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[This story and podcast contain spoilers through seven seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones.]
Sure, season three’s penultimate hour includes what was and remains the single most shocking act of violence in the entire series: the Red Wedding, in which the Stark army is decimated, including King Robb (Richard Madden); his mother, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley); and his wife, Talisa (Oona Chaplin). No one is taking anything away from the impact of that moment, a sequence that’s earned its place as the high point of the series.
With that said, in this week’s “Winter Was Here,” the THR and Post Show Recaps podcast dedicated to rewatching every episode of Thrones, the bold declaration is made: “The Lion and the Rose,” featuring the royal wedding between Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) and Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), is a superior episode than the one that claims the Starks. In “Rains of Castamere,” much of the narrative energy is exhausted on storylines other than the Red Wedding, including way too much time spent with the original (and inferior) version of Daario Naharis. In “Lion and the Rose,” however, while there are a few sojourns away from the ceremony (the stint in Dragonstone is the easy low point), the majority of the action is centered on Joffrey and Margaery’s marriage, in addition to other scenes set within King’s Landing at such a charged time.
It’s the final episode in which Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) walks around a free man within the capital of Westeros, at least until season seven, and that’s one heck of a way to bury the lede: “Lion and the Rose” marks the end of the road for Joffrey, poisoned to death in a conspiracy plot that will define the remainder of season four and set Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) down the dark path she currently walks as Game of Thrones heads into its eighth and final season.
The way in which the series pushes Joffrey off the stage is simply spectacular, with the wicked boy king allowed so many different moments to remind the audience exactly why they love to hate him so much. Whether it’s naming his Valyrian sword Widow’s Wail (the Hound would have something to say about the name) or publicly humiliating his loathed uncle in more ways than one, Jack Gleeson’s final turn as Joffrey is a performance highlight of the entire series, all the way until his very last gasps.
What’s more, it’s the first major blow against House Lannister in the entire series, the capture of Ser Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) in season one notwithstanding. It’s an enormous way to shake Game of Thrones viewers out of their Red Wedding hangover, a decisive moment that sets the stage for so many stories yet to come. The Red Wedding can own its place as the show’s most riveting sequence, but from start to finish, “The Lion and the Rose” is the better ride.
Listen to this week’s podcast in the player below:
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