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Game of Thrones: Garden of Bones

“Does anyone live?”

This episode was both the wittiest and the most depressing one we’ve gotten all season. Since witty and depressing are my two favorite things, I enjoyed it absolutely—what happened, what seems to be about to happen, and what is happening differently than it does in the books. Not to mention the incredible everything: acting, costumes, and especially the horrific Harrenhal.

Robb Stark’s victory, while strategically important (and sadly unseen), was most fascinating for what it revealed about the characters involved—and how we react to those characters. The King in the North may have my allegiance, but we can’t ignore what was thrown in our faces: Robb has no plan for governance, no plan for what he is doing to Westeros beyond winning part of it. We might agree with his desire for power and vengeance, because we also miss Ned and root for the Starks, but Robb’s good-hearted slaughter is only one or two degrees different from anyone else’s.

And I do mean that, no matter how cold it sounds. Just because a favorite character does violence doesn’t make that violence okay by our modern moral standards. Does Robb take pleasure in the death he caused? No, he is not without pity. But he doesn’t let that stop him, any more than Joffrey lets ideas about being a noble king stop his casually horrifying voyeuristic sadism. Tyrion’s plan to “get some of the poison” out of Joffrey’s “clogged” body backfired horribly and likely only stoked Joffrey’s rage. Will Joffrey keep beating Sansa? Will Tyrion find out about Joffrey’s treatment of the women? And, most importantly: Can Tyrion control Joffrey the way he controls almost everyone else, including stupid pretty Lancel? After all, the king does as he likes.

Stannis has taken that idea and run with it. He is the ultimate dull pragmatist, so unimaginative that he can’t see that he might be paying a price he will not want to pay with Melissandre’s brand of religion. The shadow golem was horrifying, particularly the harsh light that fell from the lantern onto Davos’s face. It was almost an electric, florescent light, and perfectly symbolized the otherworldy possibilities and unknown potential evils of the Red Woman’s power. (Reminder: the king may do as he likes, but the rest of us have to keep the comments spoiler free. If you want to talk about what the shadow golem is about to do, head over here.)

Renly, especially when contrasted with dour Stannis, humorless Catelyn, and smarmy Littlefinger, is a wonderfully witty, interesting, and lively character. An alliance between him and Robb would be a delightful solution—good kings north and south. And handsome, to boot. (Ta-da! I’ve solved the game of thrones!) Since that is a perfect solution (aside from what it would mean for Dany), I doubt it is what will happen.

Dany, like the other would-be rules of Westeros, is still finding her power. Renly has his hundred thousands of friends, Stannis has Melissandre, Robb has adorability and the fact that no one really wants the North. Dany has dragons, but that’s not enough. Luckily, she’s finding some allies and her Targaryen self-righteousness. Will Qarth…I mean [K]arth…be her first conquest, whether by dragon-fire or the niceties of politics? I hope so. She needs a win.

So does Arya. Which brings me to my absolute favorite part of this episode: the long time we spent at the desolate, haunted hot potato that is Harrenhal. Harrenhal, you will recall, is the (Are they duchies? Fiefdoms? What’s a good word here?) castle and associated lands that Tyrion promised to a few different people in the previous episode. It is rumored to be cursed, and hasn’t been renovated since the last big Targaryen dragons burned most of its towers during their conquest. For that reason, it is typically given to up-jumped lords: basically, it is a title without the benefit (or power) that would come from a real castle and its lands.

And it is horrifying. Looming, dark, dirty, and rife with torturers like Polliver and the Mountain (the Hound’s bigger, scarier brother). The torturers seem interested in money and jewels, as well as something they refer to as “The Brotherhood.” I mention this now because it will be important later. The arrival of Tywin Lannister might bode well for Arya’s (and Gendry’s and Hot Pie’s) sleeping arrangements, but his intelligence and clear-sightedness is frightening: he figured out that she was a girl in no time flat. And now she’s his cupbearer.

Grumpkins and Snarks:

• Bolton: “My family has a saying, ‘A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man has none.’”
Robb: “My father outlawed flaying in the North.” My gods, that rule has only been in effect for about 20 years?! The Boltons are so creepy.

• Tyrion: “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.”

• Littlefinger: “If war were arithmetic, the mathematicians would rule the world.”

• Renly: “I suppose if we used the same [banner] the battle would be terribly confusing... Why is your stag on fire?” This made me laugh and laugh.

• One of the Thirteen: “My name is quite long and quite impossible for foreigners to pronounce.”

• No Jaime Lannister in a while.

• Wondering who those creepy women with the things on the back of their heads are? They’re the Silent Sisters. They tend the dead and do not speak. Like a cross between a camp follower, a moody nun, and an Avox.

• The Quarth/Karth discussion made me laugh out loud.

• I wonder who thought of that horribly creative method of torture by gnawing, burrowing rat?

• I love the flowy dresses the prostitutes wear in King’s Landing, with that wacky back piece that creates a bustle effect. (They must use double-sided tape to keep the front part in place.) But this week’s Best Dressed Award goes to Margaery Tyrell for that awesome stiff deconstructed ruff/yoke.

This episode was awesome, and I’m enjoying this season so very much. More, in fact, that I enjoyed Season One. (People of the future, who are watching this season marathon-style, I envy you!) Is four out of four too high? Nah:

Four out of four nights that are dark and full of terrors.

Reminder: Here is where we discuss changes and spoilers from the books.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Can I just say what an amazing job both Jack Gleeson and Sophie Turner did this episode? They're like what, 17 or 18 and having to work with that particular material... I adore Jack and bring such a universally hated character to life, knowing that pretty much everyone is going to hate him must be hard.

    My favourite line of the episode had to be from Renly: "Born amidst salt and smoke ... Is he a ham?"

    And can they just keep Natalie Dormer on forever? I have no idea what sort of dress she was wearing but that scene with Baelish was superb.

    I always look forward to your reviews on GoT, Josie, so here is a pretend biscuit of your choosing.

  2. I don't know about you, but if a Red priestess came to me, looked me in the eye and said: For the night is dark and full of horrors", I would never sleep at night again. How creepy, scary and nameless was that birth scene. Davos's fearful expression was amazing. Great performances.
    And how twisted will I sound if I say I love Littlefinger? LOL, he's a great player, an evil character and he is able to do it so subtly people never see it coming. I'm very happy we're seeing more of his lately.
    Loved this episode, am loving this season more than the first one, and loved your review. Lady Kafka, you may survive us yet.

  3. You know who's humor I've been enjoying most: Davos. He comes across as somewhat humorless in the book, bolstered only by the fact that Stannis is completely devoid of humor. But I found myself laughing at loud at assorted things he said this episode. I rather loved him refusing to be taken in by Melissandre's dark night full of terrors. You know, until he watched her birth a shadow golem and all. Freaky, horrifying, and awesome!

    Great review, Josie. I especially appreciate the bits of backstory and explanation you drop in. It's a good memory refresher for me, and I'm sure it's very helpful for newcomers.

  4. That hideous rat torture thing is straight from a short story I (unfortunately) came across as a child, which haunted me for years. H.P. Lovecraft, I think.... Didn't really need to think about it again.

  5. This was the episode where Stannis finally clicked for me: I still don't think Stephen Dillane is right physically but he really nailed his behaviour/attitude this episode in his encounter with Renly. Renly was hilarious - I loved the ham line too Morgan - but it underlined Catelyn's point from last week: he's playing at war rather than waging it. As I've said in the other thread I loved Margaery yet again.

    The stuff with Joffrey was horrifying and compelling. Jack Gleeson does an incredible job making Joffrey so loathsome. Tyrion and Bronn make the best team in the show by a country mile, showing Ser Trant what a threat was.

    Harrenhal was just like I'd imagined it - superb work by the SFX team. I loved how, unlike every other location on the title map, Harrenhal didn't move or grow symbolising its ruin.

  6. I loved that ham line, too, and completely forgot to put it in my review. Drat!

    Iago, I'm glad you mentioned that: I've taken to fast-forwarding through the credits because the song gets stuck in my head, but that's a good reason for me to stop. Maybe I'll watch them on mute.

    (For the record, I like the song. Just not when it lives in my head.)

  7. Great episode, and great review as well. I'm hoping we see a lot more of Tywin; he has this sort of weirdly compelling anti-charisma that makes him fascinating to watch.

    Also: I would suggest that "protectorate" might be the word you're looking for. Seems to fit in any case, what with Harrenhal coming with the title "Warden of the Riverlands" (unless I'm misremembering).

  8. Despite all of the violence that has happened in this show, what went down in this episode is making me question continuing on with the series. If I wasn't a sucker for wolf-dogs & period-piece fashion, Joffrey's scene with the fancy ladies would have made me turn the show off then & not look back. I don't like spoilers but I'd feel a lot better if I knew he was going to die soon.

    As with most episodes, Tyrion was the highlight. I want to see him teach Joffrey more lessons. (Hopefully he'll learn to not provide Joffrey with more gifts). Some sort of retribution would be nice & well-deserved for the fans who had to endure this painful episode. If Joffrey doesn't pay soon, I may bail on the show. As Tyrion said, "That is a threat."

  9. With each new episode I am enjoying this season more and more. I'd go as far as to say this episode was a five. The Harrenhal scenes were all fantastic. Renly, along with Robb and Davos, has become a more interesting character on the show than he was in the books. Tyrion continues to be brilliant. And the Shadow Baby was even freakier than I imagined. I know a lot of fans aren't happy with all the changes they've made this season, but I think they all work extremely well. Besides, a straight adaptation, with everything happening exactly as it did on the page, would be boring.

  10. Agree with Topher Darling. Joffrey's scene with Tyrion's prostitutes (who I believe were Ros and that girl Pycelle was banging an episode ago) chilled me to the bone. That kid might be the best actor on this show. But I don't think a character like Joffrey will get away clean. I hope not. He's too goddamn evil.

    Roose Bolton is very much how I pictured him. Much like Qarth and Harrenhal are very much like I pictured. The Harrenhal interrogations were just as startling in the book. Arya right under Tywin's nose at all times, and he already knows how smart she is. Bad news. I knew he'd be one to respect her cunning though.

    Once again, Tyrion owning the people of King's Landing is enough to make every episode awesome by default. Couldn't help but feel bad for that idiot Lancel, despite wanting to kick him in the face a minute earlier.

    Thought it was funny that Robb could not help but like that girl, even as she was sawing a screaming man's leg off and insulting him to his face. She seems a lot more promising than a Frey daughter.

    Despite being a bit too short, the Baratheon brothers' conversation was still good. And the shadow scene was about a hundred times freakier than I ever imagined. Couldn't help but think of the monster from Lost when it came at the screen.

    I'm also glad we didn't see Ned's bones. Can't believe Littlefinger tried to get with Catelyn while she was angry and grief stricken.

    Very good, the season is really working for me.

  11. Great review Josie :) I was unable to spot a theme and was relief when you said that's because there wasn't one! Very intense and dark episode. Shadow baby was well done, and despite Dany still not really doing anything, it made sense to not leave her out for any longer.

  12. Great review. Also how clueless is Littlefinger? Hitting on Catelyn while bringing her husband's remains? Ugh.
    Love Margery, she's a breath of fresh air.
    The way I hate Joffrey was increased after his treatment of Sansa and the prosititutes. Awful scenes. Between them and the rat-torture and the gruesome shadow-birth I'm not sure what was worse..

  13. I would have to agree with Mr. Grieg that perhaps, this episode deserves a rating of 5 nights! The dialogue is so sharp I'm afraid to get near the telly and have a spontaneous haircut. Jack Gleeson is making Draco Malfoy look like Archie Andrews. Ah, the wonders of inbreeding and money. At this point, I'm glad the story IS fictional.

  14. I agree with topher darling. The scene with Joffrey and the prostitutes so upset me that I nearly turned off the television. That level of sadism is so horrific in one that young, but I do agree that Jack Gleeson is doing one hell of a job. The look he gave Tyrion as the latter walked away from the throne was like a spoiled child deprived of a toy. Shiver...

    Add in the rat torture (that is going to haunt me) and the birth at the end and this episode really ramped up the creepy factor.

    However, the writing was excellent with some brilliant one liners. My favourite was the ham -- and it was delivered perfectly. Laughed out loud. It's hard not to respect a show that makes me laugh and hide my face in the same hour.

  15. The creepiest episode yet. The shadow golem scene was just as creepy as I imagined it, but what really upset me was Joffrey, who I would really like to toss off of something, the little shit.

    His treatment of Sansa and of the prostitutes is just...there are no words. Tyrion has always been a favorite character of mine, but I really started to love him after he came to Sansa's rescue.

  16. The rat torture is actually from George Orwell's "1984".


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