Game of Thrones – Garden of Bones
(Sensitive structure be damned i’m starting with the spoilers, you’ve been warned.)
Ummmm….. What the what! Here I’ve been saying all season that Game of Thrones never makes much forward progress and then Garden of Bones comes along, moving the show not just forward but across onto an entirely different plane from that of what came before. Since before the pilot premiered fans, critics and the shows creators have all been assuring people that this isn’t Harry Potter: The Series, that there isn’t magic in Westeros any more than there is in our own world. Now though we know that this isn’t the truth thanks to the all too real assurances and appearances in that final scene of gods, sorcery and yes, Shadow Babies.
Now some people are saying that the scene wasn’t entirely without precedent: after all we have seen giant wolves, little dragons, zero-degree zombies and freaky voodoo visions and taken them all in our stride, so why stop here. Some also claim that the talk last week of power as a shadow and those who cast the shadows thus having the power was foreshadowing; but I believe anyone who heard that and then thought of this as a natural outcome needs to be checked out by someone, then checked in somewhere. Which isn’t to say that it was a bad move on the writers part or a bad progression of plot, just an insane one; I speak roughly not out of sadness or dislike, but shock.
I, like so many of the characters on the show, had written off Melisandre as nothing more than a mad and manipulative woman, one who was using the shadow of the sublime to twist men to her will, but alas I was wrong; there is a god, what a twist (I imagine that this is what waking up in the afterlife feels like for a lifelong atheist). Like all major twists this one may well be a make of break moment for the show; the answer will come with how well the beast is handled next week, we will have to wait until we see the Shadows put into play and the effect that has on the world’s power dynamics: too little and I will wonder whether they were worth breaking the show for, too much and they will smash the subtle games of men beyond repair, for how can they compare? ‘Birthing Shadow Babies’ then is either going to become the new cliche term for the time that a show goes over the top – jumping over ‘Jumping the Shark’ as it were – or be remembered as the moment when the season and perhaps the entire series first swung into its desired gear.
Whatever happens that was one hell of a scene in the moment, unfortunately though very little that came before it felt half as interesting. Overall I felt that this was perhaps one of the shows poorest efforts yet in terms of combining characters and plot lines into something cohesive; not only was each player separate from the next but their own stories changed from scene to scene, lacking even an hour long arc. Yes everybody moved, but outwards rather than in: new cities were built, new characters brought in – some from those cities, some from the womb – but context was provided for few of them. I don’t know what Haronhall is nor do I really care about Quarth and its council of thirteen when Winterfell and King’s Landing are still so unexplored. Though this is what I have complained about this season it actually didn’t much bother me as much this week; perhaps I hadsimply grown used to it, or perhaps I have simply learnt to derive some pleasure from the pain.
See, this weeks episode of Thrones was its most sadistic yet; it was at times utterly unpleasant to watch as the rat king and his kin hit, bit and tortured all around them, both attempting to burrow away behind others out of fear. Garden of Bones featured as much removal of clothes as any other week but this too never became an issue because the nudity was either natural – the only character whose flesh was flashed was that of a pregnant woman in labour – or literally forced and as such it wasn’t there to titillate; these sex scenes aimed not to seduce you but make you sick or squeamish and on that front they were a success. Hell on top of that they even managed to make some of them actually mean something.
I was praising the StanisSandre sex scene of two weeks ago for having a plot purpose – the parenting of an heir -but I certainly didn’t think that it would pay off this soon or in this way and yet it has now become an axis for the show to swing on; this is how the show needs to utilise sex, with importance and not impotence. Though the show even managed to make sexposition work this week by having the mandatory sex scenes expose to us the characters insides rather than their diatribes; sure we probably didn’t need to be shown again that Joffrey is a sick, sadistic freak but better that than simply showing us that you are aloud to air full-frontal nudity. Sex is also used subtly as a bargaining tool by Tyrion in one of his more twisted tricks. Sex is all around, as much if not more than ever, but because it needs to be and not just because its contract demands another appearance.
So in many ways this was one of the shows lesser efforts and yet it was one of the more enjoyable – if that is in fact the right word. No, that doesn’t strictly make sense but then neither does the show itself any more; the world of Westeros has been turned on its head and we must twirl with it, following ever deeper down into the rabbit hole. It’s an uncertain time for all, the audience included, for war leaves none untouched. Call me sick but I’m starting to really enjoy it, to find the pleasure despite, or even in the pain; I guess I’m finally judging the thing and not it’s shadow, though whether or not that’s a wise idea we will have to wait and see.
While you are waiting may I suggest a walk through the Filthier side of Westeros in this great guest review by the man of the same name? How about some discussion of actual plot events within the episode? How about a chance to punch Joffrey in the mouth? Click HERE if any of those sound to your liking.