Warning: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Game of Thrones up to season 4, episode 2.
Weddings are supposed to be a joyous occasion, but in the world of Game of Thrones they’ve developed a bit of a reputation for being bloody and/or miserable affairs. Whether its the unhappy union of Tyrion Lannister and Sansa Stark, the butchery at Edmure Tully’s wedding to Roslin Frey, or the recent royal marriage of Joffrey Baratheon and Margaery Tyrell, they never seem to go quite right.
Of course, many fans probably celebrated the end of ‘The Lion and the Rose,’ in which the much-hated Joffrey ended up turning very purple indeed and choking to death mere moments after cementing his poor public image with a “comedy” interpretation of the War of the Five Kings. In a way it was probably one of the most cheerful weddings the show has had so far, but its consequences could be dire for poor Tyrion, who was accused by Cersei of poisoning his nephew.
The script for the episode was penned by George R. R. Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire novels upon which the show is based. Speaking in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Martin explained that the scene of Joffrey’s death was in turn based on a true story.
“I think the idea with Joffrey’s death was to make it look like an accident — someone’s out celebrating, they haven’t invented the Heimlich maneuver, so when someone gets food caught in his throat, it’s very serious. I based it a little on the death of Eustace, the son of King Stephen of England. Stephen had usurped the crown from his cousin, the empress Maude, and they fought a long civil war and the anarchy and the war would be passed down to second generation, because Maude had a son and Henry and Stephen had a son. But Eustace choked to death at a feast. People are still debating a thousand of years later: Did he choke to death or was he poisoned? Because by removing Eustace, it brought about a peace that ended the English civil war.
“Eustace’s death was accepted [as accidental], and I think that’s what the murderers here were hoping for — the whole realm will see Joffrey choke to death on a piece of pie or something. But what they didn’t count on, was Cersei’s immediate assumption that this was murder. Cersei wasn’t fooled by this for a second. She doesn’t believe that it was an accidental death. You saw the scene filmed, does it come across as he could possibly be just choking or is it very clear he’s been poisoned?”
With a character who’s as fun to hate as Joffrey, it might be assumed that Martin has as much contempt for Joffrey as many of the fans do. After all, in the first season alone he had Ned Stark – who was set up as the protagonist of the series – put to death, and over the last three seasons Joffrey’s handed out plenty of cruelty and failed to show much in the way of compassion or mercy. Martin, however, didn’t want his murder to be framed entirely as a cause for celebration.
“Joffrey, as monstrous as he is… is still a 13-year-old kid. And there’s kind of a moment there where he knows that he’s dying and he can’t get a breath and he’s kind of looking at Tyrion and at his mother and at the other people in the hall with just terror and appeal in his eyes—you know, ‘Help me mommy, I’m dying.’ And in that moment, I think even Tyrion sees a 13-year-old boy dying before him. So I didn’t want it to be entirely, “Hey-ho, the witch is dead.” I wanted the impact of the death to still strike home on to perhaps more complex feelings on the part of the audience, not necessarily just cheering.
“I think Joffrey is a classic 13-year-old bully. Do you know many 13-year-old kids you’d like to give absolute power to? There’s a cruelty in children, especially children of a certain age, that you see in junior high and middle school. We don’t want 13-year-old bullies to be put to death. We probably do when we’re their 13-year-old victims, but they grow up and most of them grow out of it, and sometimes people do regret their actions. But Joffrey will never get that chance, so we don’t know what he would have become. Probably nothing good, but still…”
Whether or not Joffrey would have matured in his late teens and turned out be a wise and gentle king we’ll never know (odds aren’t that great), but his death leaves the Iron Throne empty and heralds a potential shift of power. With so many different characters who fervently believe that they should rule over Westeros, whoever ends up succeeding Joffrey had better watch their back – and their goblet. As Martin teases, “Sometimes the good guys win, sometimes the bad guys win. Nobody is safe and we are playing for keeps.”
Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘Breaker of Chains’ @9pm on HBO.
Source: Entertainment Weekly