In Defense of Joffrey Baratheon (Yes, JOFFREY)

Posted: February 25, 2014 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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.


Bring Me a Puppy! A King Has a Schedule to Keep!

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 is Not Impressed.

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.


Joffrey Ponders If It’s Better to be Impaled on the Iron Throne’s Swords, or Tywin’s Glare.

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?


(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.


That’s Right Tywin, Nothing Going On Over Here. This City is on Fire With Rock and Roll.

(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.


Balon Regrets Not Having a Son. Oh, He Has a Son? Yes! The Slimy One! Thedgar! Thedmond! Something Like That!

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.


Me? Try to Have You Killed? That’s Unpossible to Imagine!

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?

Cersei: Sigh.

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.


Who? Me?

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.


Who? Me?

But I know better. Joffrey totally killed Ros.


You’re Godsdamned Right.

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.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2014 Some Rights Reserved

  1. dog-eared & foxing says:

    Yeah, Ramsay Snow is the worst. He’s going completely unchecked.

    You’ve offered a good defense for why Joff is a bad king. He’s still a lousy person, though. Completely indefensible.

    Also– laughed out loud at “it’s not the seven handoms.” Hahaha


  2. Susan says:

    Valiant effort Ser Pat of House Radish. I;m still not convinced.


  3. Hey! (I’m from Wordland Elves/Long Distance Book Clubbing, posting from my own blog)

    So as much as I always WANT to hate Joffrey… mainly for being a pompous ass, I have to agree that while I hold him responsible for all of his outrageous actions… it’s not entirely his fault that he sucks so much.

    Between the fact that he’s a product of incest, and the fact that he’s a child, also raised by jerks, he doesn’t really know what he’s doing. When you see Joffrey in a one-on-one, or with a strong character – he reverts back to that sheepish, childish behavior, making it abundantly clear that everything he has been doing is illusion, as you very justly put it.

    “The whole situation actually reminds me of what the Joker says in the Dark Knight:
    You know… You know what I’ve noticed? Nobody panics when things go ‘according to plan.’ Even if the plan is horrifying! If, tomorrow, I tell the press that, like, a gang banger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics, because it’s all ‘part of the plan’.”

    Maybe comparing Joffrey to the Joker doesn’t make him any more justifiable, but there is a certain logic to what he’s doing, whether he is cognizant of it or not. So, yeah, I’m with you on this one!


    • Hey Virginia, thank you for the Dark Knight reference! Defending Joffrey was kind of a challenge that someone charged me with after all my other In Defense Ofs… I appreciate your open-minded response.

      (Obviously, I think he’s a clownshoe almost all the time.)


  4. (I may have misplaced some quotes in my comment)


  5. mystichuntress says:

    Reblogged this on mystichuntress.


  6. Yeah not buying this one at all, but nice attempt regardless!


    • Thanks! It’s a Win-Win for me, either I successfully make my case (win) or as in your case, Joffrey is still considered 100% horrible (Win! Because, well, Joffrey… Horrible!)

      Thank you again for the comment.


  7. Nuchtchas says:

    The tywin thing, Tywin is smart enough to know Joff is long past saving, when Joff had actual say and information he made his biggest mistakes, when Ty got there is had a plan to shut down Joff’s influence and turn him into a puppet, if that didn’t work… well, only little birds may know.

    I think Cireci did think Joff did those things, but she knows she can’t lie to Tyrion, she’s tried before, but she can’t con him like she can others, or Jamie. I think if she had tried to move the blame then she knew Tyrion would have gone after Joff more. I think she just didn’t want to commit to anything, and stab him in the back later.

    My defense of Joff is that his upbringing is quite wrong. His mother tries to guide him, but even that is way wrong, and he doesn’t value her opinion because Robert never did. Joff has daddy issues. Robert never care for him and was never kind (in the books he even smacked him around a few times, till Jamie found out, but mostly it was as if Joff didn’t exist, which was worse for him) Joff had a lot of pressure because he would be king but no one was teaching him, guiding him. He didn’t have a father showing him how to live, how to be, where there was compassion. He didn’t get it from Jamie because Jamie was scared if anyone saw him be close to the kids they might suspect he was the father. He always was ill to Tyrion, unlike Mycella and Tomen, who adore him, because Robert and everyone else in the kingdom looked down on him, even his mother who was, ugh, a woman, a woman his father hated. Jamie adored Tyrion, but again, how would Joff know anything about Jamie? Tywin hadn’t been in Kings Landing during Joff’s childhood so there was no established relationship there. Joff was completely alienated growing up, he was turned cold by this. By the time Robert was slain he was already a monster.

    Oh and lets not forget that his only companionship was the Hound, who likes killing men because it makes him feel good, and it was his job to clean up all of Joff’s messes. Anything Joff did was forgiven, he was left alone and when he cried out for attention, cried out to be punished, it never happened!

    Joff could be a case study for the “So you want to raise a serial killer” playbook.

    And yes I know there are arguments for inborn sociopaths since in the books they talk about him torturing animals as a boy, but he didn’t have a chance on the nurture front either.


    • Hey Nutty, I’m looking forward to when the Beyond the Wall podcast kicks off again, thanks for the feedback.

      We can agree to disagree on whether Joffrey ordered the death of the bastards or arranged for a hit on Tyrion.

      As for Tywin being smart enough to know that Joffrey was beyond saving, he’s therefore not smart enough to know that a publicly recognized weak king is far more dangerous to the stability of the realm than a weak king who appears strong but is managed. By obviously marginalizing Joffrey’s aura of power, he’s risking a tremendous amount, with the only gain being his ego. I believe Tywin has a lot of ego, so the question is, is he stupidly egotistical, or is he just stupid?

      Hey, I appreciate the Joffrey analysis as well. Lately, I’ve found a lot of Lannister analysis blog post happening, so they’re a hot topic.

      April 6, just get here.


      • Nuchtchas says:

        Oh I’m not arguing who ordered the kill squad, that fact is irrelevant, I just said I don’t think Circie knows herself.

        I’m not sure Tywin knows or thinks his actions to sanction the king are known outside of the small council, but I also wonder if he has other plans. Your article makes me think perhaps there are many more people plotting than I realized.

        I love the analysis, I think every single character in the books can be defended and argued for. I think that is the beauty of this series, everyone is gray, they all have good and bad in them. And they all have reasons for being the way they are, even Ramsey Snow, as much as I hate to admit it.

        Can’t wait for the new season, it will be fun to get back to the podcast too.


  8. Mike Norton says:

    I think Tywin doesn’t care at all if Joffry is king or not. You made a few comments on the illusion of power; I think Tywin’s aim is to actually make people believe that Joffry’s power is merely an illusion so that everyone truly answers to him.

    This is the Game of Thrones, right? Tywin doesn’t respect his own grandson. So, he’s taking over…without taking over.


    • That’s not a bad theory, Mike. Tywin certainly behaves kingly (as opposed to Joffrey, who has to always insist that he’s the king.)

      But it’s a dangerous course, to effectively undercut the appearance of Joffrey’s power. Joffrey has a (false) claim to the throne, but Tywin has no legit claim to power. He’s just a lord. At some point, the other lords of the realm might question why they’re being forced to treat him as a superior. And most of the rest of the realm are already either in secession, harboring grudges against the Lannisters, or are not fully in control of their areas.

      The strongest ally Tywin currently has are the Tyrells, and they’re in the alliance so they can get Margaery to be queen, and then have a child of Margaery’s be in position to one day inherit the throne. If they see Tywin working to undercut that… who knows what would happen?

      But I like your suggestion of Tywin striving to become a de facto king. When he was the Hand of Mad King Aerys (before they had a falling out) he was really good at keeping things working.

      Thanks for your feedback, man. Nothing fires me up more than a Game of Thrones discussion.


  9. jennnanigans says:

    Awesome post! What a challenge, defending Joffrey! You, sir, are courageous!

    For all that he’s a tremendous canker, I never really hated Joffrey. Besides the incest thing, and his instability on the crown, I KNEW that while he wields all this power, it wouldn’t last too long. This isn’t a world that is forgiving of fools after all.

    I really love the character of Tywin Lannister. I can’t believe Charles Dance hasn’t won something for his portrayal yet.

    Or the kid who plays Joffrey. He must be one of the most hated characters in television history, throw the poor kid a bone, awards committees!


    • Thank you!

      You’re right that both actors are terrific.

      In Season One, when Joffrey put the charming moves on Sansa (after being ordered to by Cersei, to make up), even though I knew what a monster he was, I had to appreciate his charisma as the young earnest prince.


  10. ainsleyrufer says:

    Oh man this was awesome, I’ve never seen anyone give Joffrey more than a second glance before declaring him evil incarnate. This didn’t exactly make him look innocent, but really highlighted the characters around him. I love it!


    • Thank you so much, I really appreciate the feedback. I mean, Joffrey is pretty evil, but, you know, I can’t just defend the Starks all the time.

      Thanks for coming to the site and leaving the comment!


  11. Let me just preface this by saying in no world do I think Joffrey is a good person or not a waste of skin, but (and a part of me is dying inside) I can’t hold him wholly responsible for his actions. Oh, he did them, no doubt, but nothing is created out of a vacuum and I’d never classify Joffrey as a complete monster. First, let’s look at his parents. Did Cersei really do anything to guide/train the boy in how to be a decent human being or was he consistently allowed to flaunt his “born” place (oh the irony)? When Robert attempted to discipline him, Cersei flew off the handle. Granted the drunk king isn’t winning father of the year, but at least he tried. I can get into some nature/nurture debating as Tommen and Myrcella seemed to have turned out surprisingly well. This could be because Cersei had most of her attention on Joff as the crown prince, so her poisonous influence didn’t affect the other two. There’s also the possibility that Joffrey is a legitimate psychopath, and if this is the case, it’s a mental issue. Now I’m going to delve into some crackpottery. There are theories swimming around the web that the Lannister twins may not be the “Lannister” twins at all but rather of the blood of old Valyria…partially. The notion being old king Aerys’s “liberties” with Johanna may have included first night and/or many nights to come (which may have prompted Rhaella dismissing Johanna from her service). So if we go with this Cersei may have picked up some of the Targaryen madness, and doubled up by the twincest, it was passed on to her first son, but (hopefully) missed her other children. None of this is offered as an excuse, but more as an explanation. I really kicked myself after I realized I might have felt a bit bad for so cheering the death of a thirteen year old. Nor can I take credit for any of these theories. Maybe I can say I provided some of the thread that binds them together, but even that might be a stretch.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, some people claim that Tyrion is the secret Targaryen, but when Jaime’s Aunt Gemma (or was it Aunt Genna?) was mentioning how much Tyrion was like Tywin, and not Jaime, it fired my thoughts towards Jaime and Cersei being the Mad King’s children.

      Thanks for your thoughts on Joffrey. He’s awful, but in some ways he was doomed to be Mad King 2.0. And nobody was doing anything to forestall that.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yup Genna said something to Jaime along the lines of “…Tyrion is Tywin’s son,” and you can see it. Tywin can see it, too; it’s why he hates him so much. Tyrion is the physical representation of what Tywin is inside and vice versa. If the gods were just, their physical appearances would be switched.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. While I agreed with the Jon Snow abandoning Ygritte and wanted to click that radio button, i could not.

    In the spirit of debate, all you presented was why Joffrey’s mother and grandfather were worse, not why we should care about him. This old trope is that of “if you prefer chocolate you hate vanilla”.

    I can’t stand Cersei but if I had my way that bitch would have died with her son. They were all awful. Now that I think of it the only truly 100% non-awful person is Hodor.

    Liked by 1 person

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