Caution: Spoilers ahead.
"A royal wedding is not an amusement. A royal wedding is history."
I could talk about Ramsay hunting human game or Bran demonstrating his growing gifts as a warg or Stannis Baratheon committing even more thoroughly to the Lord of Light, but in this moment, who honestly cares? At long last, the king is dead.
Joffrey was right when he said a royal wedding is history, though he couldn't have had any way of knowing that this particular one would simultaneously end his brief reign and reduce his legacy to a mere footnote. You had to know something big was in store for yet another uniquely Westeros wedding when the episode turned back to King's Landing halfway through its hour and remained there. With so many characters and locations, the Game of Thrones writing staff is nothing if not economical with its attention, so the fact that its attention was fixated so fiercely on this one event meant that there would be more to it than another round of posturing between Joffrey and Tyrion.
For a few moments, it appeared that Tyrion might be the one to meet his demise before the episode's end. We've come a long way from the halcyon days of Season 1 when the Imp could slap his nephew repeatedly without fear of retribution. Joffrey was a brat then, but has since blossomed into a special, dangerous brand of sociopath — one who wanted little more than to put Tyrion's head on a spike alongside Ned Stark's. Each interaction between the two after Joffrey's ascension to the throne was wrought with a tension that you'd need Valyrian steel to cut through — and the fact that Joffrey had recently acquired a blade made from precisely that material did not bode well for Tyrion. It was fortunate he had given Joffrey "The Lives of Four Kings" as a wedding gift, or the king might have been inclined to test his new toy on a living target.
Joffrey had the chance to use "Widow's Wail" just one more time, slicing into the pie-cake that would kill him just moments later. (Or was it the wine that did the poisoning? We may need a special CSI: Westeros episode next Sunday.) That he chose to cut the pie rather than Tyrion was something of a minor miracle itself. Had Margaery not interrupted Joffrey's demand that Tyrion — humiliated and soaked in wine — kneel before him, it's possible we would be mourning a death right now rather than celebrating one.
And what a fitting death it was. Tyrion once said that he was the "God of Tits and Wine," and Joffrey had disrespected both in the moments before he died, dumping a glass of wine on the self-proclaimed god's head and then slicing aggressively into the massive mammary-shaped pie. The imagery of the butchered dove was a bit on the heavy-handed side, but the blood did offer a nice call-back to the last time we saw a Westeros wedding end in death.
This wedding, though no less shocking in its resolution, was certainly more satisfying. And yet, Joffrey's death is an occasion to be mourned. Not just because he fingered Tyrion as his killer as he drew his final breath (a suggestion that Cersei was altogether far to eager to seize upon), but also because of the hole he leaves behind. On a show with complex heroes and even more layered villains, Joffrey Baratheon stood as one of the few individuals in all of Westeros without any redeeming qualities. He was the one person whom practically everyone in Westeros loathed — all with good reason. Now he's gone, and with him goes the opportunity for those most deserving of vengeance (looking at you, remaining Stark siblings) to actually take it themselves.
Figuring out who was responsible for the poisoning could be a tricky task, especially if we don't know what actually killed Joffrey. The wine? The pie? Both were consumed (or set to be consumed) by others as well. Tyrion will obviously be at the top of the list, thanks in particular to his recent spats with the king — and Cersei is likely to remember his earlier threat: "I will hurt you for this. The day will come when you think you're safe and happy and your joy will turn to ashes in your mouth. And you will know the debt is paid."
But whoever is responsible, it will do nothing to change the fact that the king is dead, his pie turned to ashes in his mouth.
Now for the quick hail of arrows:
- Olenna Tyrell passes along her condolences to Sansa at the wedding feast: “War is war, but killing a man at a wedding. Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.” In the words of Sterling Archer: thanks, Freddy Foreshadowing. Speaking of Sansa, she can't be too broken up about the death of her former fiancé, though it remains to be seen whether her decision to flee the wedding will prove a wise one.
- Joffrey: “Now that the war is won, we should all find time for wisdom.” He never did find the time, though the fact that he demolished that book with a sword 90 seconds later makes me question how much he meant that bit about wisdom.
- Despite last week's strained conversation, Jaime and Cersei both take time during the wedding reception to mark their territory, with Jaime confronting Ser Loras and Cersei accusing Brienne of being in love with Jaime.
- Really a shame that the wedding feast had to end the way it did for Cersei, since she was having quite the time — confronting Brienne, telling off Grand Maester Pycelle, watching her brother be humiliated by her son. It's the little things, really.
- Lady Tyrell, as always, was also on top of her game. She even managed a good dig at Tywin's expense during their conversation: "You ought to try enjoying something before you die. You might find it suits you.”
- Tyrion summed up his family rather nicely during a meal with Jaime: “A toast to the Lannister children: the dwarf, the cripple and the mother of madness.”
- Let's hope these events don't deprive us of more opportunity to see Bronn train Jaime — that's a rather fun pairing.
- Elsewhere, Stannis had his brother-in-law burned at the stake (with the vigorous approval of his wife), so it doesn't look like this whole Lord of Light thing is going away anytime soon.
- Brann felt a tree and says he knows where his dwindling traveling party must go, because god forbid they should just pick a place, arrive there and stay a little while.
- The opening scene of Ramsay hunting human game with Theon in tow was one of the series' most disturbing. Sociopath or not, Roose Bolton's bastard has done a rather impressive job training Theon.