HBO’s Game of Thrones and the Purple Wedding

** Game of Thrones spoilers follow. If you’re caught up on the HBO series then you’re safe.

Olenna Tyrell, the Queen of Thorns

I watched Game of Thrones on Sunday night with a mix of delight and disappointment. Delight because since the debut of the HBO series I’d awaited the Purple Wedding almost as eagerly as I’d dreaded the Red Wedding; disappointment because, as the episode drew to a close, I was sure they show had cut out the most interesting part of the Purple Wedding. Specifically, the clues as to who really murdered the Mad Mini-King, Joffrey Baratheon.

In the books, you see (and this is not a spoiler because, well… keep reading) considerable time is given to the Queen of Thorns, Olenna Tyrell (one of my favorite characters, incidentally) and a jeweled hair-net she gives Sansa Stark to wear. After the wedding, Sansa notices one of the black stones missing, and it’s heavily implied–if not outright stated–that the jewel was in fact a fake, containing a deadly poison called The Strangler that someone snuck into Joffrey’s mug.

The book never outright says whose hand places the jewel in Joff’s wine; the plan may include one or more other Tyrells, or perhaps all of them. Olenna, however, is certainly the architect.

As Liz and I went to bed Sunday night, I laid out the whole scenario for her so she’d know what she was missing. I felt a little resentful, betrayed even, that the show runners had decided to present such a flat and unsubtle version of the Purple Wedding.

Then, on Monday, the Internet showed me the error of my ways. 

Had I noticed ahead of time that George R. R. Martin wrote Sunday’s episode (The Lion and the Rose) I might have been slower to assume the worst. In fact, had I watched closely enough, I would have seen that all the subtle pieces were still in place.

At the start of the wedding, Lady Olenna visits briefly with Sansa, fiddling with her hair as she remarks how windblown Sansa appears. Olenna’s right hand briefly fiddles with Sansa’s necklace–the necklace drunken Ser Dontos gifted her just one episode earlier, and begged her to wear at the wedding. For one brief shot, the viewer can then see that one stone is gone, vanished into Lady Olenna’s hand.

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“War is war,” says the Queen of Thorns, “but killing a man at a wedding? Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.”

There’s a post on imgur that lays out the whole sequence as if it were the Zapruder film, and I highly recommend you check that out if you’re unclear. I’ve rewatched the episode, and it’s all so clear if you’re looking for it that I wonder how I missed it the first time.

In the end, I enjoy this even more because of the subtle way it’s presented. Much like the books, the show forces the audience to really pay attention and read between the lines to see what’s really going on, and I even like it that many viewers had to find this out by talking with other fans. It’s why I’m posting it here, in fact–a huge part of the fun of A Song of Ice and Fire, both in the books and in the TV show, is talking to other fans about the subtle bits people miss if they aren’t watching closely.

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