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The Purple Wedding: 10 Things to Know About Game of Thrones’ Latest Surprising Character Death

This post discusses the events of last night’s (4/13) Game of Thrones episode, “The Lion and the Rose,” in which a major character died (because that’s just what major characters do on Game of Thrones – they die!) in an event fans of the novels call “The Purple Wedding.” Proceeding accordingly.

Maybe from this point forward the weddings in Game of Thrones‘ Westeros will be sparsely attended affairs, everyone too spooked from the massacre at Robb Stark’s (“Red,” after the amount of blood) wedding and poisoning at King Joffrey’s (“Purple,” after the color of wine and Joffrey’s face as he chokes) wedding to tempt fate.  Wedding invitations will have to carry Gallagher-like warnings except instead of chunks of watermelon and whatnot those members in the front two rows might be doused with blood.  To be fair, that might overstate it a bit since the latest wedding death was almost entirely bloodless, and wasn’t a massacre but simply the death of one man (or kid bully given too much power): King Joffrey.

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Very few characters in all of TV have been hated as much as Joffrey, with even a fellow fictional character like Supernatural’s Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) accurately weighing in, “That Joffrey dude’s a real douche.”

As is now the way with such momentous episodes of TV, everyone HBO can spare has been talking to the media about the events of “The Lion and the Rose,” finally unshackled to go into spoiler-rific detail.  So, you have interviews with the author of the novels George R.R. Martin, who also wrote the script for “Lion and the Rose,” the Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weisand, “Lion and the Rose”‘s director Alex Graves, and King Joffrey himself – Jack Gleeson.  Based upon those, here are 10 things worth knowing about “Lion and the Rose”:

1. The Red Wedding and Purple Wedding actually both occur in the same book

GT XIII

George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice novels are notoriously massive in length, with the third book A Storm of Swords running so long at 973 pages in the US hardback edition that it has been split in two to cover Game of Thrones‘ third and fourth seasons.  As such, even though Storm of Swords features both the Red and Purple Weddings the showrunners decided to split them apart, using Joffrey’s death to set up the major events of the fourth season.

2. Martin killed off Joffrey because there needed to be some semblance of balance in the carnage

According to Martin:

“Part of it was that there’s a lot of darkness in the books. I’ve been pretty outspoken in my desire to write a story where decisions have consequences and no one is safe. But I didn’t want it to be unrelentingly bleak—I don’t think everyone would read the books if everything was just darkness and despair and people being horribly tortured and mutilated and dying. Every once in a while you have to give the good guys a victory — where the guys who are perhaps a lighter shade of grey have a victory over the guys who are a darker shade of grey. The Red Wedding and this — fans call this the Purple Wedding — occur in the same book. In the TV show, it’s separate seasons. But Joffrey’s death was in some ways a counterweight for readers to the death of Robb and Catelyn. It shows that yes, nobody is safe—sometimes the good guys win, sometimes the bad guys win. Nobody is safe and that we are playing for keeps.” 

3. The poisoning of Joffrey is based upon the death of the son of the King of England in 1153

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According to Martin:

“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.”

4. Remember – Joffrey is only supposed to be a 13-year-old kid

Jack Gleeson is actually 21-year-sold, currently attending college, and he’s been with Game of Thrones since the very beginning in 2011.  Of course, he passes for younger than 21, but it might actually be difficult to watch him die in “The Lion and the Rose” and remember that his character is only 13-years-old.  This is an ongoing concern for the show as while not much time actually passes in the Game of Thrones universe its younger actors are all growing up, hoping we won’t notice too much.

According to Martin:

“Joffrey in the books 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.”

5. It took over 6 months to prepare

According to Alex Graves:

“The Purple Wedding took six months to prepare. It was a show-wide, gigantic effort on everybody’s part — from the design of the set to the costumes to the circus performers being rehearsed. There was a lot of pressure I put on myself. It was a 32-page scene that was secretly 18 scenes, and it involved an enormous number of the cast, who were going to hang out for five days in Croatia while we put on dwarf shows and allowed jailed birds to literally go free. We had the death, and almost more importantly, we had Tyrion’s humiliation in the middle of it. It was a lot for five days, especially with rain.”

6. So, who killed Joffrey?

Douchebag Joffrey

Go wikipedia-read the novels if you want that answer, but the director left clues:

“I tried to shoot it and then edit in such a way that so that if they reveal later in the season who did it, that it makes sense. If you watch what’s going on, where the killer is and when, you’ll go ‘Oh. It is happening and progressing visually.’ It’s not like you see it happen, because of the way he dies, but you will notice the movements and the adjustments.”

7. Why didn’t they wait until later in the season to do this?

Remember when this was shocking and horrifying? Such simple times. It seems so quaint now.

Readers of the Song of Fire and Ice novels surely weren’t surprised to see Joffrey go, but even they might have been surprised to see it happen so soon, here in only the second episode of the 4th season.  To this point, Game of Thrones builds every season to a major event in the 9th episode (the death of Ned Stark, the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding), with the 10th and final episode of the season allowing characters time to react and writers time to set-up the next season.  It can be a bit frustrating, but it’s not exactly a broken formula.  Based upon that, many would have expected Joffrey’s death to occur in the 9th episode of the current season.  It’s exactly because of that expectation that they instead did it in the second episode.  According to Weiss, “Much of it is also structure and placement. By the time you get to the ninth episode, the end of the season, it’s expected that something momentous is going to happen. Doing something this world-changing in the second episode seemed fun to us.”

8. Jack Gleeson almost didn’t even get the part of Joffrey to begin with

According to Benioff:

“The amazing thing about Jack is we were auditioning for Joffrey and we found a kid we thought was perfect. We thought that casting was done and it was time to move on. Then we went to Dublin to cast for other characters and there was this one kid who had already been scheduled to read for Joffrey. And we didn’t want to cancel on this kid. So basically as a courtesy, we agreed to see Jack Gleeson. As he started speaking he changed our concept of what the character could be. I don’t think we expected to spend as much time with Joffrey until we cast jack. As Dan was saying before, there’s something so loathsome, yet so believable. He’s not supernatural, he’s not the servant of darkness, he’s a believably awful human being. There must be some dark part that Jack is able to access to play the role, but I’ve never seen it when the cameras aren’t rolling.”

9. Jack Gleeson’s known about his character’s death since day 1

He told EW, “I knew from Day 1. When I got the part, I read the first book. And before that, I Googled the character summaries.”

10. Don’t expect to see Jack Gleeson again anytime soon – he’s currently retired from acting

Emma Watson
Yeah, Emma Watson “retired” too, but then there she was in Perks of Being a Wallflower and Noah

Martin says that Gleeson is currently studying at Trinity College in Dublin.  Weiss elaborates on Gleeson’s retirement, “He wants his passion, which as it now stands is philosophy and ancient languages and all sorts of other things that none of us are smart enough to understand. If he does go through with that decision, we’re just honored and proud that we were his acting swan song — and lucky.”

Gleeson explains his retirement as follows, “The answer isn’t interesting or long-winded. I’ve been acting since age 8. I just stopped enjoying it as much as I used to. And now there’s the prospect of doing it for a living, whereas up until now it was always something I did for recreation with my friends, or in the summer for some fun. I enjoyed it. When you make a living from something, it changes your relationship with it. It’s not like I hate it, it’s just not what I want to do.”

So, what did you think of “The Lion and the Rose” killing off Joffrey?  Good riddance?  Or will miss having him around to hate seeing as how so very few Game of Thrones characters are that thoroughly evil?  Let us know in the comments section.

Sources: EW (Martin interview), EW (the showrunners), EW (Gleeson), THR (the director)

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