Game of Thrones: “Garden of Bones” Review

So i’ll get it out on the table right now: this was one of the worst Game of Thrones episodes I’ve ever seen.

Let’s keep it in context, however; the worst GoT episode is still eight times better than the best Legend of the Seeker episode, still twice as good as the best episode of Roar (anyone actually remember that show?), and still better than all but a handful of Spartacus offerings.

It was pretty damned cool, and it hurled the story forward with violent gusto. It only holds up badly when compared to other GoT episodes. But that’s where I’m going with this. Call this one my “annual complainer’s post” if you must (because I hope I won’t be writing any more negative critiques for this again), but understand that this is a show I absolutely love.

Declared love does not forgive the need for honesty. And so, as Ser Jorah once sort-of said, “Here we are.”

If “Garden of Bones,” written by Vanessa Taylor and directed by David Petrarca, needs a finger of blame pointed somewhere it will probably fall on them, though surely David Benioff and D.B. Weiss had a hand in some of these missed details. I don’t disparage them in the grand scheme of things; you can’t expect constant and continual greatness, especially in a television series still in its infancy. Even the cutest baby barfs down the front of his mother’s blouse every once in a while.

The good news: most of the errors made in “Garden of Bones” won’t have any sort of lasting negative impact on the show at all. (The Stannis one might. We’ll see in future eps. Read on.) More than likely we’ll be back on track and surging forward by next week, with the farces and fallacies of this one thankfully in our rear-view mirror.

We began with two nerd guards embroiled in a nerd guard debate, arguing the rankings of the realm’s greatest fighters. How geeky is that? It’s more than a little meta, and probably a little too modern-sounding for Westeros; somewhere in the range of “Oh, I just remembered, I don’t care.”

But I guess it’s funny. Who’s the best? The Mountain? Jaime Lannister? Loras Tyrell? Nerdguards heatedly debate!

Annnnnnnd then it becomes a fart joke. I suppose that’s fine, much in the way I suppose Jar Jar Binks stepping in Bantha poo-doo is fine. It entertains a certain demographic.

But people…

“Yeah, don’t even try me. Do you think I’m an idio—AAAAUUGHHH!”

Is Taylor not a fan of horror scripts? Seriously, how many times has that setup been done? It’s so old hat, it’s the meme of a trope, though possibly with a grandfather clause tucked on at the end.

Transition to the next morning, as Robb Stark (Richard Madden) walks amongst the dead and wounded, surveying the field of his latest victory. We are introduced, briefly, to Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton), whose voice is disturbingly awesome. He sounds sort of like a cross between Ralph Fiennes and Peter Cushing… which basically makes Roose Bolton equal Voldemort—with the full power of the Empire at his fingertips. Proper!

Another introduction is “Talyssa” (Oona Chaplin). Nothing draws a king’s eye quicker than a hot chick sawing off some dude’s leg, am I right? Count that as First Squick Scene of the Night. There will be plenty more.

Who is this mystery woman? Clearly she’s either on the Lannister side of the fight, or purposefully (and wisely) neutral. She says she’s from Volantis.

“Volantis. You’re a far way from home.”

Robb’s eyes tell us he’s more than a little intrigued. Dude, aren’t you supposed to marry a Frey when this whole war is said and done? Eyes forward! (Hey, I like ‘er too though.)

Transitioning to King’s Landing, Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon), clearly much braver than he was last season, struts and sneers and appears to give King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) plenty of reason to blame Sansa (Sophie Turner) for Robb’s victories. I love a proper suck-up!

Sansa was saved from a severe flat-side-of-the-sword spanking (squick scene #2) by Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), though I didn’t like the interruption. It felt forced, like there should have been a sharper “STOP!” or something. It looked almost as though Ser Meryn (Ian Beattie) was expecting that to happen. My initial instinct is to blame the actor for telegraphing what is essentially a spit-take with a sword, though this goes back to the script. If Tyrion had yelled something in a louder tone, I could have possibly believed the reaction. As it was, it felt set up and fake, which is not usually a hallmark of this show.

Joffrey traipsed to his bedchambers, where two whores—Ros (Esmé Bianco) and Daisy (Masie Dee, helping fill the show’s “ex-adult film star” quota)—awaited as “name day gifts” from Unca Tyrion. And you just knew this was going to end badly. Squick scene #3 is a go!

I’ll fly in the face of conventional squick wisdom by saying this was actually a pretty good scene. You see the wheels turning in Joffrey’s head when he asks, “My uncle sent you?” He’s gleeful—not only for the suffering he’s about to inflict, but because he actually has found a good reason to do it: payback against Tyrion! It’s just a big fat excuse to behave badly, but hey, at least he has something to tell his mother if she asks why the corpse of a prostitute was found in his bedchambers.

People complaining this was too gratuitous can go eff themselves. It’s not torture porn if most of the action happens offscreen. The really bad stuff is all audio. And Joffrey’s giddy face is the money shot.

In the Stormlands, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish (Aiden Gillen) arrives and tries to strike up an alliance with King Renly (Gethin Anthony), who seems more interested in eating fruit than speaking to Littlefinger.

I have no complaint with this scene… other than Renly was eating an apple, not a peach!

(That’s an insider book-reader-only joke, y’all. It’s not a complaint. Jokes, people!)

Littlefinger gets into a conversation with Queen Margaery (Natalie Dormer), who was wearing basically the best dress ever (and probably praying against rain). Really, the dress was the best part of the scene. Tyrell couture is a win. However…

Captain Obvious makes the first of many appearances when Margaery speaks the line, “My husband is my king and my king is my husband.” Really, Marg? Littlefinger, who’s used to Varys’s complex entendres and riddles, is properly dumbfounded.

Later, Littlefinger visits Catelyn in a scene so rife with wince-inducing lack of subtlety it made me cringe on my couch.

“Cat, I’ve—I’ve loved you since I was a boy! It seems to me that fate has given us this chance—“

Seven help me, did he actually reach for her and play the “fate” card three sentences into their conversation?

Look, I get that there’s a lot of shit to get across. I get that the casual viewer might not immediately catch on to the fact that a seemingly immoral man like Littlefinger is actually in love with this woman. But HBO—you’re going the wrong way with this. You’re supposed to leave enough clever hints that may then entice the casual viewer, by now fully intrigued, to go out and buy season one on DVD or Blu-Ray.

Poorly played. I suppose I should be glad they didn’t actually show Ned’s bones. Or maybe I just expect better. Spoilt by weekly doses of awesomesauce, that I am.

We were introduced to the oft-mentioned Harrenhal, a dragon-burnt edifice that looks just bloody horrifying, and I mean that in a good way.

(I have ZERO complaints about the show’s CGI. None. It’s better than the stuff we see in many movies. Harrenhal looked brilliant.)

Captain Obvious made another appearance, returning in the guise of the Dazed Old Woman Who Talked About Her Tortured Son. “He’s dead,” she said, after we clearly (squick #4) heard his muscle tissue and bones ripping on the rack. Thanks, lady!

Arya (Maisie Williams) began her prayer ritual, which was cool. She added “Polliver” and “The Mountain” to her ever-growing list.

Speaking of whom, we met the new Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane, formerly played by Aussie giant Conan Stevens. The Mountain’s sizable boots are now filled by Ian Whyte, who, while certainly tall enough, simply doesn’t have the old Mountain’s gargantuan presence. And yes, I know you can’t change a man’s body type; if dude is gangly he’s gangly. But… damn, I dunno. Pad the armor a little?

Maybe they should have given him the Mountain’s old tournament helmet or something. Lannister helmets were a problem here, because they make everyone look exactly the same. Gregor looks like Amory Lorch (Fintan McKeown), and Polliver (Andy Kellegher) looks just like every other generic Lannister dude that walks past the screen.

We could have used Captain Obvious here! Maybe lose the Lannister helmets next season.

We also met the Tickler (Antony Morris), who “tickles” prisoners to death with rats, ushering in squick #5. His “Where is the Brotherhood” question may lead to some cool stuff in later seasons, as the television audience is getting a word-of-mouth introduction to…

BOOK SPOILER: …the future Brotherhood Without Banners. Glad they’re keeping this in! END BOOK SPOILER!

Probably the most enjoyable scene of the episode was the meeting of King Renly and King Stannis (Stephen Dillane) on a windswept Stormlands cliffside. Renly gets all the good lines:

“Suppose if we use the same [banner], the battle would be terribly confusing. Why is your stag on fire?”

“Now I understand why you found religion in your old age.”

“Born amidst salt and smoke? Is he a ham?”

Excellent scene, and I like that it allowed the actors to just interact! And Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) looked suitably badass in her Baratheon guard helm. No mistaking it was her!

Finally out of the Red Waste, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was brought to Qarth, where—quite possibly—the weakest scene I have ever witnessed on Game of Thrones took place:

“Oh, my name is quite long and quite impossible for foreigners to pronounce,” said the rotund Spice King (Nicholas Blane) in a perfect and unmistakable British accent. Really? They couldn’t have cast someone more—I don’t know—foreign? It was filmed in Croatia! If dude’s name is so impossible to pronounce, you’d think they’d at least toss some sort of exotic accent onto him.

Obvious Spice King carefully and clearly introduces us to Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), “a savage from the Summer Isles” said in obvious obviousness, since (clearly) Qarth is extremely British. Milk Men indeed.

And here we encounter a problem that some of the more recent A Song of Ice and Fire books actually have: the issue with Essosi names! Honestly, I’m buggered about how to combat it, other than by NOT saying names in full and going with something shorter, maybe affixing a title or honorific to it instead of an elongated name almost no one will be able to remember. Hard enough reading it on paper!

Another issue: Dany butchers the pronunciation of Qarth, even though in a previous scene (when she is told about the city for the first time by Kovarro), she pronounces it properly. In fact, Qarth has only been spoken of verbally, and more than once—so why would she suddenly botch it? It may as well be spelled KARTH, as far as she’s concerned.

This was basically realism being sacrificed in order to instigate Dany becoming flustered, helping to lead to her meltdown.

Some people complained that Emilia Clarke overacted in in her oft-repeated “We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground” speech, but I don’t see it as overdone at all. If those gates shut, they will die. She’s playing her final card and is at the end of her rope. I get it.

“Ah. You are a true Targaryen,” purred the Spice King, which was a pretty succinct line. I think the biggest problem here was the casting. I’m sure Nicholas Blane is fine in other roles. Hell, I think he would have made a spot-on Illyrio (I didn’t like Roger Allam in the role at all). But this Spice King character clearly called for someone with at least some sort of an ethnic accent.

Mr. You-Can’t-Pronounce-My-Name. Because Nigel from Coventry is so difficult.

Again, I loved the CGI visual of Qarth; it truly looks like The greatest city that ever was or will be, bringing to mind a fantastical Babylon. I did see hanging gardens in the distance!

Back at Harrenhal, Lord Tywin (Charles Dance) arrived and basically saved the day. I was almost expecting trumpets. I’m intrigued to see what will happen with Arya playing at being Tywin’s cupbearer. It’s a slight but very interesting change from the books.

The episode’s finale was cool. The CGI in the “birthing of the Shadow-Baby” was extremely badass, with Melisandre sort of hearkening to Helen Mirren’s Moragana in Excalibur. I loved it. And I really liked Carice van Houten in this episode. She says “The night is dark and full of terrors” nearly the same way every time, as rote, with only the slightest tip of inflection depending on the circumstances. It’s kind of mesmerizing.

But up rose a rather troublesome problem, story-wise. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) is told by Stannis he will have to play the role of smuggler once more, all secretive like, which implies Stannis has at least some inkling of what’s to come. But can he really? Is this the son you were expecting, Stannis? Surely not! The books never had the lure of an heir for Stannis as part of his motivation to lay with Melisandre. So this could be a BIG issue in the future, depending on what, exactly, they do with Shadow-Baby.

Another issue: “These [bars] weren’t here before. They’ve barred our passage.”

What? A mobile army took the time to bar a cave’s passage? I knew King Renly’s forces were moving slowly, but… that’s basically slower than a crawl when you bother to have some poor fool set bars in a cave’s tunnel you may be passing by.

Now in the books there were actually two shadow-babies—one birthed somewhere in secret, and the second beneath a castle’s dungeons, where the passage was barred. And it seems as though they’ve decided to combine the two scenes…

But unless they establish Renly as staying in some castle or keep (and I’m pretty sure dude is still sleeping in his Uber Huge Tent of Worldly Comforts), the tunnel being barred makes little sense. Like why would they even need to do this in a cave in the first place? Just row until you find a lonely stretch of beach.

I could be completely wrong. Maybe the Shadow-Baby is visiting a nearby neighbor (though you’d think they’d set something like that up). But if things play out the way the book says they do, the bars in the cave don’t make one bit of sense.

Anyway. Of course I love Game of Thrones. It’s still the best show on television. But I found more than a few problems with this episode, and I think I’m just going to chalk it up to a new-to-the-series writer and director. I hope Petrarca does a better job with next week’s episode, “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” and hope Vanessa Taylor just improves, period.

She is slated to write for season 3, after all.

One sour apple does not spoil the bunch! Onward!

If you want to become impregnated by shadow-babies, follow me on Twitter! That’s @Axechucker!

  • Andrew

    When you mentioned the Peach, I was ready to be SO dissapointed in you, Axe! haha, but you said it was a joke, so it’s all good again.

    I’d put this episode about on par with episode 2, as far as they go this season, with 1 being my least favourite, and 3 being my most favourite. I’m not really a stickler for accents, so the Qarth guy didn’t really stick out in my head at all. I’m also really curious as to how Chaplins character is going to play out in coming episodes, but for the few lines she had here, I thought she did very well. I will agree that Gregor, Polliver, and Lorch all look indestinguishable to me, especially since I didn’t know what the new Gregor was supposed to look like.

    Once again, Sophie did an amazing job, and Tyrions line, “Lady Stark, you may survive us yet.” was a really good line. The writing in this episode did fall a bit flat now and then, though. I laughed at the fart, and I regret nothing. Good review, Axe!

    • Axe

      That’s interesting, your ranking, because it’s close to mine so far, which goes: 3, 1, 2, 4.

      Tyrion’s line to Sansa—taken straight from the book—is STILL one of the reasons I think Sansa will indeed be the last Stark standing, as well as the “younger, more beautiful queen” that will one day be Cersei’s ultimate undoing.

  • I can see where a couple places are stilted, and Dany’s scene was pretty dull, but I disagree that the last two points are problems.  Stannis knows something is going to happen, not what.  Mel tells him she needs to get in and [bleeped for spoiler], not how.  Did anyone think Stannis wasn’t in on that?  And any large army had better be doing perimeter security, even for a one-night stop.  The Romans learned that the hard way and would spend several hours every night after a march setting up their camp fortifications.

    I can tell already that I’m going to eyeroll every time “Talyssa” is on screen.

    All in all this was my favorite episode of the season, with #1 being the second.

    • Axe

      I guess my biggest question is… well, Stannis slept with Melisandre (I realize “slept with” is using the term extremely loosely) in part because she promised him sons. Clearly she is now pregnant. I can’t believe she would be able to hide her condition (no matter how quickly it comes) behind her cloak from the king she advises on what seems to be a daily basis. So my question remains: Is this the son he expected? And if not, what happens when Stannis sees her next time and she’s not pregnant? He HAS to know some fishy shit is going down.  I can’t believe when she promised “sons” he expected “shadow sons.”

  • Finally, some fantasy! I started watching the show because I thought it would be a fantasy, but then there hardly was any. Even the dragons have only had about five seconds of screentime.

    Regarding Littlefinger, I actually thought it was good exposition. He is always so clever and subtle, but when he tries to establish an honest relationship, he is completely clueless and idiotic.

    I did think that horrific scene with the prostitutes was more gratuitous than it needed to be. But I’m mostly annoyed that we never found out what happened to those poor women. Maybe it’s a cliffhanger that will be resolved in the next episode. It would be nice to see how Tyrion reacts since he seems to be the only character who realizes that prostitutes are human beings.

    • Axe

      That’s an interesting view on Littlefinger. I’ll be extremely curious to see whether or not Cat’s outright refusal of him basically put him past the point of no return.

      If he wasn’t there already, I mean.

      I think we will find out what happens to the women. I’ll bet we get a Ros / Tyrion scene!

    • Bean

      having read the books, I prefer to read his clumsy come-on’s to Cat as more of an attempt to sadistically taunt her and pretend to be the lovesick boy he used to be.  In fact I think for the entirety of the TV show season 1 onward that’s all he’s been doing (setting her up in the brothel, etc…). 

      • Axe

        It’s possible!  Baelish could be a better poker player than we’ve realized.

  • Holly0297

    I agree, Axe, even the worst GoT is better than almost everything else in this genre. But what stood out for me as the biggest mistake (I haven’t read the books yet) was the lack of a scene where the two prostitutes were sent back to Tyrion after Joffrey’s “use” of the “gift”.  Various hours and/or days passed in other scenes, so assuming the prostitutes’ night w/Joffrey wasn’t over doesn’t make sense…

    • Axe

      Ohhh, that’s true. It did appear as though many nights did pass.

      I will be very keen to see where Tyrion is and what he’s doing at the start of next week’s episode. Good eye!

  • Benjamin Hagy

    So you essentially liked the whole episode except for some of Littlefinger’s dialogue, Dany’s scene (or more specifically, the accent of one of the dudes in the scene) and some of the logistics in the final scene, and that’s enough to call it a “sour apple”?

    All in all, I thought the episode was fantastic, despite some very minor blunders, mostly in the Dany scene. The writing there did feel strange because you could tell it was trying to curtail the obvious WHY DON’T YOU JUST KILL HER AND TAKE HER DRAGONS question that lingered over the whole thing, but Clarke still gave a great performance. That was the only scene I felt shaky on at all.

    Littlefinger’s love bit was out-of-touch with something Book Littlefinger would have done, but not so much with Show Littlefinger, who in general seems much more desperate a figure, and I didn’t mind it because of how quickly Cat shot it down, and because it reinforced how utterly self-involved and blind Littlefinger is. Even in the books, if there’s one thing to be his undoing, it is probably that.

    As far as Stannis is concerned, I don’t think Melissandre DID look pregnant until down in the cave, right when the baby was about to come out. I haven’t read it in a while, but I feel like the book backs this up. She is skinny and normal until she has the shadowchild. I also am fairly certain Stannis knew that whatever she was doing would result in, well, you know. I doubt he cared much about the circumstances of the HOW. But even if she looked pregnant as all hell, there’s another, more worthwhile angle I feel:

    So what if TV Stannis knows EXACTLY what she’s doing? How much does that change things, honestly? People complained so much about Stannis not coming across as cold and dickish as he does in the books…this is one way to add to that image. He knows he’s the rightful heir, and — just as in his pure justice with Davos’s fingers, which comes perfectly in the monologue right before the horrific action — after giving his brother one fair chance to back down, Stannis simply moves on and does what must be done in order to be victorious. In order to be a KING. I think that kind of cold, pragmatic leadership is perfect for TV Stannis.

    And as for the bars, they make total sense for any large force in a war that’s been parked anywhere for longer than a day. Reinforcing camps was a common practice as far as I’m aware, so I saw no problem there, either. (I mean, hell, the bars are in a cave that would presumably allow a sinister access to the camp — they are there to prevent something like what Mel does from happening in the first place…)

    Obviously I’m nitpicking your nitpicks here, but nevertheless, I think the only truly flawed scene–and even then not hugely–was Dany’s. If the episode had a more wide-lensed flaw to me, it was in how it lacked a universal arc other than the general grimness of basically all of its characters. Otherwise I thought the pacing was tight and the direction nice (visually it was one of my favorite episodes yet, as each locale was bursting with extras and a vibrancy of atmosphere, and the CGI was wonderful throughout).

    My favorite of the season thus far, I’d go as far as to say.

     

    • Axe

      I like sour apples! At least it wasn’t a rotten one.

      I agree with you that the Littlefinger on the show has been very showy. More blunder prone than we’re used to.  And I don’t necessarily thinks that’s a bad thing.  I think I would have forgiven that scene if it had been drawn out more. Give him and Cat a bit more of a lead in before he grabs her arm and professes his continued devotion. It just felt rushed and unnatural as a scene. (Though Fairley’s reaction was fine, since all she was doing was playing off him.)

      Hell, the episode wasn’t even 55 minutes long. They could have added one extra minute of conversation to get to that point. I didn’t like it.

      Re: Stannis… I am not a book purist, so how he comes off in the books in relation to the show is moot, in my view. My point with Stannis is, if he’s expecting a son from her, what will his reaction be when he doesn’t get what he (and most men) might expect?

      I guess we’ll see how that plays out in future episodes. But if they gloss over it, then it’s essentially a wasted line and wasted motivation from episode 12.

  • Digtastik

    I’m right there with you on the whole stupid smoke baby scene.  None of it made any sense regarding locale.  Really?  What is it that Mel was smuggled into?  I think the other thing, is that I was really just hoping for a shadow on the wall, you know like a shadow.  Not some mewling smokey thing.  This is the show’s first real jarring moment for me, but it’s also the first heavy handed use of magic in the show that we’ve seen.  Not counting the Drogo resurrection.  So maybe it was supposed to be jarring.  I dunno.  Color me bummed.

    • Axe

      It’s very jarring, and it ratchets the whole “magic” idea up several notches, even more than the dragons.  But I enjoyed the CGI.

  • You sound like Linda :(

    Wow, that was harsh. Never thought the westeros.org review could be more positive than your take.

    • Axe

      I like Linda. She serves a purpose. 

      I do not serve the same purpose. Faithfulness to the books takes a far backseat to quality television. I’m weighing the show on its own merits.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I am so sad, I have been failed by my gender TWICE now – once with Jane Espensen, and the Snarky Sansa Sasses her Septa, and now two nerdguards discuss fighters like they are comparing ninjas vs pirates.  Maybe she was trying to lighten a dark episode, but it didn’t work – and the whole “Dude, there’s something out there” joke was so tired.  I half expected a white walker to go soft-shoeing by after the scream.  And why did Vanessa let them call Joff a cunt?  Two men, talking about another man, and the best word she can come up with is cunt?  That’s our word, dammit! To be used when talking about women who are nasty! Ideally, we don’t even want to do that, but, ugh..

    The Nigel whose name shall not be pronounced part was very funny.  I think she stole it from Futurama, which is where all good jokes should be stolen from:
    “”Futurama: The Day the Earth Stood Stupid (#3.7)” (2001)
    Leela: So your name is Lord Nibbler? That’s a coincidence. Nibbler: That name is for your sake. In the time it would take to pronounce one letter of my true name, a trillion cosmoses would flare into existence and sink into eternal night.”

    I did like the visual when they opened the gates of Qarth, it looked like they were going to Disneyland.  I do worry about Dany and the dragons though, now, because the obvious question needs to be “Why DONT they just kill her and take her dragons, as Ser Jorah has threatened so many times before?”  Obviously no one has any problems with killing in this show.  I think I would have liked to see a little magic going on here, and have Dany pull out the dragons, and one or two of the Thirteen try to come closer, and have some sort of visceral response from the dragons, or some sort of magic wall, something to show people you CANT just kill her and take her dragons.  Even if it was something Dany made up, like saying they would only not fly away from a true Targaryen, or something like that, it would be SOMETHING to thwart that super obvious question.

    And the peach, man, it was sad, and hear me out, because I think it wasn’t just a peach, it wasn’t just a saucy piece of fruit, it was like all of Renly’s mojo!  Being so stuck up, stuck on himself, and so entirely certain nothing would ever go wrong for him was all wrapped up in that peach, and the way he just stands there (or sits on a horse, I can’t remember which is book canon now) and eats it, in such a casual, way.  And he offers it to Stannis, and Stannis refuses, angry, and see, it’s symbolic – it’s so much more than just a piece of fruit. It’s Renly dangling everything Stannis can never have and will never be right out in his face.  It’s loaded with subtext.  So it’s not just that the fruit wasn’t there in the scene, is was the fact that the mojo of the scene was gone, without that self-assured, completely inappropriate eating of a peach during their final parlay.  Instead they just bickered back and forth, and Cat threatened to spank them or something.
    And Arya’s prayer – just not dramatic enough for me.  That prayer is an important part of Ayra’s journey.  I wanted it to be a bigger moment.  But it wasn’t.

    The main problem for me is we are back to the ‘clip show’ or ‘vignette’ feel – and I guess in a show like this, compressed so much for time, it’s hard to not give it the ‘clip show’ feel.  But Bryan Cogman did it last week, with Episode Three – so if Bryan did it, I hold the others to the same high standard.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, and I forgot to mention, I think Jack Gleeson is doing such an amazingly perfect job of being Evil Joffrey, that I can’t stand it!  I can’t separate him from his character.  He comes on screen and my stomach starts to turn. And I don’t know if he is getting the accolades he deserves because his character is such a villian. Just wanted to add that to say hurray for Jack!

    • Axe

      I want to go to Qarthyland!

      As to the Thirteen not killing her and taking her dragons… I think they are not as united as they pretend (thus Xaro’s public display).  I think they are FAR more concerned with their own rivalries, tucked safe as they are in their pretty walled city, and they see Daenerys’s dragons as a prize to be won.  I think if one or two of the Thirteen ordered the guards to seize the dragons and kill the “Dothraki Horde,” the rest would decry the act and attempt to shame them publicly.

      I just get the feeling the Thirteen don’t give a rat’s fanny about the rest of the world, as protected and isolated as they are. 

      • Axe

        Also, Jack does not get the accolades he deserves (he was not submitted to HBO for an Emmy), though it could be argued Joffrey is a little one-note.  It’s like “1,001 ways to be peevish and spoiled.”

  • Udi

    It’s funny. I agree with almost every complaint in this review as well as with everything purplejilly mentioned, and still… this is my favorite episode so far (with last week’s a close 2nd). I disliked the Dany scene and was uncomfortable with her acting this time (over the top as many agree); But I gotta say Kudos for that hilarious Quarth/Karth crack! Obviously aimed at us book-readers who are too pedantic. I ROFLed! 
    I was not too happy with the logic (or lack of it) in the Littlefinger scenes and was troubled by the (minor spoiler) merging of Melisandre’s shadow births into one scene instead of two. And then THAT, as you mentioned, need not have been in a cave (with or without bars) (end spoiler). The fart “joke” was too drab, the Joff and whores part unnecessary (but pretty well executed) and the omission of the peach very heartbreaking (as purplejilly mentioned – it was not the actual fruit but all it symbolizes and the great reaction it receives from Stannis in the book). Still, the Renly-Stannis-Cat-Mel showdown was one of the better scenes imo (“are you a ham”? lololol). But… (and as Ned Stark used to say: “Anything said before the word “but” is of little or no value”): This episode had crazy funny and witty one-liners, the cgi (Harrenhal, Quarth and Shadow baby) was breathtaking, the musical scores were (as always) mesmerizing and the locales simply gorgeous (well, not all of them mind you). And just imagining the reactions of millions of viewers who haven’t read the books to that last scene (all the WTF reactions around the world), for that alone I rank this as one of my all-time fav episodes. This scene is right up there with Ned’s (dead) saying “bye-bye” to his head and Dany saying “hullo there mah wittle baby dwagons”. So yes, quite a lot of deviations from the book/s, some of them troubling, others even welcome, but all in all the episode was waaaay too short (should have been like 13 hours)! 

    • Axe

      I actually think a longer episode might have raised it higher in my rankings. It was EXTREMELY short. The Cat / Littlefinger encounter could have been much more enjoyable had they had time to breathe before he confessed his undying love. Maybe there was more but the pacing was off, so they cut some stuff. I dunno.

    • Axe

      I actually think a longer episode might have raised it higher in my rankings. It was EXTREMELY short. The Cat / Littlefinger encounter could have been much more enjoyable had they had time to breathe before he confessed his undying love. Maybe there was more but the pacing was off, so they cut some stuff. I dunno.

  • Maxwell James

    I mostly agree with this critique. In general I’ve found the second season to be better than the first – funnier, snappier, with much better direction, editing and cinematography. But this was an exception. While some individual scenes were great, I found the episode on the whole to be terribly choppy and disjointed. Easily the worst episode of the season, and possibly of the entire run (I found “The Kingsroad” to be similarly sloppy).

    But – I’ll add one more complaint. The absence of any sort of lead-in to Stannis and Renly’s parley was a huge unforced error. There was never even a signal that Stannis was moving to attack Renly, news that is received with disbelief (and in one case, great humor) in the book. I imagine a new viewer would find that incredibly disorienting – why the hell is Stannis there in the first place? It’s a huge plot point and entertaining in its own right; by comparison, the psycho-Joffrey scene, which I agree was terrifying and well-executed, seems like a major waste of time, as did Littlefinger’s pointless dialogue with Margaery.

    I also have to say that of the new actors, the only one who isn’t working for me consistently is Dillane. I’m truly surprised to be saying that, considering I loved him in John Adams & expected him to be a perfect fit. But in the parley scene he came off as tired and distracted, not nearly as menacing as he should have been. He was good in his other scene, but that’s been the pattern for him – half good, half bad.

    • Axe

      I agree with the Stannis / Renly thing; an issue they could have solved with probably a 10 second scene. My one hope is that we’re now only 4 episodes in and (book wise) over halfway through A Clash of Kings. So they’re almost forced to slow down from here, hopefully, even while the action ratchets up.

      • Anonymous

        I hope so. Given what we’ve seen in the episode summaries & previews, I suspect that certain events are going to be given a great deal of focused attention in later episodes, and I don’t just mean Blackwater. I am deeply curious about what the content of episode 10 will be, however, especially with that long running time.

  • Anonymous

    So what peeves me now is I want to know why they don’t just get a core team of writers, and one director, and have the same group write all the episodes and the same director direct them all.  I think the clip show feel and the jerking around of the narrative thread could be improved if there were a consistent core cast doing the writing and directing.  At this point I am starting to feel like D&D writing any episodes is self-indulgent, and hurting the show.  They need to be the showrunners, and step back from the writing.  I think we need some writers who will ONLY write, and who are working together on each episode.  The show is starting to remind me of an RPG game where ppl take turns writing different parts for different characters, and while those individual scenes seem to work, the story as a whole just never really gets there.

    • Anonymous

      They do have a core team of writers – D&D, Cogman, Taylor, and Martin. That’s extremely tight, far smaller than most shows. And it’s a GOOD thing that the showrunners are writing, because both of them are principally writers. That’s their main skill. If you look at the great TV dramas (The Wire, Deadwood, The Sopranos, etc.) the showrunners are always primary writers as well.

      As for directors – just not possible. They’re shooting in three countries at the same time. Very few shows have the same director over & over again; when they do, it’s because they’re always set in the exact same place (i.e., Cheers). 

      Even though I didn’t like this episode much, I really disagree with you on the “clip show” thing. I think that if you go back and watch more than one episode in a row, you’ll find that dissolves, and that there’s actually an enormous amount of directorial consistency from episode to episode. That was definitely my experience when I rewatched the first season. There’s actually more time/storyline this season than last – last year they generally tried to cram part of every storyline into each episode, with the only breaks being for Dany and Jon. They’ve been far more careful about that this year.

      Game of Thrones is a 10-hour movie per season; if the episodes don’t stand that well on their own, it’s because they’re always focused on the bigger picture. 

  • Garris

    I took the whole Qarth scene as intended as humorous, there were three funny things in it:

    Dany deliberately mispronounces Qarth right after Spice Trader says ” …Qarth, the greatest city that ever was or will be”. My take is she did it to take them down a notch like we’ve all seen so many times when someone’s
    being a pompous ass and someone deliberately mispronounces their name to
    let some air out of them. Which is totally in sync with her attitude.

    When Xaro Xhoan Ducksauce invokes shumai the Thirteen all look around like Shumai? Where? I don’t see any. It was so overdone it had to be comic in intent. I thought maybe they were expecting dim sum carts to come rolling up.

    When Ducksauce vindicates Dany’s behavior by saying “She is the Mother of Dragons. Do you expect her to watch her people starve without breathing fire?” Dany gives Ser Jorah this big haughty over-the-shoulder glance like ” Tell me to be careful, huh, douchebag? There’s at least someone here who respects who I am”.