“The Lion and the Rose” is a timely reminder of why Game of Thrones is excellent television. Not because it dispatches one of the most detestable fictional characters in recent history, but because it continues its trend of subversion.
George R.R. Martin is infamous for his predilection for dispatching his characters en masse, often unexpectedly. What distinguishes the narrative decisions of Game of Thrones is not necessarily the readiness to kill off characters, but the decision to kill off expected narratives. The deaths of Ned Stark, Renly Baratheon and Robb Stark were shocking because they subverted the hero narrative. Again and again, noble, righteous, honourable men are killed. Other shows might be equally ready to murder their characters, but it’s always the weaker characters – the women, the characters on the margin.
It’s fitting, then, that the series would remove Joffrey from the equation. He’s no hero, but he is another powerful male character in a fictional world brave enough to expunge such characters with impunity. By the end of season three, Joffrey was established as the central villain, the story’s focal point. With his absence, that story opens up …and it’s exciting. Looking forward to the rest of the season.