Wednesday, April 16, 2014

RECAP: Game of Thrones 4x02 - Tears and Screams of Retribution

This morning I went back and reviewed last week's start of the season for Game of Thrones, and now we're doing this week's. Two articles because that was too much GoT in one sitting even for me. Plus, the recapping takes forever. I'm determined not to forget any plot points. It's mostly a pride thing.

Where were we? Ah yes, headed into SPOILERtown.

The Purple Wedding was about to start, with all the pomp and circumstance that could possibly come from a wedding between the two wealthiest and sexually deviant families in Westeros. Well, this week the episode starts there, with all the other stories subservient to the big one: Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery's (Natalie Dormer) wedding.

Tragically, this episode included nothing on a lot of my favorite characters. No Daenerys, or Arya, or Ygritte, or Jon Snow. Sad day. It did, however, catch us back up on some of the others: we saw Theon for the first time in a while, and man was that disturbing; we got to catch up with the fun people on Stannis' side of the war, and it's always a riot seeing them commit ritual sacrifice and generally bum around in their drafty old castle; oh, and we got a thrilling insight into what's been happening with Bran and the Reed siblings. I mean, I get that all of these storylines are important, but they're also a bit dull. At least when compared with the spectacular amazingness that is Daenerys' whole plotline. I love her. When do we get Dany back?

What I find really thematically interesting about this episode, though, is that it seems to be saying something about the consequences of power. It's a thread running through the whole episode, the idea that the actions we take will have consequences, even if we are very very powerful, and even if those consequences are very very far down the road.

So, with that in mind, what happened this week?

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) was again stuck between a rock and a hard place. A servant overheard him arguing with Shae (Sibel Kekilli), his actual love, and reported them to Cersei (Lena Headey). Since Cersei is just generally kind of pissed off at life right now, she reported them to their father, Tywin (Charles Dance). He might have given Tyrion some kind of ultimatum about getting rid of Shae, so he was probably a bit pissed to hear she's still around. Tyrion then made the kind of executive relationship decision that we see regularly on sitcoms and White Fang-ed Shae before she could insist that she wasn't afraid. Shae ran off in tears (presumably) and the last we knew of her, she was totally definitely absolutely loaded on a ship headed far away. Which of course means that she is obviously nothing of the sort. Keep up, guys.

Also, Tyrion, who was all over this episode, decided to help his brother, Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), learn how to fight with his left hand, since his right one has been tragically cut off and then replaced with a sentimental metal one and all that jazz. Jaime isn't very happy about having to relearn how to fight, especially at having to learn it from Bronn (Jerome Flynn), Tyrion's sellsword buddy, but whatever. It's totally going to save his life, just wait.

The wedding itself was all frippery, as Tywin and Olenna Martell (Diana Rigg) bickered about the expense, and Joffrey behaved exactly the way that you would expect Joffrey to behave at his own wedding. He used his fancy new sword to chop up a wedding present from Tyrion, made constant demeaning jokes about everyone and everything, and even hired a band of little people to reenact the War of the Five Kings. Then he decided not to pay them.

Through it all, Margaery was clearly just this side of strangling him, since she is the one with some diplomatic sense. Shame she keeps getting paired off with guys who clearly don't get her - Margaery is so ready to be the power behind the throne. She's honestly a bit scary. If she grows up anything like her grandmother, she's going to be freaking terrifying.

There were other moments of classic character interactions at the wedding itself: Jaime and Loras (Finn Jones) had a marvelous conversation about how Loras was absolutely never ever going to get to marry Cersei, because she would literally murder him before having his kids, and also Loras is gay and not interested. It was a hilarious scene because they're being all coy, but Jaime is pulling a hardcore, "You'll never ever get to marry her!" older brother line, and Loras just shoots him right down with a simple retort. "Neither will you."

Boom. Roasted. Also, should we point out now that while season one treated this secret, the Cersei/Jaime affair, as this huge big scandalous thing that Ned Stark was literally killed for finding out about, and that starting a war raging through Westeros, but now the topic is so passe that Loras freaking Tyrell is making passing comments about it at a wedding? My how the times have changed.

Cersei had her own moment too, talking to Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and mocking her for her tendency to swear allegiance to people who wind up dead. She also made fun of Brienne for being in love with Jaime, because Cersei is a jerk. But we already knew that.

The real highlight of the wedding, though, was what happened just as the cake was being cut. Having already humiliated his uncle, Joffrey decided that he had to pour wine down Tyrion's back, make him his cupbearer, and refuse to let him and Sansa (Sophie Turner) gracefully leave the reception. And then, in a moment of sheer divine retribution (let's be real, it was satisfying, if also kind of sad), Joffrey proceeded to choke on something poisonous, fall to the ground, and die.

Granted, he died in an incredibly gruesome way, and as he was dying we were reminded of the fact that, sociopath or no (definitely sociopath), Joffrey was still a kid, and now he's a dead kid. Also, Cersei immediately blamed Tyrion for poisoning her son, because she's kind of crazy like that, and completely ignored the fact that pretty much every single person at the wedding had a solid motive for killing him, except her.

Like, seriously, I cannot think of a single person there without a really solid reason to want Joffrey dead. Even Jaime wasn't overly fond of him, and the kid was his nephew/son. This show is weird. Did they forget that Oberyn "The Lannisters aren't the only ones who pay their debts" Martell was there too? Or that Olenna was probably rubbing her hands right now in glee? 

One bright side, though, was that Sansa was able to escape the retribution, thanks to the King's fool, Dontos Hollard (Tony Way), whose life Sansa saved a couple of seasons back. She suggested that Joffrey spare the man's life, and after Joffrey made him a court fool. But he did live, and now he's going to return the favor.

In other parts of the world, specifically Northern ones, Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) returned home to his absolutely terrifying castle with it's horrifying banner of a man being flayed alive, to check up on his bastard son, Ramsay Snow (Iwan Rheon) and their prisoner, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen). 

Theon wasn't doing so well, and Roose was irritated to find that Ramsay had overstepped his bounds a little, by torturing Theon to the point of a dissociative personality disorder, and also cutting off his penis. Ramsay needs a little bit of psychological help, is all I'm saying. 

Roose was able to find the good in it, though, when he discovered that Theon was so bent to their will that he could give them valuable information about the whereabouts of the Stark boys, who were very much not dead when Theon left them, and are probably now headed to Castle Black to meet up with their bastard brother, Jon Snow. Ramsay was then sent off on a fun little adventure to find and kill the rest of the Starks. Yay!

To be honest, while I did feel a bit bad for Theon, since he has been completely and utterly torn apart and is now barely a person and more of a bundle of neuroses and Stockholm Syndrome, I kind of don't. When I think about feeling bad for him, I mostly tend to remember that he murdered two innocent children for power and was kind of a rapist. Plus he turned on his adoptive family like that. Sooooo...I'm just saying that I've felt worse about a character's fate.

Still in the North, just in a different part of it, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) was still going through the woods towards the Wall, and learning how to be a Warg. This was probably the shortest storyline this episode, consisting of just a couple of scenes, but basically, Jojen Reed (Thomas Brodie Sangster) was still teaching him how to magic, and Bran had a big vision about why they have to go north of the Wall. Also, Meera's (Ellie Kendrick) hair is amazing and I want it.

Finally, the last big storyline found us once more at Dragonstone, with the ever cheery Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and family presenting a mass ritual sacrifice to their weird and creepy god. I think we should all point out for a minute that they worship the "god of light", but it's always nighttime when they do their ceremonies, and I don't think that a god of light and joy would really be so keen on human sacrifice. But what do I know.

Stannis, still licking his wounds from being defeated in season two, was caught with some family issues for once. His wife, Selyse (Tara Fitzgerald), thought he should be doing more to appease their god of light, and also that he should probably get rid of their daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram), because her facial mutation meant the god was angry and that Shireen should be beaten. Selyse is a very pleasant woman. I'd totally go out for lunch with her.

Instead of beating his daughter - and I hate to say it, but I felt a little bad for Stannis in these scenes - he sent Melisandre (Carice van Houten) in to talk to her. Melisandre isn't exactly what I would call a comforting maternal figure, but she did tell it to the kid straight, and I think it might have been the first time Shireen ever had an honest conversation with an adult. 

The big event of this episode, though, was undoubtedly the wedding and Joffrey's not quite untimely death. There were a lot of thematic elements here, too. All of the storylines (except Bran's) had to do with retribution, with getting what's coming to you. Joffrey got his, but it was a bittersweet victory. There's no glory in death, or in killing a man at his own wedding, and when that man is a boy who dies horrifically and slowly, it takes all the fun out of it. Even if he did, undoubtedly, deserve a comeuppance.

In Theon's story, clearly the karmic payback had to do with all of the horrible things Theon has done now being done to him by someone who is much much worse than he could ever be, and whose daddy issues somehow manage to eclipse whatever weirdness Theon himself has going on. Ramsay and Theon are mirror images of each other, both committing atrocities to earn their fathers' love, and both of them probably headed for destruction. The only real difference is that Ramsay is a hell of a lot better at it.

And for Stannis, the comeuppance actually seems to be quite simple: that this war he sold his soul to win is still not over, and that in betting everything for a kingdom, he seems to have lost anything worth fighting for. His wife is nuts, his daughter is a shut-in because his wife is nuts, and his priestess is looking at him with more and more scorn, while his best friend sits in bafflement that everyone is going insane. Stannis seems to be slowly coming to the conclusion that a throne might not exactly make all of this better. 

It works. And while this episode dragged for me a little, since almost none of my favorites were on screen, the thematic cohesion really kept it singing. Sure, these are hands down the most depressing, bland, or brutal stories, but we did need something to offset the high drama of the royal wedding. It works. I like it. And, as always, the writing was excellent.

Still having trouble feeling bad for Theon, though.

More dragons and Dany next episode, please.

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