Warning: Fourth Season TV SPOILERS – Possible Spoilers from Tonight’s Episode The A Song of Ice and Fire novels still have not revealed definitively who killed Joffrey. Recently, Rolling Stone ran a teaser promoting a longer interview with George RR Martin in which the great one replied to the question we all want to know: “Who killed Joffrey?” Note George RR Martin’s key words: “I make no promises, because I have two more books to write, and I may have more surprises to reveal.” In other words, we’re supposed to think Olenna Tyrell – aka the “Queen of Thorns” — killed Joffrey, but that may not – or probably won’t – be the case. George RR Martin loves nothing more than a twist. After all, this is the writer who gave us the Red Wedding – and who killed Ned Stark. Moreover, George RR Martin is a massive history buff – a veritable medievalist – who does not write historical fiction because he want people to be able to check Wikipedia to find out what will happen. In other words, if you are thinking you know who killed Joffrey, think again. Here are the usual suspects:
The uncle who recognized Joffrey for the sadist he was and tried to protect his subjects – and his fiancé Sansa – from him. Motivation? Joffrey and Tyrion had long butted heads, and Joffrey ordered the Kingsgaurd to kill him at the Battle of the Blackwater. Just before Joffrey’s death, the young king repeatedly – and publicly — humiliated his uncle by showing the dwarf re-enactment of the War of the Five Kings and making Tyrion serve as his cupbearer. Why it isn’t him? It’s too obvious. Murdering his nephew isn’t Tyrion’s style, and poison takes long-range planning.
Sitting beside Tyrion gave Sansa ample opportunity to spike Joffrey’s cup with poison. Motivation? The sadistic prince terrorized and abused Sansa when she was his fiancé, treacherously killed her father, and gleefully reveled in the death of Sansa’s mother and brother, rubbing her nose in it whenever he could. As George RR Martin puts it in Rolling Stone, “Sansa had certainly good reason for it.” Why it isn’t her? Killing Joffrey would have given her the perfect diversion to escape the Lannister’s clutches, but she doesn’t take it.
The convenient timing of Joffrey’s murder – report before she has to sleep with a sexual sadist — makes her a prime suspect. Margaery is one of the top suspects on the Internet. Motivation? Avoid a life of hell and misery with Joffrey. Why it isn’t her? Good question. But, she’s an obvious suspect and, in his recent Rolling Stone interview, George RR Martin has essentially said there are more twists to come, which may imply it isn’t her.
Did the matriarch of the Tyrell clan plot to put her granddaughter on the throne but kill Joffrey to protect her? Some viewers have slowed down the Purple Wedding sequence, watched it frame-by-frame, and reported that Olenna has a stone missing from her necklace – which could have been used to dispense poison. Motivation? The desire for power — and a secret hatred of the Lannister clan. There is suspicious foreshadowing and far too much irony in her words when she offers her condolences to Sansa about Robb and Catelyn’s death: “War is war,” Olenna tells Sansa. “But killing a man at a wedding – horrid.” In the next breath, Olenna makes passive-aggressive – or perhaps just aggressive – jabs at Tyrion. He is Sansa’s “pauper husband” who might be able to fund a visit to High Garden if he sold his “mule and shoes.” Why it isn’t her? See above.
Not much more can be said without creating spoilers. But, there’s good reason to suspect the man whom Varys described as the “most dangerous” man in King’s Landing.
Stannis Baratheon and Melisandre
Motivation: Protect his family’s good name and legacy. Means & Opportunity: The blood magic Melisandre cast with the leaches. Conjuring a shadow assassin killed Renly Baratheon. Perhaps, the blood of Robert Baratheon’s bastard Gendry spawned the Red Wedding conspiracy and the leach with Joffrey’s name on it did its magic.
Why It Isn’t Them? It could be them. But, it is equally possible the blood magic they believe caused the Red Wedding didn’t work at all.
Oberyn Martell is in King’s Landing to avenge for his sister’s murder. Motivation: He believes the Lannisters killed commanded Gregor Clegane to rape and murder his sister. He threatens Tywin and Cersei at the wedding. Means: The “Red Viper” has the means – he has proved he can use poison when (off-screen) he reputedly dipped his blade in poison to kill his opponent, which earned him his nickname. Why It Isn’t Him? He didn’t have the opportunity; he wasn’t sitting near the head table. Also, if he wanted to take a Lannister child, why not take an eye-for-an-eye and kill Cersei’s daughter, Princess Myrcella, who is now living in Dorne and married into his family? Oberyn’s character suggests we should rule him out. He has a soft spot for little girls. He wants revenge directly on Tywin, not indirectly on his family. He is too hot-headed to wait to use poison if he had proof of Tywin’s involvement. Also, he is a bold, aggressive and dangerous warrior – makes it seem far more likely he would to want to seek revenge through violence and not the “women’s weapon” of poison.
Perhaps Tywin the Hand got tired of wrangling over power with a bratty princeling who just came of age. And, we all know that killing people at weddings is exactly his style. Motivation: Protect his family’s good name and legacy. Why It Isn’t Him? He didn’t kill Tyrion, who may be his wife’s bastard —and Tywin hates Tyrion far more than Joffrey. Why kill Joffrey when he is king?
Less Likely – But Not Impossible – Suspects
Motivation: When Joffrey got married and (as is implied in the show) and came of age, Cersei chaffed at losing her powerful position as queen regent. Maybe she got tired of competing with the “doe-eyed whore” for power. Why It Isn’t Her? She seemed genuinely devastated when Joffrey died, and she has acknowledged to Tyrion she loves all her children – “even Joffrey.”
Does the Spider have poison? Motivation: Protect the realm from a sadist, who will be a bad, weak king. The “good of the realm” is Varys’ higher power. Why It Isn’t Him? No reason it couldn’t be. He had motive, means – his network of spies – and, thus, opportunity.
Motivation: Politically motivated to kill her usurper. Why It Isn’t Her? Why bother to arrange an overseas assassination when you have an army of thousands and dragons? Also, killing one Baratheon king doesn’t eliminate the other claimants and won’t make her heir.
While it’s easy to assume that Joffrey was poisoned, there’s no proof that was the case. He might have choked on the pie. He might have died from blood magic – a choking spell. In the Middle Ages, people typically assumed any unexpected death was poison – is Westeros any different? It’s unclear, but many people assumed that Jon Arryn was poisoned.
If Joffrey was poisoned, the vessel for the poison is unclear. Wine? Pie? Or, even sword? it’s worth remembering that poison can be administered through the skin (subcutaneously). Perhaps, Sansa’s hairnet and Olenna’s necklace are just red herrings. Joffrey touched his sword a few minutes before he began to choke. Maybe the sword’s handle was poisoned? The other least likely — and possibly absurd — suspect is Tommen, who is now twelve in the series. If, like some people believe, the Purple Wedding has more in common with the death of Attila the Hun than Prince Eustace, then the history leads us to some interesting conclusions. Stay tuned for more details.