Game of Thrones S2E4 “Garden of Bones”
With an episode title like “Garden of Bones”, a dark and grim episode might be expected, and the episode delivers on the notion. Game of Thrones has never backed down from being violent but “Garden of Bones” is likely the most violent and gruesome episode to date, featuring torture scenes, demonic beings, crossbow intimidation, direwolf killings, foot amputations, and forced beatings. Behind all of this though, is an episode of Game of Thrones that has easily felt like the most smoothly flowing episode of the season. In “Garden of Bones” fifty minutes (which puts it as the shortest episode to date), the Baratheon brothers have a parley filled with not much brotherly love, Arya discovers the horrors of Harrenhal, Tyrion works on keeping his nephew and sister in line, and Dany finally finds civilization. That and more to get into so let’s get it rolling.
We start with a battle, The Battle of Oxcross. Oxcross was home to a rather large Lannister camp but Robb and his men stealthily launched a surprise attack at night as Robb’s direwolf, Grey Wind, has his way with several Lannister men as do the Stark men as the battle is a resounding victory for the Starks. The day after, Robb is walking through the battlefield to assess the damage when he catches the eye of a pretty neutral nurse who is in the middle of the not so pretty task of having to amputate a Lannister soldier’s foot off. Robb comes to help and for the first time, we get to see the impact of all this fighting on the common folk. Game of Thrones is a show about highborn nobles but Robb’s conversation with this nurse, Talisa, puts things into perspective. Robb says he has no ill will for the soldier who lost his foot, just for the man commanding him. Talisa points out he had to do what is lord told him to and Robb’s lack of hard feelings against the guy won’t make his foot grow back anytime soon. She also asks what Robb intends to do when they kill Joffrey. Robb says they’ll just go home but Talisa brings up a good point. You can’t just get rid of a king and have no plan for what happens next. Robb is a great military commander but his political intelligence, much like his father, leaves a lot to be desired. If he keeps winning, these political questions are going to follow so maybe it’s for the best if he smartens up there.
In the Stormlands, Littlefinger arrives at Renly’s camp and quickly works his way over to Cat. Littlefinger has proven to be a sneaky fellow so it shouldn’t surprise anyone here when he lies to get what he wants. He tells Cat that Cersei has both of her daughters and implies that while they are safe and sound now, that is very subject to change. Littlefinger says that they will return Cat’s daughters for Jaime and Cat quickly points out that Robb would never agree to those terms. Littlefinger than says that he brought these terms to her, not her son. To sweeten the pot, he brings in the remains of Ned Stark as Tyrion had requested they return. Cat kicks him out of her tent but you wonder if she’ll give in to these terms, a mother’s love is a powerful thing after all.
The day after, Renly and Stannis parley as both brothers try to convince the other to give up. Stannis offers to make Renly his heir to the throne if he lays his claim away while Renly says he’ll take his chances having to fight his brother as he has the much larger army. You get the feeling that if the two brothers could just get along, they would probably easily destroy the Lannister army but this is a pair of stubborn brothers. Neither gives in and that looks like advantage Stannis as a result of what happens to end the episode. Stannis asks Davos to secretly take Melisandre onto shore and to make sure that they are undetected. They enter a cave and what happens next is rather disturbing. Davos was already against this Lord of Light nonsense and what he saw there that night must not make him feel any better about it. Melisandre disrobes and shows she is very heavily pregnant and then proceeds to give birth to a demonic shadow baby which looks to be fully grown. Davos looks on in horror as this is happening, who could blame him? I’d watch out if I was Renly because that thing is probably heading his way.
Arya and the rest of the survivors from last episode complete their journey to Harrenhal and what awaits them is far from pleasant. The stench of corpses is so strong that Arya recognizes it as soon as they arrive. They are all locked into an outdoor cell with a bunch of other prisoners who appear to be common folk. Every day Ser Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane stops by and picks one of the prisoners. The unlucky fellow then is tortured by “The Tickler” for information, specifically in regards to a group known as “The Brotherhood”. Whether the prisoners know anything about them or not, they are subject to brutal torture, the one on display being tying a bucket with a rat inside of it to the prisoner’s stomach, and then burning the bucket so the rat will claw into the prisoner’s stomach to escape the heat.
One day, Gendry is picked for the brutal interrogation/torture but before anything bad can happen, Tywin Lannister arrives on to the scene and is appalled at how Gregor is running things here. He says that they can put these people to work and what he says goes so that ends this round of brutal torture. He also quickly points out that Arya is a girl and berates the others for not noticing it. Tywin decides to make Arya her cup-bearer so this should be very interesting. A Lannister is in possession of the second Stark daughter, will Arya blow her cover? Will Tywin figure it out anyway? This will be fun to keep an eye on.
Over at King’s Landing, one could notice that Tyrion’s filtering of the small council while effective, hasn’t been personal. If anything, his two family members are the most likely to do something stupid and throw things out of line. In this episode, Tyrion finally decides to try and curb Joffrey and Cersei. He walks in on Joffrey in the throne room, punishing Sansa for her brother’s victories on the battlefield. Joffrey has ordered Ser Meryn Trant to strip and beat Sansa and when Tyrion walks in on this, he unloads on Meryn and Joffrey for their cruelness. He escorts Sansa out of the throne room, honestly asking if she wants to leave and Tyrion is impressed at how well Sansa can put up the facade of being loyal to the Lannisters. Joffrey and Cersei have made it far from easy but she’s really hanging in there. Here’s hoping that Joffrey gets reined in, even if it’s just a little.
Afterward, Bronn and Tyrion discuss what they could do to rein in Joffrey and they decide that perhaps a prostitute could settle him down a little. They decide to do just that and send Ros, along with another prostitute to calm him down. Upon learning that they were a present from Tyrion, Joffrey decides to send a message to his uncle by forcing Ros to brutally beat the other prostitute, all the while aiming his crossbow and Ros to make her obey. This scene proves to be a tough one to watch.
On the bright side, Tyrion has some success dealing with his sister. Cersei is upset at the news that Pycelle has been arrested and thrown into the dungeons so she sends Lancel over to Tyrion to demand his release. Tyrion wisely puts all the clues together and figures out that Lancel is actually sleeping with Cersei and threatens to tell Joffrey of this incest. Lancel is in a very delicate position here and Tyrion uses this to get an edge on Cersei, convincing Lancel to spy on Cersei for him. That’s big news for Tyrion because Cersei is definitely among the most unpredictable people with power in the capital.
Way across the Narrow Sea, Dany finally runs into some good news. One of her scouts returns with news that the city of Qarth will receive them. One three day march later, Dany, Jorah, and the rest of the khalasar arrive at the gates of Qarth, where The Thirteen, the rulers of Qarth meet with them. They need to make a good impression with The Thirteen as the City of Qarth is in an extremely remote location, on the eastern shore of Essos, the Red Waste desert surrounding the city on every other side. Jorah notes that the area just outside of Qarth is known as the garden of bones, as every time someone is denied access to the city, they have no hope at all of finding another settlement before dying.
So do Dany and friends nail the first impression? Things don’t actually look good as the man known as the spice king demands to see the dragons. Dany refuses to show them to him before they allow her and her people access into the city. The Spice King then says they will not be allowed access in to the city. Dany pleads, saying that her people will die if they aren’t allowed in. When she sees that pleading won’t work, she goes violent, threatening to burn the city to the ground when her dragons are fully grown if they don’t let her in. The spice king points out that this is impossible, as Dany herself pointed out they will all die if they don’t get in. Before all hope is lost though, Xaro Xhoan Daxos sticks up for Dany and her people, initiating a blood oath to let them in. Xaro will die if any of Dany or her people do something wrong in Qarth but Dany and friends have to be so thankful he let them in that I don’t think that will be a problem. What will be a problem, however, is that Xaro probably is wanting something himself for allowing them in so while Dany and friends are out of the desert, they may not be out of trouble just yet.
Talisa seems fascinating enough but they made it so blatantly obvious that she will serve as Robb’s love interest. I hope they do something interesting with it.
Yoren left an impression on Arya as Arya now says a death prayer of her own before going to sleep. The first members of the list being Joffrey, Cersei, Illyn Payne, and The Hound, with Polliver and The Mountain being added later in the episode.
Hot Pie’s strategy to not getting picked for torture is to make eye contact with The Mountain. Bold strategy Hot Pie.
Stannis may have to fight to be King of Westeros but he’s already the King of Grammar. His correction of Davos on the usage of less vs fewer is funny and also accurate.
Ser Davos has earned the nickname “The Onion Knight” and his sigil is a ship with an onion on the sail. I find that quite funny.
Melisandre has an interesting take on good vs bad in people. “If half an onion is rotten, it’s a rotten onion”. Serves quite the contrast to the show as most of the characters are morally grey as opposed to clearly good or bad. Stannis is more in line with the show’s characters, stating that a good act does not wipe out a bad one and vice versa. You can see this in the fact that Stannis knighted Davos for smuggling food into Storms End while he was under siege but cut his right fingertips off as well because smuggling is still a crime.
Kind of fitting that Cersei didn’t appear in the episode as Tyrion was trying to gain an edge on her in secret.
Quote of the Day comes from Bronn, in regards to Joffrey “There’s no cure for being a cunt”. Bronn bringing the facts.
“Garden Of Bones” sheds some light on the plight of the common folk during the noble folk’s war as some characters find themselves in new situations and others look for an edge on their enemies.