This post will be touching on the first three seasons of HBO’s excellent series Game of Thrones. If you’re not caught up on the story, be forewarned that I’ll be dropping plot spoilers for the TV show.
There isn’t a lot of good things that can be said about the eldest son of Queen Cersei…
- Executing Ned Stark? Bad move.
- Torturing Sansa with severed heads, having her publicly humiliated? Extremely ungentlemanly.
- Killing Ros? There’s nothing that I can say that would adequately express my horror and disgust.
But, and as odd as it sounds, I’m not here to condemn Joffrey Baratheon (although he is worthy of condemnation.) I’m here to defend the one time he was solidly, entirely right. And as a bonus (or the opposite of bonus) I’ll try to cast some reasonable doubt on some of the atrocities attributed to him.
Even the Mad King 2.0 can be surprisingly correct on occasion.
Before we get started, I’d like to establish how stable Joffrey’s position is in the Seven Kingdoms. He does have some problems with his reign.
In the post-Red-Wedding-era, I give His Grace a 40% approval rating (up from 32%). I have my reasons for those numbers. We can argue on the specifics, but with kingdoms in revolt, untrustworthy allies, and outstanding foreign debts, Joffrey’s administration has several challenges.
So, you would think that Tywin Lannister, the Hand of the King, would take every opportunity to shore up the legitimacy of his grandson’s power.
But he doesn’t.
Tywin, It’s the Seven Kingdoms, Not the Seven Handdoms.
In Season Three, King Joffrey summons his grandfather, Lord Tywin, to report on the latest Small Council meetings and to inquire why the council has been meeting not at the center of royal power, but in the Tower of the Hand.
Rather than giving the monarch Small Council details, Lord Tywin puts up a bureaucratic smokescreen by suggesting that the king could just attend the meetings rather than trouble the Hand to advise him.
Tywin additionally justifies holding council meetings at his work residence because, well, it’s more convenient for him to do business there and the time spent walking through the palace would be unproductive.
Really? I mean, I get what he’s saying. But that’s all bull.
For the sake of stability in the realm, the focus of royal power has to be centered on the king. Everything else is subordinate. I’m sure it would be extra-super-convenient personally for Tywin to actually do all his official Hand of the King duties off in Casterly Rock. I mean, that’s where all of his stuff is, right?
But of course that would be stupid. Because King’s Landing is the seat of royal power. And that extends down to the king as well.
Varys eloquently explained to Tyrion in Season Two that power is an illusion, so care needs to be done to maintain the illusion and not undermine it. Regardless if Stannis’ allegations are taken as true or not, Tywin is banking on the people accepting Joffrey as the legitimate king. But he isn’t personally responding to Joffrey’s illusion of power.
This sends a mixed signal throughout the court. And that might give other nobles throughout Westeros ideas.
Dude, 40%. Only 40%.
Tywin’s also doing a less than spectacular job grooming his descendant to rule.
He is surprised that Joffrey knows about the rumors from the east of Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons. But he’s more interested in knowing where Joffrey is getting his information from than in discussing the details.
Joffrey: Shouldn’t we do something about this dragon-girl?
Tywin: I hardly think so. We have an expert on the council who is the ultimate authority on the matter and he’s not concerned, so you shouldn’t be.
Joffrey: Well, why haven’t I talked to this expert?
Tywin: YOU ARE TALKING TO THE EXPERT!
(Okay, I’m paraphrasing a bit, but you get the gist.)
Tywin hasn’t shared the info about Daenerys with Joffrey because, well, he just thinks the info is crap. I get that. But Tywin hasn’t shared any info with Joffrey.
(And Tywin is a woefully inexpert expert.)
By holding council meetings away from the king’s center of power, and by limiting the flow of information to Joffrey (I’m convinced that had Joffrey told Tywin where he heard about the dragons, Tywin would have that source of information dry up) Tywin is preventing Joffrey from getting any experience in ruling.
Regardless whether Joffrey is as tyrannical as Maegor the Cruel or as kind as Baelor the Blessed, keeping him apart from the details of government is a dangerous move. He’s still king. He can still do things like order the immediate execution of a prisoner who is worth far more alive. And he’s far more likely to do that if he’s uninformed.
Ned Stark made a point to have his son Robb attend council meetings, so he could learn the duties of a Lord of Winterfell but also to be introduced to the Stark bannermen. As a consequence, after Lord Eddard’s death the Northern lords acknowledged and honored the Stark legitimacy of power which led them to declare Robb king.
On the other hand, Theon Greyjoy was separated from his father and raised far from the Iron Island sphere on control. On Theon’s return, there was nothing about him that the Ironborn would recognize as authoritative.
Unless Tywin has absolutely no interest in Joffrey’s future as king (an interesting thought) then he needs to include Joffrey in the role of government.
So, sorry Joffrey-haters. Joffrey was right on the ball in this instance.
Joffrey: Mass Murderer? Attempted Kinslayer? Or Convenient Scapegoat?
Early episodes of each season of Game of Thrones seem to feature accusations of Joffrey-ordered atrocities.
In Season Two, there is a King Herod-like slaughter of Robert Baratheon’s bastards. (Or if you prefer, a King Arthur-like slaughter of Robert Baratheon’s bastards. Yes, I just compared King Joffrey to King Arthur. Go read an Arthurian book.)
Tyrion assumes Cersei was behind the massacre but when accusing her of the crime, he ends up thinking that Joffrey was behind it.
At the beginning of Season Three, Tyrion is convinced that Cersei ordered Ser Mandon Moore to try to kill him during the Battle of Blackwater. He says as much in a private meeting with Cersei but quickly ends up thinking that Joffrey was the puppetmaster.
I’m not convinced.
We’ll put aside that Cersei was responsible for both events in the books, since these blog postings are focusing on the television show. (Mostly put it aside… obviously I’m under the books’ influence…)
Both times, Tyrion starts a scene suspecting Cersei, and both times ends up convinced it’s Joffrey. Neither time does Cersei name Joffrey as the culprit. She just kind of hems and haws and bats her eyelashes.
Tyrion: Cersei, how could you [order all those children killed|arrange to have me killed]?
Cersei: Did I? *looks fetching*
Tyrion: Yes, but, hmmm, if you’re not responsible…
Cersei: Hmmmm … *continues to look adorable and innocent*
Tyrion: No! Joffrey?
Tyrion: Why am I not surprised?
First off: whether Joffrey is guilty or not, Cersei apparently has no problem letting Tyrion believe that her son was guilty. I guess she must not think it’s dangerous for Tyrion to believe this.
I don’t buy Joffrey ordering the death of Robert Baratheon’s bastards and Cersei being innocent. Joffrey wouldn’t know who to kill and who not to kill. Was there a master list made available to him? It seems to me that Cersei would be more likely to keep tabs on King Bob’s shenanigans than her son who is just now possibly suspecting the truth.
In regards to the attempted assassination of Tyrion: could it have been Joffrey? If he was innocent, I would have suspected that Cersei would have tried to make the case that it was someone else involved. Heck, if I were Cersei, I’d just blame Littlefinger.
Lord Baelish had already cast suspicion unjustly on Tyrion for the attack on Bran…
But Cersei doesn’t try to redirect the blame, instead she lets Tyrion continue his train of thought.
This leads me to believe that Cersei was behind the attack by Ser Mandon Moore. It would probably delight her to have Tyrion believe her innocent, and why tip her hand with a confession? And again, she doesn’t have a problem with Tyrion thinking his nephew is the schemer in this.
For Tyrion’s part, even though he is nearly always suspicious of Cersei, I believe there’s a part of him that desperately wants either her approval or some small kind of sibling affection. (Not like the affection she has for Jaime, I’m not saying that…)
So, when she doesn’t cop to the atrocities, he falls victim to selection bias and believes she’s innocent. Because he wants her to be innocent.
Now, I could easily be wrong and the show-runners might literally want Joffrey to be guilty of these crimes. But I’ll be skeptical until I have proof. Certainly he’s guilty of many things that we know about.
Or is he? The guys over at The Joffrey of Podcasts podcast do an excellent job defending his grace, King Joffrey Baratheon (first of his name, etc., etc.) I can’t recommend that podcast highly enough.
They’ve *almost* convinced me that Joffrey didn’t kill Ros, but someone else killed her and left her in Joffrey’s chamber to sow chaos.
But I know better. Joffrey totally killed Ros.
Time for another totally scientific and bias-free poll:
Images from HBO\\™s Game of Thrones, obviously.
I make no claim to the artwork, but some claims to the text here, so there.
(For more stuff like this, as well as articles on things not related to Game of Thrones, feel free to check out my blog over at patricksponaugle.com)
(Originally published February 25th, 2014 at patricksponaugle.com)
© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved