This post will discuss the events of last night’s episode of Game of Thrones; if you are looking to avoid spoilers as to what transpired on the show up to this point, mosey along to another post.
I’ve been to a lot of weddings. I believe the last time I did a count I’ve been invited to over 40 and have attended close to 35. As I’ve gotten older, the frequency of these invites have slowed down a bit; in 2013 I even made it through the entire year with nary an invite to someone’s nuptials – the first year that has happened since I was 19 years old. While I am always excited to help friends and family celebrate and be a part of their special day, if I’m being completely honest there is also a very small part of me that is less enthused at the obligation and expense of attending a wedding. My joy for the couple involved trumps this feeling, but if I said that the mental arithmetic of how much time and money this invitation was going to cost me didn’t briefly cross my mind every time that I pull a fancy envelope from my mailbox than I’d be lying. When you’ve gone to as many weddings/bridal showers/bachelorette parties as I have, you can get a little burned out.
If I lived in Westeros, however, I’d have a much different feeling if I received a wedding invitation – pure dread. Because if there is one thing that Game of Thrones has taught us, weddings in this realm are hazardous to your health. The weddings that I’ve attended, the worst that has happened is someone has too much to drink or there is family/friend drama. At a Westeros wedding, you’re as likely to be served death as you are to get some prime rib.
Last night proved no different, as sociopathic teen King Joffrey finally met his demise at his wedding feast. It was clear that something was going to happen – the show rarely spends such a prolonged amount of time in one location – but it is a testament to the acting, writing and directing that I wasn’t sure what that something was going to be. As I watched the episode unfold, there were several people that I thought were quite possibly in peril, though Joffrey was pretty low on that list. There was such a palpable sense of dread that the anticipation for whatever was going to happen continued to build as the wedding scene played out and I was on the edge of my seat. When Joffrey started choking, I still didn’t think that he was really in danger; I presumed that we were setting the stage for something else. But as he collapsed on the floor surrounded by his hysterical mother and father/uncle, I had two very different competing emotions – the first was relief that this monster was finally gone while the other was something akin to disappointment that this great, evil character was no longer in play.
Joffrey had to die at some point – even in a world like that created by George R.R. Martin where expectations are subverted, it had to be assumed that Joffrey was not long for this world. He was far too cruel and short-sighted in his behavior for him to peacefully pass away from old age. He was going to get his comeuppance eventually; he had pissed off far too many people for someone to not seek revenge, but I figured that we still had a few more seasons of his reign of terror before someone finally took him out (preferably Arya Stark). I never would have predicted that he would be poisoned on his wedding day while surrounded by family and those sworn to protect him, which I guess was kind of the point. Martin has a reputation for zigging when you think that he’s going to zag, which is what makes him a great, if sometimes frustrating, storyteller.
Of course, Martin couldn’t let us have that moment to savor the assassination of Joffrey; as the king was gasping for his last breath, the immediate suspect became his uncle Tyrion – easily one of the most beloved characters on the series. It almost seems cruel – Tyrion had suffered at the hand of Joffrey as much as others only to put in the gravest of peril once his tormentor was dead. I am skeptical that Tyrion actually had anything to do with the murder of his nephew; though it was Joffrey’s wedding day, there were plenty of people in attendance that wouldn’t shed any authentic tears at his passing. In fact, Joffrey did a pretty stellar job of showing why he deserved to die in the moments preceding his murder by mocking several of the prominent families of the realm. Humiliation has always been Joffrey’s brand of humor.
But after the momentary jubilation that this little brat finally had to face the ultimate consequence for his behavior, it dawned on me that I was actually a little disappointed that he was gone for a variety of reasons. His death, while cathartic, was not nearly as satisfying as I had hoped it would be. After all that he has done to so many people – the Starks in particular – it would have been a more fitting ending for him to die more directly at the hand of someone that he had wronged. His death by poisoning was gruesome, but didn’t have the same resonance as it could have had since it was removed from whoever was behind it. I suppose that’s realistic, however; sometimes people aren’t able to get the justice that they deserve and the toppling of an evil man is not always as flashy as you would have hoped. After all, it took something as mundane as tax evasion to finally bring down Al Capone. Everyone doesn’t get the ending that they necessarily deserve. While there would have been something particularly sweet about Sansa Stark plunging a dagger into Joffrey’s heart, that’s no how Martin choose to have it play out.
I’m a little bummed that we’re not going to have old Joffrey Baratheon to kick around anymore. Getting angry at his spoiled and warped behavior was part of the fun of watching Game of Thrones. He was the child king that everyone loved to hate; Joffrey was simply the worst and anticipating his death turned out in the long term to be a lot more enjoyable than the act itself. Jack Gleeson did a tremendous job of creating such a despicable character that while I’ve been rooting for Joffrey to die pretty much since he was introduced on the show, I’m still slightly sad that he won’t be part of the story going forward.
Joffrey’s death was important event, not only because fans finally got to see the moment that they had all been looking forward to, but because his death unleashes a lot of chaos on the story. Things are never boring or simple on Game of Thrones – someone somewhere is always in danger and/or plotting the demise of another character – but the murder of a king will have far reaching implications as we find out who was behind this, who will pay the price for it (two possibly mutually exclusive points) and what this means for the governing structure of the realm. One would have to think that Tywin, patriarch and mastermind of the Lannisters, would have a backup plan, but who knows what that would entail.
We were also reminded that Joffrey is far from the only monster roaming around the Westeros; he may have been a douche, but at least he had family members that were occasionally able to temper his pathos and reel him in. That is not the case elsewhere – the beginning of last night’s episode made that abundantly clear with Ramsey Snow hunting a woman for sport. Joffrey was terrible, but there are much scarier things out there. Cut off the head of one evil figure head it is possible that someone even worse will take their place. I saw Heathers – I know what’s up. Joffrey was the evil that we knew; I’m a little concerned with what else Martin has in his bag of tricks to unleash upon us as this story unfolds. It is quite possible that things are about to get a lot worse – perhaps we will soon be longing for the jackassery that was Joffrey. That is a sobering thought.
But for now, I’ll pour a little wine out for our dead King; it’s not often that I watch a TV show and become immediately frustrated that I have no one to discuss it with, but that happened last night. I immediately sought refuge in the warm embrace of Twitter, where no one ruins about spoiling anything and there was brief jubilation that Joffrey had FINALLY shuffled off this mortal coil. A tip of the cap to Jack Gleeson, who is contemplating retiring from acting now that his obligation to Game of Thrones has come to an end. By all accounts, Gleeson is the nicest guy and is nothing like the character that he so vividly brought to life, so while I wish him well in whatever he decided to do with the rest of his life, I hope he knows what a fantastic job he did. Sunday nights aren’t going to be same without Joffrey to get pissed at anymore.
As for Tyrion, I think the parody Twitter account for the character says it best: