“Game of Thrones” has certainly put its own spin on weddings, one unlikely to leave anyone grumbling about the food or wondering where the happy couple’s registered. And by all means, if anyone invites a child serve as ring bearer or flower girl, it would be best to respectfully decline.
Still, the second episode of the fourth season – coming off regal ratings for the program’s premiere – did mark one of those sure-to-be-buzzed-about moments in a series that has already seen one wedding ceremony go viral, thanks in part to its unusually florid color scheme. At this point, “Game of Thrones” is one of those rarefied commodities that can make the Internet explode.
With that preamble out of the way (and Spoiler Alert for those who haven’t watched, obviously), Sunday’s installment – in a masterpiece of suspense, tension and awkward silences, written by book author George R.R. Martin and directed by Alex Graves – saw the hard-to-lament demise of King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), the sadistic youth who, at least metaphorically, forever seemed to be pulling the wings off butterflies.
Joffrey couldn’t help being a bastard right up until the very end, going out of his way to abuse and humiliate his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage, marvelous as always) while the assembled guests uncomfortably looked on. That Joffrey’s gasped-out throes came at his wedding feast, and left behind no shortage of suspects (at least, for those watching without having read the books), will only further invigorate an addiction that has steadily built in devotion through word of mouth and sheer creative muscle.
Of course, those who come away from Sunday’s hour preoccupied with poor Joffrey would miss a whole treasure trove of splendid peripheral material, much of it involving the extended Lannister clan. Those scenes included Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) having to re-learn how to wield a sword with his off-hand, brother Tyrion being forced to shed the love of his life to protect hers and sister Cersei (Lena Headey) putting her own spin on trickle-down economics in regard to what should be done with left-overs from the banquet.
Add to that the latest droll aside from Diana Rigg’s version of the show’s Dowager Countess, who expressed her regret over the events at the so-called Red Wedding before musing, “As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.” Indeed.
As with the ratings, adulation for “Game of Thrones” – which HBO, in a no-brainer, recently renewed for at least two more seasons – has seemingly kicked up a notch or two (perhaps in part because we media types temporarily exhausted ourselves lionizing “Breaking Bad”), with some even broaching the subject of whether it qualifies as the best TV series ever – or at least, the best in its genre. Actually, as effusive as Variety’s review was, next to the rhapsodic critical reaction, it looked relatively restrained.
Such debates, admittedly, are a little like pondering whether the 1960s Boston Celtics could beat the 1980s L.A. Lakers, but it’s a tribute to just how good the program is that such bar fodder represents a legitimate conversation.
Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have been remarkably adept at adapting Martin’s massive books, not only juggling a dizzying array of characters, but crafting seasons so they build in tone and intensity toward a penultimate episode that’s usually a jaw-dropper.
By having Joffrey bow out so dramatically, and so early (in advance of what’s a pretty terrific third episode, too), the producers have served notice nobody should become too comfortable with the status quo – and readers of the books watching with unsuspecting loved ones will probably be tempted to keep those video cameras handy.
Because to slightly amend Cersei’s explanation to the late lamented Ned Stark regarding how you play the game of thrones, when they die, dramatically speaking, viewers win.