It’s Game Of Thrones Season 2, Episode 4 entitled “Garden Of Bones,” which may end up referring to actual human remains, boners, or some combination therein (graphic scene of skeletons f***ing each other in a garden that’s also f***ing another garden). This week’s episode set a new television record for “Most Scenes You’re Ready For Them To Cut Away From,” breaking the previous mark of 7, set in 1966 by an uncharacteristically violent episode of F-Troop.
We open Cringefest 2K12 (that K is getting rat-tortured by the 12) with Robb Stark scoring a dominant battle victory over a Lannister force using the classic “I think I hear something / I’m not falling for that” battle tactic straight out of the “Jason Voorhees” chapter of The Art Of War. The following morning, we cut to a guard with his intestines torn out by a direwolf (also the image on every Game Of Thrones subway poster, oddly), and Robb celebrates the victory with his exuberant bannerman:
The bannerman suggests that Robb torture the remaining prisoners for information, but Robb insists that he DRAWS THE LINE at having mythical wolves rip out their intestines. Robb’s mind is somewhat elsewhere, though, when he becomes infatuated by a battle surgeon with a heart of gold, who manages to be onscreen for an astonishing two minutes without getting naked:
She points out that the boy whose foot she amputated was just a fisherman with a spear thrust in his hand, which flusters the still-kindhearted Robb a tad, but strengthens his resolve to not mistreat the Lannister men once the war is over, even though his bannerman declares “The high road is very pretty, but only dead fish go with the flow up there, in their fish cars, or, wait, I’ll start over.” After all, who could do something so cruel as to torture innocent people OH WAIT LITERALLY EVERYONE ELSE ON THIS SHOW INCLUDING PROBABLY THAT OLD MAN WHO TALKS TO BRAN ABOUT HIS DREAMS ACTUALLY PROBABLY ESPECIALLY HIM.
CUT TO: Joffrey holding a crossbow at Sansa’s Head.
We haven’t seen any of Joffrey the past two weeks, so OF COURSE when he reappears, he is instantly pointing a crossbow at his fiancee’s head. Joffrey debates killing Sansa in retaliation for Robb’s latest advance, but instead decides to humiliate her by ordering his guard to rough her up and strip her down in front of the court, even though this practice is traditionally reserved for a Lannister’s 3rd anniversary.
Fortunately, Tyrion interrupts the beating before it gets too Game Of Thronesy, and scolds Joffrey for his reckless treatment of his bride / prisoner (it’s a fine line with the Joff’). I enjoy Tyrion’s ongoing reliance on Bronn for protection and the implementation of his moves; it’s the show’s constant reminder that no matter how smart or cunning Tyrion may be, in the world of Game Of Thrones, nothing you say matters if it can be countered by the offending party simply drawing a sword and instantly killing you. Like all politics before 1900.
Tyrion and Bronn decide to send prostitutes to Joffrey’s chambers to let him blow off steam, and also because sending prostitutes is everyone’s solution to everything on this show (Robb sent prostitutes to that fisherman’s amputated foot to screw away the bleeding), and just when you’re wondering how Joffrey is going to turn this scene awful, he turns it into mayyyybe the hardest-to-watch scene in Game Of Thrones history, a gruesome honor on par with, say, “Catchiest Beatles Song.”
Joffrey instructs one of the prostitutes to beat the other one with a sharp-ended scepter while holding a crossbow to her head (that crossbow’s got a million uses!):
He also instructs the scepter-wielder to be sure to take the wounded back to Tyrion to “show him what he’s done,” which, while awful, at least keeps things more interesting than Tyrion just outsmarting everyone in every situation. Don’t you agree that it makes things more layered, unlucky prostitute?
Tyrion does score another cunning victory later in the episode, though, when Cersei sends him a messenger demanding the release of Maester Pycelle, and Tyrion correctly surmises that the boy has been taken in as Cersei’s lover. He threatens to expose the affair to Joffrey, who’ll obviously flip out because it is anything, and tells the messanger to instead continue seeing Cersei but to report everything she’s doing back to him. For the fourth straight week, someone just got…
Back in the desert, Daenerys’ rider returns with the discovery of a proximate city: Qarth, an idyllic, insulated oasis surrounded by the so-called “Garden of Bones,” also known as, “The Rest Of Nevada”. Daenerys meets face-to-face with the “Thirteen,” the town’s governing body of merchants, who we all recognize from Jesus Christ Superstar:
The lead merchant steps forward and insults Daenerys, saying that part of the reason Qarth is so peaceful is because they don’t make a habit of letting in hordes of roving “Dothraki savages.” She replies, “Yeah? Well my dragons are gonna grow up and destroy you and also you look like Rush Limbaugh f***ed Fred Dalton Thompson.”
One of the council members, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (“Call me Xaro Xhoan Dax for short”), steps forward and vouches for the Dothraki band, and pulls out a dagger, raises it anddddd……..cuts his hand slightly as a display of faith. Thank god – the way this episode was going, I was ready for him to plunge the dagger into his body, begin coughing up bloody semen, then disintegrate into maggots that then feast on his own liver.
Oh! Speaking of feasting, Arya, Gendry and the rest of the captured wall-contingent are sent to Harrenhall, a “melted castle” that looks all too familiar:
There, one lucky prisoner is chosen daily by The Mountain to be strapped to a chair and interrogated, and Arya continues her impressive streak of witnessing unimaginable horrors when they bind a prisoner to a chair, place a rat inside a bucket, strap the bucket to the man’s stomach, and light the bucket on fire to force the rat to burrow into the man’s body. Guess it must be Sweeps Week?
Each night, Arya soothes herself to sleep with a ‘prayer’ of all the people she plans to take revenge upon, and adds The Mountain to her second go-around:
The following day, Gendry is chosen for the Comfy Chair, but before they can get him to “Rat” anyone out (lolol it’s horrifying), Tywin Lannister arrives and declares, “Are we so well-manned that we can discard able young bodies and skilled laborers?” The torturer’s like, “Yes,” and Tywin goes, “Oh cool, can I get in on the next stomach-ratting?”
Tywin actually recognizes that Arya is a girl in disguise, and when she explains “Safer to travel this way, milord – people try to rape me 3% less often,” Tywin admires her smarts and appoints her as his new cup-bearer. Interesting! Arya’s chance for vengeance may be getting closer – let’s just hope that “cup” doesn’t mean “constantly erect penis.”
Elsewhere, Lady Stark brokers a long-overdue meeting between Stannis and Renly, urging them to see eye-to-eye in the hopes that they can unite against a common enemy, but neither side has much interest in budging:
Stannis warns Renly to join his cause by nightfall, and Renly mocks Stannis’ magical companion (Melisandre: “He is born of salt and smoke.” Renly: “Salt and smoke? Is he a ham?”) and reiterates that Stannis’ rightful claim to the throne as older brother means nothing when Renly has far more devoted followers, as well as a less-derivative banner design.
That night, Littlefinger pays a visit to his beloved Lady Stark’s tent and offers to broker a deal to exchange Sansa and Arya for Jaime (even when he’s appealing to his beloved, he’s lying to the extreme). As a show of good faith, he presents her with Ned Stark’s remains, but she still has trouble weighing the concept of betraying the interests of her son to protect her two daughters, and keeps making very shocked faces:
Just when you thought the episode couldn’t get more awkward for your one friend who’s never seen a Game Of Thrones episode but came over to watch Mad Men at 10 (true story – hope you enjoyed this, Anna!), the episode’s final scene involves Stannis employing his advisor Davos to sneak Melisandre ashore in the middle of the night. There, Melisandre takes off her robe to reveal she is extremely pregnant (with Stannis’ Risk-table baby? Already? Wonder what’s going on…), and she begins to give birth, and in the process, basically cubes the show’s current amount of magical weirdness:
So basically, whenever there are human babies on this show, they get murdered or fed to zombies, but when someone finally gives birth, it’s to a terrifying smoke creature:
Stannis then looks over at the Lost Smoke Monster in the delivery room and goes, “You son of a BITCH!”
Credits. Cue Brian Eno.
Game Of Thrones Episode 14 thoughts? Reactions to the relentless uncomfortable scenes? Fun stories about watching this episode with people? Predictions about the smoke monster? Can you think of a more cringe-inducing episode of television, ever? Leave ‘em all in the comments.