It was a thing of beauty, really. First just a little cough, some garbled speech. Then a strangled wheezing noise bursting out from the back of his throat. Cries of “He’s choking!” and a crazed, panic-stricken Cersei diving onto the ground, screaming in confusion and despair. This is going to sound really sick, but damn it was satisfactory to watch Joffrey as his face turned that delicious shade of purple and tears of blood rolled out of his eyes. The final glimpse of the mad boy king was his distorted, discolored face, with its bulging, blazing green eyes and frothy vomit clinging to his chin and neck. Yes, he was just a child, but in a television show filled with vicious monsters who slice babies in half and sociopathic sickos who flay and castrate their victims just for funzies, Joffrey was probably the most hated character of them all (which is really quite something when you think about it). And if you think I’m wrong, just let your mind float back to poor crossbowed Ros.
Of course, Joffrey and Margaery’s nuptials aren’t the first on Game of Thrones to dissolve into murder and mayhem. In fact, it’s getting downright dangerous to attend a wedding in Westeros. But unlike the Red Wedding, where the sudden slaughter left viewers speechless and mourning, the writers primed us for Joffrey’s lolling head, showcasing some of his very worst tendencies in this superbly paced episode. Most people prepare for their wedding reception by crafting a sweet speech, but Joffrey went out of his way to humiliate his Uncle Tyrion and sicken Sansa. The deadly chalice of wine passed between them both, but with the poisoning of the cup taking place offstage, now it’s time to wonder: What heroic soul is responsible?
Tyrion Lannister: OK, let’s get the most obvious candidate out of the way first, because if you’ve watched more than 5 minutes of GoT you know that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in one of the seven hells that the person accused of the crime actually committed it. But Tyrion had more motive and opportunity than anyone else. On just this day, he’d had his gift hacked to pieces, wine poured over his head, and a troupe of little people brought out simply to shame him. Not to mention the humiliation Tyrion suffered at his own wedding when Joffrey removed the stool, rendering Tyrion unable to complete the simple rite of cloaking his bride. Smart, fierce, brave Tyrion had truly helped rescue King’s Landing during the Battle of Blackwater and has only his scarred face to show for it, while Joffrey has had a (admittedly hideous) statue erected in his honor. Despite his cowardice, idiocy, and sheer sociopathy, Joffrey is king, while Tyrion serves as his cup bearer. But Tyrion has threatened Joffrey’s life before (“Monsters are dangerous, and just now kings are dying like flies.”) and there is the small matter of his pouring the wine that kills the crazy boy king...
The Tyrells: It’s been clear from the very beginning that the Tyrells are either great fools or great sages to allow their precious Margaery to wed Joffrey. True, as queen she’d hold great power. But Joffrey has openly displayed signs of his cruelty, and Margaery’s recent admissions (see: last week’s sparrow necklace incident) indicate something beyond mere awareness. The Queen of Thorns is no simpleton, and it wouldn’t surprise this viewer if Joffrey’s death (which conveniently took place before the two could be bed and Margaery’s virtue could be comprised) has been Olenna’s plan from the very beginning. Why else provide her with such deliciously ironic lines: “Killing a man at a wedding. Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men needed more reasons to fear marriage.”
Oberyn Martell: The Red Viper has only been around for two episodes, but his fury at the Lannisters goes back at least a decade, and in the short time we’ve known him, it’s been made rather clear that self-control is not Oberyn’s forte. (Knife through the wrist for a mere auditory irritation, anyone?) Joffrey’s family was complicit in the murders of his sister and her children, and as he reminded Tyrion in last week’s episode, the Martells also pay their debts. A child for a child? That seems like his style. Why else would Oberyn attend the wedding, if not to seek his revenge?
Tywin Lannister: Practical to a fault, it seems more likely that Tywin would simply murder Joffrey in the privacy of his chambers than concoct an elaborate scheme to fell him on his wedding day. But Joffrey’s temper tantrums and stupidity have created problem after problem for Tywin, and if he’ll disown his favorite child and heir, it’s probable he’d dispatch his regal grandson as well.
Cersei Lannister: It’s a reach, I’ll admit. Even Game of Thrones appears to frown upon the murdering of one’s own children. But Cersei’s thirst for power is strong. The new queen, Margaery, has Joffrey wrapped around her little finger and can offer him a variety of temptations that his mother (ahem) can’t. And it’s apparent from the way Cersei deals with Maester Pycelle in this episode (“The queen” she snarls icily at him, in reference to herself) that Joffrey’s marriage is causing the kingdom to slip through her fingers. Oh, and let’s not forget that with Joffrey dead and no heir apparent, little Tommen will be king and Cersei again queen regent.
Barristan Selmy: Humiliated in front of his comrades and stripped of his position as Commander of the King’s Guard, Selmy was utterly stripped of honor. So what if he’s across an ocean? Poison intended for a monarch has been known to make its way from one continent to another before.
Littlefinger/Varys: These two have their fingers in every pie, and with Tywin back in town their power may be slipping away. Littlefinger in particular has something to gain from Tyrion’s imprisonment for Joffrey’s death: Sansa. And Varys, while strange and sometimes cruel, truly seems to want what’s best for the realm. Clearly, a towheaded maniac who needs to be put down for naps isn't Westeros' savior.
Melisandre/Stannis Baratheon: With Robb and Renly dead, and Balon Greyjoy moored on his own remote island, Joffrey is the only living person standing between Stannis and the throne. Earlier in this episode we see him burning his brother-in-law alive at the stake, so sanity isn’t his strong suit. Utterly humiliated after the Battle of Blackwater, Stannis made it clear to Melisandre that he wanted both Robb and Joffrey dead. She claimed to be unable to produce another demonic, bloodthirsty snake baby to murder them then, but who knows what she’s capable of now?
Arya Stark: Arya Stark has had Joffrey on her (literal) kill list for a long, long time. Is it truly possible that a poor, bedraggled child who’s been bandied about from one captor to another for the entirety of the war could find the means to poison a well-guarded king thousands of miles away? Probably not. But does Arya have a motive? Absolutely. From their first meeting at Winterfell, Arya despised the pompous little prince, and his order that her friend Mycah be slaughtered transformed mere animosity into true hatred. Like her sister, Arya witnessed Joffrey’s sick, merciless order that her father’s head be chopped off, and fear of his wrath is what set her on her long, painful journey north.
Sansa Stark: Sansa has truly been exposed to the worst of Joffrey’s whims. She would have been in her rights to want him dead in Season 1, and now, after 2 years as his abused captive-cum-aunt, even glancing in his direction must fill her with rage. Fury alone would be enough motive for Sansa. He did have her direwolf slaughtered (despite the fact that it was her sister’s wolf, Nymeria, who had attacked Joffrey on the King’s Road) to cover up his own cowardice, and then, in one of his first public acts as king, had a man’s tongue ripped out right in front of her face. Then, of course, there’s the small matter of his beheading her father despite promising Sansa that he would show mercy and then forcing her to stare the fly-covered, spiked head in the eyes. There were also the multiple beatings, the threats to have her stripped naked in front of the entire court, and a whole slew of vile, disgusting comments he’d slid in her direction, including the remark at his wedding breakfast that every time he used his new sword, “it’ll be like cutting off Ned Stark’s head all over again.” So might Sansa have poisoned the cup (which, you’ll note, she had ample opportunity to handle)? I’ll almost be disappointed if she didn’t.
Hillary Kelly is the digital media editor at The New Republic.