All the reasons why "Game of Thrones" villain Joffrey Baratheon deserved his "Purple Wedding"

10 years later, the fate met by arguably the most hateful Lannister still satisfies

By Gabriella Ferrigine

Staff Writer

Published April 13, 2024 10:00AM (EDT)

Jack Gleeson as Joffrey in "Game of Thrones" (HBO)
Jack Gleeson as Joffrey in "Game of Thrones" (HBO)

This article contains many major spoilers for "Game of Thrones." We warned you!

It's been 10 years since Joffrey Baratheon was served his just desserts — pigeon pie, to be specific, followed by a golden goblet of strangler poison.

I should preface by saying I don't relish death of any kind. And yet that moral principle is hard to square with "Game of Thrones" fandom, thanks to series author George R.R. Martin and HBO adaptation creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. As any loyal viewers of HBO's popular series know, one should never get too attached to a character, lest they end up decapitated, flayed, skewered or incinerated by dragon fire. 

That being said, I know I'm not alone when I say that Joffrey's (Jack Gleeson) death was a satisfying watch, especially since the entire fan base was still reeling from the Red Wedding massacre of House Stark that transpired not long before. Surreptitiously poisoned by Lady Olena Tyrell of House Hightower (Diana Rigg) at the dinner following his wedding to her granddaughter, Margaery (Natalie Dormer), Joffrey's demise is not pretty: The newly minted king gags on poisoned wine before asphyxiating, blood running from his nose, twitching in purple-faced contortions as his mother, Queen Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) wails over his body.

Rivaled only by Ramsay Bolton and his gruesome affinity for siccing hounds on his victims, Joffrey's predilection for cruelty landed him a proportionate end. Knowing that his claim to the Iron Throne was by all suspicions illegitimate — as he was likely the product of a forbidden relationship between Cersei and her bother, Kingslayer Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) — made his death even more palatable. 

As Weiss said on a recent episode of Josh Horowitz's "Happy Sad Confused" podcast, "With 'Thrones,' there was so much killing of good guys, and we finally got to really kill both Joffrey in season 4 and Ramsay Bolton in season 6. It was fun to go back to the old-fashioned joys of just killing off a really bad guy. It felt like it was balancing the scales a little."

Here's a list of reasons why the "Purple Wedding" made fans breathe a collective sigh of relief a decade ago.

Instructing the Hound to kill Mycah, the butcher's boy (S1 Ep. 2)
The humble son of a butcher, Mycah (Rhodri Hosking) befriends Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) during her family's trip to King's Landing, and the pair engage in a friendly duel with wooden swords by a riverbank. When Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) and Joffrey, in the middle of a courting outing, happen upon them, Joffrey gratuitously demands that the boy face off against him and his very real, non-wooden sword.
When Arya's dire wolf Nymeria attacks Joffrey to intervene, chaos — and two deeply unnecessary killings (Mycah and Sansa's dire wolf, Lady, who is executed in Nymeria's place) — ensues.


Executing Ned Stark (S1 Ep. 9)
Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) execution is the introduction to the litany of shock-value deaths that follow over the course of eight seasons. It also catalyzes the seismic civil war also known as the War of the Five Kings, that drives much of the series' plot. 
When Ned learns of Joffrey's bastard status while serving as Hand of the King in King's Landing, he confronts Queen Cersei about her and Jaime's deception. Though he is able to inform King Robert's (Mark Addy) brother, Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), Ned is ultimately betrayed by Master of Coin Petyr Baelish — known as "Littlefinger" — played by Aidan Gillen, and jailed for treason. Joffrey elects to have the ruler of Winterfell beheaded publicly by Ser Ilyn Payne (Wilko Johnson) in front of his two young daughters and the rest of the city. 
To add insult to injury, the ever-sadistic Joffrey forces Sansa to stare at her late father's head mounted upon a pike in the following episode. 
Slaughtering King Robert's bastards (S2 Ep. 1)
Joffrey is incensed upon learning that Robert not only fathered bastards across King's Landing but that many believe his own parentage to be just as dubious. 
In a moment of violent judgment, Joffrey orders a citywide massacre of all of Robert's bastards, the most heartrending of which occurs in one of Littlefinger's brothels, when the newborn son of a sex worker is ruthlessly slain. 


Killing Ros in his bedroom with a crossbow (S3 Ep. 6)
After Littlefinger learns that sex worker Ros (Esmé Bianco) — we meet her in season one astride Tyrion Lannister, played by Peter Dinklage — has been spying on him at the behest of the King's Master of Whisperers, the eunuch Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), he sells her off to Joffrey.
The barbaric fledgling king uses Ros for live target practice, stringing her up in his bedroom and shooting her multiple times with his crossbow. 


Threatening to assault Sansa on the eve of her wedding to Tyrion (S3 Ep. 8)
By this point in the series, viewers can't help but feel awful for Sansa, now a prisoner in King's Landing and Joffrey's personal, emotionally manipulated punching bag.
Though they were at one time betrothed, the engagement is broken off when Joffrey decides to marry Margaery instead. To consolidate as much power as possible, Head of House Lannister, Tywin, instructs his son Tyrion to marry Sansa, much to her initial chagrin. 
“I suppose it doesn’t matter which Lannister puts the baby in you. Maybe I’ll pay you a visit tonight after my uncle passes out,” Joffrey menaces at Sansa's wedding ceremony, adding that he'll have his men hold her down during the hypothetical assault. 


Parodying the deadly War of the Five Kings at his wedding (S4 Ep.2)
One of the last of Joffrey's cruel jabs directed at Sansa takes place on the day of his death, at his wedding ceremony. While grieving the recent murder of her brother Robb Stark and mother Catelyn Stark by Lannister ally Walder Frey (David Bradley), Sansa is shocked to see Joffrey has ordered a group of people with dwarfism (a separate act of mockery of his uncle Tyrion) to reenact the war in a joking manner. The players lend specific focus to Robb's decapitation — after being murdered at the Red Wedding, the then-King of the North's dead body was grotesquely paraded atop a horse, fitted with the head of his slain dire wolf, Grey Wind.
The spectacle doesn't sit well with most of the wedding guests; ultimately, however, it's avenged by Joffrey's death, which happens shortly after. 



By Gabriella Ferrigine

Gabriella Ferrigine is a staff writer at Salon. Originally from the Jersey Shore, she moved to New York City in 2016 to attend Columbia University, where she received her B.A. in English and M.A. in American Studies. Formerly a staff writer at NowThis News, she has an M.A. in Magazine Journalism from NYU and was previously a news fellow at Salon.

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