Will Game of Thrones lose its appeal after shock death?
Spoiler alert: The Lion and The Rose, episode two of series four, offers a jaw-dropping plot twist
THERE was a virtual cheer on Twitter last night when King Joffrey was finally killed off on Game of Thrones. The sadistic young king, played by Jack Gleeson, was dealt an agonising death when a mystery killer poisoned his wedding chalice. After gasping for breath, he vomited, belly-flopped to the ground and convulsed in pain, blood dribbling from his eyes and nose. Viewers promptly turned to Twitter to celebrate, although many wished his death had been even more grisly.
But several critics are today lamenting the loss of such a "perfect villain", with some suggesting that the show might be worse off without him.
"Personally speaking, I'll miss this despicable, bastard spawn of an incestuous relationship," says Stuart Jeffries in The Guardian. "Like a boiled down Boris Johnson, Joffrey was not only blond but so captivatingly unpredictable you couldn't wait for his next PR gaffe."
In Slate, Willa Paskin laments the "loss of a perfect villain". Game of Thrones has yet again killed off one of its few centralising characters, she says. "In coming episodes, I suspect we may even come to miss Joffrey and the clarity of feeling he inspired."
Characters that rouse our passion, be they great villains or great heroes, are "rare" and any other "degenerate, unapologetic sadists" in Game of Thrones have "a long way to go before they can fill Joffrey's shoes", says Paskin.
"I actually feel a bit bereft," says Ellie Walker-Arnott in the Radio Times. "In a world full of grey areas and characters who flit violently between good and evil, Joffrey was the one character we all universally hated."
She adds that "the world of Westeros might be better off without their spoilt and stroppy king, I fear Game of Thrones the TV show might not be."
Josh Glancy in The Times says that, like many viewers, he had grown "strangely fond of Joffrey's delusional posturing and obnoxious one-liners."
He will be missed, says Glancy, but not mourned. "Lest we forget, this inbred sociopath shot crossbow bolts into prostitutes and ordered the slaughter of innocent babies. His blood-and-snot-dribbling demise was well deserved."
Meanwhile, Phillip Maciak in the Daily Beast insists that if a story matters to the viewer, the loss of a main character can be "jarring but generative."
He says: "The best dramatic shows aren't only able to withstand loss — they're built to allow for it, to dramatise it in meaningful ways. It's a cliche now to say that, on shows like Game of Thrones, 'no one is safe'. But, in today's television landscape, it's safety that is the real killer.''