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Recap: Let’s Talk About Game of Thrones’ Purple Reigns And Poker Faces

Well, some shit went down this week. [Spoiler alert.]

This is a recap of the most recent episode of Game of Thrones. Spoiler alert.

Everyone on Game of Thrones gives good face this week. It’s a very actorly episode, in which some characters struggle to hide their true feelings, while others’ faces are canvases for catalytic moments. (What could be in store for poor, plucky Shireen Baratheon, as Melisandre menacingly caresses her disfigured head?)

But the joy of the episode is Joffrey’s face, in several lingering close-ups that director Alex Graves straight-up invites the internet to screencap.

Okay Alex, you win:

His eyes look so pretty!

His eyes look so pretty!

As a callback to last season’s Red Wedding, fans have dubbed Joffrey and Margaery’s fateful nuptials the ‘Purple Wedding’ because of the delightful mauve colour of Joffrey’s face. It was a tour de force of special-effects makeup — I was especially impressed by the way Joffrey’s choleric pink undertone faded to chalky white as he carked it, bleeding from the eyes and mouth. Extra credit must go to Jack Gleeson who pulled off a masterful death gurn, appearing to roll his eyes in two different directions. Batman would be proud, son.

But despite the valiant attempt to turn #PurpleWedding into this season’s talked-about twist, I didn’t find this turn of events shocking. Game-changing, perhaps, because of the flow-on effect it will have for other characters – especially Tyrion, who was holding the murder weapon, and Sansa, who’s whisked away in the confusion by Ser Dontos. (Did you notice she was wearing the necklace he gave her?)

Because unlike the Starks, Joffrey richly deserved his fate. He had it coming. And the fierce glee I felt was more like my reaction to Daenerys’s “Dracarys!” moment last season, amplified by Joffrey’s relative awfulness. It’s a cathartic, triumphant moment.

Just as awful as Joffrey, and certainly giving equally great face, is Roose Bolton’s bastard, Ramsay Snow, introduced here setting his dogs on some poor chick who crossed his equally psychopathic, bow-wielding girlfriend, Myranda. (“She thinks she’s pretty – let me put one through her face!”) The violence happens offscreen, but is powerfully mirrored in the twitching, traumatised face of Ramsay’s eunuch servant Reek, formerly Theon Greyjoy.

When I read A Dance with Dragons, the reveal that Reek was Theon was truly shocking – not just because of his physical mutilation, but because Ramsay’s brutal psychological torture had made him identify as Reek. The TV series was always going to struggle to represent this horror visually, but the triumph of Alfie Allen’s tremendously sympathetic performance lies in its fine-tuned kinetic qualities.

GoT theon witnessing dog mauling

Watching dogs devour innocent maidens: the PTSD that never ends.

In a still photo, Theon appears merely stoic; in motion, his fawning limp and repertoire of flinches and eye-bulges convey what Ramsay has done. And we know Ramsay has truly broken Theon because he can casually inform Theon of his beloved foster brother Robb’s death… while Theon is holding a razor to Ramsay’s throat.

But the freshly baby-faced Ramsay gets little approval from his dad. Honestly, with his gimlet glare and talent for negging his kid, Roose Bolton really is the Tywin Lannister of the north. And now his attack dog Locke is off hunting Bran and Rickon Stark.

(The show is also continuing its delicious string of food-related editing jokes: this week, after Theon witnesses the dog attack, cut to Tyrion back in King’s Landing tucking into a plate of sausages!)

North of the Wall, Bran Stark is currently in his awkward mid-Harry Potter period, pouting because the Reeds won’t let him take solace in skinchanging as his direwolf, Summer.

“You’re a warg, Harry!”

“You’re a warg, Harry!”

But it’s another face, carved in a weirwood tree, that jolts Bran from his adolescent funk. He has Hodor carry him over – how much longer will Hodor be able to heft this increasingly brawny dude? – and touches the heart tree.

Bran then experiences a heady flash of imagery: his fall from the tower; his father cleaning the now-melted-down Ice in the Winterfell godswood, then languishing in the King’s Landing dungeons; a mysterious girl in the forest; the three-eyed crow from his dreams. (This montage reminded me of the dream sequences in Carnivale, HBO’s supernatural Dust Bowl drama, which was cruelly cancelled a decade ago after two intricate, beguiling and startlingly original seasons.)

It’s a three-eyed crow communicating through the tree, explaining where Bran can find him. This is greensight: an ancient and rare ability. Bran seems to have an aptitude for it; will the three-eyed crow teach him to harness its power?

At King’s Landing, the reactions to Joffrey’s ‘short re-enactment’ of the War of the Five Kings eloquently reveal various characters’ allegiance to the throne:

The Lannisters are loving it:

The Lannisters are loving it!

But not the Tyrells, who bankrolled it. And: check-out the side-eye on Varys!

GoT wedding reaction shots others

“Look, the pie!” Bless you, Margaery, for the episode’s most desperate segue.

Basically, the extended wedding scene is just an excuse for various characters to strut about, facing off. Ser Loras exchanges a smouldering glance with pansexual Oberyn across the jester-strewn courtyard. Loras also gets in a nice zinger at future brother-in-law Jaime’s expense, when Jaime tries to intimidate Loras out of marrying Cersei.

Meanwhile, Cersei’s in prime bitchy form with Brienne. “I don’t serve your brother, Your Grace,” Brienne coolly explains. But her rigid face after Cersei accuses her of being in love with Jaime shows the barb has struck home.

Awkwardest pause ever... At least until Joffrey tries to make his uncle kneal.

Awkwardest pause ever… At least until Joffrey tries to make his uncle kneel.

Speaking of love, Tyrion knows that his father and sister are circling his darling Shae. Because she won’t listen to his warnings, he has to send her abroad in a hard-faced break-up scene. Shae likes to play the world-weary whore, but her emotional reaction – erupting into tears and attacking Bronn – reveals how poorly equipped she is for the web of intrigue she’s caught in.

At the wedding, Bronn assures Tyrion that Shae safely boarded that ship to Pentos… but we don’t know for sure. Has Tyrion’s plan to save his lady backfired, and now she’s seeking revenge? Either way, now that Cersei believes Tyrion poisoned Joffrey, he’s facing a much more immediate threat.

Game of Thrones airs on Showcase at 3.30pm on Mondays, fast-tracked from the US.

Mel Campbell is a freelance journalist and cultural critic, and author of the book Out of Shape: Debunking Myths about Fashion and Fit. She blogs on style, history and culture at Footpath Zeitgeist and tweets at @incrediblemelk.

Follow her Game of Thrones recaps here.