On the murder of our evil little friend

This post contains significant spoilers for Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire (assume that includes all five books, because I can’t be arsed to look up which book things are mentioned in).

So of course I had great fun watching Joffrey die. (But Jack Gleeson, I’m sad to see you’re giving up acting, because it’s not just any actor who could make me feel I’m going to miss that little shit.) Afterward, my husband, who doesn’t read the books, had a few questions. We watched the scene again and I pointed out that wiley Queen of Thorns doing her thing with the necklace. He thought that was all well and good, but voiced his suspicion of Littlefinger, even though we haven’t seen him in ages.

So I blithely explained Joffrey’s death as I’ve always seen it: the Tyrells, or maybe just Olenna, conspire with Littlefinger to both kill Joffrey and frame Sansa and Tyrion for it. For their part, the Tyrells need a more tractable lad to be the king to Margaery’s queen, and one who is less likely to, say, cut Margaery’s limbs off and fashion her severed hand into a candy dish. Building a scapegoat into the plan is a good idea too. For Littlefinger it’s the reverse; dead purple Joffrey is a bonus, but what he really wants, for reasons both political (o hai Winterfell!) and personal (o hai Cat!), is to separate Sansa from the Lannisters and get her under his control. If he can get Tyrion executed and free her up to marry again, so much the better.

No, he can’t know that Tyrion will be put in such obvious and direct contact with the cup, following such an obvious and public humiliation by Joffrey. Those details are a bit of luck for him. But Littlefinger’s a pretty clever guy, and it’s a safe assumption that at some point during that feast Joffrey is going to be a dick to both Tyrion and Sansa, because name the last time that didn’t happen. One way or another, motive will be taken care of for him; plant the murder weapon on Sansa, and you’ve got means and opportunity, too. Done and done.

Except not. Because in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, George himself said:

I think the idea with Joffrey’s death was to make it look like an accident — someone’s out celebrating, they haven’t invented the Heimlich maneuver, so when someone gets food caught in his throat, it’s very serious … 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.

Then why… what?

For the Tyrells, if you’re not trying to frame anybody, wouldn’t it be easier to just bring the poison in one of your pockets? Less variables in the mix that way. But maybe having Sansa carry it is just a backup plan. Okay, I’ll buy that. I would like to think Olenna doesn’t mean Sansa any harm (because Olenna is awesome), but she’d also want to make sure that even the worst case scenario will still turn out well for her (because Westerosi grandmas are a ruthless lot). It may be her intent that things look accidental, but if someone does cry murder and someone must be blamed, then getting the keys to Winterfell away from the Lannisters is certainly preferable to anyone in her family falling under suspicion.

But I can’t think of any way Joffrey dying in a freak choking accident benefits Littlefinger. (And we know, by things he says later, that Littlefinger is indeed involved in the murder plot.) Destabilizing the realm is fun and all, but I don’t buy that his alignment is just chaotic evil and that’s all there is to it. There’s a method to his madness, and he looks to profit as much as possible from every nasty thing he does. If Joffrey’s death and Sansa’s escape from King’s Landing aren’t meant to be linked, why put them together the way he does? Of course he knows she and her husband will be blamed. Of course that’s his intent. Right?

Except GRRM says not. Maybe when he said “the murderers” he just meant the Tyrells, though?


4 words on the street

  1. Isn’t this all spelled out in some volume of the book series? I’m still reading Volume I, wot with the bizzy life n all, but got to the end of the televised series a few weeks ago, and since book and video track one another pretty well, I figured you read-ahead people would know all the angles.

    Anyway, Lord Baelish getting wind of the Tyrells’ plot, or suspecting it, or being a part of it, could each motivate him to take a grab at Winterfell via his true love’s lovely daughter, get out of Denmark, and make her conveniently scapegoatable if it becomes necessary. Littlefinger is a devious and clever little man with many interlocking chessboards for a brain.

    Good on Gleeson for going to college. He probably looked at the tradeoffs and decided remaining a Tier II actor at risk of his GoT role becoming his career highlight did not balance well against getting some formal education and either coming back to acting later if indeed he has the chops the move beyond JB or trying some other hopefully-satisfying career with his GoT earnings safely tucked away in an annuity.

    “You know why the Gleesons have such a nice house, right?”

    “Cause he’s a dentist?”

    “No! He was a child actor! Quite successful, till he grew out of it.”

    Oh wait, no, he’s not pursuing dentistry, he’s going to be a philosopher theologian. Ah, then like Pope Gregory, he too can know the Angles.

  2. The whole thing goes down in book 3. But, you never quite get a straight answer on everyone’s motivations, since you never get a Littlefinger/Tyrell POV chapter. Best guess is that the Tyrells didn’t want Joffrey to exist and Littlefinger wanted to get Sansa under his personal control (if conveniently widowed, so much the better). They found a way to mix their chocolate with his peanut butter, and the rest is (fictional) history.

    • Is it a failing of the writer’s of some sort when the reader can’t grasp a character’s motivations if not given the driver’s seat POV? Or maybe it’s an artifact of GRRM’s decision to tell the story only from the intimate points of view of a handful of specific people. Iono. I do know that somehow the model of giving multiple POVs helped me restart on a book of mine that really needs multiple POVs but for which I had somehow gotten stuck if not intimidated by some need to use only one.

      • Sometimes, sure, but in GRRM’s case I don’t think so. I think he wants to keep you guessing. Exactly what Littlefinger wants is right up there with Jon Snow’s mother as one of the great mysteries of the series. :)

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