Episode Title: "Garden of Bones"
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Director: David Petrarca
Previously on "Game of Thrones":
In the dead of night, the King in the North, Robb Stark (Richard Madden) leads his forces to another victory over the Lannisters. In the aftermath of the battle, Robb's bannerman, Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton) suggests that they torture and execute prisoners as necessary; which Robb refuses to commit to. Robb is soon drawn to Talisa (Oona Chaplin), a battlefield nurse whom he assists in amputating the leg of a Lannister soldier. Later, Talisa chides Robb for not even knowing what he wants to do if he wins the war against the Lannisters.
Back in King's Landing, King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) takes the word of Robb's latest victory in stride. Actually, what Joffrey really does is use the occasion as a pretense to have his betrothed lady, Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) stripped and beaten by Ser Meryn (Ian Beattie). Only the timely arrival of Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) prevents Sansa from further punishment, as Tyrion humiliates the boy king. Hoping that Joffrey simply needs another outlet for his passions, Tyrion sends him two prostitutes, Ros (Esmé Bianco) and Daisy (Maisie Dee) as a late Name Day present.
But instead of taking physical pleasure from the two women, Joffrey forces Ros to brutally beat Daisy and says that he wants his uncle Tyrion to know what he did. In the Stormlands, Lord Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish.(Adian Gillen) meets with King Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and suggests that there are others in King's Landing who would support Renly's bid for power. Littlefinger can't resist needling Renly's wife, Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) about Renly's affair with her brother, Loras Tyrell (Finn Jones). However, Margaery is unflappable in the face of his innuendo.
Littlefinger himself is unsettled by his meeting with Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley), who greets his outburst of affection with a drawn knife and she openly blames him for betraying her husband, Ned Stark. So, Littlefinger offers Catelyn the return of her daughters, Sansa and Arya (Maisie Williams), in return for Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster Waldau). And as a token of good faith from Tyrion, Ned's remains are returned to Catelyn for burial in Winterfell. Far across the narrow sea, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and her khalasar finally get some good news as Kovarro (Steven Cole) returns with a fresh horse and word that the city of Qarth will receive them.
Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) warns Daenerys that Qarth is surrounded by a "garden of bones" made up of people who were not admitted into the city. Deanerys and her people are greeted by the Thirteen, a group of prominent citizens who are the defacto rulers of Quarth. When the Thirteen initially reject Daenerys' pleas to be allowed into the city, she threatens to burn Qarth to the ground when her dragons have grown. Impressed by Daenerys, one of the Thirteen named Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) breaks from the group and offers her people sanctuary within the city.
At Harrenhall, Arya, Gendry (Joe Dempsie) and other survivors from Yoren's (Francis Magee) group who were bound for the wall are subjected to the cruelty of the Lannister occupation led by Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Ian Whyte); which includes a particularly gruesome way of torturing the prisoners to death. As she sleeps at night, Arya recites the names of the people that she wants to kill to avenge herself and her family. Back at the Stormlands, Catelyn rides with Renly's entourage as they meet Renly's brother, King Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane).
Despite being vastly outnumbered by Renly's forces, Stannis threatens his younger brother to bend the knee to him. Instead, Renly openly mocks his brother even as Catelyn tries to unite them against the Lannisters. As Stannis rides away, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) gives Renly an ominous warning. Back at Harrenhall, Gendry is selected as the Mountain's latest victim, until Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) arrives and expresses his displeasure at the needless slaughter of people who may prove to be useful laborers for their war effort.
As Gendry tells Tywin that he is a smith, Arya appears to get closer to Polliver (Andy Kellegher) in the hopes of reclaiming her sword. Polliver catches Arya and threatens to run her through… until Tywin intervenes and says that Arya is clearly a girl dressed in boy's clothing. When Arya tells Tywin that she is dressed that way to travel more safely, he is impressed by her intelligence and he makes her his new cup bearer while ordering the other prisoners to be put to work. Back at King's Landing, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) arrives at Tyrion's door with an ultimatum from Queen Regent Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
Tyrion agrees to Cersei's demand for the release of Grand Maester Pycelle (Julian Glover), but Tyrion insists that Pycelle will no longer be on the Small Council. Tyrion goes on to blackmail his cousin Lancel with the threat of exposing his affair with Cersei to Cersei's son, Joffrey. Backed into the proverbial corner, Lancel agrees to be Tyrion's spy. At the Stormlands, Stannis presents a task for Davos (Liam Cunningham): smuggle Melisandre to the shore, close to Renly's camp.
Reluctantly, Davos follows his orders and he successfully brings Melisandre ashore while enduring her presence. Inside a deep cavern, Melisandre drops her robe and reveals herself to be in the final stages of pregnancy. To Davos' horror, he sees Melisandre give birth to shadows that assume the shape of a man.
What the hell was that?!! No, seriously, what the hell was that?!
"Game of Thrones" has previously implied that Melisandre had real power in the service of her Lord of Light. But I don't think I was ready for the visual of Melisandre giving birth to… something. Is this the son that she promised Stannis? It's not clear if Stannis was aware of exactly what Melisandre intended to do on shore near Renly's camp. But Stannis obviously knew that she had something foul in mind to tip the balance of power back towards him. However this plays out, Stannis is completely complicit for whatever that creature does.
For all of Davos' faith in Stannis, he seems to be the only truly righteous man among Stannis' followers. Consequently, our sympathies lie with Davos more than Stannis or Melisandre. Aside from Joffrey and most of the Lannisters, there aren't many clear cut villains in this story. But the latest development definitely paints Stannis and Melisandre in a more sinister light. The Lord of Light may be a real god, but who wants to follow a deity whose priestesses give birth to shadows?
There's something interesting about the way that Tywin Lannister took to Arya and instantly recognized that she was a girl. Don't mistake Tywin as a kind or compassionate man. Keep in mind, this is the same guy who ordered the rape of Tyrion's wife as described last season. But in the face of the unrelenting cruelty and sadism of his followers at Harrenhall, Tywin's practicality made him a savior to both Arya and Gendry. And at least both of them had the good sense not to mouth off at Tywin. Making Arya a servant of Tywin is an intriguing twist. The only Lannisters who would recognize her as Arya Stark are either at King's Landing or a prisoner of Robb Stark. But that doesn't mean that Arya's identity is safe within the camp of the enemy.
Robb's brief appearance in this episode also brings up a valid question: what happens if he wins? Would Robb simply hand over the Iron Throne to Renly or Stannis? Ned Stark made a similar decision years ago by letting Robert assume the throne uncontested, but even Cersei felt that was a mistake. Although if that had happened, maybe Ned would have been forced to marry Cersei instead of Catelyn.
I was kind of hoping that Catelyn would stab Littlefinger during their brief encounter. Littlefinger is usually very eloquent, but he clearly can't control his feelings for Catelyn and he seemed kind of pathetic during his emotional outburst towards her. Catelyn never loved Littlefinger in the way that he wanted and now he doesn't even have her friendship.
Renly and Bronn surprisingly had the lines of the night when Renly sarcastically asked if his brother was a ham and Bronn gave us a summation of Joffrey's character that will be an instant classic: "There's no cure for being a c**t." That might actually be too kind of a word to describe Joffrey after his actions in this episode. It's amazing how much of a monster Joffrey is, even moreso than anyone else in his family. Given the choice between a night of pleasure or inflicting serious pain on one of the prostitutes, Joffrey chose the pain. Maybe that's the only way that Joffrey can feel pleasure, but it certainly isn't kingly.
Sansa displayed some resilience when she clung to her engagement to Joffrey despite Tyrion's offer to dissolve it. Perhaps Sansa just doesn't trust Tyrion to help her, but she seems to realize that her best chance for survival is to remain tied to Joffrey until either her brother or someone else frees her. Tyrion even acknowledged that Sansa's commitment to that charade may ultimately save her life.
Getting back to the cliffhanger of Melisandre's shadowy offspring, I really want to see what happens next. "Game of Thrones" has become appointment television, and if the first four episodes of season two are any indication, then the next six episodes are going to continue to be epic.