If you’re like me you fist-pumped for a good five minutes in your living room after that scene last night on Game of Thrones. If you haven’t seen that scene, or have no idea what I’m talking about, then I’ll pour you a glass of wine so you can watch.
After such a scene, you’d wonder what the genius writer behind it all has to say. George R.R. Martin spoke with Entertainment Weekly and let us know his thoughts behind the writing and how the show portrayed the events. Spoilers ahead.
Per Entertainment Weekly:
In some ways, Joffrey’s death is the toughest death for viewers because he’s such an entertaining character to lose. You really had such fun with that character and Jack Gleeson’s performance is so malevolent. Can you talk about the decision you made to end this character when you did and how you did?
Martin: Oh boy, it was so long ago! Lets see, the book came out in 2000, so I guess I wrote those scenes in like 1998. I knew all along when and how Joffrey was going to die, and on what occasion. I’d been building up to it for three years through the first books. 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. I also tried to provide a certain moment of pathos with the death. I mean, Joffrey, as monstrous as he is — and certainly he’s just as monstrous in the books as he is in the TV show, and Jack has brought some incredible acting chops to the role that somehow makes him even more loathsome than he is on the page — but 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. (Via)
As I watched Joffrey humiliate Tyrion, I kept thinking, “When is this guy gonna get offed?!” and then it happened. It’s a sweet and beautiful thing to get what you wish for.
At the same time, in the moments leading up to that, you seem to really enjoy giving him this grand sendoff by having all these moments during his wedding where he demonstrates the character traits that make us so dislike him. The wedding is self-aggrandizing — he throws his money around, he chops up Tyrion’s present, he orders that offensive dwarf joust. He gets to display all of the reasons why we want him to die just before he dies.
Martin: Yeah. I think Joffrey is a classic 13-year-old bully. Do you know many 13-year-old kids you’d like to give absolute power to? There’s a cruelty in children, especially children of a certain age, that you see in junior high and middle school. We don’t want 13-year-old bullies to be put to death. We probably do when we’re their 13-year-old victims, but they grow up and most of them grow out of it, and sometimes people do regret their actions. But Joffrey will never get that chance, so we don’t know what he would have become. Probably nothing good, but still…(Via)
What I really want to know is why Martin loves killing people at weddings. Was it because he prefers DJs?
For me, one of the most brilliant things you did is that you kill off these major characters at a wedding, and then you kill off another major character a few chapters later — at another wedding! I never would have predicted that, precisely because of how much you like to vary things.
Martin: I don’t know how it comes across in the show, because I haven’t actually seen it yet, but the poison that is used to kill Joffrey is one that I introduce earlier in the books and its symptoms are similar to choking. So a feast is the perfect time to use this thing. I think the intent of the murderer is not to have this become another Red Wedding—the Red Wedding was very clearly murder and butchery. 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 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. She doesn’t believe that it was an accidental death. You saw the scene filmed, does it come across as he could possibly be just choking or is it very clear he’s been poisoned? (Via)
More of Martin’s thoughts on the show and Jack Gleeson as an actor over at Entertainment Weekly.
It will be a huge loss now that Joffrey is gone. My hatred toward him was one of my favorite parts of the show, and now that he’s gone it must be laid upon someone else. Looking at you, Tywin.
(Via Entertainment Weekly)