Oliver Davis reviews the fourth episode of Game of Thrones Season Two...
Garden of Bones.
Directed by David Petrarca.
Written by Vanessa Taylor.
There was no time for The Wall this week, not even in the opening credits. The Westeros map has become rather crammed as of late, so much so that we skipped past Winterfell's weird, holy tree. In its place were a hasty Harrenhal, where Arya (Maisie Williams) and her bunch of rascals have been hauled after being captured by Lannister men at the end of episode two, and Qarth, where Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) seeks refuge near Garden of Bones' close. Quite apt, as the plains surrounding Qarth share the episode's name, getting a few more bones each time the great city welcomes a new visitor through its gates.
...book adaptations are awkward processes, though far more suited to television series than films. The marvelous thing about Game of Thrones is that it actually augments the literature. Robb (Richard Madden), for instance, is only ever perceived through the eyes of others in the books, the reader never privy to his inner thoughts. Garden of Bones' opening scenes, of Robb's Northmen army attacking a Lannister encampment, are thus completely original. And it works - despite the show's first attempt at a fart joke.
The Northmen win the battle in a quick cut (even HBO shows have budgets). Walking amongst the dying and dead in the battle field, Robb comes across a woman attending the wounded. Their eyes meet over amputating the foot of an injured knight. Oh, the romance!
I think her name was Tulisa, but typing that name into Google only brings up one result at the moment. Whatever her name was, it wasn't Jeyne, who is an important part of Robb's life later on in the story. Tulisa and Robb leave each other with things unresolved - her being against war, him being out to avenge his Lord father's execution - which is a heavy hint that she'll be yet another recurring character independent from the books.
...just keeps getting more and more vile and is positioning himself as the main draw alongside Tyrion (Peter Dinklage). What will he do this week? He murdered a whole bunch of babies a couple of weeks back. What could he possibly...
Get one of his Kingsguard to beat and strip Sansa (Sophie Turner) of her clothes before the whole Court is a good start. And then, later on in the episode, he forces one whore to whip another harder, harder, harder.
It's his way of sending a message to Tyrion. For the second time this series, Tyrion has reprimanded Joffrey in public, making him smaller than the Imp. It might be a way to talk to your spoilt nephew, but not how you talk to your King. The whores were a 'name-day' treat for Joffrey, Tyrion's reasoning being that a good lay might release some of the brutal tendencies the boy King has picked up. But, as Bronn (Jerome Flynn) acutely points out, "there's no cure for being a [CUSS]".
...has finally found her people somewhere to rest. They've been stranded in the sandy, Dothraki plains for a long time now, a duration emphasised by the episode they missed last week. Of the three riders she sent out, only one has returned with the promise of shelter: those of the mighty city of Qarth would love to welcome the Mother of Dragons. By which they mean 'just the dragons'.
At first you only see the defensive walls of Qarth, "the greatest city there was and ever will be" (a claim channeling Bret Hart, and mentioned no less than three times). A host of armored guards and a group of men who rule the city, called the Thirteen, greet Daenerys and her Khalasar. No reference is made to the guards, but, if one were to speculate, they bare the appearance and discipline of the Unsullied - the most loyal and adept of slaves imaginable, who would even cease to breathe if their master commanded.
Eventually, they are granted access to Qarth. Its gates swing open to display a truly breathtaking city. Its buildings are tall and large, but not in the slightest bit oppressive, and a sparkling sea can be seen at the foot of the main street. Presumably this is a product of both physical sets and CGI, but it recalls the glorious matte effects of the original Star Trek episodes, the background in particular.
...is unsure of his King's red woman, Melisandre (Carice van Houten), and with good reason. He's already seen her down a glass of poison as though it a jug of mead, and convince Stannis (Stephen Dillane) to burn his old Gods.
But he's been tasked with a mission, to become a smuggler again, like he was before Stannis made him a knight. He and Melisandre have rowed ashore to make an attack on Renly's (Gethin Anthony) gathered forces, Stannis' younger and unyielding brother.
As they make their way to some underground tunnels, Melisandre explains the workings of the Lord of Light. Although cast in darkness, the shadows are servants of the Light. It is the Light that gives them birth. And then they come to a portion of the tunnels that are barred off.
Melisandre undresses, revealing her bulging stomach fat with some hellish child. Her and Stannis only made love two episodes ago, making it too recent to be his, though perhaps he offered her something more than his seed. Davos' (Liam Cunningham) torch bursts into light, giving birth to shadows as Melisandre does likewise with whatever dwells in her belly. A shadowy presence emerges from her and disappears through the bars, Melisandre cathartic, Davos appalled.
First dragons, and now evil shadow assassins? Fantasy just got real...