The Smallfolk Always Pay the Price for a Nobleman’s Gamble
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
The nobility plays the Game of Thrones and the impoverished suffer. It is a reality of the world that has been fact ever since the first empire was created under Sargon of Akkad thousands of years ago. Season 2 has renewed its focus on the small folk of Westeros and the price they’re paying for the war between Starks, Lannisters, and the Baratheons. The Garden of Bones doesn’t just refer to the literal desert outside the gates of Qarth where countless numbers of visitors have met their unfortunate demise from starvation or otherwise. It refers to the entirety of the world where the wars and power manipulations of the wealthy houses leave entire fields as graveyards in their wake, filled with the bodies of poor men who perhaps had just held a sword for the first time in their lives.
The episode opens ominously upon a Lannister camp that is ambushed and crushed by the Starks. You barely have time to elicit a cheer for Robb, however, before the camera opens to the sheer carnage that lies dying upon the ground. He meets a Volantis nurse’s acquaintance, a woman who is amputating a poor Lannister soldier. Named Talisa, she has little patience for Robb or his ideals of war. As far as she’s concerned, he’s a poor fisher’s boy who was given a sword because it was war, regardless of whether or not he had ever held one. Talisa asks pointedly what Robb intends to do if he wins the war. “Go back to Winterfell,” he says with a shrug. “Then who will?” Talisa asks pointedly yet again, referring to the Iron Throne. Here’s the fundamental flaw with Robb Stark that a woman who just met him was able to pick out. If Robb doesn’t have an endgame, then the victories he’s winning are ultimately pointless. If Robb wants to win the war, he has to sit on the Iron Throne. A vacant seat of power in the capital benefits no one.
Sansa is suffering for things she’s had absolutely no hand in. It’s not her fault Ned’s head was chopped off. It’s not her fault that war has Westeros in her grips. It’s not her fault the Lannisters are losing soundly to the Starks. And it’s certainly not her fault that Joffrey is such an abominable excuse for a human being. But Joffrey has Ser Meryn rip her dress and beat her with a sword all because Robb won a victory on the battlefield. Tyrion comes in with a brilliant entrance as usual, noting how cruelty got the Mad King killed and helping Sansa up. He offers in quiet to end her engagement to Joffrey, but Sansa refuses with a line of her being loyal to her beloved Joffrey. “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet,” Tyrion observes wryly. Tyrion and Bronn considering that perhaps Joffrey’s sexual drive has been pent up too long. “There’s no cure for being a cunt,” Bronn says as-a-matter-of-factly. Truer words have never been spoken, Bronn, truer words have never been spoken. Tyrion decided to send Ros and Daisy to “help” Joffrey. Yet those two become tools of violence in the king’s hands as Joffrey forces Ros to beat Daisy with a scepter-like object.
Daenerys arrives at the gates of Qarth, standing atop the Garden of Bones. She receives a chilly reception as the dragons seem to most of the Qartheen leaders to be a faleshood, but then a man named Xaro Xhaon Daxos arrives before them. He counts how he himself was considered a savage but then he rose the ladder to become the wealthiest man in Qarth and the city still stands. The aristocratic leadership that calls Qarth “The greatest city that ever was or ever will be” (which frankly is so narcissistic it almost begets belief) is appalled by the suggestion of giving Daenerys and the Dothraki refuge. Xaro invokes soumai, a blood oath and the gates of Qarth open to the Mother of Dragons and her people, revealing a beautiful city laying inside.
Meanwhile, Littlefinger is spending an ample amount of time in Renly Baratheon’s camp. He tries to probe how Margaery’s and Renly’s marriage is functioning considering Renly is having sex with Loras, which seems to be a rather vapid question coming from a man like Littlefinger. Margaery responds with a cool understanding of how Petyr has never been married since “the whole notion of marriage seems to confuse you.” She looks at him coolly before departing. Littlefinger continues his stupidity streak with trying to kindle between him and Catelyn, which seems like a bad idea considering, you know, he had betrayed Ned and put a knife to his throat. Catelyn is furious at seeing him, right before he implores her maternal love. Catelyn has none of it and then Petyr presents her with Ned’s head in a box. Romantic. Littlefinger begins to speak again but exits quickly after Catelyn utters “Get out”, the grief overwhelming her tone. But her sad eyes looked quite ready to stab Littlefinger with the very dagger she had brandished at him earlier.
The darkest locales of this episode were found in Harrenhal and a lonely island in the seas. Harrenhal, a massive, impregnable fortress that was destroyed by dragon fire from above. It’s become a routine torture chamber, where the captured and poor are tortured by having rats chew their way through their flesh for the amusement of the guards. Sure, it’s run as an interrogation but at a certain point it’s evident that there’s little to no substantive information to be truly gleamed from anyone. Tywin Lannister arrive, shutting down the operation immediately. He’s furious at the manpower that’s being wasted and he has a point, even though I have a hard time believing that he gives a damn about the actual torture itself. In Stannis’s camp, Ser Davos has the uncomfortable task of rowing Melisandre to the rocky shores of an island. Davos stares in horror as Melisandre gives birth to a demon child, its smoky limbs grappling the rocks as it stares out into the world it will undoubtedly wreak havoc on.
Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+Arya’s death list
+Daenerys’s quiet murmuring of “Horde?” in disbelief at the gates of Qarth
+The meeting between Renly and Stannis was beautifully filmed, even if their dialogue was incredibly bitter. There’s no reconciliation on the horizon for these two. “For the night is dark and full of terrors,” Melisandre murmurs warningly.
+Tywin admiring Arya’s intelligence is absolutely wonderful.
+Robb making it clear that he does not share Roose Bolton’s glee at torturing
+Tywin inadvertently saving Gendry prevented an Internet meltdown
+The set design for Harrenhal is incredible, it looks as bleak as humanly possible
Title: Garden of Bones
Written By: Vanessa Taylor
Director: David Petrarca
Image Courtesy: Wikipedia