The day of the Royal Wedding finally came, and it was certainly one for the history books of Westeros. Check out our book reader’s recap, and share your thoughts in the comments section below!
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. As such the post itself and the comments will contain spoilers. If you haven’t read the books yet, you can discuss this episode in our non-book reader recap. Thanks!
The episode opens in the forests around the Dreadfort, with a hunt featuring an unfortunate prey. A terrified young woman is on the run from Ramsay Snow, his companion Myranda, and a pack of hounds. Reek, no longer bearing any resemblance to the man we knew as Theon Greyjoy, trails after them obediently. Ramsay claims he’ll let the young woman go if she can escape them, but Myranda takes down the victim with an arrow through the thigh. Ramsay orders his dogs to tear her to pieces.
At breakfast in King’s Landing, Jaime opens up to Tyrion about his difficulties with his missing hand. He is forced to admit he can’t fight anymore. Tyrion encourages him to practice fighting with his left hand. When his brother says he’s concerned about his difficulties becoming common knowledge, Tyrion offers up the perfect solution: a man whose discretion an absolutely be counted on- for a price.
Cut to Jaime meeting up with Bronn for practice in a private spot the sellsword usually reserves for sleeping with the very vocal wife of a knight. He admires Jaime’s Valyrian steel but points out that he’ll have to use a blunted practice weapon for the moment, because otherwise Bronn would be forced to use real steel as well- and then there won’t be anyone left to pay him, presumably after he kills Jaime. The men spar, and it’s clear that the Kingslayer has a long way to go with his left hand skills.
Back at the Dreadfort, Roose Bolton has returned home with his bride Walda Frey, accompanied by his man Locke. Ramsay greets his new stepmother before Roose sends his wife off and asks after his “prize.” Ramsay and Locke joke comfortably with one another about the removal of Jaime Lannister’s hand. Reek is then brought before Roose, and contrary to Ramsay’s expectations, his father is not pleased with his flaying of Theon Greyjoy. Ramsay is indignant, because the flayed men are on their banners. His father gives him a harsh reminder of his bastard status: “My banners, not yours. You’re not a Bolton, you’re a Snow.”
Anxious to prove himself, Ramsay insists Reek shave him closely with a straight razor. Even with his tormentor’s throat exposed to him, Reek is meek and perfectly trained, using the blade only to scrape away his beard. Ramsay then prompts him into admitting that Bran and Rickon Stark may be alive after all, and that it was farm boys he had killed. Ramsay raises the stakes when he eggs on his servant by revealing that Robb Stark is dead at Roose’s hands- and the blade pauses. Reek is shaken, but he carries on with the shaving. Bolton makes the decision to send Locke to hunt for Bran and Rickon, and to send Ramsay and Reek to Moat Cailin.
Tyrion’s secret romance with Shae and the danger in the situation has come to a head. Discussing their predicament, Varys tells Tyrion that he won’t lie to Tywin about Shae, and again urges him to remove his mistress from King’s Landing.
At the Royal Wedding breakfast, Margaery’s father Mace presents Joffrey with a golden goblet, and the king addresses him as Father. Tyrion gifts his nephew The Lives of Four Kings, “a book every king should read.” Tywin tops them all when he brings in the Valyrian steel sword, the second one produced from the remains of Ned Stark’s sword Ice. Joffrey tests his new sword (dubbed “Widow’s Wail”) by chopping up The Lives of Four Kings while his guests look on aghast.
After the disastrous gift-giving, Tyrion slips away with Shae, only not for a happy moment. He announces he is sending her away to Pentos, informing her their “friendship” is over. Shae correctly calls out that he is still afraid of his father , but Tyrion pushes on, declaring that he can’t be in love with a whore and can’t have children with a whore. He presses on until Shae is sobbing. She refuses to be led out by Bronn, slapping him and running out on her own.
On Dragonstone, Melisandre leads a burning ceremony, with Queen Selyse looking on in rapture as several people who refused to accept the Lord of Light are sacrificed- including her brother. Davos is angry about the ceremony and challenges the wisdom of burning loyal subjects who provided ships and only disagreed about the religion. Stannis abides by Melisandre’s decisions for the moment, however. His wife, who is similarly swayed by the Red Woman, is also concerned about their daughter calling her “sinful.”
Melisandre approaches Princess Shireen in her chambers and discuss the conflicting stories of the gods. The priestess assures her that the only hell is the one we live in.
Beyond the Wall, Bran in hunting through the eyes of Summer, and attacks a deer. Hodor awakens him and his friends remind Bran that he needs to live in this world, in his human body or he will forget everyone he cares about. Among a group of trees in the snow, he spot a heart tree, and has Hodor bring him to do it.
Reaching for it, a series of visions flood his mind, including: a weirwood tree, the three-eyed raven, Ice in Ned’s hands, Ned in the Black Cells, a man’s voice telling Bran to “Look for me beneath the tree” and to go “North,” a man’s face within a tree, the female wight we saw in the first episode of season 1, ravens, the White Walker’s dead horse, the snowy throne room from Daenerys’s vision in the House of the Undying, Bran falling from the tower at Winterfell, and the shadow of a dragon over King’s Kanding.
The festivities move to an outdoor reception where the highborn denizens of the city mingle with entertaining results. Tywin Lannister and Olenna Tyrell duel with words over finances, and the Queen of Thorns brings up the Crown’s debt to the ruthless Iron Bank of Braavos. She takes the opportunity to chat with Sansa about a possible visit to Highgarden someday, and the newlyweds take in a fresh rendition of “The Rains of Castamere.” The new queen Margaery prompts Joffrey to offer the leftovers of their wedding feast to the poor.
Loras and Oberyn share flirtatious glances, before Loras is distracted by bumping into Jaime. Jaime warns Tyrell off marrying Cersei, and Loras makes it clear he knows just what the deal is with the Kingslayer and his sister. Elsewhere at the reception, Cersei approaches Brienne, having picked up on the fact that the warrior may be in love with Jaime- and she doesn’t like it one bit.
Oberyn introduces his paramour Ellaria Sand to the Lannisters, and the group exchange barbs behind polite smiles. The Red Viper ends the conversation by dropping the guise of civility and referencing the deaths of his sister and her children, murdered by Lannister men.
Joffrey then decides it’s time to unveil a special surprise- a reenacted War of the Five Kings, with every king played by a dwarf. Tyrion seethes over the humiliation but sits quietly, asking Pod to pay the players extra gold when they’re done. The skit escalates in intensity, with dwarf versions of the kings dying, as Tyrion and Sansa look on, sickened. Joffrey pushes Tyrion to enter the fray with a spare costume, but he uses his wit to avoid the king’s game. Furious at being thwarted, Joffrey pours wine over his uncle’s head. Margaery tries to break the tension with a toast, but the king insists Tyrion be his cupbearer.
A massive pie arrives, and Joffrey grabs his sword to cut it open. Doves fly out of the pie, and the king takes a slice while forcing Tyrion to refill his wine cup. And then it happens. The king begins to cough. Tyrion steps forward, concerned.
Joffrey drinks more wine, thinking to wash down the cough. But his cough grows worse, and it’s clear- he’s choking on something. Margaery shouts, and people jump to their feet. In the chaos, Dontos Hollard grabs Sansa and pulls her away, warning her she must escape immediately if she wants to live.
Joffrey drops his goblet and staggers away from his queen, and falls to the ground, retching. His mother and father run to him, and Cersei cradles his head. On the dais, Tyrion picks up the king’s fallen goblet. The king is dying slowly, his face turning purple with blood streaming from his nose. With his last gasps, Joffrey raises his arm, and it’s as though he’s pointing at his uncle Tyrion.
And then it’s all over. The king is dead.
Cersei screams, accusing Tyrion of poisoning Joffrey. She demands that the guards take Tyrion in custody.
What I Liked
The suspense is terrible…I hope it’ll last- The last ten minutes of the episode was an exercise in perfectly drawn out tension. The silences, the epic reaction shots, and Jack Gleeson and Peter Dinklage carrying the scene brilliantly.
Getting everyone together in one place- Seeing Cersei and Brienne, Loras and Oberyn, Loras and Jaime, Brienne and Joffrey, and various combinations of players that we don’t usually get to see together playing off one another is a rare pleasure.
Swapping Bronn in for Ilyn Payne- When Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with a serious illness and it was apparent he would no longer be doing GoT, many fans hoped Bronn would become Jaime’s training partner instead, and they were right. Giving the sellsword another opportunity to shine instead of languishing in the background is a smart move.
Bran’s vision- We’ve lost several prophecies in the adaptation from book to screen, so I’m happy to see Bran’s visions through the tree being featured in this episode. The symbolic images and potential prophecies (including that shot of the House of the Undying throne room- hmmmm) should give the fandom food for thought for some time. It will be very interesting to see what the Unsullied viewers think of Bran’s vision.
What I Didn’t Like
Burning Man- The Dragonstone scenes felt much weaker than the others, and Stannis is still a puzzle much of the time.