Who poisoned Joffrey Baratheon at the Purple Wedding in the latest episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones?
Tyrion gets blamed for it – which in the logic of television makes him the only person we can absolutely rule out. The question, then, is who else has a motive for killing Joffrey?
It could have been Varys, who has loyalties to the previous two regimes and who, in addition, seems sometimes like a fairly decent person – unlike Joffrey.
Oberyn Martell is another possibility. He holds a long standing hatred for the House Lannister going back to the murder of his sister Elia, wife of Rhaegar Targaryen, by Gregore Clagane on Tywin’s orders.
Bronn and Pod, friends of Tyrion, might have done it to help out their BFF. Joffrey, after all, tried to have Tyrion murdered at the Battle of the Blackwater. The problem here is that Tyrion was implicated in the end, which would seem to rule out any of his friends being involved.
Shae offered to take on all of the other Lannisters for Tyrion and would certainly have the nerve to do something like this. Despite being spurned by Tyrion, however, it still seems unlikely that she would want to create a situation that would get him into further trouble, no matter how angry she is.
Maester Pycelle is clearly a person who encourages others to underestimate him. He has no love for Tyrion, who threw him in the dungeons of the Red Keep while acting as the Hand. He also knows a lot about poisons and was the person who gave out poison to Queen Cersei during the Battle of the Blackwater.
And of course there’s Melisandre who used the blood of kings – and some leeches -- to perform a ceremony she promised Stannis Baratheon would eliminate his enemies: Rob Stark, Joffrey Baratheon and Balon Greyjoy (Balon, father of Theon/Reek, is the only one currently still alive on the show).
The truth is, however, that far too many people have motives for wanting Joffrey dead. In CSI Westeros fashion, it may be time to check the forensics and find out who had opportunity as well as motive. In order to poison Joffrey, the poison would have to get into his golden drinking cup somehow. The poison couldn’t have been in the carafe of wine since no one else became ill. So who had access to the cup?
Additionally, how do you smuggle the poison into a royal wedding? There must be people checking for such things. Where would you hide it?
To get the poison to the wedding and then into the cup, we’re going to work backwards. As Joffrey is gasping his last, this weird fellow shows up next to Sansa “Stark” Lannister and tells her to come with him if she wants to live. Who is he?
Dontos Hollard first showed up at the start of season two in an episode called The North Remembers. He is a drunk knight whom Joffrey is about to have killed when Sansa uses a ruse to save Dontos’ life. Joffrey then has him made into the court fool. (By the way, note the Captain America theme of Dontos’ armor. There are references to comic book characters throughout Game of Thrones as George R. R. Martin is a big fan of the genre.)
In the first episode of season four, he shows up in the Godswood where Sansa is spending some quiet time. He says he wants to thank her for saving his life by giving her an old family heirloom.
Sansa promises to always wear the necklace. She in fact wears it to the royal wedding. Unbeknown to Sansa, this is how the poison is smuggled into the wedding.
Now lets follow the golden wine cup which, in this scenario, is our smoking gun. After making an infelicitous joke, Tyrion has wine poured on his head from it and is told that he should come be the king’s cupbearer. He is, so far, the only person other than Joffrey who has had access to the cup.
Not willing to let it go, Joffrey then ratchets up the tension by telling Tyrion to kneel. Tyrion isn’t about to do that.
Fortunately Margaery Tyrell, Joffrey’s bride, distracts everyone by yelling “Pie!”
Joffrey drinks up a list sip of pre-poisoned wine.
Joffrey hands the cup to Margaery.
Margaery turns around and places it …
to the Tyrells – her father and her grandmother, the Queen of Thorns.
At this point, we know that Margaery can’t poison the wine because she is standing right behind Joffrey as he cuts the slightly undercooked pigeon pie.
Having chomped down on some of the pie, Joffrey complains that it is dry and once again goes back to his game of having Tyrion play at being his wine bearer.
Tyrion picks up the now poisoned cup …
with the Queen of Thorns, Lady Olenna, looking very interested …
while Tyrion looks very put out …
and hands it off …
to the king …
and things don’t work out well for Joffrey.
So now that we know when the poison is put in the cup, how did it get there? You’ll notice in this picture that Sansa, as promised, is wearing the necklace that Dontos gave her.
Lady Olenna comes by to express her condolences to Sansa.
If you watch her hands, she plays with Sansa’s hair and then her necklace. The Queen of Thornes then seems to palm something in her right hand and bring it to the thick folds of her skirt.
She distracts Sansa from what’s really going on with some simple patter: “I haven't had the opportunity to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your brother. War is war but ... 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.”
Now if you look closely at Sansa’s necklace, you may notice that something is missing.
And just in case you still aren’t completely clear about who killed Joffrey, it was this lady:
It is also noteworthy that this episode, written by George R. R. Martin himself, marks a turning point in the relationship between the books and the television series. This is the first time that something only hinted at in the books and still a matter of debate among fans is spelled out explicitly, albeit subtly, in the HBO series. From now on, readers of the books can no longer be certain of knowing more than tv viewers from week to week.