Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Game of Thrones Review: "Garden of Bones"

By Amanda Lowery

Last Night’s Episode of Game of Thrones “Garden of Bones” was the first episode written by Vanessa Taylor, and it was a strong effort that kept in line beautifully with themes permeating across scenes and making the episode a solid piece of this magnificent behemoth of a story. This episode dealt a lot with ethics, torture, and some stellar female inner strength and really made us question who is good and who is evil.

The episode starts off with Grey Wind scaring the innards out of some watch men as the King of the North takes a Lannister camp by surprise in the dead of night. The next day as Robb makes eyes at a field nurse as she saws off a man’s leg (was this really necessary when a sharp sword could slice through in one strong armed stroke?), he takes the verbal lashing she lays on him for his power to choose to stop the war, but his continual choice to engage in it. She asks an interesting question though, and one that Robb hasn’t fully considered and that is what he plans to do once he overthrows King Joffrey. He is Ned Stark’s son so we as viewers are apt to believe that he would do the honorable thing and hand the throne over to its rightful heir, Lord Stannis Baratheon. But can we say that for certain? At least we know that the Stark honor is still alive as it defines Robb’s refusal to engage in torture to divulge information from captives. Oh Robb, if only you knew that the cool kids are all saying, “Cleaner ways don’t win wars.” You’re at a disadvantage for being all good, honorable, and dreamy, attacking at night will not win you the Game of Thrones.

Speaking of torture – Holy Harrenhal! Talk about bad vibes; dragon fire scarred towers, rumors of a curse and the haunting of the lords of Harrenhal’s past, and now it's home to tortuous sadists seeking information on the brotherhood. And here is where we find Arya, as if she wasn’t already mentally scarred enough from what she’s seen in Kings Landing. Last episode we watched Arya wiping the blade of her sword in an effort to cleanse her internal nightmare of haunting images, bad deeds, and lost happiness. Her experience at Harrenhal is what I can honestly say looks like hell, and that will only add to the montage of horror she plays over in her mind. Arya clings to the thin straw of guidance that Yoren left her with when he revealed that the only way to sleep after seeing the horrors of the world is to steel yourself with a vengeance prayer and let the sorrow stay locked away. Arya speaks the names of those who have done evil, adding names as her stay at Harrenhal extends. Arya is the first example of the inner strength of women in this episode. She has an unbreakable will that allows her to use her anger as a shield against the horror that surrounds her. Whether this is psychologically healthy, eh definitely not for the long run, but in a survival situation it is completely understandable. Arya is a survivor.

Sansa Stark is also surviving in King’s Landing. Her shield is the formality of niceties. Obedience will save her neck until the war plays out. We all know she is hoping Robb will win and he will save her, but in the mean time she must play the game with her only knowable strength – her Stark pride and her knowledge of formal obedience. After being publicly beaten and humiliated by having her dress ripped off in front of the court by her soon to be husband, Tyrion Lannister offers the girl his hand while the Hound covers her with his cloak. Sansa sucks back the pain, her Stark pride manifests in the place of her marred honor, and she holds herself high as she exits. Tyrion whispers to her as they leave, asking if she wants the marriage between she and Joffrey to be eradicated, and he stares at her with an expression of some kind of pity mixed with admiration when she once again recites her allegiance to Joffrey her one true love and king. Tyrion, of course, knows that this is her shield, this is her survival tactic, and as she leaves him there he acknowledges that Sansa may just survive them yet.

Of course the Stark girls take after their mother, Catelyn Stark must also reach deep within to find her own strength as she confronts Littlefinger’s betrayal of her beloved husband in her tent. Catelyn is in a strange land during war time separated from her daughters, refused her return home to her youngest children left in Winterfell by her King and eldest son, and now she must face the man who betrayed her husband as he tosses out his declaration of undying love for her. Catelyn pulls out a dagger, and I don’t think anyone watching was for one minute under the impression that she wouldn’t stab the shit out of Littlefinger because a) he deserves it, and b) she almost lost her fingers in fighting off that dagger from the man who tried to kill her and Bran in season one. Catelyn Stark is a fighter! Littlefinger lies (shocker) and tells her both Sansa and Arya are in Kings Landing and the release of Jamie Lannister would secure their safe exchange. As a token of Tyrion’s good faith in upholding his part of this exchange he has sent Catelyn the bones of her husband. It is here that we begin to see her break, that wall of stoicism starts to crumble and we see raw emotion and sorrow creeping into her being – has she even had a chance to mourn him yet? She wants to cry and let her anguish consume her, but she pulls it all back and tucks it away within. She will hold her sorrow for another day, for today she must be strong.

Dany finds her strength in the fiery blood of her Targaryen ancestry as she threatens the thirteen wizards and merchants that greet her at the gates of the magnificent city of Qarth. If they are refused entry, they will die, but if Dany shows them she is weak, she and her dragons may die anyway. She is on the brink of starvation, her khalasar has dwindled, and there is no other option for survival except entry into Qarth. When she fails to earn the trust of the thirteen initially and denies them access to her dragons, they turn to leave her there and her dragon blood begins to boil. Dany lashes out with her fiery tongue a promise that when her dragons are grown they will burn entire cities to the ground, and Qarth’s walls will mean nothing to them when they are the first to perish into ashes. Xaro Xhoan Daxos vouches for the mother of dragons and draws his own blood in a rite to secure her passage against the will of the thirteen.

Though Margery Tyrell is not a Stark, nor the mother of dragons, she is the clever grasping wife of a powerful homosexual King and her entire upbringing has prepared her for this knowing and leverage of power. When Littlefinger tries to play his game with the young Queen her quick tongue reminds him that she is not the naive girl of niceties like Sansa Stark. Margery seems to be one of the most self possessed and knowing characters we’ve met. She is strong and straightforward, and she seems to have accepted her fate as a high born lady born to be an instrumental tool wielded by her House through the act of marriage, wherein she will be entrusted to continue to build the power of her family. She lets Littlefinger know as much, and he is obviously very surprised at her calm demeanor when she tells him that the marriage of a wealthy girl always breeds interest, and it is nothing that she is not aware of. Margery’s full knowing of herself, her position, and her personal arsenal of yet unknown weapons makes her a powerful player in the game of thrones. She is a good match for Renly in terms of a marriage for power, for she is a Queen that knows what it means to be Queen. She cannot change the fact that she was born a Tyrell, or that she is a game piece to be moved around and check-mated, but she can accept that she is a pawn of her House’s ambitions and uses that to her own advantage without playing the victim.

Speaking of check mates, there were several of those in this episode. Stannis and Renly can’t play nice, their parley is a total dud, too many Baratheon’s in the sandbox and not enough toys for both, soon the sand will be covered in blood. Tyrion and Lancel face off in a wonderful scene once again highlighting Tyrion’s mastery of wits and new found skill of manipulation as he turns his cousin into an informant on Cersei.

Joffrey and Tyrion have another standoff over the misuse of power with Sansa Stark. Tyrion and Bronn have it in their minds that Joffrey just needs to blow off steam, and in a land with no Girls Gone Wild what better way to do this then to send him whores. Hey Ros! It’s been an episode, was wondering what horrible thing you would be exposed to next. Sadistic sexual torture is not my cup of tea, but Joffrey was really able to let his hair down. The words of Melisandre echoed throughout this episode; she and Davos take a moonlight boat ride down to the shore and discuss the cheery topic of a man’s nature. Melisandre says that a man is either good or he is evil. Joffrey is evil. It was said of the Targaryens that the incest in their blood line kept the dragon blood alive, but every once in a while a Targaryen would turn mad, i.e. Aerys the Mad King. I think this may be why Joffrey is the way he is, and I mean having Cersei as a mother is no help, but there is something deeper than the nature of his mother’s twisted nurturing. Joffrey is disturbed.

You know what else is disturbing? Giving birth to a shadow. So what does it say of Stannis that he took the Red Priestess and upon his entering into a union with the Lord of Light he filled her with the seed of shadows. Is Stannis really the herald of the Lord of Light’s new world order? Or is he merely a pawn in a different play for power, the play of sorcery, ancient powers, and gods where all men are pawns. Melisandre tells Davos that she is good, and is a knight of sorts. Is the Lord of Light like Charles Manson? Sending a brainwashed priestess out to do his bidding, bedding and birthing…and celebrity killing? Davos asks how it is that this Lord of Light does all his dealing in the shadows and Melisandre answers that there cannot be shadows without light. This would suggest that the balance of good and evil is inherent in creation, but as the world of Westeros further tips toward darkness with brothers vowing to destroy each other, sadistic boy kings, far reaching war, torture, white walkers and dragons, we are left saddened as hope and the sanctity of honor are continually over shadowed and beheaded. 

1 comment:

Bob said...

The cliffhanger at the end of the last episode was pure entertainment! I’ve been a fan since I watched the first episode. I just finally got my chance to watch this episode yesterday using HBO GO through Dish Online. I’m glad there’s a place online I can go to catch up on all my shows when I miss them. A co-worker of mine at Dish informed me that this title was available there and I can’t thank him enough. I have access to a ton of entertainment that I can access there, anywhere I’m connected online.