For me it was also the Bran assassin plot, which was sort of underwhelming.
Well, yeah, considering it really felt dropped for a while, after all the frantic stuff about it in AGOT. Though it is brought up at the end of ACOK when Cat accuses Jaime, whose response
reiterates that it couldn’t have been Tyrion, because he lost the bet
at the tourney, and it was Robert who won the dagger from Littlefinger. And the Joffrey thing is part of a
general theme in ASOS of characterizing him as trying desperately to prove
himself to Robert and failing at it because of his sociopathy. (Stannis’s
story about the kittens is another one, where Joff was probably trying to show his dad what a great hunter he was, just like him, and instead got hit so hard he lost teeth; and there’s also his “a strong king acts boldly”, which is how LF probably sold him on killing Ned, because that’s what a strong king like Robert would do.)
But unfortunately, yes, what GRRM mostly did with the assassin plot (until the last half of ASOS, when Joff says he’s no stranger to Valyrian steel and Tyrion has an intuitive leap) was set up who couldn’t have been the one to send the catspaw, not set up who actually was.
Yes, that’s it! I couldn’t really put into words what my problem was but yeah, that’s it. And I think maybe at that point in the story it no longer seemed important WHO did it, so looping back and explaining it felt a little off but maybe that’s just me.
No, you’re right, especially after Catelyn’s death, the Red Wedding and all, it feels almost pointless? Like, she was the one who really cared who tried to kill Bran, but at the time she died, she thought Bran was dead, so who did it matter to anymore? Nobody really except Tyrion, and by the time the mystery was solved he had a much bigger and far more immediate murder accusation to worry about. Though I suppose the parallels there are important. And maybe, idk, it’ll mean something to Stoneheart, if Jaime tells her, though I doubt she’s rational enough for it to matter.
Nevertheless, the Bran’s assassin mystery was important for GRRM to resolve, along with the other big mystery of the series up until that point, who killed Jon Arryn (and why). Probably the reason is because GRRM thought he was going to do a five-year-gap after ASOS, and after five years those mysteries really wouldn’t be relevant to the characters anymore. And the resolution of those mysteries also signifies the end of the first act: the Stark-Lannister war is over, here’s why it got started, now we move on to the next act. Though hopefully there will eventually be repercussions on the one who used those mysteries to cause chaos and advance himself…