Recovered Yet? Has your anxiety faded? Can you go to a wedding without checking the band for crossbows and nervously eyeing the door? After last season’s stabby-stabby Worst Reception Ever, it’s hard to believe anybody on HBO’s Game of Thrones would go near an altar again. As sharp-tongued Lady Olenna says at the start of season 4: “Killing a man at a wedding. Horrid. What sort of monster would do such a thing? As if men need more reasons to fear marriage.”
Yet here we are, gathered to celebrate the union of King Joffrey and Lady Margaery Tyrell in an idyllic tree-lined Croatian grove overlooking the high-def-ready Adriatic Sea. Since this is a group of killers, schemers, and sycophants, the crowd is probably safe — on Thrones, it’s always the softhearted heroes who have to worry.
Let’s meet the guests of honor: There’s a bored Tyrion Lannister reading his iPad. His captive wife, Sansa Stark, dancing happily in her chair. His cunning father, Lord Tywin, having a smoke. His newly amputated brother, Jaime, practicing left-handed swordplay. Since this is downtime between filming, none of the actors are actually in character. But when you’re surrounded by rows of tables crowded with piles of exotic delicacies, 200 meticulously costumed extras, red-and-gold-sigil-adorned banners, and a 20-foot lion’s-head statue (with a functioning jaw that serves a purpose we cannot disclose), the set is so immersive that it’s hard not to feel like a King’s Landing wedding crasher.
Joffrey, naturally, will use this occasion to treat everybody horribly (though he’s positively Emily Post compared with Walder Frey, the host of last season’s Red Wedding). As played by 21-year-old Jack Gleeson, the young king is like the sadistic bully from your high school nightmares, except crowned with unlimited power. “Normal brides and grooms take control and go a bit crazy at their weddings,” says Gleeson, whose performance was inspired by Joaquin Phoenix’s emperor villain in Gladiator. “Joffrey is already controlling and crazy, so this is just fanning the flames of his petulance.”
Watching the ultra-polite Gleeson rehearse is like viewing schizophrenia. As Joffrey he kicks a cup, then as Gleeson he quickly apologizes to costar Lena Headey when it hits her foot. He berates musicians played by Icelandic indie band Sigur Rós, but then a band member notes that after each take, “he’s always giving us this ‘really sorry’ face.” And while Joffrey terrorizes his uncle Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) on screen, off camera their roles are jokingly reversed, as when Gleeson spills a couple drops of wine on that iPad. “Sorry! It’s just a little dribble.” Dinklage erupts: “What did you call me? God, you’re such an a–hole!”