Friday, January 8, 2016

Game of Thrones Season Four Episode 402 “The Lion and the Rose”

A Look At Internal Power

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(This article will contain spoilers from Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 2)

One of the dominant themes of Game of Thrones returned in The Lion and the Rose – the dangers of power.  This theme once again takes over an entire episode of the show before being capped off by one of the series’ longest awaited moments: the death of King Joffrey.  The ending is an exclamation point and illustrates how the dangers of power are not always external.


Internal Threats To Power

Joffrey’s most dangerous external threats to his reign have been defeated thoroughly.  Renly was killed by dark magic, Stannis was defeated at the Blackwater, Robb Stark was betrayed at a wedding, and the new warden of the north, Roose Bolton, is left to deal with the failing rebellion being led by Balon Greyjoy – a rebellion that this episode identifies won’t even require Lannister help.

With all of these threats defeated it’s implied Joffrey has won the War of the Five Kings – he even celebrates his victory in this war with a mock reenactment of the war featuring dwarfs.  External threats to the kingdom, which many people would consider the most dangerous threats, have been subdued.  The Lion and the Rose focuses exclusively on the dangers of different internal threats power can create for people and families.


The Dangers of Alliances

Alliances have their benefits during war, but now that the most dangerous aspect of the war is over alliances can start to become a problem.  This episode underscores the fact that the greatest threats to Lannister power are now there very own allies: the Martell’s and Tyrell’s.

At numerous points we see members of this alliance bickering with each other.  Tywin and Olenna argue about the extravagance of the wedding and the financial costs of the war. Cersei accosts Brienne over her trip to Kings Landing with Jaime.  She boldly accuses her of loving her brother, and accuses her of being a traitor as Brienne is now serving a third king.  Jaime argues with Loras about getting married to Cersei. He tells Loras that Cersei will never allow him to get married to her, at which point Loras points out that she’ll never be able to marry Jaime either.

Tywin and Cersei both fight with Oberyn and Ellaria. Here we see the values of each house based off how the Lannister’s and Martell’s insult each the other.  The Lannister’w hate blood that isn’t pure as Cersei insults Oberyn’s paramour for being a bastard. The Martell’s hate injustice as they kindly remind Tywin what he ordered to be done to Oberyn’s sister during the sack of Kings Landing a decade and a half ago.

With all of this hate being thrown around the wedding, it’s hardly a surprise to see it end with a death.  The death of the king though is still quite a shock.  With an audience exclusively made of “friends,” Joffrey’s death proves internal power struggles are just as dangerous as external one’s … assuming he was murdered by a guest at the wedding.


The Dangers of a Divided Family

Threats to power can also come from within a family, and two families appear to have cracks in them in this episode: The Bolton’s and the Lannister’s. Roose Bolton returns to the Dreadfort and we get to see him meet with his psychotic bastard son Ramsay.  For the first time in this series we learn that Ramsay wants more than just to cause people pain and suffering: he wants legitimacy, the Bolton last name.  Roose realizes this and offers to consider legitimacy for Ramsay if he can take Moat Cailin for him.
Ramsay cockily mocks Roose, and lets him know that the Stark boys are still alive – asserting his intelligence and resourcefulness.

The Bolton family may look like it’s on the same page, but Ramsay and his arrogance plus the fact that viewers know Ramsay doesn’t stop at anything, makes for a dangerous combination between father and son. In other words you put a violent torturing lunatic like Ramsay, and a cold treacherous calculating man like Roose in a room together; before long this combination doesn’t seem likely to survive.  Standing amidst all of this is Theon Greyjoy, the literal and symbolic result of what happens when you’re family gets divided.

The Lannister family has always been dysfunctional, but here we see it at its absolute worst.  As Tyrion gives Joffrey a present for his wedding, the audience witnesses a surprisingly gracious thank you from the king. Moments later when Joffrey gets his sword, he chops the book to pieces.  Joffrey’s relationship with Tyrion only disintegrates further as it becomes clear, that despite having a beautiful wife in Margaery Tyrell, Joffrey’s wedding day celebration plans are really centered around humiliating his uncle.

Joffrey forces Tyrion and the others to watch the War of the Five Kings put on by a group of dwarfs.  Tyrion’s face tells the story; it certainly stops his younger nephew Tommen from laughing at the spectacle. Tyrion refuses to challenge the winner of the dwarf melee and insults Joffrey instead.  From there everything escalates out of control, as Joffrey dumps wine on Tyrion’s head and forces him to be his cup bearer for the rest of the wedding.

The ultimate sign of Lannister family dysfunction occurs at the end of the episode when Cersei has Tyrion arrested for Joffrey’s murder. Despite an evening filled with barbed threats with the Tyrell’s and Martell’s plus the shady King’s Council, Cersei immediately blames her own flesh and blood.  Joffrey’s death looks like it will be the catalyst for breaking apart the Lannister family.


The Dangers of Religious Power and Magical Power

The episode also focuses on how power from your own religion and your own “magical” power can be a threat.  Melisandre first appears this season burning Queen Selyse’s brother as a traitor to the Lord of Light. Selyse is disturbingly enthusiastic about this, while Stannis appears to be completely apathetic. Davos is appalled and tries to confront Stannis only to be reminded that he was less powerful Selyse’s brother.

Stannis lets the Red Lady do whatever she pleases, even to people who supported him during his invasion of Kings Landing.  Despite what looks like Stannis’ lack of control, there is one thing that Stannis does stand for, and that is his daughter’s safety.  Melisandre visits Shireen and we see her first attempt to get Shireen to abandon the Seven and support the Lord of Light.  Religion and Melisandre are dangerously close to usurping all of Stannis’ power. His loss at the Blackwater had his army lose faith him, he now uses their faith in Melisandre to once again seek the throne.

A rare occurrence of magical power makes its way into the show during Bran Stark’s segment.  Bran is warned about the dangers of his warging power from Meera and Jojen.  If he spends too much time in Summer, it’s possible that he may completely lose his humanity and become a direwolf instead.  Viewers also get to find out where Bran is being taken via visions from the Three-Eyed Raven.  Magical power here is shown as a potential danger, but also something that can be inherently valuable.

This episode is packed full of danger that isn’t war or violence related … per say.  It warns against the dangerous situations that power can create internally by a single person via magic or internally by alliances and families.  By the end of this episode, the long running theme about the dangers of power continues to prevail.

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