Season two of Game of Thrones rages on. And up to this point, there has been a great deal of shifting in pace. It opened fast and furious, with so much to say in that frantic first episode. Then is slowed down for two episodes, taking its time in showing us some of the characters we’ll be spending time with in this frame. And now we’re back to accelerating. And how.
As we do every week, it’s time to talk about it in our Blog of Thrones. But before we do that, a usual warning: this is being written under the assumption that you’ve seen this week’s episode and all of season one. We take no responsibility for spoiling anything that has already happened on the show. Also, it’s being written by someone who is completely new to the material. I have no idea what will happen, and I like it that way. So no making fun of me for not knowing what the hell that thing is at the end of “Garden of Bones” and if you can avoid it, don’t spoil it for me (or others) in the comment section. That said, lets get down to business. There’s a lot of ground to cover.
A Tale of Two Kings (or seven)
The opening of this week’s episode may be my favorite of the series thus far. Since the close of last season, you’ve been able to hold me as part of Robb Stark’s bannermen. Like his father, he’s a man of sensibility, compassion and when the time comes, he’s a man of war. A man of bloody, unspeakable acts of war. And clearly its beginning to get under the skin of Joffrey. And as much as I enjoy the jump from wolves tearing up a Lannister camp to Robb meeting a field nurse/love interest who challenges him, there’s something quite rotten to be found in King’s Landing. To say that there’s any kind of evolution to Joffrey’s character would be a bit ambitious. There’s no evolution of evil. However, it is growing. And the early act of this week’s episode shows off just how rotten Joffrey is becoming as the spoiled brat king. To his credit, young Jack Gleeson absolutely sells it as he brings an arrow of terror down upon his bride to be. And with his name day present, he becomes absolutely ruthless in an attempt to show his uncle that he won’t be lectured. What Joffrey doesn’t know — what Joffrey will found out some day, hopefully in a terrible manner — is that Tyrion Lannister is the real chessmaster of this board. Or so it would seem, judging by his manipulation of Lady Stark in his attempts to win back his brother from Robb’s imprisonment. And because that won’t happen unless someone gets sneaky, there’s going to be some blood.
Otherwise, I shall destroy you… One of the most difficult things about season one was keeping in line all those who laid claim to the throne. So many kings emerging, so many names to keep track of. And none of them are names easily tracked, either. That said, the battle lines appear to be drawing into a tight little package. For the moment, it is Robb Stark vs. Daddy Lannister (who needs to come back, as a lack of Charles Dance on my screen is distressing) and the Brothers Baratheon (the old grumpy one with the fiery priestess on his side and the gay one with the gorgeous wife and the giant lady guard). Lying on the outskirts are Joffrey, whom everyone is going to try to kill as soon as they get through round one. And the freshly reunited clan in the Iron Islands, who will be trying to sneak behind Robb’s back. It seems that Daeneyrs is going to take some time to grow her children, but entry to Qarth is a good start.
The good news, especially for those of us who are new to the material, is that the lines are becoming clear. So when the killing starts, it might not be so hard to figure out who we’re rooting for. In the end, one must hope that Robb Stark is the hero he’s growing to be and Joffrey becomes a villain worthy of the terrible end that I’ve constructed for him in my mind.
The Oddest of Ends
Kudos to director David Petrarca and writer Vanessa Taylor, who make their series debut as sole credit receivers in this episode — the first of two consecutive episodes for Petrarca — for keeping the rhythm despite being the one tasked with bringing back about 30 different storylines all at once. The past two episodes have slowed down a bit, giving us intimate engagements with a few characters. This one roars back with so much to do and such little time with which to do it. Beyond that, there’s incredible cinematic value in this episode. In a few shots — our first look at Harrenhal as Arya and Gendry move toward an unknown future, the first shot through the gates of Qarth. It’s hard to explain, as a greater appreciation has grown on my part by seeing the advance screener versions sent to press by HBO. Those had temporary VFX, drab color correction and a lack of scope. My imagination was used to fill in the gaps. But these ready-for-air versions of the show are incredible. And while you don’t need to see where they came from to know how impressive they are, you can trust me when I say that the effects work on Game of Thrones is beyond anything you’re seeing anywhere else on television.
Wrapping up all the key storylines — one of the great tasks put upon each episode — has not been done quite so well as it is in “Garden of Bones.” First, Charles Dance comes back to save Arya Stark and Gendry the Bastard from a grimy execution. I’m not exactly convinced that Tywin Lannister is a terrible guy. His children, awful. He doesn’t seem so bad.
And finally, what in the hell just happened in that cave? It’s great to see the Smoke Monster from Lost getting some work, but I have no idea what it’s doing here, emerging from Carice Van Houten’s vagina. This scene alone has set me upon a path to read the second book in this series. I’m sure waiting it out and watching along will reveal what exactly, the hell that is, but I must know. Don’t worry, dear friends, I won’t spoil it for you if I find out.
This Week’s Final Thought: Seriously, you guys, what the fuck was that?!
Next Week: All kinds of hell breaks loose in the wake of “The Ghost of Harrenhal.”
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