George R.R. Martin’s episodes are always a treat, and “The Lion and the Rose” is probably the best one yet. In this episode, we catch up with the characters that we didn’t see in the first episode of the season–a handful of strong scenes with the Boltons, Stannis, and Bran–and then the last half of the episode is dedicated to the exquisitely adapted royal wedding between Joffrey and Margaery.
Spoilers for the episode (and some spoiler-y for ADWD speculations) under the cut.
The episode opens with Ramsay Snow hunting a girl named Tansy. He’s accompanied by a girl named Miranda, who is also armed with a bow, while Theon (now Reek) struggles to keep up. Miranda and Tansy appear to be the girls who helped Ramsay torture Theon in season three. I’m not really sure how I feel about this scene. It introduces a habit that Ramsay is described as having in the books–he hunts women and if they give him a good chase he names his dogs after them. What I question, however, is the inclusion of this Miranda woman in this pastime.
Miranda isn’t a character from the books, although she shares a name with a woman that Sansa meets much later, and I’m a little intrigued by the importance that her inclusion in this scene seems to suggest for her. My guess, at this point, is that Miranda may turn out to be the girl that the Boltons try to pass off as Arya Stark later on, probably near the end of this season. In the books, the girl they name Arya and marry to Ramsay is Jeyne Poole, the daughter of Winterfell’s steward. She’s provided by Littlefinger, and is then abused by Ramsay until Theon flees with her from Winterfell, which is an enormous event in Theon’s storyline. However, I can’t imagine that we will be seeing Jeyne Poole in the show since she was never introduced at all and I don’t think there would be a way to introduce her this late in the game that would make any sense.
If Miranda is to become “Arya,” though, this opening scene is kind of genius. It establishes Ramsay’s fickleness and abusiveness. If he’s turned on Tansy, he could easily turn abusive toward Miranda, thus necessitating her rescue by Theon later on. I’ve already predicted that we’ll see the Ramsay/Fake Arya wedding this year, and if Miranda is going to become Arya that feels like a bit of a confirmation of my prediction. The only flaw (or at least the largest one) with this theory is that Miranda is being established as a thoroughly unsympathetic character. I guess we’ll see as the season progresses.
In King’s Landing, Jaime and Tyrion are having breakfast. When Jaime complains of being unable to fight left-handed, Tyrion offers to set him up with Bronn. We then get to see the first of these training sessions. I’m really pleased with this development, as it probably means that we will continue to see quite a bit of Bronn in the future. With the elimination of Lollys and the Stokeworths from the tv series, I’d been starting to wonder what they were going to do with Bronn this season, and his becoming Jaime’s right hand man (pun very much intended) would be a great use for a character that has become a fan favorite. My guess is that Bronn will fill the role on the show that Ilyn Payne did in the books, which means we should get to enjoy his presence through at least season five.
Back at the Dreadfort, Roose Bolton arrives with his new wife, Walda Frey. I’m so excited that we get to see her, and while I was disappointed that we only got to meet her in this episode, I’d love to see Walda’s role expanded for the show. Her shy little smile when Ramsay greets her in such a charming manner suggests a whole realm of possibilities for exploring how she deals with her husband and his son. I also really enjoyed seeing Iwan Rheon just owning the role of Ramsay. I think he plays it a bit differently than Ramsay is described in the books, but he really shines in his first scene with Michael McElhatton as Roose.
Roose is upset at Ramsay’s treatment of Theon, who should have been a valuable hostage. Theon has been reduced to a sad, quivering ruin of a man, and it’s sad to see just how low he’s sunk under Ramsay’s ministrations. Theon reveals to Roose that the Stark boys are alive, and this valuable piece of information leaves Ramsay somewhat redeemed in his father’s eyes. Roose sends Locke to hunt for Bran and Rickon, and then he orders Ramsay and Theon to Moat Cailin to take it back from the Iron Islanders who hold it.
Back in King’s Landing, Varys warns Tyrion that Cersei and Tywin know about Shae. Tyrion wants Varys to lie for him, but Varys refuses and instead offers to help him get Shae away from King’s Landing.
At the wedding breakfast, we get our first glimpse of Mace Tyrell. Cersei points Shae out to Tywin, who tells her to have Shae brought to the Tower of the Hand before the wedding. Tyrion gives Joffrey a book, The Lives of Four Kings, and Joffrey manages to receive it graciously for about a minute. The next gift is the second of the two Valyrian steel swords that Tywin had made from Ned Stark’s Ice, and Joffrey promptly uses the sword to chop Tyrion’s book to pieces. I wish they had managed to work in a line explaining that the book was one of only four remaining copies, which would highlight Joffrey’s ignorance and disdain for education, but instead we go straight to the naming of the sword. Joffrey settles on Widow’s Wail, and it comes off as just as absurd and foolish as it was in the book, but overall I felt like this whole scene felt a bit rushed and didn’t have quite the impact that it did in the book.
Right after the wedding breakfast, Tyrion calls Shae to his and Sansa’s quarters where he proceeds to just destroy her. She thinks he’s summoned her for an assignation, but he wants to send her away. He’s arranged for her to travel by ship to Pentos, but she doesn’t want to go. When he says that he needs to be faithful to Sansa, she points out that he and Sansa don’t want each other and accuses him of being a coward and afraid of his father. He responds by telling her that she’s a whore, that he can’t be in love with her, that she’s not fit to be a mother to his children. Bronn comes in to escort the now weeping Shae to her ship, and she slaps Bronn and flees the room, leaving Tyrion behind feeling terrible.
As much as this scene made my heart hurt for Shae, I’m really pleased that this is the direction that the show decided to go with this storyline. My biggest source of apprehension about this season was with regard to Shae and my worry about the likelihood of her impending character assassination. At the end of season three and even in the first episode of season four, they seemed to be setting Shae up to betray Tyrion out of jealousy over his relationship with Sansa, but this episode neatly side-stepped that by having Tyrion hurt Shae very directly in an emotionally brutal way that should put viewers very much on Shae’s side. After dedicating so much time on the show to developing Shae’s character and making us believe in her genuine love for Tyrion, I feel like it’s necessary to set up the tragedy of what happens to Shae as an actual tragedy, and I think that this episode has successfully done that.
Meanwhile, on Dragonstone, Melisandre is burning some people, including Queen Selyse’s own brother. Davos isn’t happy about this, but we only get to see him for a moment before we are treated to a dinner with Stannis, Selyse and Melisandre that might rival Lannister family dinners for sheer awkwardness. I actually love this dinner scene because we get to learn more about Selyse and her relationship with Stannis. It becomes evident that Selyse is not insane, as she somewhat appeared to be in season three with the fetus jars. Instead, she’s a zealot, a true believe in Melisandre’s religion. She’s also a neglected and abused wife, whose husband has rejected her and rejects her even in this scene, and rather cruelly. Tara Fitzgerald does an incredible job of conveying both a deep sadness and a sort of desperation in Selyse, and I’m very glad to see this character getting more screentime.
Before we leave Dragonstone, we also get a wonderful scene between Melisandre and Shireen, who share’s Davos’s discomfort with the rites of R’hllor.
Beyond the Wall, Bran has been riding inside Summer’s mind when Meera wakes him up so he can eat real food. We learn a little more about Bran’s magic and some of the negative consequences of being a warg. Then they come across a weirwood in the forest. When Bran touches the tree, he has a series of flashing visions of the past and future while a disembodied voice tells him to “look for me in the North.” Afterwards, Bran says he knows where they have to go. I’m really starting to think that we aren’t going to see Coldhands on the show, which is a huge disappointment, but it does seem possible that we’re going to see Bran’s story move along faster than I anticipated, which can only be a good thing since Bran’s road trip is one of the most boring parts of the books until A Dance With Dragons.
The last almost twenty-five minutes of the episode is taken up by Joffrey and Margaery’s wedding and reception, and it’s pretty much everything I could have hoped for:
- Margaery’s wedding dress is stunning. I love the thorn details on the roses worked into the design.
- The kiss in the sept is fairytale perfect-looking.
- I cherish every scene with Tywin and Olenna, and their conversation about the expense of the wedding is excellent. I loved the possibly/probably foreshadowing advice that Olenna gives Tywin about enjoying something before he dies, and her dismissal of Mace is a great way to reiterate who is really in charge of House Tyrell.
- This conversation also sets us up for interactions with the Iron Bank of Braavos later on, which is important.
- Everything is garishly red and gold at the wedding feast, and there are acrobats and fire-eaters and music and it’s wonderfully over-the-top.
- Bronn assures Tyrion that Shae is safely on a ship to Pentos.
- Podrick gawking at the scantily-clad acrobat was a nice piece of humor.
- Olenna fixes Sansa’s hair. Sansa is wearing the necklace that Dontos gave her and it looks like Olenna removes and palms one of the stones, which is a great nod to us book readers who pay attention to that sort of thing.
- “The Rains of Castamere” is such a terribly inappropriate song for a wedding celebration.
- New Tommen is cute. Not as chubby as described in the books, and obviously not as young, but definitely softer and sweeter looking that Joffrey.
- Loras flirting with Oberyn is nice.
- I love the conversation when Jaime warns Loras off of Cersei. It’s nice to see a bit of the old Jaime, and it’s nice to see Loras stand up for himself a bit and remind us that he’s not just a pretty face.
- Brienne comes to offer her well-wishes to the royal couple and bows instead of curtsying. Cersei takes this opportunity to mock Brienne, and it’s obvious in this moment where Joffrey gets his social graces from.
- Cersei then chases Brienne down, ostensibly to thank her for returning Jaime to the capital, but really to warn Brienne off her brother as Jaime warned Loras. Brienne’s inability to deny to Cersei that she loves Jaime is a little heartbreaking.
- Then Cersei rescues some poor girl from Pycelle in a moment that won’t make a ton of sense to people who haven’t read the books, but is important because it further establishes Cersei’s partiality to Qyburn.
- Oberyn and Ellaria meet Tywin and Cersei, and it’s great. Some exposition about Prince Doran is slyly worked in here, and Oberyn reminds us again that Princess Myrcella is a hostage in Dorne.
- Then Joffrey brings out a troupe of dwarf performers who act out the War of Five Kings. This makes much better sense for the show than a direct adaptation of the book, where there are two dwarfs who ride a dog and a pig. I’m also very hopeful that we will get to see Penny in season five of the show, as one of the dwarf performers kept their face covered throughout the scene.
- Joffrey’s death is suitably dramatic, and feels like it must have been shocking for anyone who didn’t know it was coming. The bloody phlegm and burst blood vessels in his eyes were a nice and gruesome touch.
- Dontos takes Sansa away while Joffrey is choking out his last breaths, so I guess we’ll find out next week where they are going.
- Cersei’s grief and rage are captured perfectly by Lena Headey. She manages to remind us that, as awful as Joffrey was, he was someone’s child and she loved him, even if no one else did. It can’t quite make the scene tragic or make us feel bad for Joffrey, but it’s powerful nonetheless.