Thursday, June 20, 2024

Game of Thrones 4×02 Rewatch: The One where Martin Doesn’t Care

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Welcome back to the Game of Thrones rewatch project The Wars to Come, where we’re tackling the last of the seasons we used to consider competent on this heavily lauded, Emmy-winning grand-slam by showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss (D&D). Last week, we found the show to be a bit of a slog, while this week Kylie, Julia, and Bo are here to break down “The Lion and the Rose” penned by George R.R. Martin.

Episode Recap

It’s not quite the joys of a wedding for all on Game of Thrones. Beyond the Wall, Bran and his traveling companions still head North. Bran has begun warging into his wolf Summer far more, having dreams from his point of view as he hunts. Upon waking, Jojen warns him that he cannot stay in the mind of a wolf too long, or else he might lose his humanity. The group reaches a weirwood tree, which Bran asks Hodor to be carried to. He touches it, and a mysterious voice calls to him, saying that the speaker can be found to the north. Bran tells the others that he knows where they need to go.

Slightly south at the Dreadfort, Ramsay has turned his attention from torturing Theon to hunting down one of the girls formerly used to torture Theon. The other, Myranda, is hunting as well, appearing to enjoy the event as much as Ramsay. Theon follows after the party, praising Ramsay’s skills and watching helplessly when the first girl is finally eaten by Ramsay’s dogs. Upon returning, Ramsay finds Roose at the Dreadfort. Roose chastises him for torturing Theon into “Reek,” as he needs the son of Balon Greyjoy in his plans to secure the North. Yet Ramsay demonstrates “Reek’s” usefulness by having Theon shave him in front of Roose to demonstrate that he has completely submitted. Theon also reveals to Roose that he never killed Bran and Rickon. Roose tells Ramsay that he’ll need to take Theon and go to Moat Cailin next. If Ramsay can take it back from the Ironborn currently there, then he’ll have “proven” himself a true Bolton.

Down at Dragonstone, Melisandre has several of Stannis’s men burned at a stake, one of whom is Lady Selyse’s brother. Lady Selyse, however, seems overjoyed by the sacrifice to the Red God, while Davos voices his displeasure to an unreceptive Stannis. Later, Stannis has dinner with Melisandre and Selyse. Selyse criticizes Shireen, but Stannis defends her. It is suggested that Melisandre herself talk to Shireen, since Selyse “fears for her soul.” Melisandre does so, and tries to explain to Shireen why burning the men at the stake was not a bad thing to do, and that there are only two gods: one of light and one of darkness. Shireen does not trust Melisandre.

Finally in King’s Landing, the royal wedding has drawn near. Jaime and Tyrion enjoy a meal together first, but when Jaime knocks over wine with his golden hand, it’s clear that his disability is weighing on him. As a result, Tyrion arranges for Bronn to secretly train Jaime with his left hand, knowing Bronn won’t tell anyone.

On the way to Joffrey’s wedding breakfast, Varys tells Tyrion that a maid overheard his argument with Shae, and that Shae needs to be sent away for safety, as Cersei or Tywin would surely have her killed. At the breakfast, Joffrey is gifted the other Valyrian steel sword, which he names “Widow’s Wail.” Tyrion tries to give him a historical text, but Joffrey ends up slicing it up with his brand new sword.

After the meal, Tyrion takes Varys’s advice and asks Shae to leave. He yells at her and tells her he could have never truly loved “a whore,” angering her. Bronn confirms to Tyrion later that she then got on a boat and is headed across the Narrow Sea.

The wedding ceremony itself goes without a hitch. Afterwards, Olenna and Tywin chat about the money spent on the wedding, with Mace not able to get a word in. The reception itself is certainly extravagant, with a variety of performers. Jaime and Loras discuss his own planned nuptials with Cersei. Jaime threatens Loras if he does marry her, though Loras responds by indicating he knows about the siblings’ relationship. Brienne exchanges warm wishes with Margaery, and after, Cersei discusses Brienne’s recent adventure with Jaime. She tells the Maid of Tarth that she (Brienne) loves Jaime, though Brienne does not respond.

Olenna futzes with Sansa’s necklace as she invites her to visit Highgarden. Margaery then announces that the leftover food from the feast will be given to the poor in King’s Landing. Cersei finds Pycelle and tells him to undo this order, as she is still the queen, and that the food will go to the dogs. She then runs into Oberyn and Ellaria alongside her father, and after trading veiled insults, Oberyn remarks that it’s fortunate Myrcella was sent to Dorne, since they would not do something as horrible as what Gregor did to Elia and her children.


Joffrey announces a surprise entertainment act: a “joust” between five little people representing each of the five kings in the war, with particularly offensive portrayals of all the non-Joffrey players. Loras storms away and Sansa is clearly shaken by watching a reenactment of her brother’s death. Tyrion is the most angry, however, though notes that he wants the performers to be given a nice tip, since it’s not their fault.

Joffrey tells Tyrion that he should join in, which he refuses to do, causing Joffrey to upend his goblet of wine on his head. He then commands Tyrion to act as his cup bearer, though Tyrion refuses to kneel in a tense moment. Margaery comes to the rescue by announcing the arrival of the pie, during which Tyrion and Sansa try to leave the reception. However, Joffrey calls Tyrion back over to serve him wine. He drinks some, and then immediately begins coughing violently. It gets worse and worse, and becomes clear that the king has been poisoned. Cersei and Jaime rush to their son, while Tyrion inspects the fallen goblet containing the wine. During the commotion, Ser Dontos appears by Sansa’s side and demands that she leaves with him. Once Joffrey dies, Cersei immediately accuses Tyrion of being the poisoner. He is arrested on the spot.

Initial, quick reaction

Kylie: This episode was absolutely hilarious in the King’s Landing theater. The rest was an unpleasant slog, but I’m glad Martin stopped caring and decided to try his hand at a sitcom pilot. Loras sure zinged Jaime! (Also, the inception of Larry-face was totally here.)

Fun fact: as this episode was airing, I remember rewatching the portion from Olenna’s conversation with Sansa to the moment where Joffrey was poisoned over and over, since there was a debate on whether Marg had been involved. Watching back now, I can’t believe I wasted my time genuinely engaging with this.

Julia: I think that by the time I was watching this the first time, I was more or less checked out, and only watching because I thought I really should. (Like Revenge of the Sith, you know?) So this time, I was focused on paying attention to the plot from a season-long perspective, since I remember almost nothing. My main takeaway is that the Shae thing was a little more seeded than I remembered, but still not nearly seeded enough, and that GRRM might be slightly more witty than the others.

I’m still relying very heavily on the head cannon that GRRM saw the monster that he had unleashed and just threw up his hands and embraced the silliness.

Bo: I know you’ll both hate on it, but I absolutely love this episode. At least half that love is completely ironic at this point, but I still love it all the same. And I actually think the period from the joust up through when Joffrey starts to choke is really good television. It’s definitely a level above anything Game of Thrones manages anymore.

And like, this was a damn good sitcom for around 30-40 minutes. A big wedding! Breakups! Hookups! Jealous lovers! Beach bonfire parties! Shireen’s new stepmom tried to bond with her! What’s not to love?

Kylie: No no, I get it. I was elated.


Kylie: I laughed and seal-clapped when Ellaria said her line about “ten thousand brothers and sisters” just because of how much Julia and I have talked about it over the years. That was probably my highlight? As I said a second ago, I just genuinely found the Purple Wedding reception enjoyable to watch, since it was incredibly light-hearted. I’m sure I wasn’t quite laughing at what I was expected to, but at least it was a well-lit scene that didn’t make me wish for the slow release of death.

I do want to give snaps to Bran’s wolf-dream though. Why weren’t we getting these this whole time?

My lowlight was the hunting Tansy scene. It was another case of something being far too drawn out. Then on top of it, we have Myranda being motivated by jealousy that Tansy was attractive? Julia and I have certainly written our thoughts on Myranda and victimization, and you can argue that maybe this is what she saw as a means to survival in Ramsay’s service. But it’s a reverse honeypot, as we well know, and nothing that was ever intended to be explored. Women be catty.

Julia: Yeah, that scene was upsetting. There was a relish to it that made me want to barf. Contrast that to the little-people jouster scene, that also upset me to the point of nausea, but to an actual point. (Like, what a jerk Joff is to have such a homophobic portrayal of Renly when the guy everyone knew was his partner is right there.) That would easily be by lowlight if it were in season 7, and thus probably would have no context and be taken at face value. Such as it is, I think I’ll be going for Stannis and his poo face burning his brother-in-law alive for “being an infidel.” Not for treason, just for not liking his new imaginary friend. That makes all the sense for a feudal lord.

Funny because one of my contenders for a highlight is Mel’s conversation with Shireen. It was one of the few times in the show that the Rh’llorite faith made sense to me theologically in any way. I might even find it compelling if there wasn’t human sacrifice involved.

But I don’t care, my highlight was the introduction of Fat Walda, who will become my unironically favorite character in seasons 5 and 6, just by acting like a normal human being for the 20 seconds of total screen time she’ll have. Hi, girlfriend!

Bo: Kylie, I’m actually really tempted to name the Bran scenes as my highlight. They are faithful, well done, and informative. And they absolutely, 100% prove that Game of Thrones could have done wolf dreams without actually showing the wolves.

My highlight is the entire run from the joust up through Joffrey’s choking, though. The joust is upsetting, but it’s supposed to be upsetting. Literally everyone except Joffrey and Cersei are watching it stone-faced, realizing how horrible it is. It’s like that last bit of evidence for why it’s a really, really good thing that Joffrey is about to die. Here he is at a wedding to solidify an alliance, and he pulls that to upset those allies. Then you have his humiliation of Tyrion afterwards and Sansa’s stone-faced expression and it’s all so horrible, but I think it’s pretty great TV.

As usual, Ramsay is the lowlight. The hunting scene is stupid, drawn out too long, serves no purpose besides grimdark cruelty, and embodies all the problems this show has with women, sex, violence, and all of them together. Then you have the show trying to make us empathize with this monster during the Roose scene. Welcome to peak Game of Thrones, where Ramsay goddamn Snow gets more of a hero’s arc than the actual heroes.

Quality of writing

Julia: Ho boy. There are two things that worry me in terms of having to think about this being the product of a writer I really respect. The first is the opening scene with Tansy. But surely (surely!) this got into the episode the same way the Ramsay scenes in GRRM’s script last season did and I can just ignore it. I just can’t imagine him using Myranda being catty about how pretty Tansy is so unironically. So, surely.

The other is Lord Florent’s death. For being an infidel. Now, in the books…. Stannis doesn’t really give a hoot about his followers’ religion and values loyalty above everything. When Ser Axle was executed it was for treason, since he tried to offer terms to Stannis’s enemies behind his back. Stannis just used a method of execution consistent with his new faith. So, why was this changed? It would only take a line or two to explain. Just have Stannis say “he was a traitor” to Davos rather than “he was an infidel”. Wtf.

Anyway, other than that, and assuming our head cannon that Martin just decided to have some fun, the writing was alright. Better than usual. Some of the things trying to be funny actually were. My favorite was when Olenna said that Tyrion would have to sell his mule and last pair of shoes to rustle up the funds to take Sansa on vacation. That sounded like something someone in Westeros might say.

Bo: If nothing else, the character interactions are sharper and more engaging, even if they’re borderline to over-the-top silly. After learning about the Ramsay scenes last season, I wonder which scenes Martin did write and which ones he didn’t. Or maybe which ones were changed after he wrote them.

Once this episode gets rolling, the writing is good, it’s just hard to separate from what Game of Thrones used to be and what source material it came from.

Kylie: I have a theory that Martin wrote Bronn’s lines as needed, and then D&D went in with their red pens and added as many “fucks” as possible. He took Jaime to a discreet place to practice swords, which he knows is discreet because of that time he fucked a lady and she was moaning loudly, but no one heard! That’s just such…amazing and necessary writing.

Julia: I’m also not quite sure what to make of the infamous “ten thousand brothers and sisters” conversation. On the one hand, it’s far more subtle than D&D often manage to be. My favorite is Oberyn’s implicit “I hear you’re poor now,” when questioning why Tywin doesn’t have gout. On the other hand, everything coming out of everyone’s mouth is dumb. Cersei pretending she doesn’t know what having the name “Sand” means, the Lannister’s Laconian Lifestyle™, “bastards are born of passion” which is why they love them in Dorne, “ha ha, we have your granddaughter!” Ugh.

Bo: Eh, I kind of liked it just because of how silly it was and I like to think Oberyn is just being as over the top as possible.

I have to bring this up, even though it’s not a writing issue for this episode but one to come later; does anything come of Bronn telling Tyrion that Shae definitely left? Are we supposed to assume a Lannister ship caught up with her ship and took her? That Bronn lied? I admit I may be forgetting something.

Julia: I don’t think you are, but I’ve forgotten so much about this, as it turns out, I’m not willing to say for sure. All we have is Cersei and Tywin talking about it, Tywin saying “bathe her and bring her to me,” Tyrion telling her to get on the ship, Bronn saying he saw the ship sail away, then boom! Trial scene. Right?

Bo: I’m very sure that’s the next time we see Shae, and I don’t think anyone mentions her or anything we can interpret as relating to her. So it’s just this open question that would be interesting if the next 3 seasons didn’t reveal Bronn to be a Lannister fanboy who occasionally says he isn’t. So what exactly happened here?

Julia: A wizard did it.

I just realized how in character it was, for book!Tyrells, for Olenna to talk sweetly to Sansa about how she’s invited to visit their garden paradise while framing her for murder at that very moment.

Kylie: It was great, and I love that. The only aspect I don’t love is how Olenna decided to have the poison transported to the wedding in lightbulb-sized jewels. Sansa’s not going to get hives from that, is she?

Our 8th grade book report (on themes)

Julia: “I give up!”?

I think there might be something in how everyone except his mom thinks Joffrey is literally the worst thing ever and yet no one says a thing. Maybe it makes a theme with how shitty Ramsay and Shireen’s parents treat them? Best I can do.

Bo: If even one other thing in the episode supported it, I’d say the theme is supposed to be consequences or something, since Joffrey confirmed every single reason someone would want his cruel ass dead. Otherwise I’d say there has to be something here about parenting. Ramsay’s scenes focus on it, the Dragonstone scenes focus on it, and the Purple Wedding at least shows the consequences of bad parenting on a child? I don’t know, something like that.

Kylie: I like that better, I think. Bran is left out of it, but his scene was tonally very disconnected already, so I’m not sure we’re going to find a way to work it in there. Parenting was definitely on display for Dragonstone. Mel really nailed that maternal thing, huh.

Bo: Mel has to be a good stepmom so we feel it more when she burns Shireen! Emotional stakes!

Parenting win!

The Butterfly Effect

Kylie: Uh-oh. Joffrey is dying in this episode and D&D need someone even worse to replace him! Guess it’s time to dial Ramsay up to 11 and give him a catty side-kick?

Bo: And like I mentioned above, Ramsay starts receiving more of a hero journey than the actual heroes. Lovely. I suppose Euron is the definitive proof of this show’s need to always replace its villains with an even worse parody of a villain, but Ramsay will always be the prime example.

At this point are any of the plaster-cracks actually cracks, or has the wall just started collapsing?

Julia: And Shogun’s just riding through on Azula-dragon?

I think in terms of Larry’s characterization the wall is fallen down, despite the effort that was made last episode with him. There’s just no way to redeem the fact the he’s even at the Purple Wedding. The Shae thing is making ominous noises but won’t actually fall on top of us until the end of the Trial. The Tyrell’s are… fine, if we accept that they’re all about the powerful sexually manipulative ladies in this continuity. They even had Loras show an emotion about Renly. Granted, they had him be flirty with Oberyn like five minutes before, but still. Though, as I recall, there’s going to be a huge butterfly wing flap next week with them…

Is this a good place to bring up the question of how much we can blame the director versus the writer for stuff? Like, I’m willing to bet money that the Loras-Oberyn look was not in the script. I’m also holding out hope that Oberyn and Ellaria admiring the contortionist’s vag was ad libbed.

Bo: I need Martin and/or D&D to sit down and reveal everything about stuff like this. Maybe if the final season’s reception is negative enough, one side will start tossing out blame and the other will respond. Because honestly, the Tyrells and Martells HATE each other. I don’t care how horny Loras and/or Oberyn are, they’d bang Cersei first.

Julia: Imagine how bad it would have been if Loras had a brother that Oberyn crippled in a tournament.

Kylie: I just spit.

Bo: Larry is part of a bigger crack displayed throughout the entire wedding, I think, which is how characters don’t respond to each other based on their previous actions. Brienne not having even ONE attempt to talk to Sansa is inexcusable. This is perfectly on display by season 7, where no one cares that Varys tried to kill Dany and so forth.

Kylie: Well she and Larry already talked through their vows, and there’s clearly nothing they need to do for Sansa, God!

You know, Brienne being there, but not actually being able to affect the plot in a big way because of certain timing decisions being made only gets to be a bigger issue in other plotlines. It’s just a reverse of the problem of, say, Sandor and Arya’s “plot” this year. But it’s eventually what’s going to lead us to Tyrion getting to Meereen early yet not actually having anything to contribute, for instance.

Remember adaptation?

Bo: No, I don’t remember adaptation. Is this episode supposed to adapt something? Okay, that’s cruel. I think the Bran scenes were really well adapted, and Joffrey’s humiliation of Tyrion as well.

Otherwise I just have complaint after complaint about this episode as an adaptation. Ramsay sucks, Larry sucks, Mace sucks, Sansa doesn’t pretend at courtesy, Brienne doesn’t even look at Sansa…I’ll just stop here.

And maybe you can turn your head to the right while you’re at it.

Kylie: Also, what are they still doing to Stannis? Weren’t we supposed to be on board with him realizing the true threat is to the north? Am I completely forgetting something from the books, or wasn’t Mance the first guy Stannis had burned alive?

Julia: No, he burns his Hand who was colluding with the Lannisters, and used it to get good winds to get to the Wall, if I remember correctly. But they are not doing anyone any favors by framing this as religiously motivated.

Everyone’s motivation and the context around the Purple Wedding is surprisingly intact.

Bo: Yeah, Stannis burns his Florent Hand after discovering his letter to the Lannisters. But I guess that’s not cartoonish enough for Game of Thrones. At least I know they treat Stannis this way because they admittedly hate his character and fanboy over Renly. It’s an explanation besides “they have zero awareness of the story they are adapting.”

Kylie: It’s worth noting that fire is Dany’s preferred method of execution now, and then just film it as is. The only conclusion I can come to is that they truly don’t want us to be on his side. Of course, it could just be so it’s a bigger shock when he arrives at the Wall (even though we know he’s headed there).

What do we do now? Spin the wheel of the poorly adapted? I might submit: Sansa being super nice to Tyrion and then sitting passively until Dontos pops up to spirit her away.

Julia: You know who’s wonderfully adapted? Mace. God, what a waste of Roger Ashton-Griffiths. I would complain about Olenna shooing him away to talk shop with Tywin, but what’s the point anymore?

Carol Watch: who is Cersei this week?

Kylie: Other than her intervention with a good gyno recommendation, I think this was firmly Cersei that we saw. It’s no shock—Martin can actually write her, even if the context is outright telling Brienne she loves Jaime. I don’t really want to delve into the full stupidity of “we’re giving the leftovers to the poor!” (yeah…no shit; that’s the societal function of these feasts), but purposely undoing that is something that demonstrates her characteristic pettiness. Then we have her paranoia at the end with her accusation of Tyrion.

Julia: And her cruelty by having her laugh at the Mini-Tourney of Grossness.

I really wonder what that Scantily Clad Reach Lady’s medical complaint was.

Bo: I doubt Pycelle would need any reason beyond “ow, I stubbed my toe on the table,” before he suggested a full-body examination.

I really love how everyone is watching that horrible “War of the 5 Kings” with varying levels of disgust except Cersei and Joffrey. She was truly Cersei in that moment.

Kylie: Even though Nat Dormer can sometimes irritate me with how she plays Marg, I have to hand it to her acting here. She absolutely nailed being disgusted, while also understanding she was an important political figure who was now married to this asshole.

Julia: While also getting the distinct impression that there’s no way she’d be able to keep it up for 20+ years? Yeah, it was good. Go NatDo.

Exposition Imposition: good or clunky?

Bo: I thought it was solid. Roose establishes the difficulties facing the Boltons in a natural way, and Bran’s scenes explain the danger of warging. Oberyn and Ellaria give insight, kind of, into Dorne while sassing Tywin and Cersei. I can’t think of a moment where I felt a character explained something in a way functioning only to explain something.

Kylie: Not unless you count it as exposition when Ramsay and Myranda explained why they were hunting Tansy, though I don’t.

It was pretty seamless overall. Bran’s tree-flashes were also well done, and reminded me of the time the weirwoods were almost correctly adapted. You understand his visions, you get that someone’s calling to him, and nothing was too heavy-handed.

Julia: And we learned a lot about the faith of the Red God. And that the Ironborn still control Moat Calin.

How was the pacing?

Kylie: The pacing was much better in the second half of the episode, but the Dragonstone and Ramsay scenes stopped the episode dead. Why were we treated to an awkward dinner with Stannis, Selyse, and Melisandre, exactly?

Julia: So they can set up the scene where Mel talks to Shireen? And how Stannis once made soup from a book? Though, yeah, it honestly would have been fine if they went right from the beach scene to Shireen’s room.

Bo: Maybe they already knew about Shireen burning and were salivating to set up the nonsensical emotional betrayal to come.

Julia: This episode was short, though. Barely 52 minutes, even with that scene from the beginning that was almost certainly added by the showrunners. (Surely.) I’m wondering if there are a bunch of scenes GRRM wrote that they cut out for Butterfly Flap reasons? Maybe?

Bo: The wedding flowed rather well. I suppose it’s the benefit of staying in one location for once. I remember a lot of critics harping on GOT at this point because of the jumpiness of the episodes, so they always loved when one stayed in one place for extended periods.

You can’t possibly convince me that there were no better, more natural scenes to include besides the Dreadfort and Dragonstone stuff. Why not have Arya and Sandor talk about her list or something, since someone on the list will die at the end? Why not stay in King’ Landing and give Brienne and Jaime a scene discussing Sansa?

Let’s talk about sex, baby

Kylie: Was there sex this episode? There was Oberyn and Ellaria checking out that contortionist’s bod, and Oberyn’s eyes at Loras, but otherwise I’m drawing a blank. Just more of that great bisexual representation.

Julia: Is your heart not warmed? There was that one mummer humping the Loras dummy. And Mummer!Stannis was humping a dummy Mel too. Ramsay and Myranda probably had sex off-screen at some point.

Bo: And “Robb’s” wolf head! Maybe this scene represented Joffrey’s latent attraction and admiration for Robb? Sounds like something I’d hear from someone on this show.

Kylie: Ugh. Make it stop.

In memoriam…Tansy, Lord Florent, Joffrey

Bo: Let’s also mourn the innocence of that poor girl Pycelle creeped on. She looked absolutely terrified.

Joffrey was the gold standard Game of Thrones has never, ever stopped trying to surpass, and they have never even come close to matching him.

Kylie: They definitely overdid it with Joffrey in some scenes—I think almost all as a result of aging him up—but for the most part they stayed fairly within the books. Jack Gleeson also did a fantastic job of being an absolute shit, but also with this childishness to him that at times made him pitiable. It was a great balance, and even after everything I still found his death to be along the lines of perverting wish-fulfillment.

I don’t know what to do with Axell Florent’s death (and others). Are we supposed to think the sellswords he hires later are all worshippers of the Red God, since he clearly can’t abide non-believers in his army?

Julia: Maybe they were just willing to tear down their idols.

Joff also murdered a whole bunch of pigeons when he cut the pie open.

Bo: They never have bothered establishing the whole King’s Men vs. Queen’s Men environment with Stannis, have they? Kind of hard to do when the King is a doofus Queen’s Man following her around like a lost puppy.

Kylie: Exactly. He’s just a wildly unpleasant man, and I can see nothing any show-only would find compelling here. Stephen Dillane’s salty interview was so on-point.

I hate to ask, but do we have anything to say about Tansy?

Julia: Her fault for being pretty, dude.

Kylie: Sounds about right.

And thus concludes our thoughts in this week’s rewatch. What did you guys think? Was Martin’s writing just plain silly? Does anyone know if there were certain scenes written by D&D? Please?? Let us know in the comments, and as always, may you have good fortune in The Wars to Come.

Images courtesy of HBO

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