Opening with Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) stalking a young woman with an archer companion and a band of bloodthirsty hounds eagerly awaiting to tear away at human flesh, this is Game of Thrones at its darkest; unrelenting and merciless from the introducing frame. Ramsay has successfully brainwashed Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) or ‘Reek’ as he now responds to, and presents the genitalia-stripped prisoner as a bargaining trophy to his somewhat unimpressed father Roose Bolton who claims to have required Theon as a valuable hostage and tool to aid his control of The North.
Meanwhile Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is busy overseeing the ritual burning of some ‘wrong-doers’ who are now blessed with their souls escaping as their bodies become merely ash and bone, but unlike the throne-hungry leader, the rest of Westeros’ ploys and tactics are a little more subtle and all the more devastating. After being presented by a variety of gifts; including a Valyrian-steel sword by Hand of the King and grandfather Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), Joffrey and Margaery take to the church and exchange their vows. With a kiss, their love and unity is sealed and in true King’s Landing style, a celebration of untold scale and preposterousness ensues.
Contortionists twist, fools juggle and wine flows in every goblet as the wedding festivities get underway but a bitter atmosphere lingers amongst the sun-soaked frolics and fancy. Lady Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is struggling to bear the afternoon as her former husband bitterly gloats about his reign and frequently recalls the pleasure of executing her late father. Husband Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) endeavours to comfort but it isn’t long before he becomes the buck of Joffrey’s offensive humour. The twisted young king snaps his guests into shape and claims “a royal wedding is not an amusement, it is about history”; a claim which perks the ears and awaits a riveting explanation, however what follows is far from conventional. From the mouth a giant display of a Lion comes five dwarves all laden in battle attire and family cloth who re-enact the ‘War of the Five Kings’ and gloat when Ned Stark’s head comes tumbling down. Attacking both Tyrion and Sansa, Joffrey’s evil antics only further when he continues to belittle his uncle by dumping a glass of wine on his head and then forcing him to retrieve the cup to refill.
Joffrey kicks the cup out of Tyrion’s reach, pushes it and him to potential breaking-point; the more his uncle suffers, the more fun the king has. This is a sheer credit to Jack Gleeson as a performer – his young ruler is a true monster; someone we all love to hate and a character who completely boils the blood. He’s cruel, unforgiving, unrightfully placed and worst of all a coward, but these traits make his persona all the more interesting and engrossing. Gleeson simply steals this episode and he does so by consciously making a mockery of his peers.
What unfolds in the closing moments of The Lion and the Rose is amongst the most shocking and potentially satisfying sequences in the show’s history dependant on your opinions. After being served a piece of an exquisite pie by his new wife, Joffrey calls upon Tyrion to fetch him more wine. His uncle reluctantly agrees and scoops a random cup from the head table. The king slurps, seemingly refreshed, but soon he begins to cough and splutter, chocking on something consumed. Mother Cersei (Lena Headey) and Uncle Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) attempt to aid him as he vomits and begins to bleed out. All of those at the ceremony watch as the life drains from their king and soon the wicked ruler of Westeros is deceased. Cersei instantly points the blame at her brother who handled the cup – claiming he poisoned her son – but numerous people could be the culprit.
Now audiences have a true mystery on their hands; who could have been the one to slip something in Joffrey’s drink? Was it in fact the pie which had be rigged with toxic? Could one of his nearest and dearest actually be behind the murder? Whatever the outcome, it is certain to be as engrossing and surprising as seeing the show’s finest villain depart. As previously mentioned, we love to hate Joffrey, but not having him in the show anymore is going to leave a mark and a gaping hole accordingly; the world wants him to die, but now he has, who have we got left to really despise and get our fists clenching? Mind you; knowing George R.R. Martin’s pen, someone is likely to fill his shoes rather quickly…
The overseer of all in Game of Thrones now rests without claiming a single life with his trusty new sword, but many are likely to fall victim to it’s wrath in his wake.
Game of Thrones Season 4 airs on Sky Atlantic HD at 9pm Mondays.