It takes a really good actor to play a believable villain, and it takes an exceptional actor to play a believable villain who you can both despise and pity all at the same time, so clearly Jack Gleeson is an exceptional actor.
[SPOILERS, OBVIOUSLY]His time on Game Of Thrones has seen Joffrey become one of the most hated in TV history, a snivelling, sneering coward with a vicious streak a mile wide and no sign of redeeming features anywhere.
From his first appearance in the pilot as an arrogant little prince to his brutal decision to execute Ned Stark on a whim to his claiming of victories (that he had nothing to do with) over his ‘uncle’ Stannis and Robb Stark, Gleeson has played it all incredibly well.
And in The Lion And The Rose, he used his final appearance to remind us one last time just how despicable Joffrey was. Whether throwing things at Sigur Ros or humiliating Ser Dontos or his uncle Tyrion, he was a cocky little monster using human beings as his playthings.
But Gleeson always managed to capture the fear in him, the small boy who may have been spoilt and vicious, but was terrified at the Blackwater and deep down knew that he was just a pawn in his grandfather’s game. And his death was horrible, so it was hard to cheer at the sight of his face oozing blood, tears and life.
This was the first major event to happen in the show since I read through the books after Season Three, so it was great to see it all play out, particularly the various clues as to who is responsible for it, which I won’t go into yet.
But, particularly because this episode was written by George RR Martin himself, it was intriguing to see the things that weren’t in the book, like the encounter between Cersei and Brienne, and there were lots of similarly good scenes.
The showrunners have mentioned the joy of bringing previously disparate characters together for conversations, and this episode had plenty of those, whether it was Tyrion and Jaime, Olenna and Tywin or the great subtext-laden discussion between Oberyn/Ellaria and Cersei/Tywin.
We also got our first look at the Roose/Ramsey dynamic at the Dreadfort, which has been brought forwards from the books, as well as Theon as Reek. The shaving scene where he was told about Robb’s death was particularly great work from the under-rated Alfie Allen, quivering with emotions but physically and mentally unable to let them out.
Our whistlestop tour of other locations not yet seen this season included Stannis, still at Dragonstone and burning his brother-in-law for lack of faith in the God Of Light, much to the glee of freaky Selyse. None of this really advanced their story much, it has to be said.
And finally there was Bran up Beyond The Wall, warging into Summer and touching trees to get visions of all kinds of things from the past and future, including the shot of a dragon’s shadow over King’s Landing. That at least explains why that was in the teasers when surely no dragons are going to be there for a while yet.
But the undoubted highlight of the episode was Joffrey’s tormenting of Tyrion, first destroying his wedding present, then humiliating him with the dwarf show of the War Of The Five Kings, and then forcing him to be his Cup Bearer after pouring wine over his head.
For that reason, the finger of suspicion for Joffrey’s death points firmly at Tyrion, and its safe to say that things are not heading down a good path for the Lannisters, though at least Tommen got to be in this episode and is headed for a promotion…
The Purple Wedding could never match The Red Wedding for gut-wrenching shock value, Martin always intended it to be a sign that things aren’t all doom and despair for the good guys. But this was another excellent episode and sets up so much more.