Game of Thrones has shocked its viewers. Again.
The hit HBO fantasy series based on George R. R. Martin's series of novels rocked viewers in season one with the sudden death of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean), then shocked viewers even more with the infamous "Red Wedding" of season three that cost the lives of Robb Stark (Richard Madden), Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and more. Now, with season four only two episodes old, the show has delivered another shocking death, but this one is of a much more...welcome nature.
Yes, the fan-dubbed "Purple Wedding" has come and gone, and the endlessly wicked King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) is dead, poisoned at his own wedding feast with his wife, mother, and entire family looking on. It's another in a long line of major Game of Thrones death moments, and according to director Alex Graves -- who directed Sunday's episode "The Lion and the Rose," as well as the season three episodes "And Now His Watch Is Ended" and "Kissed by Fire," along with two more upcoming season four episodes -- this death follows a pattern set by other major murders in the series, in that it's not the end of something, but the start of something new.
"Joffrey's death is a beginning. Ned Stark's death was not an end, it was a beginning," Graves told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's when the show began. All the death's are like that, and Joffrey's is no different. Joffrey's death affects the show through to the climax."
The season's climax might already be clear (at least somewhat) to the readers of Martin's novels, but this occasion also provided an opportunity for the show's masterminds to pay tribute to Gleeson, who -- after embodying the character we all love to hate for more than three years -- is retiring from acting now that his work on Thrones is done.
"I don’t think we expected to spend as much time with Joffrey until we cast Jack," series co-creator David Benioff told EW. "As [series co-creator Dan Weiss] was saying before, there’s something so loathsome, yet so believable. He’s not supernatural, he’s not the server of darkness, he’s a believably awful human being. There must be some dark part that Jack is able to access to play the role, but I’ve never seen it when the cameras aren’t rolling."
Martin, who scripted the episode, also weighed in on yet another shocking development for viewers of the series. In his interview with EW, he detailed how Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) apparent guilt (though it's important to note that it's far from certain at this point) is part of a larger storytelling framework that emphasizes the consequences of living in the world of Westeros.
"I wanted to make it a little bit unclear what exactly has happened here, make the readers work a little to try and figure out what has happened. And of course, for Tyrion, Joffrey’s death doesn’t make things better, it makes things worse," Martin said. "Tyrion’s in terrible trouble, and it proves that something I’ve tried to make a point of through the whole series: Decisions have consequences. When Robb breaks his word to House Frey and doesn’t marry one of Frey’s daughters, that has dire consequences for him. One of Tyrion’s problems has been that he has a big mouth. He’s been saying things since the beginning of the series, these veiled threats to Cersei—'someday I’m going to get you for this, someday your joy is going to turn to ashes in your mouth.' Now, all these declarations make him look really guilty."
Then, there's Gleeson's reaction. The young actor told EW that he's known "from Day 1" that Joffrey was set to die. Now, at 21, he's done with acting for the foreseeable future, but he hopes there are at least a few fans of the series who are sad to see him go...not because they like him, though.
"I think it will be 50-50," Gleeson said. "There will be a delight that the person tormenting their favorite characters is gone, but I would like to think there’s a certain sadness at the loss of the delight people take in hating a character like Joffrey."
So, with "The Lion and the Rose" ended, Joffrey is dead, Sansa is on the verge of a major fight-or-flight decision, and Tyrion is about to be arrested. Westeros is in upheaval once again, and once again it was a wedding that did it. Readers of Martin's novels already know the general trajectory of the rest of this season of Game of Thrones, but the series has delivered yet another major internet explosion in the wake of this episode. Will there be another one before the season is out? Keep watching and find out. And, in the meantime, let's all enjoy this take on the Lannister anthem, "The Rains of Castamere," by Icelandic band Sigur Ros and raise a goblet to the dearly departed king.