Game of Thrones pulled off another epic shocker last night, and the writer, showrunners, and actor at the center of the mayhem discuss “The Lion and the Rose.”
Yes ladies and lords, it’s true. King Joffrey
Lannister Baratheon is dead, slain by the pen of George RR Martin.
Martin, the author of the A Song of Ice and Fire series upon which Game of Thrones is based, wrote the screenplay for last night’s episode. The author, who has now gotten to kill Joffrey off twice, spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the experience.
“I didn’t want [the story] to be unrelentingly bleak,” Martin says. “Every once in a while you have to give the good guys a victory.”
Within the structure of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series, Martin says that “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.”
Martin is also full of praise for Jack Gleeson, the young Irish actor who brought the loathsome Joffrey to life.
“I think Jack was sensational,” Martin says. “He’s like the nicest guy you’d ever want to meet. He’s really bright and a fiercely intelligent young man… He created someone that everybody hates, and loves to hate, and that’s a considerable feat of acting.”
Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss also chimed in on what made Joffrey and Gleeson so unique.
“The thing about Joffrey is that typically your villain is such an alpha,” Benioff observed. “But Joffrey is actually this scared little kid, and if somebody stands up to him, he backs down in typical bully fashion. So what makes him so scary is he’s the ultimate spoiled boy who’s got unlimited power.”
Added Weiss, “far more often than an evil alpha male out to do evil for the sake of evil, bad things often come from people who are unfit to occupy positions of power, who find themselves in positions of power they are not suited for… For anybody who’s read history books or read the newspaper, that feels true.”
Gleeson, whose audition Benioff and Weiss sat in on as a curtesy, also heavily influenced the writers. “As he started speaking he changed our concept of what the character could be,” Benioff said. “I don’t think we expected to spend as much time with Joffrey until we cast Jack.”
The showrunners also praised Gleeson’s performance in Joffrey’s final scene among the living. “So many other actors would have chosen a much more flashy route,” says Benioff. “He made it feel real as he always has… It’s a character you’ve despised for so long and wanted to see him killed, yet you’re seeing a young man — still a boy, really — choke to death, which is a horrible thing to witness.”
Gleeson himself, who also spoke to Entertainment Weekly, admitted that his purple-hued death scene was a bit of a challenge for him. “You want to do the scene and character justice. It’s a complicated scene; I’ve never had a death on screen before.”
Unlike most deaths of Game of Thrones, which play out with the aid of sword, arrow, or dagger, Joffrey’s demise is brutally biological. “You want it to look believable — the choking and the coughing,” Gleeson says. “It’s calming to know I’m in the great hands of [director] Alex Graves.”
The actor also says that he hopes fans have a mixed reaction to Joffrey’s extraordinary exit.
“There will be a delight that the person tormenting their favorite characters is gone,” he says, “but I would like to think there’s a certain sadness at the loss of the delight people take in hating a character like Joffrey.”