Episode two of the fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones was a big one. After a relatively slow start last week in the show’s key departments of wholesale character genocide and Machiavellian political manoeuvring, ‘The Lion and the Rose’ resumes usual business with some aplomb. As you’d probably expect I’m not going to ruin the “twist” for you (as a man who recently read the books I’m now mandated by law to regard any important plot developments in the TV show with haughty condescension) but seriously guys, catch up, it’s a biggie.
It’s worth making a point about the books actually. As this was the first season I’d watched having read them, I came back to the show with a certain degree of trepidation. I feared that knowing more or less what was going to happen would ruin it for me. But it didn’t, and it is a real testament to the quality of show Weiss and Benioff have been making that it can still provoke more or less the same emotional responses from its viewers regardless of whether or not they knew what to expect. This episode is no exception.
The plot of ‘The Lion and the Rose’ primarily focuses on the growing tensions between the Tyrells and Lannisters in King’s Landing, culminating with the much anticipated wedding of everyone’s favourite sociopathic child monarch King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and the wily twice queen Margery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). Now there’s no disputing that King Joffrey’s approval ratings bottomed out just below the Ebola virus some time ago, but the boy still manages to be a particularly obnoxious streak of human excrement in this episode. The show has been building Joffrey up for a not inconsiderable fall for a while now, and they really stress it in this one. Gleeson, to his credit, has played the character fantastically well, and rather selflessly I should add. Bringing what has to be a contender for the most unpopular TV character in history to life so convincingly that he will likely never be able to escape the moniker of ‘King Joffrey’ for the rest of his natural life.
Outside of all this King’s Landing stuff we mostly have fairly tame exposition from the secondary locations: Bran in the woods being ticked off by the kid from Love Actually again. The Bolton’s being evil and looking evil in their evil named castle. How anyone ever thought to trust the guys with a known history of flaying prisoners who live in a castle called The freaking Dreadfort is beyond me, and people question why Robb Stark ended up meeting such a sticky end.
This episode also marks the first appearance of Lord Mace Tyrell, Lord of the Reach, Lord of Highgarden, Warden of the East (titles, titles as the late King Robert would say). Lord Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) is a classic example of good casting by the Game of Thrones team without sticking religiously to the books. Tyrell looks and feels right in relation to the members of his family who have already been introduced. The show looks likely to exaggerate Mace’s largely implied oafishness in the books and stress more heavily that his mother Olena is the one in true control of the family. Of course, slight exaggerations of plot points is what TV is all about, and having already produced one superb line from the current episode (not now, Mace) the summary on his inclusion is so far, so good.
‘The Lion and the Rose’ was for Game of Thrones, another potential pit fall, inviting them to slip up after maintaining an almost impossibly high quality for going on four years now. But once again, they’ve managed to pull off another of the book’s major plot points with the style and class we’ve come to not only expect, but insist from the show. As usual, I find myself waiting for next week’s episode with bated breath, and I pretty much know what’s going to happen then as well.