[Editor’s Note: the following article contains spoilers. Proceed with caution.]
Only two episodes into the ten-episode season, HBO’s Game of Thrones has exceeded expectations for any viewer and is on its way to being the highest-viewed series. Thus far, the bulk of the plot has happened with Westeros and has left many of secondary characters static.
The season premieres in Kings Landing, fresh off a victory over the Stark’s where viewers can still vividly picture the Red Wedding, the mass slaughtering of Stark soldiers at the Twins that left Robb, his then-pregnant wife Talisa and his mother Catelyn dead from the ending of season three.
Characters seem as normal: Tywin shows his continual disappointment with his kin, Cersei is a manipulative, power-hungry mongrel, Sansa falls further in depression with the news of her brother and mother’s death, and Joffrey is, well, Joffrey.
Soon, the audience meets the first new character of the season, Prince Oberyn Martell, sent over in-place of his older brother Doran, for the forthcoming royal wedding between Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell. Oberyn though has made it quite clear to Tyron during their walk through King’s Landing that the Lannisters are not the only ones who settle their debts.
Elsewhere, Daenerys and her army are setting out for the city of Meereen, the last of the three great slave cities as she looks to solidify her army. In the premiere though, Daenerys displays concerns as her dragons have not only grown in size but also in aggression.
Her counselor warns her of being able to keep the dragons tamed. Additionally, he advises her to make sure that she can stand in the shoes of the people she has freed from slavery. She needs an army that respects her and her authority, and the best and quickest way to do that is empathize and understand a person’s culture and background.
In the Riverlands, having escaped from the Twins unharmed, the Hound tells Arya he intends to take her to Arya’s Aunt. On the way, Arya recognizes the man who stole her sword and used it to kill her friend, Loomy.
Vengeful, Arya forces the Hound to follow, and they ultimately reek havoc on the man and his men. Arya retrieves her sword and acts as Karma, killing the man in the same manner he had killed Loomy. Her stoicism has dramatically leaped from seasons past and proves she is not the girl from only a few episodes before.
The next episode then features the actual Royal Wedding, come to be known as the Purple Wedding. Things go as the viewer expects, there is the wedding, then an lavishly-overdone reception afterwards. Margery is kind as always and tries to mask the awfulness that is Joffrey.
Outside the reception, Cersei and Tywin have a sass-off with Prince Oberyn and his lover, Ellaria. After coming to congratulate Margery on her marriage to Joffrey, Brienne of Tarth shares a furtive glance with Jamie.
Cersei though, having admitted that her feelings for brother have been complicated due to his prolonged absence, nonetheless catches the moment between the two then quickly swoops in as nothing less than a smelly, haggard bitch troublemaker and confronts Brienne.
A key foreshadowing occurs when Lady Olenna approaches Sansa over the death of her brother and mother. Olenna offers her condolences and criticizes a man who would dare destroy the sanctity of one’s wedding day, a nice jab on her continual line of sarcasm. The reception intensifies when Joffrey forces Tyron to be his personal server, as he toys with his uncle, mocking his small stature, and even pours his glass of wine on Tyron’s head.
For those who read the books, they could see as the climax of the wedding approached. For those who only watch the series, they were met with one of the most satisfying moments in the entire series. Something that every fan of the show had long waited for, yet did not anticipate: the death of King Joffrey.
The King, yelling as he always does, suddenly gets choked-up, gasping for air as blood quickly trickles down his nose and fills his eyes. Cersei leaps up to help, but all she can do is hold her bastard child as he takes his final breath. Then, black. That is it. The episode has ended.
Mass jubilee quickly filled social networks as thousands praised the ending and its meaning within the series. The preview for the upcoming episode to air on Sunday looks like they will get right back to it, as Cersei demands her guards arrest her brother, Tyron, for the murder of the King, as Sansa finally makes her flee from Kings Landing.
While that story continues to unravel, the audience still has many unanswered questions with what is forthcoming in Kings Landing and abroad, which cannot be answered soon enough
Either way, it looks like Cersei’s earlier words still stand strong: ‘When you play the game of thrones, you either win, or you die.’