It’s been quite some time since the death of a major television character was greeted with such rapturous applause.
On Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Lion and the Rose,” King Joffrey Baratheon, the demented child of incest and all-around sonofabitch, kicked the bucket. And the world—by that, I mean the internet—rejoiced:
The character that gave the biggest sigh of relief was none other than Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), who’s been subjected to one degradation after another at the hands of the evil bastard. Turner famously compared the character to Justin Bieber—the power-drunk Canadian teen pop star.
“Joffrey, at the beginning of the series, is seen in public as the typical ‘eligible bachelor,’ he's a prince, he's handsome and he's famous in the world of Westeros, as is Justin Bieber in our world,” Turner tells The Daily Beast.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays Joffrey’s biological father (and uncle), Jaime Lannister, was a little more bullish on the Bieber comparison, but saw some parallels as well.
“Do not give an 18-year-old power, or too much fame or wealth, because it’s very difficult to not get messed up,” says Coster-Waldau. “I don’t want to jump on the [Justin Bieber] bandwagon, but I think it happens even more in that industry where suddenly you have so many adults around you and they’re saying ‘yes’ to everything, and it’s not healthy. It’s not a healthy thing to have too many tongues up your ass.”
Since no one can say “no” to the impetuous child, not even his mother, Cersei (Lena Headey), or grandfather, Tywin (Charles Dance), he’s given free rein to enact his cruel brand of Westerosi justice, with most of his ire aimed at Sansa, whom he’d pegged as his scapegoat from the get-go, executing her direwolf, Lady, after she witnessed him be embarrassed by Arya. Later, he promised Sansa he’d spare the life of her father, Eddard “Ned” Stark,” before surprising everyone by demanding his head on a platter. Following his execution, he made Sansa stare at her father’s head on a spike.
“I’d say showing the executed head of his fiancée's father to his fiancée is fairly awful,” says Turner. “He's done plenty of bad things over the past few years but I still reckon that's the worst one. I guess ‘The North Remembers.’”
There’s more. Joffrey has Sansa brought before the court and threatens to kill her with a crossbow, before ordering her to be stripped naked and beaten (until Tyrion intervenes); says Sansa should be left to the mob during a citywide riot; makes Sansa bow down and kiss his sword before the Battle of the Blackwater; suggests he may bed her on the night of her wedding to Tyrion; and, following The Red Wedding, boasts that he’ll serve Sansa her dead brother Robb Stark’s head on a plate.
The build-up to Joffrey’s long-awaited demise was slow, and lavish. All the Lannisters and Tyrells were in attendance for the nuptials of the bastard and throne-fixated Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer). And, in true Joffrey fashion, the ceremony was rife with humiliation. Dwarfs reenacted the War of the Five Kings, insulting virtually all in attendance; Joffrey taunted Sansa with his gifted sword of Valyrian steel, calling it “Widow’s Wail”; and Tyrion was mocked mercilessly, first asked to participate in the dwarf reenactment, and then ordered to serve as the boy’s cupbearer.
“It was actually a really surreal few days,” says Turner. “The whole wedding reception was filmed over a period of five days in Dubrovnik, Croatia, with about 20 cast members there and every day was hot and people were sleeping on set here and there. Then on the last day all off the cast members gathered round and watched Jack's death with Lena, Nikolaj, and Charles, and it was very much a bittersweet moment.”
That moment has been dubbed “The Purple Wedding.” And, while Gleeson is deliciously evil as Joffrey, he couldn’t be further from the heinous character in real life. In fact, the 21-year-old Irish actor is a religious studies double major at Trinity College, Dublin, and intends to quit acting after Game of Thrones and enter academia.
“Jack is lovely in person,” says Turner. “A really good friend of mine. I have so many great memories of filming with him. During shooting the scene of Tyrion and Sansa's wedding we spent the majority of the two days walking down the aisle together, so we basically just started talking rubbish to each other, singing, rapping, the whole shebang.”
The "Purple Wedding" episode attracted a massive 6.3 million viewers, the second-most in Game of Thrones history following the Season 4 premiere, which got 6.6 million. So what will life be like for Sansa and the rest of the world of Game of Thrones post-Joffrey?
“It's going to be very different for viewers, I reckon, without Joffrey,” says Turner. “There are no black and white, good, or bad characters in Game Of Thrones but Joffrey was an exception. Just pure evil. So I think it's going to be, if I'm honest, something that the viewers will definitely miss. I think it will just make it more exciting for the viewers because there always has to be that one character that people love to hate, so who knows if someone will take his place.”