Well. That was definitely worth the wait.
Although The Lion and The Rose is an episode that’s probably going to be remembered for its casualties, it’s also an episode that that specialized in the kind of thematically-consistent storytelling that keep Game of Thrones as high up in the TV show food chain as it is.
WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD
While The Lion and The Rose was always going to be an episode that centered on Joffrey’s wedding, it was also an episode that spent a lot of time exploring the family dynamics that exist across the show’s enormous cast. Considering the fun that the show has with the most messed up members of this cast, it shouldn’t come as much surprise that the episode spent a lot of time with the Boltons.
The episode brought together both the younger and older Boltons for a reunion at the aptly named Dreadfort. As with every scene we’ve seen Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) in post-Red Wedding, it’s a delight to see him truly spread his treacherous wings and his dull disapproval of Ramsay’s mistreatment of Theon (“Theon was a valuable hostage, not your plaything”) was fun to watch. Iwan Rheon has really come into his role as Ramsay and it’s going to be fun to see him potentially steal the title of the show’s most hated character now that Joffrey has kicked the bucket.
Although Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) is just as murderous and wicked as he we last saw him, Theon (Alfie Allen) has undergone a pretty drastic transformation. He’s half-mad and been traumatized to point of subservience to the Bolton’s and it was pretty hard to watch the end result of last season’s torture sessions. Alfie Allen absolutely nailed his scenes here and while there’s definitely something to be said for the way that the books used internal monologue to capture how damaged Theon gets, the show is handling his plotline very well this season. Speaking of the book, the reveal that Locke (Noah Taylor) and Ramsay are close friends was a smart addition that ties the plotlines of the north and the south together in a cool way.
Considering all the time last week’s episode spent with Jaime Lannister (Nickolaj Coster-Waldau), it was surprising that we didn’t get a scene between the Kingslayer and The Imp (who, funnily enough, is also going to find himself branded a Kingslayer after the events of this episode). This episode remedied that with the two sharing a breakfast and Tyrion helping set Jaime on his path to to learn to fight using his left hand. It was great to see the chemistry of the two – who haven’t shared the screen together since the early first season – picked up flawlessly by both actors.
Other subplots this episode included a handful of scenes exploring the complex (and uncomfortable) dynamics of Stannis’s family as well as the foster family that’s sprung up around Bran. The handful of scenes we got here served to flesh out the Dragonstone plotline a bit more and hint at some of Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) backstory. It was interesting to see Stannis (Stephen Dillane) defend his daughter against his wife’s (Tara Fitzgerald) criticisms. It’s an angle to his character not as prominent in the book’s and given the current lack of characters in open rebellion against the Lannisters, it’ll probably win Team Stannis a few more fans.
Meanwhile, Bran’s (Isaac Hempsteed Wright) plotline focused on his ‘Warging’ inside a Weirwood tree and being summoned further north by the three-eyed raven. It was nice to see the return of ‘Wolfcam’ and, thanks to Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster), a bit more explanation on the dangers of skinchanging. The episode also hinted at both the secrets of the past and future through Bran’s vision – his enigmatic and foreboding vision spent as much time hinting as the secrets of the past as it did the mysteries of the future. It reminded me in a lot of ways of the book-version of Dany’s journey through the House of the Undying – and if we can expect more of that in Bran’s plotline this season, then viewers have should be prepared for some big reveals.
As I said before, Joffrey’s wedding was the centrepiece and this was significant not just in terms of the episode’s plot but also in terms of its examination of family dynamics. It would have been easy to have this part of the episode focus on just the core Lannister members of the cast but it bounced between the characters of Kings Landing with almost dizzying ease. There were too many brilliant moments to count from the frosty back and forth between Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) and Cersei (Lena Headey) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) nearly get knighted by the newly married Joffrey.
In spite of Jack Gleeson delivering a swan song performance worthy of Westeros most twisted and monstrous king, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) easily stole the episode in terms of his performance. From his wrenching break-up with Shae to his wordless back and forth with Sansa (Sophie Turner) as the pair are tormented by Joffrey, Dinklage brought his A-game with The Lion And The Rose. That said, the episode’s climax was one of Peter Dinklage’s finest hours with him brilliantly deflecting Joffrey’s taunts and demands and ultimately taking the fall for his poisoning.
Joffrey’s death itself went down flawlessly. It struck a brilliant balance between appeasing fans who’ve waited four seasons to finally see him get what he deserved, yet also leaving the show’s plot in a very delicate position. There are just as many questions about how killed Joffrey and why (though I admit, probably more of the former than the latter) as there are questions about where his death leaves things in Kings Landing.
There were just too many brilliant scenes to list them all and the dialogue for each scene was absolutely pitch perfect – not an especially great surprise considering the episode was written by George R. R. Martin, but great nonetheless.
This week’s episode may be remembered for the events of the ‘Purple Wedding’, it’s important to remember that the true casualty here is the Lannister’s fragile peace. The Lion and The Rose was one of Game of Thrones finest hours and considering we’re only two episodes into this season, the best is yet to come.