Garden of Bones (Season 2, Episode 4, Game of Thrones)

2 Garden of BonesGarden of Bones is one of the more depressing episodes of Game of Thrones – which is saying a lot given the general brutal and catastrophic happenings in the Seven Kingdoms. The episode takes its name from the desert surrounding Qarth; Ser Jorah tells Daenerys, “Every time the Qartheen shut their gates on a traveler, the garden grows.”

There are also a few gardens of bones outside of Qarth in this episode – the dead and mutilated bodies strewn on the battlefield following a Lannister/Stark combat; the torture victims at Harrenhal; and Ned Stark’s bones brought to Catelyn by Lord Petyr Baelish.

In this harsh and dismal episode, death seems inescapable – with only the degree of brutality and length of agony being in question. From the battlefield, to Sansa’s beating, to desert surrounding Qarth, to the torture at the hands of The Tickler – it’s powerfully ironic that for Arya and Gendry, hope rides in in the person of Tywin Lannister, who upon his arrival to Harrenhal, ends the torture of the prisoners, puts them to work in the camp and takes Arya as his personal cup-bearer.

Likewise, hope comes to Sansa in the form of another Lannister, Tyrion. Tyrion restores Sansa’s safety and delivers a lesson on the difference between being educated and being threatened:

Love in the Time of Amputations

1 Garden of BonesWe are introduced to Robb Stark’s love interest, Talisa, in this Game of Thrones episode. Talisa is the Seven Kingdoms version of Doctors Without Borders, assisting the wounded on the battlefield. She and Robb meet as she is diagnosing and then amputating the lower leg of a fisherman’s son who was fighting on the side of the Lannisters. The love stories in Game of Thrones always seem thin and rather two-dimensional and clichéd in comparison to the rest of the relationships and plot lines. But nevertheless, after an exchange about the whether righteousness can ever justify war and the steep price in human suffering (chiefly among those who have no real interest in the outcome) – the attraction is evident.

Lord Petyr Baelish (Littlefinger), dispatched to Renly’s camp by Tyrion, makes the rounds: first suggesting to Renly that, in spite of Joffrey being on the Iron Throne, Renly still has many friends at court. If they could somehow strike a bargain, Renly might find open gates at Kings Landing versus a protracted siege.

Upon leaving Renly’s tent, Littlefinger meets Margaery. It’s almost like he can’t help himself. Rather than trying to enlist her help, he taunts her about whether or not she (or her brother Loras) share a tent with Renly and other comments suggesting he knows Renly’s “secret.”

When he finally meets with Catlyn Stark, who is none too happy to see him, and dresses him down with, “You betrayed Ned. I trusted you. My husband trusted you. And you repaid our faith with treachery.” He picks that moment to suggest that maybe fate has given them a chance to be together. None of the three instances, with Renly, Margaery, or Lady Stark, seem to play to Littlefinger’s favor. Is he inept, or does he know what he’s doing?

He is successful in planting the seed that, while Robb would never agree to it, if Catyln were to return Jaime Lannister, her daughters would be released.

The High Road

Games of Thrones consistently suggests that taking the high road is not only less expedient than treachery; it is down-right disastrous. In Season One, the high road brought Ned Stark to Baelor.

In Garden of Bones, an important discussion takes place on the battlefield between Robb Stark and Roose Bolton (which can be easily overlooked amidst the grisly visuals and the Robb/Talisa love story). Lord Bolton is providing Robb with a report on the casualties and that they have captured some Lannister officers, noting, “A naked man has few secrets. A flayed man has none.” Bolton would like to torture the officers to see if they can get information on Tywin Lannister’s plan. Robb shuts down the idea by reminding Bolton that Ned Stark banned flaying in the North. Bolton reminds Robb that they’re not in the North and that “The high road’s pretty but you’ll have a hard time marching your army down it.”

Robb dismisses Bolton’s suggestions pointing out that the Lannisters have his sisters and he doesn’t want to give them a reason to torture them.

Speaking of Torture

Following Sansa’s public humiliation at the hands of Ser Meryn and on the orders of King Joffrey, Tyrion and Bron hatch a scheme to “get the poison out of Joffrey.” For as Bron points out, “He’s got nothing to do all day but pick wings off flies.”

Tyrion sends Ros and Daisy to Joffery as a name day gift. The plan miserably backfires with Joffrey ordering Ros to beat Daisy as he aims a crossbow at her.

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

After listening to Stannis dictate the letter (regarding Jaime Lannister and Cersei) in The North Remembers, it should come as no surprise that Stannis is ever the stickler for precise language and correct usage.

Stannis and Davos have an exchange about how Davos wears the knuckles of his fingers – fingers that Stannis cut off as punishment – in a pouch. Davos shrugs it off noting that his life has dramatically improved due to Stannis knighting him, “and it’s four less fingernails to clean.” An annoyed Stannis responds, “Fewer. Four fewer fingernails to clean,” before ordering Davos to smuggle Melisandre to shore in a secret mission.

Show creators, Weiss and Benioff, have done a great job in maintaining fabulous endings for each episode, and Garden of Bones has a doozy.

As they make their way to shore, Melisandre taunts Davos by asking if he loves his wife and whether he’s been with other women, and then says, “You want me. You want to see what’s beneath these robes.” Davos is not as charmed by Melisandre as Stannis is. When they reach the cave, Melisandre removes her robes to reveal that she is pregnant and in front of a terrified Davos, gives birth to a black, shadowy creature – a brilliant cliff-hanger as we wait for ‘The Ghost of Harrenhal.”

3 Garden of Bones

Sigil Notes:

Lion (Lannister): A little campsite humor from the men of the Lannister army as they discuss who is the best warrior: the Mountain, Loras Tyrell, or Jaime Lannister. “How good could he [Loras] be? He’s been stabbing Renly Baratheon for years and Renly ain’t dead.”

Dragon (Targaryen): Daenerys fails at negotiating her way into Qarth. First mispronouncing Qarth, then issuing an empty threat. When all seems lost, one of the Thirteen, Xaro offers to vouch for Khaleesi, with a hand-cutting blood oath (reminiscent of the culmination of Alan’s Wolf Pack speech in The Hangover).

Watch along with me Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season

Further Reading:

What Is Dead May Never Die (Season 2, Episode 3, Game of Thrones)

The Night Lands (Season 2, Episode 2, Game of Thrones)

The North Remembers (Season 2, Episode 1, Game of Thrones)

Garden of Bones Wikipedia:

AV Club:,72595/