Game of Thrones Review: "Garden of Bones" (Episode 2.4)
Game of Thrones’ first season often felt more like historical fiction than fantasy if we could just imagine a history quite different than our own. But then came the dragons, and slowly more and more magic has been revealed. Winter is coming and with it more and more of Westeros’ fairy tales are coming true. But if we’ve seen white walkers and dragons and telepathic dire wolves, none of that quite prepared us for what would come at the end of this week’s episode.
But before that, we begin more like a Vince Vaughn movie with a dick joke and an epic fart. A couple of Lannister men on night’s watch are keeping themselves amused when Robb Stark’s army runs right through them. In the aftermath, Robb comes across a lovely doctor cutting off one of his prisoner’s feet. She is unimpressed and unafraid to speak truth to power. Amidst all that’s at hand, Robb seems a little smitten.
Joffrey keeps expanding the definition of sadism, first with his betrothed, whom he blames for Robb’s latest victory over his army and later with the prostitutes his uncle the Imp sends as a present. In the most painful scene of the show since Joffrey had all his bastard step-siblings killed, the young king commands one to beat the other as a message for his uncle. The boy takes great pleasure in others’ pain.
We meet some more torturing souls at the prison camp where Arya and Gendry await their turn in the interrogation chair. Each day one prisoner has an iron bucket strapped to his chest with a live rat inside. When the bucket is heated, the rat chews through his victim to escape. Arya falls asleep in her cell, repeating the names of those she intends to kill: “Joffrey, Cersei, Ilyn Payne, the Hound.” Her experience in the camp has added a name to that list, though: Polliver, one of the Lannister guards who abused her fellow prisoners. Something tells me that he may be first.
Gendry’s turn with the rat-in-a-bucket is cut short by the visit from Lord Tywin Lannister, who immediately recognizes Arya for the girl that she is and takes him on as his cupbearer. Gendry is enlisted as a smith.
Meanwhile, Daenerys has arrived at the gates of Qarth, “the greatest city that ever was or will be.” Her stubbornness pays off as her threat—“turn us away and we will burn you first”—impresses, and one of the city’s 13 rulers agrees to stand for her.
Tyrion Lannister may have had his nameday present from Joffrey thrown back in his face, but he doesn’t make many mistakes like that. Tonight he found another card to play when he finds that his cousin has been sleeping with his sister Cersei the Queen Regent. He turns spy for the Imp after groveling for his life.
The former king’s two brothers, Stannis and Renly meet on the eve of a familial battle—two armies both wanting to take the throne in King’s Landing for their respective leaders. Stannis is the “charmless” elder who believes the crown is his by divine right, and that divinity is the Lord of Light. Renly, on the other hand, has a great deal of friends and has gathered a much larger force. But he can’t know his brother’s secret weapon—the “child” his high priestess Melisandre will be bearing him later that night. Sparing no opportunity to show the gory details, Game of Thrones gives us the birth of some kind of smoke entity.
There’s no doubt any longer that we’re in a fantasy world. But no monster or mythical creature can hold as much terror as an adolescent boy with unlimited power or those who follow his orders. The real monsters of Game of Thrones need no magic to bring ruin upon others. The night is dark and full of terrors indeed. And with that, it’s not too difficult to imagine this as our history after all.