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Game of Thrones

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Episode 4 - Garden of Bones

23 July 2017

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Robb completes another successful attack on the Lannisters and a beautiful nurse catches his eye. Tyrion prevents Joffrey from torturing Sansa in retribution. Bronn suggests distracting Joffrey with sex but he tortures the prostitute that Tyrion sends. Little Finger arrives at Renly’s camp with an offer to help and Ned’s remains. Stannis offers Renly a last chance to give up before war begins. Arya and the other captives are taken to Harrenhal where torture and executions continue until Tywin Lannister appears to put them to work. Daenerys leads her people to Qarth, the greatest city that ever was or ever will be.

The Good: This was the change of pace I asked for last week with some disturbing results. I’ve always been struck by the odd tonal shifts in Game of Thrones. The tales of Arya and Tyrion have always twinkled with a family friendly vibe which contrasts interestingly with the boobs and beheadings that are as much a part of the show. This episode ratcheted up the violence and unpleasant imagery in a way which almost demands that the show take on a darker and more serious tone. For the most part I liked that.

At King’s Landing Tyrion continues to be awesome but now Joffrey begins to bite back. The beating of Sansa was a shocking sight before it was stopped and I loved the ludicrous propaganda being circulated that the men of the north were feasting on the flesh of the dead. Tyrion’s dialogue was terrific as he yells “See the difference” when threatening Ser Meryn or commenting “it must have been terrible” when confronting his cousin over sleeping with Cersei. His deft handling of both situations did not lead to entirely pleasant consequences though. Joffrey is unremittingly cruel and has a prostitute viciously beaten because she was sent by his meddling uncle. It was an unpleasant scene, as it was clearly meant to be.

The result of his cruelty could be seen at work in Arya’s mind as she recited the names of those who had wronged her just as Yoren had unfortunately demonstrated last episode. The idea that she might grow up to take that vengeance becomes an enticing prospect the more Joffrey abuses and she suffers.

Robb’s victory in the field gave us another glimpse of the brutal realities of life in Westeros and revealed a number of important details in quick succession. The chatter amongst the Lannister men made it clear that everyone knows what Renly and Loras do behind closed doors. We see that Robb continues his father’s belief in honour, though partly in consideration of what might happen to his sisters if he didn’t behave well. Finally Robb gets his head turned by the beautiful nurse (Talyssa) who deals so coolly with the wounded. That’s an interesting development as we know Robb already promised his hand to someone else (109). More urgently though she reveals his lack of thought to a succession plan for King’s Landing.

Across the Narrow Sea we got some more delicious dialogue as Daenerys matches wits with the humble spice merchant from Qarth. His casting was excellent and Qarth looked amazing at first glance. I also enjoyed the showdown between Renly and Stannis. The dialogue was solid as ever but once more I was moved by the subtext of it all. These men are throwing away the strength of Westeros just when it is needed most, something that civil wars have done many times in our own history.

The Bad: Three times someone was saved from a horrible fate by a last second intervention. Sansa by Tyrion, Gendry by Tywin and Daenerys by one of the thirteen (whose name I can’t find or spell). It’s a lazy dramatic technique at the best of times but to have it three times in one episode is just bad writing.

The Unknown: Obviously I don’t know if Arya is going to become Tywin’s cup bearer or how quickly she might be recognised. However I have trouble imagining she could stay undiscovered in that role for long.

The human drama had become so intriguing that I was almost disappointed when Melissandre gave birth to a demon-like figure. That’s a silly reaction of course because I have no idea where it’s going. I was confused however by her pregnancy having come to term so quickly. Have nine months passed since two episodes ago or should we have been shocked by the speed of this?

Was Little Finger’s offer to open the gates of King’s Landing to Renly a personal one or part of the message Tyrion sent him to communicate? Again I wasn’t happy with his very direct prodding of Queen Margaery on Renly’s sexual preferences. It led to the same problems as his chat with Cersei threw up (201): he looked foolish, not cunning for being so open with his knowledge. I liked Catelyn’s emotive reunion with Ned’s remains but wasn’t she supposed to be negotiating with Renly over an alliance with Robb? She doesn’t seem to have done much and of course surely Robb should have been able to answer Talyssa’s question by saying that Renly would be King once the war was over.

The torture of men at Harrenhal was gruesome and fitted the tone of other brutality elsewhere in the episode. However I’m not sure the producers have yet found a consistent tone for the show overall. Arya seems so clearly destined to grow up to be a great Knight and avenge herself that it almost feels pointless to have such gruesomeness surrounding her. When Tywin rode in to save the day I felt a twinge of 24 where last second rescues always deflated any sense that what I was watching had dramatic teeth.  

Best Moment: There were several to choose from but I liked the banter between the spice merchant and Dany quite a lot. I’m a sucker for good logical battles of rhetoric. He wants to see her dragons before letting her in. She asks if he is calling her a liar. To which he gives the delightful response “Oh I don’t think that you are but as I’ve never met you before my opinion on the matter is of limited value.”

Conclusion: A dark and brooding episode which moved the plot forward considerably. I liked a lot of it and it was more visceral but lingering questions remain about the shows ability to fully suck my emotions into the narrative.

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  • 'Questions remain about the shows ability to fully suck my emotions into the narrative' Couldn't have put it better myself.

    I think the show desperately needed this input of fantasy at the end as I have found it increasingly dull with it's political machinations and flowery dialogue. If I'm going to really enjoy the show, it needs to be so much more than an endless upper class quest for vengeance or power. Bring on more dragons, black smoke monsters and creatures from beyond the wall please...

    Viewer score: 55 / 100

    Posted by TheGman, 23/07/2017 8:29am (1 year ago)

  • "Have nine months passed since two episodes ago or should we have been shocked by the speed of this?" -


    Yes I think that the speed at which she became pregnant is part of whatever magic she's working. For me, this is a pretty exciting turning point in the show that opens doors to other sources of power in Westeros. One of the strengths of the show is how subtle they've been with the magic up until this point. So it was pretty exciting seeing something so shocking and I can't wait to see where the heck that shadow baby ends up.

    Posted by Aaron, 24/04/2012 11:10pm (6 years ago)

  • I think it's pretty clear now that Littlefinger really thinks he is quite more powerful and cunning then he thinks he is, I honestly think that's the portrayal they are trying to go with here. I want Catelyn to love me, I know I’ll proclaim my love for her, after she knows I betrayed her beloved husband and then give her husband’s body, that will totally make her love me.

    Posted by Derek, 24/04/2012 4:17am (6 years ago)

  • I agree with pretty much everything you said so I won't elaborate much on the score. I know where the smoke baby is going reading the books, so that's why I have bumped it a bit from your score Robin. I just wanted to know if I am the only one who gets nervous when Roz is on screen because so far she has been in the most disturbing scenes of this season. Why is this woman still in King's Landing?

    Viewer score: 73 / 100

    Posted by Derek , 23/04/2012 8:11pm (6 years ago)

  • Xaro Xhoan Daxos :P

    Posted by Brando, 23/04/2012 7:20pm (6 years ago)

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