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The Best of This Week’s Game of Thrones Recaps: ‘The Lion and the Rose’

Another wedding, another character goes off to the great beyond. As Nina Shen Rastogi wrote in her recap of this week's Game of Thrones, "Of all the deaths we’ve witnessed so far, there’s been none that’s felt more deserved ... none that the show has so insistently set up to feel so right, proper, and satisfying."

While the death of Joffrey, the sociopathic boy-king, raises technical questions — whodunnit?; who succeeds his throne? — there are also pressing emotional ones left in the wake, such as: Who do we hate now? Why wasn't his demise more horrible and everlasting? For many critics, Schadenfreude can taste bittersweet. Your recap of the recaps:

Yet immediately, through the cheers, I heard a friend object: “But I want him to be killed some more!” For four seasons, viewers of Game of Thrones have watched Joffrey wreak havoc on the characters we love most: he has killed dogs and whores and King’s Hands and butcher’s boys; exacted his sadist will on the most socially vulnerable and spiritually noble; been, generally, a dick. We have sat through this world where terrible things happen, and we have longed, longed, for something terrible to happen to Joffrey. We wanted him, we thought, to die. But it turned out in the moment that we didn’t just want to watch him die: we wanted to watch him be killed. —L.A. Review of Books

If you build a nasty world on the twin pillars of stomach-turning savagery and ambiguous moral conflict — a world in which Jaime and Cersei Lannister can evolve from devils who casually toss a kid from a 10-story tower into people potentially deserving of sympathy — then, at a certain point, you’re going to have to keep lowering the floor. If Joffrey isn’t the worst this world has to offer, what is? Even Ramsay Snow must be scared of something. How gnarly are the chickens that have yet to come home to roost? (And how many of them will the Hound eat when they arrive?) I feel like a pretty savvy Thrones watcher, but I was caught completely off guard by how Joffrey’s death made me feel. I was expecting relief. But what I experienced instead was dread. How low can this show possibly go? —Grantland

Bitey: Previously, Oberyn was the lone idling engine of potential doom from this house, but it's obvious that Ellaria shouldn't be trifled with either.

Blackie: They are either going to kill everyone in King's Landing or have sex with everyone.

Bitey: Or both. I could see them doing both. —Previously.TV

But the world Martin created, and that they've brought to life on screen, is so rich, and the characters so intriguing and complex, that I always want to take more time with each group of people in each setting than the show can usually give me, because it has to rush off to the Riverlands, or go north of the Wall, or pop into whichever slave city Dany is liberating this week. Once Joffrey and Margaery got married, "The Lion and the Rose" felt no need to rush, and the rest of it — both the intersection of so many characters, and the mounting tension that erupted in Joffrey's assassination — was so much more satisfying for it. —HitFix

Joffrey is stupid. He can never imagine what anyone else will do. Tyrion uses his wit to refrain from fighting and to gracefully impugn Joffrey’s sexual inexperience. Joffrey responds, as ever, with escalating sadism. In the minutes before he chokes, he metes out a string of indignities upon Tyrion—an audience favorite—so that by the time he begins to choke it seems no less than exactly what he deserves. — Slate

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." —Time

"It was a thing of beauty, really. First just a little cough, some garbled speech. Then a strangled wheezing noise bursting out from the back of his throat. Cries of “He’s choking!” and a crazed, panic-stricken Cersei diving onto the ground, screaming in confusion and despair. This is going to sound really sick, but damn it was satisfactory to watch Joffrey as his face turned that delicious shade of purple and tears of blood rolled out of his eyes. The final glimpse of the mad boy king was his distorted, discolored face, with its bulging, blazing green eyes and frothy vomit clinging to his chin and neck. Yes, he was just a child, but in a television show filled with vicious monsters who slice babies in half and sociopathic sickos who flay and castrate their victims just for funzies, Joffrey was probably the most hated character of them all (which is really quite something when you think about it). And if you think I’m wrong, just let your mind float back to poor crossbowed Ros." —The New Republic

Most revealing is Joffrey's adamant refusal to let Tyrion play any of this off as accidental, or as "an honor." Joffrey wants everyone to know exactly what's going on, and nothing short of spelling it out will do. Joffrey's not just cruel, he's stupid — a terrible politician who likely wouldn't have lasted long on the throne regardless. His final act is to point at the wrong man, for crying out loud. Here lies Joffrey Baratheon: He was the worst, even at dying. —Rolling Stone

The construction of "The Lion and the Rose" was a little unusual for Game of Thrones, spending the entire second half of the episode at Joffrey and Margaery's nuptials, reminiscent of other big event episodes like the Red Wedding of "The Rains of Castamere" and the Battle of the Blackwater. Fans of the books knew what was coming, but the show does quite well not to tip its hand otherwise. Until Joffrey begins to choke, the palpable tension feels more likely to fall upon Tyrion or poor Sansa's head, no matter how many times Margaery tries to distract everyone by shouting things like "oh look, the pie!" — The Wire

One of the most hated characters on TV is gone and is it weird to already miss him a little bit? Ever since we were first introduced to the petulant and evil prince back in the first season, we’ve been waiting, knowing that the day will come when he gets what’s coming to him. And while the timing couldn’t have been more perfect — on his wedding day, after some of his worst behavior yet in humiliating Tyrion; and the final shot of his face — eyes and veins bulging and blood leaking from his nose — was perfect, I can’t believe I won’t get to wish him dead ever again. —Washington Post

Game of Thrones has turned into Clue: Was it Tyrion with the wine glass at the wedding? Or was it the drunk knight who was suspiciously quick to react? The Lord of Light? Or was the pie just really that dry? —GQ

It’s already been an awful day for Tyrion, who broke up with Shae in a last-ditch effort to convince her to leave. Peter Dinklage does a fantastic job of selling his speech, which does its damnedest to make Tyrion into a person worth abandoning. It’s completely unconvincing, but in a way that makes it even harder to watch—Dinklage is an actor playing a character who doesn’t have it in him to act, spitting out lines like “I can’t marry a whore” as if he’s reading off a cue card, forcing himself to get it over with before he changes his mind. —Flavorwire

"But on a show like “Game of Thrones,” with its three-dimensional characters and their complicated motives, it was oddly comforting to have a guy like Joffrey around to loathe without mitigation. He was a gift to that part of your brain that just likes to be angry, and now he’s gone — undone by a mouthful of poisoned pigeon pie or wine. It’d be sad if it wasn’t also satisfying to watch him convulsing wildly, his karma finally catching up to him. It’s to Mr. Gleeson’s credit that it wasn’t as satisfying as I thought it would be. —New York Times

"Hurry up, this pie is dry," Joffrey says. It's actually a rather suitably lame final sentence for Joffrey to declare before his death scene begins. Somebody should make a T-shirt with a sneering image of The Joff and the legend: "This pie is dry." —Entertainment Weekly

It goes by so quickly you could easily miss it, but in the space of those few words, Oberyn manages to a) register his displeasure with Cersei’s hauteur toward Ellaria; b) remind her that with Margaery’s rise the Lannisters no longer wield unilateral power in the capital; c) make clear to Lord Tywin that he holds the Lannisters responsible for the murder of his sister Elia and her children; and d) issue an implicit threat to Cersei that, if he wished, the same fate could befall her daughter—and soon-to-be-eldest living child—Myrcella, whom Tyrion shipped off to Dorne in season two. I can’t recall if this exchange happened in the same way in the books (or whether it took place at all), but this is great, great writing. —The Atlantic

Now, asking Joffrey not to be psychopathic is like asking the sun not to shine — but if there was ever a day when it seemed like he might be able to tone himself down for a minute, it was this one. His enemies are all but defeated, he's newly married to a beautiful queen, and the rest of his day is devoted to eating, drinking, receiving gifts, and hearing about how great he is. But Joffrey will be Joffrey; in the midst of the revels, he can't resist picking a nasty, public fight with Tyrion — and when Tyrion snarks back, Joffrey responds by dumping a goblet of wine on his head and anointing Tyrion his "cupbearer" for the evening. —The Week

If there is one piece of advice in the land of Westeros, it is DO NOT ACCEPT AN INVITATION TO A WEDDING. Also, don’t get married, don’t participate in weddings, just never go anywhere or do anything. I’m starting to wonder if George R.R. Martin is an anti-marriage advocate or something. —Indiewire

A far more winnable and rewarding post-“Game” game to play this fine Monday morning might be Follow the Food. As last week’s premiere dealt heavily with family, this episode rather explicitly resorts to food as a theme. Shortly after the opening credits, Tyrion Lannister sits in relative comfort, munching away at a small feast of wild boar. Upon noticing that his brother Jaime, mentally mired in his own straits, doesn’t touch his food, Tyrion remarks, "Why is no one eating? My wife wastes away while my brother starves himself." —Salon

And, of course, "Gay of Thrones"