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Game of Thrones: 'Garden of Bones' recap and review

Dont_panic

Posted by: Eric Zipper

Game of Thrones is not a show that anyone would describe as pleasant; in fact, words like ‘bleak,’ ‘upsetting,’ and ‘soul-crushing’ spring more readily to mind. Even considering that though, this episode, unsettlingly named ‘Garden of Bones,’ was messed up.  An especially bleak hour in an especially bleak series, large chunks of the episode were rather hard to watch, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.  If I want to see frolicking kittens, I’ll watch Animal Planet (that’s what they show on there, right?).  But I want to see medieval badassery of the highest order, and that is exactly what this week’s episode of Game of Thrones delivered.  So let’s get started, shall we?

I know I harp on a lot about ‘focus’ and ‘clarity’ this season, but that’s because it’s so apparent how much is going on, and those things are so easy to lose hold of.  This episode, however, felt tightly structured and thematically sound, which was really refreshing, because it means that the season is getting better and better at juggling its multiple storylines, with not a single jaunt off to Pyke or the Wall this week.  I’m gonna be honest, each week I think we should only see either Jon or Dany, but never both.  They’re both so disconnected that it always makes the show feel like it’s spread a little thing when we have to check in with both of them.

In fact, let’s start with Dany, shall we?  (There was no Jon this week, which is fine.)  After wandering around in the desert for a while, she comes across the city of Quarth, which is apparently the ‘greatest city there is, or ever has been.’  Good to know.  The episode garners its title from the desert around the city walls, which despite its intimidating name, looked a lot like the rest of the desert to me.  That’s fine, though, because Dany’s confrontation with the Thirteen, Quarth’s council of rulers and protectors, was tense and exciting.  They wanted her to show them her dragons in exchange for admittance into the city, which just isn’t something Dany is willing to do yet (due to budget constraints?).  

This is where we meet Xaro Xhoan Daxos — a character who will be very important this season — when he steps in to vouch for Dany using some ancient tributey thing where he slices his hand.  Also, this is the show’s second black guy, so yay for diversity!  My favorite thing about this whole sequence, though, was the design of Quarth, which was absolutely gorgeous.  Admittedly, we only got a glimpse of it, but the show is great at those CG longshots of locations, which don’t always look totally real, but are always impressively imaginative. 

Which brings us to.... Harrenhal!  We spent what felt like the majority of this episode here, which I was totally fine with, since the place has a spooky and gruesome vibe that added a lot to the scenes of spooky and gruesome things happening to Arya and her friends.  The only thing that threw me off in this sequence was the recasting of the Mountain, because I didn’t even realize it was him until Arya said so.  Yes, he was huge, but I really liked the guy from last season, who apparently left the show because he got a role in The Hobbit, which I can’t really fault him for. 

This episode is also noticeable for introducing us to one of the most messed up torture methods I’ve ever seen:  The Rat Bucket.  A bucket, containing a rat of course, is placed against the chest of the victim, and then heated until the rat begins to burrow into the poor soul.  I don’t know if this is something the writers got from history, or something they came up with on their own, but it was so deliciously messed up and felt so absolutely true to the world that’s been established.  (It may have been from the books, but if so I don’t recall it, and it seems like something I would remember.)  

Gendry is next up on the chopping block (or, umm, the chewing block), when Tywin Lannister shows up and uncharacteristically saves the day.  Tywin is a badass, and this scene shows a side of him we haven’t seen before.  While he surely cares only about the great source of labor that’s being wasted, his interactions with Arya bordered on warmth, which was almost MORE unsettling than his usual coldness.  He instantly spotted that she was a girl and made her his cup bearer, which is sure to be entertaining.

The other big development from this locale is the beginning of Arya’s own death prayer each night before she goes to sleep, whispering the names of those she wishes to shuffle off this mortal coil.  Her ascent to Total Badassitude has begun.

There’s not much to say about Joffrey that hasn’t already been said, so I’ll just go with this: HOLY SH*T.  Both of those scenes (the one where he strips Sansa in the throne room before Tyrion rescues her, and the one with the whores) were brutal and terrifying, which are both apt words to describe our boy King.  After sitting the last few episodes out, it was nice to have a little reminder of what exactly our other characters are up against.  

Wow, I’ve gone this whole recap without mentioning Tyrion until the last paragraph, huh?  Well, this will not stand.  Tyrion doesn’t get to be quite as badass here as last week, but he gets a couple great scenes.  First, the aforementioned one where he rescues Sansa from her betrothed, showing no fear of his spoiled nephew, due in large part to having Bronn at his side.  (Bronn, incidentally, also gets the best line of the night.  When Tyrion is pondering how to temper his nephews’ excesses, Bronn notes that there’s ‘no cure for being a c*nt.’) 

Secondly, we have Tyrion’s awesome takedown of his cousin Lancel, who goes from being brash and arrogant to beggin on his knees in less than a minute.  Tyrion knows that Lancel is boning the Queen, and greatly doubts that Joffrey would appreciate it.  The great fun of this season is in watching Tyrion gather his spies and resources, which he does with gusto, always seeming to enjoy himself despite the high stakes.  That’s where my Tyrion-love ends for this week, although I’m sure it will be back in full force soon enough.

Oh, I forgot to check in with Robb, who we started the episode with.  I loved the opening, where two Lannister guardsmen shoot the sh*t before getting mauled by Robb’s wolf Grey Wind, and the gruesome battlefield after was cool, although I really would have loved to see the battle. Oh well, it was nice to see Robb this week, who we meet as he tells one of his bannermen, Roose Bolton, that he will not tolerate torture.  Remember Roose Bolton, my friends.  He’ll be back in a big way.

One of the other most gruesome moments of the episode came in this scene, when a very attractive nurse cut off a dude’s leg with what sounded like a very dull saw. Ouch.  This scene served largely to introduce us to Robb’s new love interest, who I thought he had a really nice chemistry with.  Robb doesn’t have a ton to do besides be noble and brave, but this exchange was acted really nicely by Richard Madden, and I’m excited to see this relationship develop, because we don’t really get to in the books. 

The other major storyline of the episode was the going-ons at Renly’s camp, which Littlefinger has just arrived at bearing Ned’s bones.  Littlefinger’s verbal beatdown by Margaery was nice to see, but the great bit here was his exchange with Cat, where he didn’t miss a single opportunity to be the creepy bastard that we all love to hate.  At least he had the decency to hit on Cat before presenting her with her dead husband’s body, cause that could have been awkward.

The best scene of this episode, though, was the meeting between Renly and Stannis atop that gorgeous hill, accompanied by their various advisors and bannermen (and creepy Red Witch ladies.)  Renly’s wit was in great form (“Is he a ham?”), and Stannis was dour as ever.  The writing was really excellent here, as was the acting, with the sense of history between these two brothers and enemies feeling rich and lived-in.  Stannis threatens Renly, which Renly brushes off since, after all, he has the bigger army, so what could Stannis possibly do?

Well, it turns out.... quite a lot.  The closing moment of this episode is both the creepiest, and the most magically-charged moment we’ve had yet.  Melisandre (somehow suddenly very pregnant) gives birth to a shadow-baby, leaving both Davos and the viewers at home yelling ‘WHAT THE HELL?!?!’  The way this whole thing played out was so deliciously gross and unsettling, and I’m very excited to see how the show handles its’ fallout next week.

All in all, a great episode.  Storylines were moved forward, characters acted in bold and decisive ways, and a whole lot of messed up stuff happened.  Definitely the best episode of the season so far, and I’m excited to watch as the show tries to top itself.  All told:

Reader’s Corner:

-What did you guys think of that little bit of foreshadowing with Tyrion and Sansa?  People who don’t read the books are gonna be freaked out by what happens to those two.  
-Was that the Tickler doing the Rat-Bucket?  We got to meet Polliver this week, so it only makes sense that that’s him, right?  Or am I getting confused?  I also got excited at the mention of the Brotherhood, who will no doubt be totally badass.
- How do we feel about the changes to Jeyne’s character?  I really like the actress playing her, so I was fine with it.
-Seeing Roose and Robb together was... unsettling, considering what’s coming down the line.

Tags: Game of Thrones, HBO, TV, Review, Recap

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