Game of Thrones Season 2, episode 4, “Garden of Bones”:
We open somewhere very rainy, where a couple of Lannister soldiers are having one of those pointless discussions about the most fearsome knight in Westeros and making fart jokes. I’m sure these guys are going to be dead soon, because Lannister soldiers have the lifespan of Spinal Tap drummers. Sure enough, before they can decide between Gregor Clegane, Jaime Lannister or Loras Tyrell, a snarling direwolf interrupts them and we fade to black.
The lights come on again in the aftermath of another victory for Robb Stark. Roose Bolton, the Northern lord who’s accompanying Robb on his tour of the battlefield, mentions that the Lannisters have lost five men to every one of Robb’s. At this rate, attrition should take care of the Lannisters in another hour or so. Lord Bolton wants to execute the prisoners because they’re eating too much, although he’s willing to spare the officers so he can torture them to find out Tywin Lannister’s battle plans. Robb demurs on both counts, pointing out that the Lannisters will surely avenge themselves on his sisters if he starts torturing and executing prisoners.
Still on the battlefield, Robb and Lord Bolton encounter Talisa, Westeros’s equivalent of Sibyl Crawley from Downton Abbey. Talisa diagnoses the leg of a Lannister soldier as “rotting;” her cure for this is to amputate the leg in the midst of a mud puddle with Robb Stark’s assistance. The one-footed soldier is carried away, almost certainly to die of a nasty infection, but Robb is intrigued by this sassy roving lady-surgeon, especially when she castigates him for his lack of a post-conflict plan for the Iron Throne.
Meanwhile, the current occupant of the Iron Throne, Joffrey Not-Really-a-Baratheon, is engaging in his favorite sport of abusing Sansa Stark for her brother’s battlefield success. First he aims a crossbow at her, and then remembers that his mother has decreed that Sansa needs to stay alive. Instead, he orders Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard to beat Sansa, except for her face, which he likes pretty. Ugh! (You know, the Kingsguard might want to rethink this whole “unquestioning obedience to the King” sometime.) Things take a turn for the even uglier when Joffrey decides Sansa should be stripped as well, but thankfully, Tyrion turns up in time to rescue Sansa from anything more than showing her corset to the court.
Once Tyrion has put a stop to the beating, Sandor Clegane drapes his white cloak around Sansa’s shoulders. Tyrion schools Ser Meryn on the difference between a threat (“do that again and I’ll have Bronn kill you”) and an observation (“Mad King Aerys used to torture and abuse people until Jaime killed him”), and then watches as Sansa sweeps out of the throne room. Tyrion offers her an out, telling her that she doesn’t have to marry Joffrey if she doesn’t want to. Of course, poor Sansa doesn’t trust any of the Lannisters, so she once again avows her loyalty to and love for Tyrion’s psychopathic nephew.
Bronn observes that perhaps Joffrey’s problem is that he is all “backed up” and so he and Tyrion hatch a plan to introduce a couple of prostitutes into Joffrey’s chambers. And so one of the most despised characters on the show meets another: our old friend Ros is back and she’s brought a friend to an incredibly disturbing scene. Upon learning that his uncle Tyrion is behind the “gift” of the two girls, Joffrey orders Ros to beat the other girl, even providing her with some sort of antler-crowned scepter to cause maximum pain. As a friend of mine said last night, Joffrey proves that it’s a bad idea to have babies with your brother.
And now that nastiness is over, we move to Renly’s camp, where Renly continues to be awesome. In addition to telling us that knowledge is power, power is power and that power exists where men believe it to exist, this season of Game of Thrones also shows us that power makes you 900% sexier. (Unless you are Joffrey.) Littlefinger slithers into Renly’s tent, apparently to test the waters in case he wants to switch sides again. Renly, who is an infinitely better judge of character than poor dead Ned Stark, sees right through Littlefinger and dismisses him, despite Littlefinger’s promise to open the gates of King’s Landing to Renly’s armies (for a price, naturally!)
Littlefinger lurks outside Renly’s tent, pretending to have lost his way, until Margaery and Loras show up. Loras goes off to “pray” with Renly for a bit, leaving Margaery to chat with Littlefinger. For some reason, Littlefinger can’t resist mentioning his knowledge of Renly and Loras’s affair to Margaery, who is gracious and firm at the same time as she puts Littlefinger in his place.
Far away in the Red Waste, another of Dany’s scouts returns, this time, unlike Rakharo, with his head attached and even with a new horse. The scout, Kovarro, tells Dany that three days march to the east, the city of Qarth will receive Dany and her followers. Ser Jorah tells Dany that the desert around Qarth is called the “garden of bones” because if Qarth doesn’t open its gates to visitors, they end up bleached bones in the desert. Like Renly, Ser Jorah is looking mighty fine these days, but boy, is he a downer!
Also a downer: Harrenhal, which is where Arya and Gendry and the rest of their group are brought as prisoners, accompanied by screams of agony. An elderly lady informs Arya that the Lannisters have just killed her son after killing various other family members. Arya understandably has difficulty sleeping after this revelation, but instead of counting sheep, she names the people she wants dead. Right now the list is comprised of Cersei, Joffrey, Ser Ilyn Payne who cut her father’s head off, and the Hound who killed her friend Micah.
Arya’s mother Catelyn is in the midst of a reverie in her tent at Renly’s encampment, when she is rudely interrupted by Littlefinger, whom Catelyn rightly fingers as Ned’s betrayer. Littlefinger tells her that he’s always loved her, that they are destined to be together and that he was just helping Ned when he put a dagger to Ned’s throat. Catelyn pulls her own dagger and then Littlefinger remembers his mission from Tyrion. He offers Sansa (and the absent Arya) in trade for the Kingslayer; Catelyn says that her son will not trade Jaime Lannister for two girls, and Littlefinger makes a not-so-veiled threat about their continued well-being in the hands of the Lannisters.
As Catelyn is processing this, Littlefinger also delivers Tyrion’s gesture of goodwill towards the Starks: a trunk containing Ned’s bones to take back to Winterfell. After Littlefinger has slithered away again, Catelyn opens the trunk and contemplates Ned’s remains with tears in her eyes. For the record, I have tears in my eyes too. Poor Catelyn!
In Harrenhal, things have gone from bad to worse. Every day, Ser Gregor, who has been recast since last season, chooses a prisoner to torture for the whereabouts of gold, silver and the mysterious “Brotherhood.” Nu!Gregor’s minion, Polliver, does the actual torturing while Nu!Gregor is off doing Man!Mountain things like terrorizing the locals and beheading horses. Arya watches in horror as Polliver uses live rats, metal buckets and fire to extort information from today’s hapless wretch, who is killed as soon as he gives up some names. Poor Arya is never going to forget all the stuff she’s seen, is she? Sure enough, tonight’s deathwish-list has expanded to include Cersei, Joffrey, Ser Ilyn Payne, the Hound, Polliver and the Mountain.
We go back to the stylish and torture-free Renly, who has ridden out for a meet-and-mock with his brother Stannis. Renly can’t take Stannis’s relationship with religion in the person of Melisandre seriously and when Mel starts talking about how Stannis was born in smoke and salt, Renly asks if he’s a ham. Haha! I love Renly. Catelyn, on the other hand, is annoyed by the bickering and tells Renly and Stannis that if she were their mother, she’d knock their heads together until they remembered they were brothers and stopped wanting to kill each other.
Stannis tells Renly that if he acknowledges the legitimacy of Stannis’s claim to the throne, he can serve on Stannis’s council and even be Stannis’s heir until he has a son. Renly tells Stannis that “no one wants you for their King.” Apparently Stannis was always that kid who had no friends, and “a man without friends is a man without power.” Stannis would probably argue that it’s less important to have lots of friends and more important to have one special friend with access to scary supernatural powers. He gives Renly until the next day to think about his offer and then everyone rides away in a magnificent huff.
Outside the gates of Qarth, the spokesman for the city’s leaders, known as the Thirteen, demands to see Dany’s dragons before she is admitted into “the greatest city that ever was or ever will be.” Okay, I already like these people, because this is exactly how I feel about New York City. (ed. note: Me too!)
Dany takes umbrage at Qarthians dictating terms to her, and threatens to incinerate Qarth with her dragons once they’ve grown larger than housecats. Meanwhile, Jorah gets a chance to look handsome and concerned at Dany’s empty threats, since unless they are granted admittance into the city immediately, her group, dragons and Jorah included, is going to end up as exhibits in the bone garden.
Into this impasse steps the impressive Xaro Xhoan Daxos, who gives the “x” on my keyboard a workout while also guaranteeing Dany’s good behavior within Qarth by cutting his palm and letting the blood fall. I honestly have no idea what that ritual was about, but the gates of the city swing open revealing a vista of palm trees and palaces and the sparkling ocean beyond.
Meanwhile in decidedly unsparkly Harrenhal, Nu!Gregor has picked his latest victim for a round of Polliver’s rat circus. It’s Gendry! Noooooooooo! Gendry points out that he doesn’t know where the gold or the “Brotherhood” are because he’s not from the village. Just as things are looking impossibly dire for our favorite Baratheon bastard, Tywin Lannister rides in to the rescue. (Believe me, those are not words I ever thought I’d type!)
Tywin tells off his minions for killing people who could do useful work, ascertaining that Gendry, for example, is a blacksmith by trade and thus could be quite handy for an army to have around. Tywin also instantly sees through Arya’s disguise, recognizing her as a girl. He takes her on as his cupbearer; poor Arya has escaped one set of lions in King’s Landing only to end up with the biggest, meanest lion of all.
In King’s Landing, Tywin’s nephew Lancel brings orders from Cersei to Tyrion to release Maester Pycelle from the dungeons at once. I can see how Tywin has practice recognizing girls in boys’ clothing because I am now convinced that Lancel is actually a girl. Be that as it may, Tyrion cleverly gets Lancel to confess to his affair with the Queen, and then threatens to tell Joffrey about the affair. As Boyd Crowder would say, Lancel is caught between a rock and a much, much harder rock, and he looks like he wants to vomit. Tyrion presses his advantage, getting Lancel to agree to work for him by spying on Cersei.
Aboard a ship, Stannis corrects Davos’s grammar while they reminisce about the happy days of their youth, when Stannis had Davos’s fingers cut off for being a smuggler, even though Davos was also a hero for rescuing Stannis from a terrible siege. Stannis tells Davos that “a good act does not wash out the bad; nor a bad act the good.” I’m pretty sure Stannis is talking about that time he had sex with Melisandre on top of the map of Westeros.
Stannis orders Davos to use the smuggling skills he punished Davos for by bringing Melisandre ashore in secret. Davos is extremely uncomfortable with Melisandre, who, in contradiction to Stannis, says that “a man is good or he is evil.” Obviously, she believes herself to be good, telling Davos that she’s a champion of light and life when he makes a snarky comment about how the Lord of Light is having her work in the shadows.
Melisandre drops her robes to reveal that she is both stark naked and heavily pregnant. I’m jealous that Melisandre got through an entire pregnancy in about two weeks whilst also escaping the dreaded cankles. To the utter dismay and fear of Davos and the viewing audience, Melisandre then goes into labor, giving birth to a terrifying creature of smoke and shadows, the son she promised Stannis. As my (completely human non-shadowy) child would say, “Uh-oh!”
Lord Bolton: “A naked man has few secrets, a flayed man none.”
Bronn (speaking of Joffrey): “There’s no cure for being a c***!”
Littlefinger to Margaery: “If war were arithmetic, mathematicians would rule the world.”
Tyrion Lannister to an abject Lancel: “Save it for Joffrey. He loves a good grovel.”
Stannis Baratheon to Renly Baratheon: “The Iron Throne is mine by right. All those who deny that are my foes.”
Renly Baratheon to Stannis Baratheon: “The whole realm denies it from Dorne to the Wall. Old men deny it with their death rattle, and unborn children deny it in their mothers’ wombs. No one wants you for their King.”
Times I wished someone would push Joffrey off a battlement: Too numerous to count
People not appearing in this episode: Jon Snow, Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, the Greyjoy clan.
Regina Thorne is an avid reader of just about everything, an aspiring writer, a lover of old movies and current tv shows, and a hopeless romantic.