Game of Thrones, Season 2, Ep 4 “Garden of Bones”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

It looks like Joffrey’s guards weren’t taking Arya, Gendry and the others to King’s Landing… they end up in a new location called Harrenhal: The place looks like a half-melted castle. As they’re marched in, Arya’s fat friend asks what can melt stone, and Arya replies, “dragonfire”.

It turns out this is where Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane is, and each day he chooses a prisoner, apparently at random, to torture to death for information. Over the episode we see a couple get taken away. During the night, Arya recites a list of the people she wants to kill: Cersei, Joffrey, one or two others, and now she adds The Mountain. Finally, Gendry is chosen and strapped to the torture chair. But then Tywin Lannister arrives and tells everyone off for killing valuable prisoners. He asks Gendry if he has a trade and Gendry says he’s a smith. Tywin instantly recognises Arya is a girl, and says she can be his new cup maiden. So they are saved from a terrible fate, at least temporarily.

It seems everything I try to predict about what will happen to Arya next is wrong. So I’ll say she won’t cut Tywin’s throat in his sleep, find her sword, rescue Gendry, and escape from the Lannister camp – because that’s what I want her to do.

Battlefield: But the episode actually begins with Robb Stark’s forces overwhelming another Lannister camp in a surprise night attack. The field is littered with wounded at dawn. One of Robb’s generals says they should torture and kill the captives, as they don’t have enough supplies to keep prisoners. Robb refuses, not wanting to give the Lannisters any excuse to harm his sisters.

There’s some sort of field nurse treating the wounded, and Robb helps her amputate a prisoner’s foot by holding him down. Robb wonders who she is, but she seems disinterested in getting to know him, criticising him for starting a battle and wounding so many soldiers. She wanders off mysteriously with her cart of medical supplies, as Robb watches wistfully. This looks like the start of a budding romance. Which no doubt means they will meet again, but probably under tragic circumstances.

King’s Landing: Joffrey is mad that Robb’s army attacked his forces, and has Sansa beaten and humiliated in the throne room while he aims a crossbow at her. She pleads (quite reasonably) that she had nothing to do with it, but Joffrey is too far gone to see sense. Tyrion intervenes, and leads Sansa away.

Bronn suggests that Joffrey is feeling teenage urges and some sex will cool his fires, so Tyrion hires a couple of women to spring a surprise on him in his bedroom. Unfortunately, Joffrey only seems interested in the “pain” part of “pleasure and pain”, and orders one of the woman to beat the other one, and then drag her bruised body back to Tyrion, again backing it up with a crossbow aimed at them. Lawks. Joffrey was just a petulant spoiled brat before compared to this, but this episode really ratchets his nastiness up several more notches.

Apart from this miscalculation about Joffrey, Tyrion seems to playing the court intrigue rather well. A messenger – a young Lannister cousin – arrives late to his room, with a message from Cersei ordering Tyrion to release Pycelle. Tyrion correctly deduces from the messenger’s late arrival that he was with the queen at a suspicious hour. Knowing his sister’s inclinations, Tyrion accuses the messenger of sleeping with the queen, and he caves and begs for mercy, saying he’ll leave the city immediately. Tyrion instead blackmails him into staying with Cersei and leaking information about her plans to him.

I’m cheering for Tyrion, because he’s just so smooth and clever with everything he does, and it all seems aimed merely at saving his own neck – not being vindictive to anyone else. I think he really has the upper hand against Cersei, but his mistake with Joffrey may bode ill. I fear he underestimates Joffrey, and that if anything is Tyrion’s undoing, it will be his rabid nephew.

Qarth: Another new location, this is a city bordering the desert of the Dothraki lands. One of Daenerys’s scouts returns with a welcoming message from Qarth. On arrival, they are met outside the impressive gates by an armed guard and The Thirteen who rule the city. One, a merchant who says his name is of no consequence, says he wants to see the dragons before they let Daenerys and her band in, but she proudly refuses and demands hospitality. The merchant is about to turn his back on her and let them all starve in the Garden of Bones outside the walls, but another of the Thirteen says he will vouch for them and invokes a rite involving cutting his own hand with a dagger. The rest of them reluctantly let Daenerys and her people in. As the city gate opens we see it is an amazing place full of wondrous architecture and gardens.

It’s hard to predict what will happen here. It could go two ways: The Qarth people help Daenerys and become enamoured with her and her dragons, and follow her loyally. Or the Qarth incubate Daenerys and bring her small band of followers back to health, and then Daenerys betrays them, razes the city, and uses whatever’s left behind to build her own army on top of the ruins. I’d say 40-60 chances, respectively.

Stormlands: Petyr Baelish arrives in Renly’s camp and sees Cat, who wants nothing to do with him because he served on Joffrey’s council when Ned was killed. Baelish offers help freeing Sansa and Arya – lying through his teeth that Arya is safe and sound – in exchange for Jaime Lannister. And as a token of goodwill, he has brought Ned’s remains so Cat can bury them in Winterfell.

Stannis and Renly meet to parley at a neutral place on a windswept cliff overlooking the sea. It’s clear neither will join the other’s cause, and they part, promising to bring their forces to battle each other on the morrow. That night, Stannis takes a ship and orders his general Davos to escort the red witch woman to shore in a small boat. This seems weird, but it only gets weirder from here. They enter a smuggler’s cave, and he is complaining about some bars that have been erected to impede progress since last time he smuggled things here, when the red witch strips naked, and we see she is pregnant. She goes into labour, and gives birth to a weird black mist which coalesces into the shadowy shape of what looks like a grown man… and the credits roll.

Whoa… that’s really weird! Is this a product of her union with Stannis, just a few days earlier?? What crazy black magic is this? And what does it mean for the upcoming battle between Stannis and his brother? One thing’s for sure, this black mist thing ain’t here to make people happy.

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