Last week I saw a snarky tweet that said listening to people talk about Game of Thrones is the new listening to people talk about Lost. Before Sunday night’s episode, it seemed like nothing more than sour grapes. After watching Episode 4, “Garden of Bones” I guess I can see where they are coming from, at least on one particular point. Anyway, my take away for this week has less to do with smoke demons and more to do with the fact that the smallest people on this show are among its best actors.
Like last week, we shall recap via geography.
After two weeks of relative absence from the story, the episode opens in the aftermath of another successful battle for Robb Stark. The fighting itself is implied rather than shown (budgets and all that), but it’s quite clear that Robb is kicking ass and taking names. A conversation with a battlefield triage nurse (or whatever they are called in Westeros) yields information of much greater importance. Robb has zero endgame for this war. He doesn’t want to sit on the Iron Throne, nor does he have plans for anybody else to claim it. It opens the door to an interesting question: Did Robb Stark go to war for a good reason? Sure King Joffrey is a monster, and most of the Lannisters are dicks, but did justice demand the War of Five Kings?
Harrenhal has turned into the Lannister version of Andersonville prison. Arya and Gendry find themselves stuffed in a pig pen where once a day the Lannisters haul somebody off for an interrogation and a modified Orwell style execution. Each night, Arya sleep talks her way through a litany that names the people complicit in her father’s death. After a few days in the camp, Gendry gets picked to face the terminal inquisition. It’s the ultimate moment of irony when Tywin Lannister arrives at Harrenhal and puts a stop to the wasteful executions. The Lannister patriarch also recognizes Arya as a girl. Arya admits that she is disguised as a boy because it’s safer to travel that way. Forthwith Tywin claims she’s smarter than most of his men and puts her to work as his cup bearer.
I know I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: Maisie Williams is a fantastic actress. If she was just playing Arya as a survivor, that would probably be enough to win me over. Yet she continues to pull off the early onset PTSD that the writers are working into her dialogue.
Things get ugly in King’s Landing. Joffrey spends most of his screen time caressing a crossbow the same way Gomer Pile caressed his rifle.
First he blames Sansa for her brother’s victories. In front of the court he has her stripped and beaten. Only Tyrion’s timely intervention stops the spectacle from going any farther. In doing so, Tyrion reminds Joffrey that the Mad King did what he pleased, and it didn’t end well for him. As Tyrion helps Sansa out of the throne room he asks her if she still wants to marry Joffrey. Bruised and humiliated Sansa answers that Joffrey is her one true love. To which Tyrion replies that Sansa might outlive them all.
Shortly thereafter Bronn suggests to Tyrion that Joffrey might be more manageable if he wasn’t pent up with teenage hormones. Bronn also wins the best one liner of the episode with the line, “There’s no cure for being a cunt.”
Heeding Bronn’s words, Tyrion sends a couple of whores to the king’s chamber. And that’s when things get creepy again – way worse than Theon Greyjoy deedling his sister creepy. Light girl on girl spanking, at the behest of Joffrey, turns to belt whipping, and then morphs into a beat down with a staff. All the while Joffrey, expertly played by Jack Gleeson, watches and smiles. The little bastard oozes sadism at every turn. Again, it’s a combination of brilliant writing and expert casting.
The final story of note within King’s Landing involves Tyrion’s ongoing battle against Cersei. Cersei, absent from the episode, sends her cousin/lover with a warrant ordering Maester Pycell’s release from the Black Cells. Yet she does so late at night and after a roll in the hay. Whip smart as ever, Tyrion deduces that his cousin is Cersei’s new lover and threatens to go to the king with that information unless the Lannister brat starts informing on Cersei. It’s another brilliant power play from Tyrion, and more top form acting from Peter Dinklage.
I’m going to be honest here. I really don’t care about the plight of Daenerys Targaryen. I find Emilia Clarke a rather boring actress whose range is limited to being stoic or pitching a temper tantrum. Acting alongside Jason Momoa last season brought out a bit more depth to her personality, but now all she has is that tedious yes-man aka Smithers with a sword. After three weeks of watching Daenerys do nothing, I’m just not invested in the “Mother of Dragons” story arc. This week did nothing to change that.
Daenerys and her motley crew happen upon the city of Quarth. However the city fathers, locally known as The Thirteen, won’t let them in until they see one of Daenerys’ dragons. Daenerys pitches a fit, threatening to burn the city down when the dragons are fully grown. Naturally The Thirteen tell her to bugger off. But then one of The Thirteen decides they should come in; so they do. How very exciting.
Little Finger arrives in the Stormlands and begins doing what he does best: duplicitous grovelling. First he approaches Renly Baratheon, who tells him to get bent. Though Little Finger does hint that with a few friends in the palace, Renly might find the gates of King’s Landing open to him. In her only scene of the episode, Queen Margaery also tells Little Finger to get bent. In fairness, he was trying to pump her for courtly gossip relating to Renly’s suspected homosexual leanings. Finally, Little Finger arrives in the tent of Catelyn Stark, who uses a knife to tell him to get bent. He does however extend Tyrion’s offer to Catelyn: give back Jamie and get Sansa and Arya in exchange. Baelish also returns the, alleged, remains of Ned Stark as a show of good faith. Though I suspect they could be anybody’s remains given how adamant Cersei was about refusing any accommodation to the Starks.
Meanwhile on the war front, Stannis arrives to have a little chat with his brother. The brothers Baratheon trade insults until Stannis issues an ultimatum demanding Renly’s surrender before the next sunrise. Creepy red haired lady also manages to sneak in a few references to the lord of light, just for good measure. With an army of one hundred thousand men behind him, Renly sees little reason to take his brother seriously.
Later that night Stannis orders Davos Seaworth to smuggle Melisandre, the creepy red haired lady, ashore – presumably into Renly’s camp. Apparently, she is some sort of super weapon. It didn’t make much sense until she got naked (wait for it), showing herself to be spontaneously pregnant (wait for it) and then gave birth to the smoke monster from Lost (there it is).
The Bottom Line
I’ve had my fair share of “Holy shit, I can’t believe they did that” moments while watching Game of Thrones. However, I think the smoke monster baby was my first genuine “What the fuck was that?” moment. Bearing that in mind, I think there’s only one question left to ask, do we get a shadow monster killing spree next week?