Usually when someone delivers a particularly pithy piece of exposition on Game of Thrones, it’s done from under a writhing nude body in Littlefinger’s brothel. Hence “sexposition,” a word I wish I could take credit for coining.
But in last night’s episode, titled Breaker of Chains, it was Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) who laid out the entire fourth season’s story arc in a single sound bite: “The king is dead. The Greyjoys are in open rebellion. The wildling army marches on the wall. And in the east, a Targaryen girl has three dragons.”
And he didn’t even get naked to do it. Thank goodness.
Yes, the king is no more. In fact the episode opens at the very instant that last week’s Purple Wedding shocker ended, with Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) dead in the arms of mom Cersei (Lena Headey), while Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is seized by guards and Sansa (Sophie Turner) sneaks away, led by Joffrey’s jester.
Immediately, part of the assassination plot is revealed: Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aidan Gillen) arranged for Sansa’s escape, which means he had a hand in the poisoning. To protect Sansa, and help her get revenge for her father’s execution? Ha! Whatever Littlefinger’s motivations are – and his grabby hands all over Sansa suggest they’re at least somewhat pervy – he’s surely acting in concert with someone else.
Meanwhile, the freshly widowed Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) seeks comfort, or at least answers, from grandmother Olenna (Diana Rigg.) Joffrey’s brother Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman), who will now be king, confers with Tywin, who advises the young prince that wisdom is a king’s best virtue. You know, the kind that comes from your advisors. You know, like Tywin himself. Well played, you sneaky old git.
And Cersei and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) reconcile their differences by sexing it up next to – or practically on top of – the corpse of the spawn of their incestuous union. And it’s not entirely consensual on Cersei’s part. In case we needed a reminder how twisted these two are.
Twisted or not, Cersei is dangerous, and she’s out for Tyrion’s blood. Indeed, Joffrey’s death has sent ripples throughout Westeros: Tywin and Oberyn (Pedro Pascal) forge an odd alliance, with Oberyn being given a spot on Tyrion’s tribunal and an eventual shot at retribution with the Mountain. Cranky Stannis (Stephen Dillane) rails and rages because he doesn’t have an army with which to seize the Iron Throne, although Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) might have a plan to change that. And an imprisoned Tyrion sends his lovable ladies’ man Podric (Daniel Portman) out of King’s Landing to keep the squire safe.
But not everyone knows, or cares, about Joffrey. The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisie Williams) have a falling out when the Hound takes advantage of a naive farmer, and Sam (John Bradley-West) sends his wildling galpal to town to keep her out of harm’s way when the wildlings attack Castle Black. And judging from the wildlings’ raid on a nearby village, they’re not the type to take prisoners. Except as dinner.
Finally we cross the Narrow Sea to check in on Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), who lays siege to the slaver city of Meereen by launching catapult-fired barrels full of freed slaves’ collars inside the city walls. Might just be enough to trigger a revolution and break some more chains.
Maybe it’s just me, but this feels like the most focused season of Game of Thrones yet. Nearly every scene is packed with important information, delicious drama and some of the best writing so far in the series.
If they keep this up, there might not be any more need for sexposition. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.