton is understated and terrifying. I love the uncomfortable chair in which he rests.
The actor gives a great performance. He reminds me of Wells' Martians, with their intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic. He's not even angry when he tells Ramsey that he needed Theon whole.
It's only when Ramsey flops down and tells Reek to give him a shave that Roose shows even the slightest emotion. In that moment, I could see how this dynamic had shaped their entire relationship, with Ramsey having learned that the only way he can get any kind of reaction out of his bloodless father was to act out in every-escalating displays of depravity.
Reek shaves him with a straight razor, pauses when told that Robb Stark is dead, and continues after a moment.
Back in King's Landing, while accepting gifts from well-wishers, Joffrey gets a book of boring king stories from Tyrion, and while he's not thrilled with the present, he makes the kind of noises that people make when they get a crappy present and don't want to hurt the feelings of the other person. Then, he gets a Valerian steel sword from Tywin, and he swings it around, making lightsaber noises in his head, before asking the crowd for suggestions for a name for it. (You know what the Hound says about people who name their swords). Voices shout out "Terminus! Stormbringer!" which was just so clever and unexpected. Then he chops the shit out of Tyrion's present. "Every time I use it, it will be like cutting off Ned Stark's head all over again."
I was wondering what direction they'd go with Shae for the show. I love the actress who plays her. Tyrion has been trying to convince her that King's Landing is just too dangerous. She doesn't want to leave, so he unleashes a torrent of verbal abuse, right where it hurts her most. It reminded me of nothing so much as Arya's account of how they couldn't get her direwolf to leave, so they threw rocks at her until she did. Shae breaks down crying in the middle of the suite, which, for my money, is the most heart-breaking scene in the series so far.
|"Is it my crazy eyes?"|
Stannis burns some more people alive, but he's nice to his daughter, so the people at the Mary Sue think he's A-OK! (Seriously, WTF?) I do like the dinner scene with Melisandre. We've rarely seen her performing mundane tasks like that, but she even manages to make the most normal activities vaguely uncanny.
Stannis sends her to talk to his daughter, and this is likewise a great scene. Also, she's really very attractive. I think I'm promoting Melisandre to my make-believe girlfriend.
(Actually, on reflection, I think I'll go with Carice van Houten, the actress who plays her. Melisandre is almost as crazy as my last girlfriend before Jen, what with the burnings and the sacrifices and all.)
Melisandre asks the girl if she saw the burnings, and she replies that she heard them. Melisandre tries to rope-a-dope her with some sophistry, such as comparing the screams of those being burned to death to women in childbirth, but even the little kid seems unconvinced.
I think there's a piece with Bran, Hodor, that kid from Love Actually and his sister, and maybe Rickon, too. Is he still in the show? I seem to remember Bellatrix Lestrange escorting him somewhere? I don't know. It was boring.
I really like the King's Landings scenes more than any other part of the show, and we get a long sequence at the end of this episode.
Later on, at the wedding festivities, Bronn tells Tyrion how he took Shae to the ship and advises him do "Go drink until it feels like you did the right thing."
Martin wrote this episode himself, as he did for one episode each of the previous seasons (The Pointy End, Blackwater and The Bear and the Maiden Fair, all of them standouts)
We have the Joffrey and Margaery wedding and reception. I loved this. They could have done some kind of How I Met your Mother Season 9 deal, and stretched it out over the entire season, and I would have not complained.
Some standout moments:
Jamie talking to Ser Loras about Cersei, saying that Loras will never marry her, prompting Loras to respond "Neither will you."
Olenna stroking Sansa's hair, taking something from her necklace very stealthily, and offering condolences to Sansa by remarking how horrible it is to kill someone at the wedding. She does not wink at the camera at this point, but you can't have everything.
Margaery announcing that Joffrey has decreed the leftovers from the feast will go to the poor, and Cersei going to Pycelle and telling him to see that they are taken to the kennels instead. It's just such a petty, short-sighted, self-destructive and such a specifically Cersei thing to do.
Brienne being awesome in general. When Joffrey speaks of her as Renley's killer and she denies it, he says something like "Pity. I would have knighted the man who ended that deviant's life", she just pauses for a beat and goes on as if he hadn't said anything.
Contrast that with Oberyln Martell, who seems perpetually three seconds from flipping out. His exchange with Tywin and Cersei was outstanding.
Tywin Lannister: Please give [your brother] our regards. With any luck, the gout will abate with time and he will be able to walk again.
Oberyn Martell: They call it the rich man's disease. A wonder you don't have it.
Tywin Lannister: Noblemen in my part of the country don't enjoy the same lifestyle as our counterparts in Dorne.
Oberyn Martell: People everywhere have their differences. In some places the highborn frown upon those of low birth. In other places the rape and murder of women and children is considered distasteful. What a fortunate thing for you, former Queen Regent, that your daughter Myrcella has been sent to live in the latter sort of place.
Margaery is running interference all over the place, to blunt the impact of Joffrey's depravities, and to draw attention away from Granny Tyrell, so she can poison the little git. And she does. (Unless this is some elaborate fake out by the TV folks, but that seems unlikely)
It's disturbing to see him die on screen like that, in front of his mother and father. Martin had this to say about the scene.
It shows that yes, nobody is safe—sometimes the good guys win, sometimes the bad guys win. Nobody is safe and that we are playing for keeps. I also tried to provide a certain moment of pathos with the death. I mean, Joffrey, as monstrous as he is — and certainly he’s just as monstrous in the books as he is in the TV show, and Jack has brought some incredible acting chops to the role that somehow makes him even more loathsome than he is on the page — but Joffrey in the books is still a 13-year-old kid. And there’s kind of a moment there where he knows that he’s dying and he can’t get a breath and he’s kind of looking at Tyrion and at his mother and at the other people in the hall with just terror and appeal in his eyes—you know, “Help me mommy, I’m dying.” And in that moment, I think even Tyrion sees a 13-year-old boy dying before him. So I didn’t want it to be entirely, “Hey-ho, the witch is dead.” I wanted the impact of the death to still strike home on to perhaps more complex feelings on the part of the audience, not necessarily just cheering.
Jen is disappointed that Jon Snow and/or Arya didn't get him. Assuming that it was Olenna, I think this was really well-done. She comes into town, learns that Joffrey is a monster, and gets rid of him before he can hurt her granddaughter. (I love how she's the loudest voice calling for help for the king.) There is certainly the element of calculation there, as she did it after Margaery was married and not before, for instance, but I like to believe it was as much for the good of her family as it was for their advancement.
I loved this episode. When we watched it, we went back and watched the end of it again, to see how Olenna pulled it off.