Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Game of Thrones 2.04: "Garden of Bones"

“The Mad King did as he liked. Has your Uncle Jaime ever told you what happened to him?”

“Garden of Bones” was a mixed bag for me. There were scenes that I loved, and there were scenes that were way too violent and/or torture-filled for my taste. I’m a pretty easy going, not easily offended person, but the one thing that can cross my personal line in a television show is torture. I don’t want to watch it. So this was a difficult one for me. It also didn’t help that some of the best stuff was at the very beginning of the episode (all I need is Richard Madden on my television screen and I’m happy), leaving the worst of the torture for later, although there was some fun Tyrion material later in the episode as well. The torture and violence in this episode was not, for the most part, gratuitous, at least. Through it, we learned the true nature of Joffrey (he’s plain sick and twisted, not just some unsure new king), the cruelty of those employed by the Lannisters, and the practicality of Tywin Lannister. I appreciated that there was a reason for the violence, but that still doesn’t mean that I really want to watch it.

The episode opens with one of my favorite sequences of the series thus far. It was a really effective way of handling battles without having to spend the money depicting the actually battle. Far better than Tyrion getting knocked out right before the battle last season. We see two Lannister soldiers on guard duty. It’s raining, and they’re just generally goofing off and being crude. All of a sudden they notice that the horses in the area are spooked. One guard takes this seriously, and the other guard doesn’t. The guard who doesn’t take it seriously finds himself quickly mauled by Grey Wind, Robb’s direwolf. The camera then pans to an awesome power shot of Robb and his bannermen looking on, about to go in for the attack. We then cut to the battle’s aftermath, where we learn that the battle was a decisive victory for Robb. Robb is discussing the battle with one of his advisors, and we see how much of his father Robb has in him. The advisor recommends torturing prisoners, but Robb refuses to allow it.

Robb and his advisor come upon a nurse telling a young man who had been fighting for the Lannisters that his foot needs to be amputated. Her name is Talisa, and she is helping all injured soldiers, not one side or the other. The kid is begging Talisa not to amputate, but Talisa says the rot will spread if she doesn’t. Robb jumps in to help, holding the kid down and giving him something to bite down on. Then he sort of makes eyes with Talisa as she saws off the foot. You stay classy there, King in the North. After the operation is complete, Robb and Talisa banter for a bit about whether or not the war is a good idea. Talisa is a true pacifist. Even though Joffrey is horrible, she thinks they’re worse off for having a war to dethrone him. Robb is forced to admit that he doesn’t really know what the next step would be if Joffrey was completely defeated. He just wants to rule the North- he doesn’t want the Iron Throne. They continue on like this until Talisa rides off on a cart.

Joffrey is extremely pissed off about Robb’s recent military victories, and he’s taking it out on Sansa. He orders her clothes ripped, and he has one of his Kingsguard start to beat her. Tyrion walks into the throne room and puts a stop to the violence. Which upsets Joffrey, of course. As she leaves the throne room, Tyrion asks Sansa if she wants a way out of her engagement to Joffrey, and Sansa just repeats the party line of how Joffrey is her King and true love. Tyrion remarks that she may just survive her time with the Lannisters after all. He clearly admires her strength. Bronn suggests to Tyrion that maybe Joffrey just needs to get laid, so Tyrion sends Joffrey two whores as a belated Nameday present. Joffrey’s not interested, though. Instead of enjoying the whores, he forces one to beat the other, first with a belt, then with a scepter. He wants the one whore to take the injured whore to Tyrion so Tyrion can see what Joffrey thinks of his gift.

We next pay a visit to Renly’s camp, where Littlefinger has arrived to start the process of freeing Jaime at Tyrion’s request. Petyr’s kind of desperately trying to ingratiate himself, but Renly is not really having it. Renly becomes a little more interested when Littlefinger implies he might be able to ensure the gates to the Red Keep are open when Renly decides to invade. After the meeting, Margaery shows Littlefinger to his tent. On the way, Littlefinger asks really inappropriate questions about Margaery’s marriage to Renly and implies that he knows all about Renly’s relationship with Loras. Margaery is a good wife, though, and doesn’t give Littlefinger any of the answers he seeks. When we next see Littlefinger, he has made an unwelcome appearance in Cat’s tent. She is not at all happy to see him, considering his role in Ned’s death. He tries to come on to her, and Cat pulls a knife on him, which I think is much deserved. Littlefinger then suggests trading Jaime for Sansa and Arya, lying that he knows Arya is safe in King’s Landing. Cat says that Robb will never agree to such a trade, but Littlefinger doesn’t want Robb involved in this transaction. He’s asking Cat to think about this decision as a mother. Then to sweeten the deal, he has Ned’s body brought in as a token of goodwill from Joffrey. Cat kicks Littlefinger out and cries over Ned’s bones. It’s one of Michelle Fairley’s finest moments in the series.

We next visit the Red Waste, where Dany and her horde are still hanging out dehydrating and waiting for news on where to go next. A horse approaches it, and this time, a still-alive Bloodrider is riding it. Dany remarks that her Bloodrider is riding a new horse, and he says it was a gift from the Thirteen who rule the city of Qarth. Qarth is three days away. Jorah advises that they will die if the Qarthians close the city gates instead of welcoming them, but Dany decides they must take the risk. When Dany and the horde arrive at the gates of Qarth, they are greeted by the Spice King, who appears to be the leader of the Thirteen. He doesn’t really want to let them into the city, especially when Dany refuses to show him her dragons. Dany threatens to lay waste to Qarth once her dragons are grown unless they let the horde in, but that doesn’t really help her case. The Spice King still says no. One of the other members of the Thirteen, a man named Xaro, stands up for Dany and the horde and says he doesn’t agree with leaving them outside the city to die. The Spice King still says no, but then Xaro invokes a rule where he personally vouches for Dany and the horde, and they are finally allowed in.

Arya, Gendry and the other captives arrive at a Lannister-affiliated keep called Harrenhal, and it’s quite a miserable place. It rains a lot, and prisoners are kept in outdoor muddy cages. Every day, the Lannister guards torture and kill one prisoner. At night, Arya lays in the mud and rain and repeats a list of names that include Cersei and the royal executioner. These are presumably people she wants revenge upon some day. Harrenhal is pretty dire. We see The Mountain choose the prisoner to be tortured and killed for the day. The first prisoner is someone we don’t know. The guards as him if there is gold in his village and they ask him about The Brotherhood. The prisoner knows nothing about either of these subjects, but as rats start to chew on him (part of the torture), he starts making up names of Brotherhood members. The torture continues anyway until he is dead. That night, Arya adds the Mountain and other torturers to her list. On our next visit to Harrenhal, Gendry is chosen for torture/killing. The process starts, with Gendry saying he doesn’t know what the Brotherhood is, but he’s saved from further torture (and death) by Tywin showing up. Twyin is appalled at the waste of prisoners who could be put to work. He has a good point there. Gendry is going to make armor, and Arya, who Twyin instantly recognizes as a girl (but not a Stark, thankfully), is going to be his cupbearer.

At King’s Landing, Lancel stops by Tyrion’s chambers to bring a note from Cersei. It’s a demand that Pycelle be released from prison. Tyrion refuses, and this makes Lancel very upset. He thinks Cersei’s word is law, and he’s on a bit of a power trip since being knighted. Tyrion notes the time of night at which Lancel is delivering the message, and together with the fact that Lancel is unlikely to delay delivering a message from his Queen, correctly accuses Lancel of sleeping with Cersei. Tyrion figuring this out doesn’t seem to bother Lancel much until Tyrion threatens to tell Joffrey. Joffrey understandably won’t be happy to learn that Lancel is banging his mother. Tyrion smartly uses this threat to blackmail Lancel into being his spy. Lancel is going to stick with Cersei and continue doing whatever she asks, but he’s going to report on all her actions to Tyrion now.

Cat tries to broker a summit between the two Baratheons, Stannis and Renly, vying for the Iron Throne. Cat tries to play mom, scolding the boys that if they were her sons, she’d knock their heads together and send them into a room to fight it out, but the summit still doesn’t go well. Stannis is using the symbol of the Lord of Light as part of his sigil now, and Renly pokes fun at his finally finding religion thanks to a beautiful woman. They keep sniping at each other, and eventually they leave the summit with no peace brokered. That evening, Stannis asks Davos to smuggle Melisandre to the mainland. Davos is reluctant to do this, because he’s still kind of freaked out by the Lord of Light religion and all, but he eventually agrees. He takes Melisadre to the mainland, and when they’re in a tunnel, she suddenly takes off her robe. This reveals that she is very heavily pregnant. She just as suddenly goes into labor and seemingly gives birth to our good friend the Smoke Monster from “Lost.” This is just plain gross, and it can’t possibly end well for Stannis and his crew.

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