Filling the Joffrey-Sized Hole

Posted: November 24, 2015 in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , ,

This post will be discussing elements from HBO’s Game of Thrones. Should you not be caught up with the show, I can’t be held responsible for spoilers if you keep reading.

joffrey_baratheon

I Am The King! And I’ll do as I like. Including holding the blogger responsible for spoilers!

King Joffrey Baratheon, first of his name, king of the First Men, and the Andals [, and the Rhoynar -this always gets dropped on the show], a name that will live in Game of Thrones infamy.

In season four, when King Joffrey was poisoned at his wedding…

olenna

Ahem! Until we see the toxicology report, let’s not jump to wild conclusions, shall we?

… in season four, when King Joffrey possibly choked to death at his wedding, totally unexpectedly and without malice that would implicate anyone from Highgarden…

olenna

I am sure that I don’t like these insinuations, around which you are dancing … dancing like a fool on fire. Which might be a very accurate description of you soon if you don’t move along…

… it was so satisfying. The audience had been wishing for Joffrey to meet his end for seasons and seasons. He’d had noble Ned beheaded after all!

The show runners had hoped, in the spirit of having a deeper and more poignant story, that Joffrey’s agonizing demise while being cradled in his helpless and distraught mother’s arms, would have elicited even a smidgeon of sympathy for the boy-king. After all, it’s a terrible situation for a mother to watch her son asphyxiate.

cersei-purple-wedding

Behold the sneer that elicits sympathy!

They miscalculated the audience’s inability to connect emotionally with Joffrey and Cersei.

I mean, really? I can understand in some abstract way that Cersei is suffering a loss, but it’s Joffrey. Ugh. Even Cersei was okay with Tyrion accusing her son of having children killed. (The jury is still out on who that culprit was…)

Although Joffrey was nearly universally hated (the guys who host the excellent The Joffrey of Podcasts would disagree about the hate) he brought a certain je ne sais quoi to the show. Don’t be scared that I’m using French. I’m trying to say that his presence on the show was a good thing, but hard to quantify.

Maybe I’m just inflating my solo opinion as if it’s shared by multitudes, but I believe the audience is now missing Joffrey as the show’s villainous poster child.

There’s a Joffrey-sized hole.

Except for a few occasions, Joffrey was entertaining to observe. Jack Gleeson was great at playing the part of the entitled, spoiled Joffrey; who by turns was volatile and scary but also pathetic and comical.

With Joffrey gone (along with the exit of his grandfather, Tywin) the show acquired a villain vacuum. Whom were we going to root against?

Rat Bastard Ramsay Bolton

Up in the far, cold north, Ramsay nee-Snow emerged as a successor of sorts to Joffrey. And unfortunately was a much worse character.

iwan-rheon-ramsay-bolton

Worse? Fetch my knives…

By worse, I mean he was much more successful than Joffrey seemed to be at getting the evil done. He was extra-unpleasant.

  • Joffrey ordered Ned Stark killed which put Robb Stark in power, but Ramsay sacked Winterfell, killing innocent northerners and weakening support for the young King in the North.
  • Joffrey debated with his mother about controlling the North. “It’s too large,” Cersei told Joffrey. Ramsay might not be totally in control of the North, but he’s been having success flaying recalcitrant northern lords for taxes. Really flaying whomever he wants. (Well, Dad Bolton did put some limits on that.)
Ramsay

No, Ramsay, you cannot flay the postman. How would we receive gifts from people too terrified to come to the wedding? You know, because they’re afraid of being flayed!

  • Joffrey hid from the fighting when Stannis attacked King’s Landing, but Ramsay personally devastated Stannis’ supplies and his army.
  • Joffrey was betrothed to Sansa Stark. Ramsay … I’ll just stop there.

Iwan Rheon is great as the dangerous and unhinged Ramsay Bolton, but nearly every scene he’s in is grisly and terrifying. It’s uncomfortable watching him, as opposed to the fascination of watching Joffrey.

This elevation of Ramsay as a major antagonist was one of the reasons that people complained about Season 5. Joffrey was king and the king could do as he liked, but often there would be negative consequences for his actions.

JoffreySlapped

The Imp Slap!

To be fair, usually the consequences didn’t directly affect Joffrey. Executing Ned, for example, was obviously a huge political problem but the young king would not have agreed that he’d acted in error. He hadn’t gotten slapped for that.

But in the end, his attitude and behavior contributed to his death…

olenna

… watch it …

… by mysterious karmic forces!

Joffrey was shown to have access to great power. He was king after all, but he was otherwise weak and not very smart. Sansa got some mileage out of carefully manipulating him, and even sassing him at times.

Ramsay, on the other hand, is another story.

Ramsay the Mary Sue

Ramsay is a bit too competent. I mentioned him being a point of complaint for season 5, and it wasn’t because the Bolton monster was awful and vile per se, it was because he was unreasonably successful. It seemed like the writers loved him so much that, just like a cliched Mary Sue character, he could not fail.

This is an aspect of Ramsay that has been present ever since he’d been introduced.

  • Ramsay wanted to play a major prank on Theon. To gain Theon’s trust, he killed four of his own men who had been sent out to track down the fugitive Greyjoy. He killed them all by himself. Ramsay must have been extremely confident that he would succeed.
  • Ramsay was so skilled at psychological conditioning, he broke Theon with such precision that Reek could be trusted to shave Ramsay with a razor while Ramsay goaded him.
UnarmoredRamsay

Fine. He’s too sexy for his shirt. I said it.

  • The Ironborn were attacking! Would it be a good idea to wear armor when fighting them? Ramsay didn’t think so. He waded in bare-chested, cutting through elite (and armored) fighters from the Iron Islands. I’m pretty sure those Viking-analogues were normally skilled in taking on people who lacked adequate protection. Otherwise all those villages would have gone unsacked.
  • Ramsay and “twenty good men” snuck into the camp of an experienced field commander, and with precise pyrotechnic strikes (synchronized with timers?) they eliminated food supplies and siege weaponry. That somewhat seems impossible.

I don’t mind some of this. Ramsay’s brainwashing of Theon makes for an interesting story, but the other Ramsay-centric points not only make him seem unrealistically exemplary, it makes the Ironborn and Stannis seem ridiculous.

Remember Yara Greyjoy’s raid on the Dreadfort? The attempt to rescue Theon? The main talking point of discussion afterwards by the viewers was not how much of a wretch that Theon had become, but how much his sister Yara was afraid of dogs or something. (That’s not why the Ironborn aborted the mission. Seriously.)

As well, Stannis and his men seemed to be wallowing in the depths of incompetence in regards to protecting their food from attack. Just how did Ramsay pull that off?

Ramsay: Oi, you’re the twenty good men my father has granted me?
Bolton Goon: Can’t fully agree, m’lord. None of us are what anyone would call “good.”
Ramsay: Perfect. Alright, here’s the plan. We ride for Stannis’ camp, sneak in, and set fire to all of his food and siege weaponry.
Bolton Goon: What? No we don’t. They’d catch us, and then eat us, most like.
Ramsay: No, we will sneak in to Stannis’ camp, set fire to all of this food and siege weaponry, and escape unseen and uneaten.
Bolton Goon: Har. How we do that?
Ramsay: With these invisibility cloaks and thermite charges! Didn’t my father tell you ladies that I’m a wizard as well? I was best boy at Hogwarts, representing House Slytherin!
Bolton Goon: Well, that just don’t seem rightly cricket, but we’ll do as you say.
Ramsay: Excellent…

It just seems a bit too much.

On the bright side…

Fortunately, there are a ton of other villains to root against besides Ramsay, if we’re uncomfortable with him.

If Ramsay is the new Joffrey, then Roose Bolton is the new Tywin. And Joffrey was killed off unexpectedly, so maybe Ramsay’s disproportionate luck will run out, and he’ll end up feeding the crows.

Roose Bolton could step up as primary bad guy. He’s a reasonably compelling villain.

Roose

I’m a paragon of reason.

He’s been successful at evil, but not unrealistically successful, so he’s earned it. Along with some other devious skeevy types.

David-Bradley-Walder-Frey-Game-of-Thrones

Hello ladies. I’m single, by the way. Single, and rich.

We also have that rat-faced Walder Frey who needs some divine retribution for the violation of guest-rites. No one likes that guy. But he just doesn’t seem impressive enough to be the number one bad guy.

We also have the king of the Others and his undead army to worry about.

thrones-hardhome-nightsking-680x400

The ever-lovin’ blue-eyed Thing.

Although he’s a bit too elemental and impersonal at the moment. It’s like having a weather event be the villain.

If we’re at a loss for people to root against, there’s always this kid.

rd-olly-game-of-thrones-hardhome

What?

But I’ve gone on record as feeling sorry for the little tyke.

So Joffrey is gone, and he’ll be missed, but the show has provided the audience with plenty of replacement villains to root against. Ramsay might be the most awful, but if we’re lucky, something really, really, really bad will happen to him.

Like really bad.

Of course, the worst thing for us viewers would be if Ramsay was given some kind of redemptive arc. We all remember how we were comfortable hating on Jaime. Then boom. Now we love that Bran-pushing sister-lover.

Maybe I shouldn’t be mentioning these things. GRRM, please don’t give Ramsay Bolton a redemptive arc. Damn, I shouldn’t have said that either. I don’t want him to take that up as a challenge or something.

Hey! Let’s hear what you have to say. With Joffrey dead, who is now the worstest?

joffrey_baratheon

How you like me now, huh?


(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)

I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2015 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. PoojaG says:

    To me Ramsay is definitely the worst mostly because Joffrey was sadistic and evil but he was also stupid and a coward. Ramsay is pure evil and he’s smart too- he knows what he’s doing and what he has done is so much worse than what Joffrey had done. I really hope Ramsay’s luck does run out soon and I look forward to watching him suffer…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jennnanigans says:

    Agree!

    Ramsay is WAY overpowered. One of the delights of the show/world is that it doesn’t matter HOW good someone is, because REALITY. Sure, Ned Stark was great with a sword and Jaime Lannister is Death with Great Hair, but even they were VERY fallible, as we saw with their sword fight. The Hound and Brienne are both widely acknowledged to be great swords(people) and yet they still survive every fight by the skin of their teeth – sometimes literally! The showrunners banked on the solidity of that whole concept when they killed Barristan Selmy and I grudgingly allowed it because, again, REALITY. AND THEN you have this smarmy little snotbag with his sexy shirtlessness bossing people around and being a tool. I totes agree about Ramsay being Mary Sue-ish. In the books it always felt like Roose Bolton was very poised to be the next Big Bad, and he had the sense to reign Ramsay in, but in the show he doesn’t seem to be doing anything to maintain order. He says something in the books to the effect ‘Oh you can be as crazy as you want, but DO NOT get caught,’ implying that if Ramsay Ran Rampant (my new band name) then Roose would do something about it himself, but we never get a sense of that in the show.

    *takes breath*

    I’m guessing the writers wanted to give the audience someone else to hate so when they kill him they’ll gain back all the good will they lost over this season, but I think Ramsay isn’t working out as that villain for a few reasons:

    1. Joffrey was a spoiled brat, and he was petty and hateful, but ultimately a perfect example of a coward. NOTHING is more disgusting than a coward who’ll order and/or manipulate others into inflicting pain and death and then run away crying when shit gets real. He fits into the world of GRRM so well because he is the externalization of everything wrong with that world – misusing his power to torment the helpless, nepotism, his mom’s refusal to acknowledge his awfulness. Also everybody watching the show knows they could beat up Joffrey and barely scrape their knuckles. He’s a coward and bully and I miss hating his smirking face (although I would totally shake Jack Gleeson’s hand if I ever met him because he was amazing in that part).

    2. Ramsay is horrible and wretched, but he’s not as well written as Joffrey was and so he’s harder to hate. I hate book Ramsay so much I can barely read the pages he’s on because The Red Mist of Rage descends, but show Ramsay is too shallow and magical a character to feel anything for. Also– Show Ramsay works hard to accomplish his nefarious plots. He plans and thinks and clearly works out and probably trains to stay in practice, whereas in the book he was kind of a dumb bully, but we never get a sense of that– we don’t see him training or practicing, he’s just a magical Viking Ninja who somehow knows all the angles and it feels cheap. Or maybe they do show him doing his back of house stuff and I wasn’t paying attention, but I still think he’s WAY too good at everything he tries and I don’t buy it. Which sucks because I think Iwon Rheon is a fine, fine actor and worthy of better writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Amananji says:

    No doubt “There’s a Joffrey-sized hole”. Jack Gleeson played the character so well we couldn’t help but to hate King Joffrey Baratheon. Personally, I think he was one of the best actors on the show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right. I LOVED watching Jack Gleeson in behind the scenes stuff, and how the other actors really thought highly of him.

      In season 1, when Cersei gave Joffrey the “make nice with Sansa speech” he goes and charms her, and ALMOST CHARMED ME! (And I’d read the books, so I knew what a little crap her was.)

      Kudos to that guy.

      Liked by 1 person

    • jennnanigans says:

      Yes! He was charming and he really, earnestly didn’t understand why Sansa hated him in the second season. That was part of why he worked – we’ve all had those thoughtless moments where we hurt someone and didn’t realize it until it was pointed out to us, although ours are more like ‘hey you put my coffee cup in the sink and I wasn’t done with it vs. you cut off my pet dire wolf’s head and then murdered my dad after he made obeisance to you’. That’s why I hated Joffrey so much – I could see myself in him.

      You’re right, Jack Gleeson was amazing. I hope he comes back to acting!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. KG says:

    I was tempted to go with the option which starts with ‘You!’ but then decided to honestly answer the poll by selecting ‘Ramsay’. I hope he rots…slowly. With respect to acting I still believe Gleeson was the best villain, considering his age and experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Haylee says:

    Finally managed to read after nightmare connections – if ‘The Internet’ had been on your poll, I’d have chosen that!

    Okay, so I despise Ramsay. He’s a vile, evil creature who needs ending. I hated Joffrey too but as you said, there was a kind of weird spectacle watching his lunacy and wondering what he’s spout out next. He was like a pantomime villain to me – the one you shout “He’s behind you!” to boo when they come on screen!

    That said, I actually went with Littlefinger for the poll. Ramsay is psychopathically dangerous but at least you know what you’re going to get. He makes no apologies for being openly twisted. Whereas LF is indeed a dark lord of skulduggery. The underhanded manipulations of a puppet master are always far scarier. To me at least!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. wscottling says:

    My husband liked your post and agrees with you. His is the answer to your poll. I learn more about this show all of the time. ^_^

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Speevers says:

    I voted for Littlefinger, because he literally killed millions of people just on the off-chance that he might wind up getting to bang this one girl. And be king, I guess, but still.

    I always kind of felt sorry for book Joffrey, actually, because I used to teach thirteen-year-olds, and as far as I can tell, the only thing that makes Joffrey different from, like, half of my class is that he had a crown and an army. Thirteen-year-olds are douchecanoes, but most of them eventually grow out of it.

    On the show, though, fuck him.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You and I are certainly on the same team when it comes to Littlefinger. He has a special place in my spleen (that’s the right organ, the one full of bile, totally-not-the-heart) for Baelish. Littlefinger is totally undermining Westeros when it needs to get its act together.

      Like

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