Deals! Who’s making them, who’s keeping them and…oh dear lord that woman just birthed a smoke monster! Another week, another ridiculously entertaining episode of HBO’s Game Of Thrones.
Let’s bitch it out…
It’s undeniable that Game Of Thrones is about power – week in, week out the show explores who has it (few), who wants it (most everyone) and who wants more than they have (again, pretty much everyone). But while that’s part of what makes the show worthwhile, the true spirit of the show is exploring how these people who are power hungry interact with each other. And that prompts words such as “truce,” “pride,” “entitlement,” “traitor,” “survivor” and “spy” to come to the forefront.
Truce: A significant portion of ‘Garden of Bones’ concerns the brothers Baratheon: cold, distant Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and his younger brother Renly (Gethin Anthony) who may be too clever and impetuous for his own good. In only a few episodes the characteristics of each have been clearly carved out. Stannis is everything that his brother claims he is, and he would make a fearsome king – the fact that each time Dillane appears on screen he seems to suck the colour from the screen is a testament to his sour disposition. Renly, on the other hand, is clearly too young to properly appreciate just how deep he’s in; while he and Margaery (Natalie Dormer) both claim that their march to Kings Landing will be a success because they have the numbers, they’re overlooking the strategy by which the game is played.
Margaery is clearly more fit to play, though, as her scene with Baelish (Aidan Gillen) demonstrates. He tries to goad her about her relationship with Renly, but she shuts him down with a pat “My king is my husband, my husband is my king.” Renly, on the other hand, tries to play tough with the court’s financier, boasting about how much he doesn’t like him and calling him a whoremonger. Things don’t get much better when he makes light of the meeting that Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) sets up between the Baratheons. If they were to unite their banners, Catelyn is correct that the Lannisters would be defeated. But pride and feelings of entitlement in both brothers prevent them from agreeing and Stannis leaves Renly with an ultimatum: concede by dawn or suffer the consequences.
Spy: Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), meanwhile, has his hands full in the capitol.
First he must deal with Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), who’s turning out to be more of a sociopath than I think any of us imagined. After her brother Robb (Richard Madden) makes a surprise attack on Lannister forces, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) pays the price at Joff’s hands, or rather the hands of his kingsguard. Beaten and stripped, it’s only after Tyrion scolds the boy in public that she escapes. Not so fortunate are the whores that Tyrion sends Joffrey as an appeasement / nameday gift. In the first of two explicitly (female) sexual scenes in the episode, Joffrey makes the two girls abuse each other for his (sexual?) amusement. The escalation from light slapping to strikes with a staff (under threat of crossbow) is profoundly disturbing, even if the more aggressive behaviour takes place off-screen (Side Note: As a horror fan, I can tell you that violence is always worse when it’s left to your imagination). While we all knew that Joffrey was disturbed, watching him order men to fight to the death was somehow more acceptable than the patriarchal violence he inflicts on innocent women in ‘Garden Of Bones.’
The second fire Tyrion manages is his less problematic cousin, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon). Although the scene of Tyrion’s masterful manipulation of Lancel is less spectacular than the montage of meetings from last week, it’s still quite amusing to see the imp turn the tables so that Lancel now spies for Tyrion on Cersei (an unseen Lena Headley). BTW: is anyone surprised that Cersei has taken a Jaime lookalike into her bed? Dirty girl!
Survivor: At this point in the show, one of the few “pure” individuals left is Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), who arrives at Harrenhal this week, along with Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and the others survivors of last week’s raid. Our first glimpse of the castle is in the credits, where it looks impressive, but in actuality the place is a run-down dump. It’s huge and rocky, but also cold and unwelcoming. Considering the scenes that follow (including squirm inducing torture with rats), the look is strangely appropriate. It’s interesting to see that Arya has taken departed Yoren’s (Francis McGee) survival strategy to heart, listing off the names of those she would wreak vengeance on every night before bed. We’ll have to see whose name is added to that list now that she’s been plucked from the group (by no less than Charles Dance’s Tywin Lannister!) to act as a cupbearer. I loved how Tywin immediately saw through her gendered disguise, so hopefully her new role away from the torturous hands of the Mountain, Clegor Gregane (Ian Whyte).
Entitled: Finally, we reunite with Daenaerys (Emilia Clarke) as one of her three emissaries returns with good news: the survivors will be welcome at Qarth. The city is said to be opulent and rich, though when the group arrives they find the way barred by the Thirteen, the guardians of the city. The Thirteen is an interesting, diverse mix, which makes me excited to see what lies beyond the gate. It’s almost a miracle that they get inside considering that Dany doesn’t make a great first impression by refusing to show her dragons (it’s a wise decision, but it is nearly quite costly). I found Dany’s scenes difficult to watch – in part because I’ve become used to seeing Dany as a strong female figure and partially because Dany seems foolish. When it seems that they won’t be allowed in, Dany begins to sputter and threaten, but what she really does is demonstrate how young she is (after all, remember that she is a teenager). We haven’t seen this girl since early in the first season when she begged her brother not to sell her to the Dothraki. I hope, now that she has an ally (?) in Xaro (Nonso Anozie), she’ll reclaim her position of power and influence.
And that’s it for the episode. Oh right…and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) gives birth to a baby made of smoke in the final scene. The interesting thing is that the baby turns into a fully grown man moments after the birth. I honestly don’t know what to say about this, except that it’s unclear where the shadow is headed, though Stannis’ threat to Renly about the dawn may yet prove ominous.
- No Jon, no Theon, no Cersei this week. As the world of the show expands, we should probably get used to only seeing some of these people on a biweekly – rather than weekly – basis. I was actually okay with the focus on tonight’s characters, which is a testament to how quickly I’ve come to like characters like Davos (Liam Cunningham), Stannis, and Renly.
- Davos’s scene with Melisandre in the boat before the birthing is quite revealing. Davos is so loyal to Stannis that he’ll tolerate even his clear discomfort for the red witch if the elder Baratheon’s orders it. Davos and Melisandre’s conversation about light and shadows is clearly a precursor to the demon she’s about to deliver, but it’s her line “The night is dark, and full of terrors” that is truly memorable. She believes herself a knight of the light, but admits that shadows cannot live in the dark alone. If nothing else, this woman gives good quote! (Sidenote: Guess we know what ‘out of wedlock’ sex delivers: between this thing and Joffrey, the show is making a strong case for keeping the babymaking within the marriage bed)
- I would argue that the presentation of female sexuality here differs from two weeks ago in ‘The Night Lands’: yes there is gratuitous nudity, but here the nudity is in service of the story. Melisandre’s naked belly, undulating as she gives birth, is suitably horrific and the scenes with Joffrey and Baelish’s whores proves just how much of a sociopath Joffrey is. Neither of these acts is “about” sex per se, but the nudity here increases the sense of wonder and/or fear. We are never so exposed as when we are naked and both scenes do a good job of reinforcing this.
What did you think of ‘Garden of Bones’? Were you anxious that Dany wouldn’t get into Qarth? Did you enjoy Tyrion’s masterful manipulation of Lancel? Do you think Arya is out of harm’s way now? Let me know below. FYI: As always, this is a no spoiler zone. Discuss the show and only what we’ve seen – no book talk please!
Game Of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm EST on HBO