Each of the major players at the Purple Wedding has a different reaction to Joffrey’s death, and everyone finds themselves in a different situation or predicament. Do their reactions hold any clue to who killed Joffrey? Maybe.
Meanwhile storm clouds are mounting for the Lannisters: not only across the Narrow Sea but also in Dragonstone.
The episode picks up from where it left off with Cersei at the Purple Wedding beside Joffrey’s dead body. After ordering Tyrion’s arrest, Cersei screams for Sansa to be brought to her. (As Tyrion’s wife, she must have known something, or worse be involved.) Tywin puts King’s Landing on lock-down, but Sansa has already begun her flight.
Joffrey’s fool, Ser Dontos Hollard, smuggles Sansa out of King’s Landing before the capital is completely locked down – and rows her to a questionable “safety,” a ship Petyr Baelish owns. And, then Petry kills the fool so he can’t tell tales.
Petyr is clearly playing his own game, and it is beginning to look like the young and still-occassionally-naïve Sansa is the prize. After Sansa boards the ship, Petyr stands a little too close to her and calls her “my lady” in a creepily courtly way. Petyr appears to be hoping that the vulnerable Sansa, who resembles his lost-love Catelyn in youth, will be more malleable than her mother.
Petyr plants the idea that Sansa must flee because nobody will believe she is innocent. It turns out that the necklace that Ser Dontos gave Sansa – that great family heirloom – was actually just “paste.” Petyr smashes it and tells Sansa he had it made in King’s Landing two weeks earlier.
Meanwhile Margaery and her grandmother, Lady Olenna, ruminate over recent events. Margaery appears shocked, somewhat grief stricken and mostly concerned for her ambition to be queen. Margaery actually despairs over Joffrey’s last agonized moments. Olenna, however, is philosophical.
Olenna reminds Margaery that as much as she hated seeing Joffrey die, she would have hated being married to him more.
Finally, the curtain is lifted and we see a little of the machinations and strategizing that go on between grandmother and granddaughter. Olenna notes:
“Our alliance with the Lannisters remains every bit as necessary for them as it remains unpleasant for us. You did wonderful work on Joffrey,” Olenna says. “The next one should be easier.”
Joffrey lies in state in the throne room, with stones over his eyes: Cersei, Tommen, and Tywin hold vigil. Although Cersei recognizes her son is a monster, she is genuinely devastated by his death. Her eyes red and swollen from crying. Tommen does not look that grief stricken and neither does Tywin.
Tywin is back into teaching mode and wastes no time coaching Tommen how he should rule – and framing the importance of relying on wise counsel. Wisdom is what makes a good king, Tywin advises Tommen. Tywin notes Joffrey was not a wise or good king. And, states if he had been wise and good he would still be alive. Cersei briefly stirs from her grief when she realizes that Tywin is already appropriating her son. Tywin and Tommen walk out of the throne room expounding on the importance of, Tywin’s favorite topic: legacy.
Meanwhile Jaime enters the throne room to see his son’s dead body. He comes to console his love Cersei, but does not seem that upset himself. Cersei urges Jaime to kill Tyrion and avenge their son’s death. Jaime states they should wait for Tyrion’s trial when they will find out what happened.
Disgusted with her desire for vengeance, Jaime has an epiphany: Cersei is a hateful woman. He curses his ill luck that the god’s made him love such a woman. But, then, he begins to rape Cersei, who eventually appears to consent, and then change her mind. This is unclear to me and disgusting. Best case scenario, the two of them proceed to have violent sex by their son’s corpse. It is quite possible Jaime raped his sister and the mother of his children. I don’t have a definitive judgment as to whether or not it was rape because I was so revolted by the whole thing – why the director felt the need to deviate from the books at this juncture and the effect it has on TV Jaime’s character – that I couldn’t bring myself to rewatch it the three or four times it would have taken to be certain.
The only person in King’s Landing who appears unaffected by Joffrey’s death is Oberyn Martell, whom we find relaxing at Littlefinger’s brothel with his paramour (Elliaria Sand), several women, and Littlefinger’s bawd (pimp/procurer). Tywin interrupts their little party and makes Oberyn a surprising offer, but one that draws Oberyn back into the muck with everyone else.
Cryptically, Tyrin wants Oberyn to be one of Tyrion’s three judges and a seat on the small council. Tywin claims he wants Dorne to return to the fold. Wth the problems at the Wall, the war with the Greyjoys and Stannis, and Daenerys across the sea with her dragons, the Lannisters need allies: only the Dornish resisted Aegon Targaryen and his dragons. In exchange, Tywin will help Oberyn avenge his sister’s death.
This deal is a little fishy – Tywin is up to something and it isn’t clear what yet. Why ask your family’s enemy to judge your son. Does he want to see Tyrion convicted? Is Tywin trying to trick Oberyn? Watching this, I felt like shouting at Oberyn, “Don’t trust Tywin!” Oberyn’s suspicions are up, but are they up enough?
Tyrion is sitting in the dungeon, and he is increasingly on the hot seat. Yet, in spite of his adversity, Tyrion is still one of the show’s only noble characters.
Pod, Tyrion’s squire, brings Tyrion some essentials and the latest news. Shae is still nowhere to be seen and Tyrion will be standing trial – without witnesses on his side — in a fortnight.
It starts getting hotter for Tyrion it becomes clear that he won’t likely have any witnesses in his defense. Sansa is missing. Varys is going to be a witness for the queen. And, Bronn is barred from seeing Tyrion since he is a “known associate and cutthroat” – and under suspicion himself. Tyrion asks Pod to try to get Jaime to come see him. Will Jaime follow Cersei’s orders and slaughter his brother? This is Westeros so anything’s possible.
Pod won’t be testifying on Tyrion’s behalf either. Somebody tried to bribe Pod to testify against Tyrion in exchange for a title (“Ser Podrick Payne.”) Pod refused, but his life is now in jeopardy. Tyrion warns him that the people who attempted to bribe Pod will now try to kill him. In a touching moment of self-sacrifice, Tyrion orders his last wintess to abandon him and flee King’s Landing so as to save his own skin.
For those trying to figure out who killed Joffrey, it is worth mentioning that Tyrion tells Pod that the only person who might be innocent of Joffrey’s murder is Cersei.
Arya and the Hound
The Hound gives Arya yet another harsh lesson about survival.
Arya and the Hound are still on the road as they wind their way toward the Vale. As they water their horses, the duo meet a peasant farmer and his daughter. The overly trusting peasant invites them stay in their farm and offers them a roof and meal. Both Arya and the Hound, who is posing as her father accept.
Over dinner in his humble cottage, the kindly peasant remarks that the Hound looks like a trained and professional soldier. From a historical perspective, this is a great and rare scene. Peasants – who are actually us (the 90%) transported back in time – are often invisible in historical dramas. It’s refreshing to see the might of the trained soldier contrasted against the nearly defenseless medieval (or in this case “medieval-esque”) peasant.
Another interesting historical touch occurs next when the peasant (justifiably) rants about Lord Frey’s treacherous behavior at the Red Wedding. The peasant complains Lord Frey isn’t a good lord and doesn’t protect his people, which (in the real world) was an essential expectation peasants had of their lords from the time of William the Conqueror.
As the peasant gets more comfortable, he then makes a big mistake. He offers the Hound a chance to stay on for a couple of weeks and work the fields. When the Hound asks about pay, the peasant reveals he has silver tucked away.
The next morning, before Arya awakens, the Hound knocks out the man and steals his silver. In response to Arya’s fury, the Hound replies “Dead men don’t need silver.” The Hound explains to Arya that the man won’t make it until winter; he won’t need savings. In the Hound’s view, the peasant was “too weak” to fight for himself and survive until winter with all the chaos and violent men roaming the realm. The sad part is that the Hound may be right.
There are two events at the Wall this week: one major and one minor. First, the minor event:
Sam arranges different accommodation in town for Gilly, whom he worries the hundred men of the Night’s Watch might sexually assault. Things momentarily deepen between the two of them when Gilly asks Sam if he ever “pictures her.”
Much to Gilly’s dismay, Sam finds Gilly accommodation in a brothel in the town below. She will cook, clean, and look after the other girls’ babies. But these negotiations make us nervous: the procuress offers to help Gilly find “other work” (prostitution). Sam firmly refuses her offer.
The major event is the beginning of Mance Rayder’s assault on Castle Black, which Jon warned the counsel about in last week’s episode.
Mance Rayder’s united tribes begin their assault on Castle Black by raiding a neighboring peasant village – another military tactic steeped in historical realism. Their goal? Draw out the men of the Night’s Watch: divide and conquer.
The scarred and cannibalistic Thenn leader, Magnar Styr, orders a peasant boy to run to Castle Black to let the men know the peasants are in danger. To make sure his words really find a home, Styr terrorizes the lad by telling him he will eat the boy’s parents.
After hearing the lad’s news, after heated discussion, the Night’s Watch contingent at Castle Black refuse to be drawn out so the Thenns can kill them one-by-one.
There are only have a hundred men at Castle Black. If they don’t resist the painful call to help the peasants, they won’t be able to hold the castle. If the Mance Rayder’s tribes get past the castle, “They will roll over everything and every one for a thousand miles before they reach somebody who can stop them.”
Davos nearly ends up in jeopardy, but a children’s history book gives him a brilliant idea. (Yeah! History!)
Stannis believes that Joffrey died because Melisandre threw a leach on the fire filled with Gendry’s blood. (For such a tediously serious man, it sometimes seems like Stannis is capable of an awful lot of silliness.)
To Stannis, Joffrey’s death proved that Gendry was indeed a powerful weapon for them. As a result, Stannis is angry with Davos because he let go of the only weapon they had now that their army has been destroyed (at Blackwater).
Davos suggests sellswords. Stannis is grudgingly willing to consider them, but he has no gold. Dragonstone is broke. Worse yet, Stannis’ impatience may have frightening consequences for Davos.
Stannis wants to press his claim now that Joffrey is dead and threatens Davos. Stannis tells him that because he, Stannis, is running out of time so too is Davos. Not good. Bear in mind, Stannis can be remorseless and resolute: he took Davos’ fingers for smuggling even after Davos saved his bacon.
During Davos reading lesson with Stannis’ tragically scale-faced daughter, Shireen, Davos reads a history book. The book gives him a bright idea that just may save his skin. As the sequence draws to a close, Davos excitedly asks Shireen to compose a letter to the Iron Bank Bravos.
We can only guess at what Davos read in the book, but it’s worth noting that back in Season 3, Tyrion noted that when the Iron Bank doesn’t get “it’s due” it funds the armies of its debtors’ enemies. The clouds darken even more over the Lannisters.
Across the Narrow Sea
The most inspiring and emotional powerful sequence in the show has to come at its end when Daenerys promises freedom to the slaves of Meereen.
Daenerys and her army finally reach the city gates at Meereen, the last unliberated city of the three great slave cities. Instead of having a pitched battle, the leaders of Meereen want Daenerys to send a champion – one rider – to fight against their champion. The Meereen leaders then mock Daenerys’ army as comprising men without cocks.
Daario Naharis agrees to fight as Daenerys’ champion. Although his opponent is mounted and wielding a lance, Daario refuses to attack him on horseback. As the knight charges forward at Daario, we catch our breath. Daario whips a knife at the knight at lightning speed and it finds its mark in the knight’s horse. When the horse collapses and the knight goes flying in a cloud of dust, Daario decapitates him.
Daenerys’ great army rolls out siege weapons, but it isn’t what we think. Once again, the “mhyssa” has the most emotionally resonant moment in the show. When her army fires barrels from catapults and they smash against the wall, they aren’t filled with fire or explosives. The slaves of Meereen discover the barrels provide proof Daenerys really freed slaves. The catapults contain hundreds of slave collars – broken chains that freed the slaves in Daenerys’ army.