Thursday, April 26, 2012

Review: Game of Thrones "Garden of Bones"

Non Spoiler Review:
Baelish arrives at Renly's camp with an offer for Catelyn, while Robb engages the Lannisters on the battlefield. Tyrion continues his machinations at court, with attempts to divert Joffrey's growing madness away from Sansa. Gendry and Arya arrive at Harrenhal ahead of another surprising visitor. Daenerys gambles with the fate of her people, and Stannis and Melisandre set in motion a very dark scheme.

Another jam-packed episode, bringing in some new characters that will surely figure prominently in the future. So much has transpired, it certainly feels like we're well into the season rather than just the fourth episode. Events are continuing to darken, especially with a rather unsettling ending that promises some nasty stuff ahead. Not to mention some very disturbing Joffrey scenes.

While the major players go about their schemes and battles, we continue to get some short, but very important scenes with nameless characters commenting on the happenings around them—this time a couple of Lannister soldiers, as well as the perspective offered by Ros in her adventures in King's Landing. With such a large cast, it's a very important humanizing aspect of the series that I applaud the writers for continuing to indulge in.

Spoilers Now!
The Lannister soldiers debate the merits of the kingdom's best swordsmen (including a wry comment about Loras and Renly's special relationship). Something spooks the horses and they're killed by Robb's men as they attack the camp. They win the battle, and one of Robb's vassals, Roose Bolton, muses the officers will provide good intel (via flaying, which is a method favored by his house). Robb doesn't want to give them an excuse to abuse his sisters. Robb then helps a nurse, Talisa, tend to a wounded Lannister soldier whose leg is cut off. She skeptically asks what he'll do once the king is overthrown, but he has no plans for what comes after. Talisa says she's from the free city Volantis but won't give up her last name. Robb tells her the boy was lucky she was there, but as she rides off she adds the boy was unlucky Robb was there. 

Joffrey has Sansa in his crossbow sights, telling him she needs to answer for Robb's latest crimes. The court is being told a host of lies about the latest battle that Robb feasted on their flesh. Joffrey explains his mother insists on keeping her alive, so he needs to send Stark a different message. He has her beaten and stripped in the throne room, but Tyrion enters, demanding to know what's going on. He berates the knight of the kingsguard, Meryn Trant, as well as Joffrey that she's to be her queen and must keep her honor. He calls him a half-wit, and adds that the mad king did as he liked, as well. Meryn warns him not to threaten the king. Tyrion advises Bronn that the next time Sir Meryn Trant speaks to kill him. Tyrion offers his hand to Sansa and apologizes for his nephew's behaviour. Quietly, he asks for the truth—does she wants an end to the engagement? She coldly replies she is loyal to her one true love. Tyrion muses she might survive this yet.

Bronn suggests it wouldn't hurt for Joffrey to have a new diversion. Later, the Hound gives Joffrey Tyrion's name day present. Inside his chamber are Ros and Daisy waiting for him. Rather than enjoy them himself, Joffrey wants to watch them together—and he wants Ros to hit her. Tyrion will need to get his money's worth, he explains. Joffrey readies his crossbow and offers Ros something heavier to use—a sceptre—and instructs Ros she will bring Daisy to Tyrion's chambers to show him what she's done, or the same thing will happen to her. 

In Renly's camp, Baelish has arrived. Baelish explains to a skeptical Renly he still has many friends at court and that Ned erred in not supporting his claim. If he marches on King's Landing he could face a protracted seige—or open gates.

At night, Baelish is greeted by Margaery, who escorts him to his tent. Baelish wonders why she doesn't share a tent with the king. She comments he seems quite interested in her marriage and asks why he's never married. But he's been unlucky in love. She explains her husband is her king and her king is her husband and bids him goodnight. 

Catelyn is furious when she sees Baelish, blaming him for treachery in Ned's death. He confesses his love for her and suggests fate has given them a chance. She pulls a knife on him and orders him out. He asks if she wants to see her girls again—both are healthy and safe for now, but he fears for their lives if they remain in the capital. The Lannisters want to trade Jaime for the girls—he's bringing these terms to Catelyn, not to Robb. He also hands over Ned's bones from Tyrion, as an offer of good faith, then leaves her with much to think about.

Stannis' entourage greets Renly and Catelyn. Melisandre explains Stannis has taken as his sigil the fiery heart of the lord of light. Renly mocks how he's found religion in his old age. Melisandre declares he's the lord's chosen. Catelyn tells them they're brothers and they should put their differences aside. Stannis wonders why she's standing by the pretender given Ned supported his claim. Renly points out the entire realm denies his claim, and no one wants him for his king. A man without friends is a man without power. Stannis tells him he has one night to reconsider—if he comes to him before dawn he'll retain his seat in the council. Otherwise he'll destroy him.

In the Red Wastes, one of the riders returns on a different horse. It was given to him by the Elders of Qarth, three days ride east, and who say they would be honored to see the mother of dragons. Jorah only knows that the desert around their walls is called the garden of bones.

Daenerys' group arrives at the gates of Qarth and are greeted by the head of a council of thirteen merchants. Her reputation has preceded her, and they want to see the dragons. She wants food and water for her people first. He wants to appease some of his more skeptical friends about the veracity of her dragons, but Daenerys suggests they're being insulted. So he recommends she return where she came from then. Negotiations take a turn for the worse as she claims they'll die if they're not let in. He calls her a Dothraki savage and begins to leave. Daenerys calls on the thirteen and declares when her dragons are grown they'll take back what was stolen and lay waste to armies and burn cities. Qarth will be burned first.

Another of the thirteen steps forward, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, and wants to let her in. He believes a few Dothraki can be allowed in without dooming the city, and points out he's a savage himself from the Summer Isles. The other merchants won't agree, so Xaro invokes a law that allows him to vouch for her and her people. They're welcomed into the city. 

The soldiers holding Gendry and Arya arrive at the imposing fortress of Harrenhal, which has stone melted by dragon fire. The soldiers take a prisoner every day to kill, so come morning the group is reviewed and one is picked by the Mountain and asked where the brotherhood is, and which villages aided them. He's subjected to some interesting torture involving a rat and fire, and eventually dies. At night Arya performs a ritual as she falls asleep by reciting the names of all those she wants to kill.

Gendry is taken next but doesn't know of any village or brotherhood. He's about to be tortured again when Tywin Lannister and his men arrive. He asks what's going on with all the prisoners. He's told the cells are overflowing. Practical Tywin suggests they need able bodies and skilled labourers. He frees Gendry asking what his trade is. He's a smith. Tywin then recognizes Arya is a girl. She explains it's safer to travel that way. Tywin agrees, and tells them to get the prisoners to work, and to bring the girl—he needs a new cup bearer.

Tyrion is visited by Lancel with Cersei's demand to release Pycelle. He asks why she sends him and not come herself. Arrogant Lancel offers him no respect. He says she must have great trust in him allowing him in her chamber during the hour of the wolf. Tyrion wants to know if he was knighted before or after she took him into her bed and wonders what King Joffrey would say to that. Lancel gets frantic and begs for mercy. Tyrion tells him to obey his sister and keep her trust. No one ever need know as long as he keeps faith with Tyrion. He wants to know what she's doing and who she sees. Tyrion agrees to release Pycelle but won't have him on the council. 

Davos and Stannis are on their flagship. Stannis muses how Davos was initially a smuggler (and he took some of Davos' fingers as punishment for his crimes, despite having helped him in the rebellion). Stannis wants him to be a smuggler again—this time bringing Melisandre ashore. No one must know and they'll not speak of it again. Cleaner ways don't win wars, he adds. Davos takes her to the beach, but the passage through the cliffs has been barred. She disrobes and reveals she is pregnant. She lies down and gives birth to a shadowy creature that disappears into the night.

The Verdict:
Magic has been used so sparingly that when something wild happens it's certainly unsettling. How in the loop is Stannis about Melisandre's plan? He doesn't seem to have bought into the religion, yet he has to accept she can accomplish some pretty scary stuff. On one hand he's very rigid in his morality, but he suddenly appears to throw that out the window by having her give birth to an abomination to carry out his bidding—that just doesn't seem to make sense with his character. Perhaps he doesn't have a clear idea of what methods she's going to use.

Daenerys' scene solidified her character growth as a leader with her little gamble, and here's hoping all those little dragons survive the journey and grow up to do her bidding. Despite her bloody heritage, she seems like another viable candidate for queen.

It was good to see Robb back in battle, and he seems to have found a potential love interest (one that will cause alliances with House Frey some trouble, no doubt). She looks to have some secrets (possibly her family is on the Lannister's side?). 

Another great Tyrion scene brings back Lancel Lannister, and I wonder how important he will figure in the schemes at court. But Tyrion's other plot with Joffrey has certainly backfired. And poor Ros and Daisy—the latter unwittingly caught the attention of Tyrion last week by helping to snare Pycelle, and now she could be dead, or at the very least, seriously maimed. Not to mention Ros, who having just come to terms with the murder of a baby in front of her has to participate in Joffrey's deprivations. I hope we get to see Tyrion dealing with his responsibility in this. 

Yes, Joffrey's evil has reached new levels. I'm throwing down that I can't see him surviving the assault on King's Landing. His character has just reached such levels of madness that it's untenable to have him ruling through another season. His head will end up on a pike by the finale, I'm guessing.

Harrenhal lives up to its reputation, and the twist of having Tywin Lannister arrive and put both Gendry and Arya to work is priceless. Who were the interrogators, and are we to take anything from the odd questions they were asking the prisoners? Is this a plot point that will be brought up again, or simply some background goings on in the war? Baelish was right—Harrenhal sucks.

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