Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2 Recap and Review
The Lion and the Rose
Staying true to the final half of A Storm of Swords, HBO Network’s “Game of Thrones” has picked up the intensity for season four, which serves as a second half of sorts to season three as the War of the Five Kings dwindles down to Joffrey Baratheon (although he identifies with his Lannister roots), Stannis Baratheon, and Balon Greyjoy. The first three seasons each contained a penultimate ninth episode, but this fourth season doesn’t seem to pull any punches in the boxing ring that is competitive premium cable. The second episode of season four, “The Lion and the Rose,” continues to ride the high note of last week’s ending where we caught up with Arya catching up with Needle. Unfortunately, Arya, Daenerys, Jon, Ygritte, and Littlefinger don’t show up this week. Still waiting for a Rickon update out there, too.
The opening titles (which had Lannisters for the first four actors billed: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, and Charles Dance) are followed with the seasonal introduction of the pathetic slave formerly known as Theon. Ramsay Snow and a (completely out-of-his-character) girlfriend hunt a poor girl through the woods with a pack of dogs and arrows. Reek follows the psychotic madman and his female companion back to the Dreadfort later in the episode when we learn the true nature of Theon Greyjoy’s reeducation. One thing’s for sure: that creature is more Reek than Theon. The wages/ karma of ordering a child’s death? (Sure, he looked upset about the news of Robb’s death — but he also attempted to kill Robb’s brothers and sacked his family’s home.) Theon’s tale gets more tragic by the episode. As Roose arrives home to give Ramsay a dressing down for flaying and castrating Theon, Ramsay is quick to point out the (unjustifiable) method to his madness. Ramsay finally proves to his father just how trained Reek is when his new pet is given a cutthroat razor and shaves Ramsay’s face without slicing his neck. This scene is neatly tied together through a conversation regarding the whereabouts of Bran and Rickon Stark. Roose finally orders Ramsay to take Moat Cailin.
After resting the camera on Reek, the camera jumps to Tyrion eating sausage. (Holy heavy-handed metaphor, Batman!) Anyway, the Lannister brothers seem to be stuck in the same rut in which they found themselves last week. We begin with Tyrion solving Jaime’s new problem: fighting with a different hand. A kind moment is shared between the brothers after Jaime embarrasses himself knocking a glass over with his newer hand. He then confides his fears of being an effective knight without a sword hand. One sell sword later and we find Bronn training Jaime on a secluded beach.
Tyrion’s problem appears to be more immediate than that of his brother’s. Varys’ first appearance of the year is a warning to his favorite Lannister about Shae. It seems as if her presence has been noted and watched. This rumor is then confirmed at a rehearsal breakfast of sorts when the youngest Lannister sibling catches Cersei and Tywin conferring about Shae. The two wedding families (Lannisters and Tyrells) exchange personal gifts, and we’re treated to Joffrey’s gifts. We’re first treated to the introduction of Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) giving the king a wedding chalice. Tyrion gives his nephew a book about the good kings of Westeros which is met by an uncharacteristic appreciation. However, Tywin then gives Joffrey the other Valyrian steel sword made from Ice: Widow’s Wail. Joffrey then characteristically hacks the book from Tyrion to shreds. The “Even Madder” King then boasts about beheading Ned Stark before Sansa, because we all remember he was the one who swung the sword. This sequence is then neatly tied up with Tyrion pulling a Harry and the Hendersons on Shae. He calls her a whore and says every revolting comment possible for her own safety. The Master of Coin would prefer his love hate him than for her to suffer a fate worse than death at the hands of his family.
Cut to Dragonstone where Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) make their first appearance of the new season. Three poor souls burn alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. One such soul is Stannis’ brother-in-law. Davos (Liam Cunningham also making his first appearance this year) questions the need to burn the souls, but the ever stoic Stannis unwaveringly stands by his decision. The casting of Dillane as serious, sulking Stannis always seems on point. At dinner, Lady Selyse suggests Melisandre speak with Shireen about the Lord of Light. This segues into Melisandre and Shireen standing off in Shireen’s “chambers.” What’s really cool is Shireen’s lack of fear toward Melisandre. EVERYBODY fears the beautiful, deadly red lady except a little girl with grayscale. Although we’re supposed to (and we do) feel the animosity between the two, the real crux of this scene is when Melisandre throws the new gods out the window to finally describe the point/story/moral of R’hllor for the first time on the series. Pay attention here if you go back and watch again.
The conflict and situation of R’hllor resonates throughout “A Song of Ice and Fire” and it’s no coincidence that the scenery shifts to the season debut of Bran Stark after Melisandre mentions The Great Other. Bran’s crew (Hodor, Jojen Reed, and Meera Reed) make their seasonal debut north of the wall. Bran awakens from spending hours inside Summer’s head. The Reeds warn him about this, but the conversation quickly dissipates when they notice a weirwood tree bearing a humanoid face. What follows is perhaps one of the greatest sequences the series has offered yet. Once Hodor (Kristian Nairn) lowers Bran to the tree, all manner of craziness unfolds. Bran is greeted by the three-eyed raven that compels the Stark boy to find it (the three-eyed raven) if he heads north. Dragons fly over King’s Landing in Bran’s vision, and we’re also treated to the Red Keep looking similar to Daenerys’ vision in the House of the Undying from season two. Other images flash by: a thousand ravens, reflection of a white walker, Ned Stark, falling out of a window in Winterfell. Are Daenerys and Bran linked with their visions?
And how do showrunners and producers distract the masses from the major hints/spoilers from Bran’s dream and later groundwork stemming all the way back to Melisandre’s tale to Shireen? Weiss and Benioff would throw another wedding in Westeros. The designated color this time is purple — The Purple Wedding. King Joffrey and Margaery Tyrell wed in grand fashion as the festivities move outdoors. Sigur Ros plays “The Rains of Castamere” for the crowd, but the King doesn’t care for professionally trained musicians and tosses them out in favor of more insensitive, vulgar entertainment. He summons five dwarf men out to “reenact” the war of the five kings. As if it wasn’t terrible enough for the crowd to have to watch these men entertain the demented king (or else pay the refusal fee), the act itself begins insulting members of the crowd. Loras Tyrell is openly humiliated in the proceeding for his “secret” relationship with Renly Baratheon and Sansa Stark is subject to watching her brother’s death mocked repeatedly. The King truly has a taste for the purest evil and that scene is the closest we’ve witnessed Margaery to feeling upset around the King.
Following the dwarves’ act, Joffrey relentlessly chides Tyrion about his stature, pours wine on his head after failing to create a witty comeback, and generally degrades him for delight. Throughout the entirety of Joffrey’s torment, Margaery Tyrell repeatedly beckons her new husband to join her, but his arrogance costs him. Her grandmother Olenna made the rounds at the wedding with Tywin (where Mace briefly pops up to get shot down) and also with Sansa — whom she urged to leave King’s Landing and see the world. As Tyrion and Sansa make a bid to duck out early, Joffrey commands his uncle to fill his cup so that he may quench the thirst of his wedding dessert. However, he begins coughing and subsequently choking after enjoying a drink of wine. The King staggers, falls and convulses as he raises a damning finger at Tyrion and dies in his parents’ arms. Cersei calls for Tyrion’s immediate retrieval. As all of this drama unfolds, Dontos the fool reveals himself to Sansa and offers an immediate escape. The camera cuts back to the dying king before we see her reaction.
This week’s episode ended on a long, spectacular sequence like last week’s “Two Swords,” albeit on a more spectacular scale. It was pleasant to see the showrunners’ bold choice to hold such a monumental sequence in the books so early in the season, proving that “every episode is a big episode” mantra HBO promised all offseason. Oberyn even appeared briefly, and wasn’t so flamboyantly represented. It’s nice to see the series can dial it back without going for constant shock value to truly give audience a sense of character dynamic. Not only were we treated to another episode with a twisted wedding, but the treats and hints touched upon in Bran’s vision were much too significant to forget, as well.
Arya’s got Needle, King Joffrey is finally dead. The good guys are coming back!
Hail King Tommen, I guess.