Game of Thrones Review: Season Four, Episode Two, "The Lion and the Rose"

After an uneventful debut, the second episode in Game of Thrones' fourth season delivers. And, the characters that did not appear in the premier make their triumphant return in this installment. In contrast, another character makes his permanent exit.

But, spoiler warnings must be issued before diving back into Westeros.

"The Lion and the Rose" opens with Ramsay Snow and Reek--formerly known as Theon Greyjoy--mercilessly hunting an innocent girl for sport. Cut to the next scene, and the two greet Roose Bolton, who is Ramsay's father. The best portion of this subplot is when the Bastard of Bolton makes the mutilated slave trim his beard.

While Reek holds a blade to Ramsay's neck, the latter tells the former Greyjoy about the death of his past comrade, Robb Stark. Acted to perfection, Reek is ostensibly obedient--giving his master information as to the location of Bran Stark.

However, trembling pervades his demeanor, which means that there is still a trace of Greyjoy remaining within him.

The limited omniscient eye in Westeros pays its next visit to Bran Stark and Hodor. While there is little that happens in their arc, foreshadowing is employed once more by the writers. Bran comes across a strange looking tree that invokes his curiosity. Placing a hand on it, the young Stark boy gets a glimpse of the three eyed raven, a large flying silhouette (Dragon?!) over King's Landing, and other interspersed clips that will make more sense as the series progresses. In the past review, it was stated that the writers of Game of Thrones do a good job of portraying emotion without blatant exposition.

The aforementioned applies to Bran's arc. Opening with him seeing through his direwolf's eyes, Bran shows frustration when he returns to his own body. Eating his food poignantly, the young Stark listens to lectures about how he should avoid spending too much time in the wolf's mind lest he turn feral.

However, a primal nature comes over the boy as he feasts, as if the transformation has already begun. Furthermore, Bran--still unhappy about his nature as a paraplegic--finds his primal fate preferable.

But, the main focus of "The Lion and the Rose" was on the Lannister family. Jaime and Tyrion continue to be thrust toward common ground. As such, Tyrion tries to comfort Jaime, who is still adapting to life with only one hand. Spilling his wine, Tyrion intentionally mimics Jaime's blunder in order to facilitate better emotion. This fails, and the youngest son of Tywin offers to help his older brother by arranging for Jaime to learn one-handed sword combat.

Among the more dynamic characters in the series thus far, Jaime has become more likeable with the series' progression. This drives home the point that there are few figures in Westeros that are pure good or evil.

Rather, they are all of dubious alignment-- evolving as their circumstances change. This is epitomized when analyzing Jaime's arc.

The lightheartedness of wine spilling is soon lifted when Tyrion has to end his romance with Shae. Berating her as a whore, the amorous little man sends her away as a means of protection from Tywin's wrath. The "Game" has been a central theme of the show--the part that everyone plays in order to ensure survival in a world that is senseless and unjust.

This scene illustrates how Tyrion constantly assumes facades in order to ensure his survival. And, despite his superior intellect, he is still susceptible to cognitive dissonance.

The scene gives the man of lofty brainpower a degree of emotional vulnerability. And, it shows that not even the smartest man in King's Landing has mastered how to play the "Game."

But, in the end, "The Lion and the Rose" is viscerally satisfying--an episode laden with a sense of harsh justice. Undoubtedly, millions of viewers invoked karma when they saw the ending-- when Joffrey Baratheon gets sent to bed without his supper, permanently. Before killing the most hated boy-king in Westeros, the writers allow us to remember why we hate him: he laughs obnoxiously, he taunts Sansa, offends his patrons, insults his uncle, and berates his subjects.

This tension pays off when Joffrey is poisoned and he lays lifeless in the arms of Cersei. And, the death is foreshadowed masterfully when Olenna Tyrell speaks to Sansa about the Red Wedding.

She says to the eldest Stark daughter, "Killing a man at a wedding... horrid."

"The Lion and the Rose" may be among the best--if not most gratifying--episodes in the series thus far. While it does not feature notable characters such as Dani, Arya, or Jon Snow, it assures viewers that repeated acts of wickedness are eventually reciprocated.

And, after the Red Wedding, viewers needed to know that natural justice has a presence in Westeros.

Wanna read more on this? Check these out: Game of Thrones' Emilia Clarke & Kit Harrington Move Into Lead Actor Categories For 2018 Emmy Awards (more); Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 3 Review/Recap: The Queen's Justice (more); Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 2 Review/Recap: Stormborn (more); Game of Thrones Season 7 Episode 1 Review/Recap: Dragonstone (more).