If war were arithmetic, the mathematicians would rule the world
Written by: Vanessa Taylor
Directed by: David Petrarca
"Garden of Bones", the fourth episode of Game of Thrones' second season, is a whirlwind of an episode. There's a lot to love, a lot to hate, and a lot to be scared of too. A couple of new locations and some unlikely character interactions makes this for an extra peculiar episode that once again gives us the full spectrum of emotions. In typical Game of Thrones fashion, a joyous moment can be immediately followed by a gruesome one, and we have several more examples of that here.
In terms of what to love, only one character can we say this is a "happy" episode for: Daenerys. After a long, exhausting journey through the Red Waste, Daenerys and her followers reach the place that they'll be spending the rest of this season in: the wealthy city of Qarth. The leaders of the city, known as the Thirteen, request to see Daenerys' dragons before they officially let her in. Daenerys threatens to have Qarth burned to the ground if the Thirteen will not bring her in, leading to one of the Thirteen, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie) - holy crap, how is anyone supposed to remember that name? - uses a blood oath to give Daenerys access to the city.
An essential part of Daenerys' character has been her desire to break away from the madness associated with her father, the Mad King Aerys. But it's not just her father that seemed crazy: her brother Viserys looked like he would have been the Mad king Part 2 had he somehow lived long enough to seize the Iron Throne. Daenerys vows to be a Queen that will free slaves and have kingdoms live in peace and harmony. Of course, no matter now kind and merciful she may try to be, she is still a Targaryen at heart, and as we have come to know already, the Targaryens once ruled with the ferocity of dragons. There is a fire inside Daenerys that can never be extinguished, and the threat that she makes to the Thirteen is a small example of that fire. Oh, how dare you, Alan! You just took this episode's truly happy moment and turned it into something scary!
Oh, I don't see how anyone could not be scared of Daenerys, considering she is the only person in the world with living, breathing dragons. And after this episode, everyone ought to be wishing for one of her dragons to roast King Joffrey alive. Joffrey's sadism takes center stage in King's Landing, first when he calls for a public beating and humiliation of Sansa, then later when he forces the prostitute Ros to violently beat another prostitute (Masie Dee). This is much more than just some immature boy King; this is a King bordering on mental instability. Game of Thrones' is fully aware of how much you hate Joffrey, so instead of giving you hope that things will take a turn for the better, this season will intensify the pain.
Luckily, there is some good wedged in between Joffrey's cruel actions: Tyrion shows up just in time to save Sansa, handling the situation in a way only Tyrion can. Despite being rescued from public humiliation, Sansa reaffirms to Tyrion her loyalty to Joffrey. This is something that has always bugged me about Sansa during the first couple of seasons: she makes no sense with how she talks about Joffrey in front of a crowd versus in a private room with someone she trusts with her life. It's straightforward enough in the beginning when Sansa finds Joffrey to be a charming boy prince, falling under the impression that she will marry him and bear his children. Then when she witnesses her father's execution, she sees Joffrey for the monster he truly is. She does think about pushing him off a ledge after he forces her to stare at her father's head on a spike in the season one finale. Is she simply pretending to be forever loyal to Joffrey (which is about the only thing she can do at the moment), or does she secretly think that deep down, there is still good in him? I've never been able to figure it out, but frankly, I don't really care to.
At least things are all well and good with Arya...er, well, okay, not really. She lost Needle at the end of last episode, and now her and the boys have been taken to the castle of Harrenhal, where prisoners are being tortured and killed for information on a group known as "The Brotherhood". Tywin Lannister arrives on the scene before Gendry can be tortured, and he is easily able to recognize that Arya is a girl, making her his cupbearer. For being the most feared man in Westeros, Tywin sure does a lot for us to like him. Instead of allowing the torture and killings to continue, he has the prisoners put to work, and gives Arya a job that honestly isn't that bad. He may look scary, but Tywin has his morals. I think he makes episodes a lot better, because his presence always make for interesting conversations and other exciting encounters.
By the way, I hope you were listening carefully when Melisandre that the night is dark and full of terrors, because darkness and terror is exactly what this episode leaves us off with. Melisandre, inexplicably in late-stage pregnancy following her recnt sexual encounter with Stannis, gives birth to a shadowy demon figure, which disappears into the night as a stunned Davos Seaworth looks on. This isn't going to end well for somebody.
If you take every little basic emotion and roll them up into a ball, it would look a lot like "Garden of Bones", and yes, there are other emotional moments that I didn't even touch upon here, such as Petyr Baelish bringing Ned Stark's remains to Catelyn. There may be some good things happening like Daenerys being welcomed into Qarth, but good things in season two almost never come without some bad, ugly things as well, like Joffrey being the most aggravating, pull-your-hair-out Kings you'll ever see, and the fact that some shadow monster is now on the loose. This season grows more complex by the episode, and it's only a matter of time before bodies start to fall.
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