Since Sean Bean’s Ned Stark was unceremoniously beheaded in season one, Game of Thrones fans have gotten used to the show’s propensity for killing off main characters without the slightest hesitation. Though such scenes are usually met with dismay and horror from viewers, the latest episode featured a shocking death of a different sort, as the widely reviled King Joffrey was poisoned, choking to death at his own nuptials.
Dubbed the Purple Wedding, the scene stood in stark contrast (no pun intended) to last season’s most notoriously gruesome death scene. During the similarly named Red Wedding, three members of the beloved, long-suffering Stark family, including young King Robb’s pregnant wife, were brutally stabbed during a banquet at which they were supposed to be the honorees. The graphic carnage spawned a slew of reaction videos of unwitting fans witnessing the horrific scene for the first time.
This time around, Twitter exploded with glee, happy to see the smugly murderous Joffrey get his just deserts. While the Internet was flooded with a sea of excited reaction GIFs, artist Robert M. Ball was hard at work, creating the latest entry in his “Beautiful Death” series. As artnet News reported prior to the season premiere, HBO enlisted Ball and studio 360i for a month-long project highlighting one bloody death from each episode of the first three seasons.
Ball’s latest illustration at first appears a rather static scene, simply showing a discarded goblet, dropped by the fallen king as he breathed his last. The spilled wine, however, cascades down the steps, pooling into a pair of bloody hands which appear to be strangling a crowned shadow. The mysterious image echoes the chilling and disturbing nature of the murder. Though the cause of the poisoning was left slightly ambiguous on the show, fans of George R.R. Martin’s books know that the boy king’s wine was to blame.
It’s a fairly restrained depiction of what was a surprisingly wrenching scene to watch. In his death throes, Joffrey turned a disturbing shade of purple, bleeding from the nose while cradled in his inconsolable mother’s arms. On a show that loves morally complex characters, Joffrey was pretty much evil incarnate, but that didn’t make Queen Cersei’s grief any less affecting, a testament to Lena Headey’s acting.
Joffrey’s death has long been anticipated by fans, many of whom have created art imagining various scenarios in which the ruler could meet his end, with everyone from the Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, to Tony Stark, aka Iron Man, delivering the killing blow.
Even Jack Gleeson, the actor responsible for bringing to life the character that everyone loves to hate, wasn’t above making light of of Joffrey’s swan song, mugging on Instagram in front a projected image of his last scene in the series.
As happy as Joffrey’s demise may have made the Internet, fans of the show know that in Westeros, no one is ever truly safe. Viewers would do well to keep in mind that everyone’s favorite character, Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister, was quickly accused of his nephew’s murder, and was taken into custody by the King’s Guard at the end of the episode.
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