These are trying times for the realm. The new king is wild for the night, while at least four challengers plot to relieve him of his title. Some families scheme to use the chaos to pursue their own agendas; other rulers, however, would like nothing more than to mind their own business. Alliances are broken, while new ones are formed, but this being wartime, a stern outlook is necessary as well.
For every good man that finds himself forced to make hard decisions, war also unleashes the inner cruelty of many more who are simply rotten, through and through. That's bad news for the likes of a couple hookers and forcibly betrothed teenage girls, but for us at home it resulted in season two's most entertaining episode of Game of Thrones so far.
Joffrey gets his rocks off
It's been clear for a while now that sour faced King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) is innately a sick bastard (pun intended) and each week we get a bigger, nastier example of just how nutty he is. "Garden of Bones" begins with the young Robb Stark (Richard Madden) taking yet another Lannister camp (he's really letting his direwolf go to work). Yes, that's yet another off-screen battle but we're OK with that as reports indicate that all that money saved went into shooting an allegedly spectacular battle royale due in episode nine.
How does the little prince react to such bad news from the warmth and safety of King's Landing? Well, first he takes it out on Robb's innocent, defenseless younger sister—and his own future queen—for the whole royal court to see. Is Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) the last man of honor in King's Landing? He and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) continue their dynamic crusade to clean up the Red Keep and publicly dress down Joffrey and his unscrupulous knights, but a verbal beating is only a temporary fix.
Bronn suggests the royal prick might have reached the age where it'd be appropriate for him to start spending his idle time in other ways, namely spilling his poison into prostitutes. The thing is Joffrey's motivations go way deeper than blue balls. In fact, if this series took place in modern times we're pretty sure he'd be a serial killer. Tyrion's goodwill gift of Ros (Esme Bianco) and another playmate didn't result in any sex, at least as far as we saw. Just more sadism. We so don't want to know what went down with that staff.
Arya and Gendry beat the odds yet again
Last week it was unclear whether Arya (Maisie Williams) and Gendry (Joe Dempsie) were the captives of knights from King's Landing, but this week we see the monstrous, kid-murdering group that murdered Yoren were soldiers on Team Lannister. The rest of the group bound for The Wall are taken to Harrenhal, one of Tywin Lannister's (Charles Dance) campaign headquarters, and when the boss is away his army is up to some Joffrey-level sick shit.
Apparently The Mountain chooses one prisoner daily and that unlucky person is subjected to vague, mysterious interrogation before being subjected to a torture where a rat is coerced to chew through them to escape a bucket with a torch held to it. Conveniently the level-headed Tywin shows up just as Gendry's insides are about to get excavated, and what's more, he finds use for the clever Arya, aware that she's a girl in disguise but not yet aware of her true identity. Still, nice as he may seem here let us remember this is the same dude who raised Cersei, Jamie, and Tyrion, all of whom have intense daddy issues. No good can come of this.
Dany Gets Her Swag Back
We'd be fools to complain about any time the beautiful Daenerys "Mother of Dragons" Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) spends on our screen, and Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) is chill, but good God we are glad they are finally out of that damn desert. It was only two scenes, and over the span of only two episodes, but with the way other plots move on this series the Dothraki Desert Crawl felt awkwardly sluggish.
More importantly, it showed a downtrodden, defeated Dany, which is not how we like to see our Dragon Mother. "Garden of Bones" found her back on her bullshit, thugging dudes twice her size and age and winning for it. As she stood in the titular wasteland, outside the beautiful city of Qarth, she refused to take "no" for an answer from the city's clown-ass guard. In theory, she'd die before her dragons were fully grown enough to make good on her awesomely delivered threat to burn the city down, but she impressed another member of "The Thirteen" enough for him to overrule his peer and let the khalasar in. Dragon Mother for the win.
Red priestess; Man in Black
Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is not a monstrous man in nature, but his allegiance with the priestess Melisandre (Carice van Houten) has changed his perspective on resorting to monstrous methods to win. Or rather, birthing them. The biggest WTF moment of the year so far came at the end of last night's episode, when Mel scarred Davos (Liam Cunningham) for life by birthing a smoke monster right before his eyes. It's quite possible some time has passed since she and Stannis did the deed, but it definitely hasn't been nine months, so we were quite perplexed when she initially unveiled her swollen belly. Little did we know that proper gestation time was the last thing we needed to worry about.
Renly (Gethin Anthony) is playing the atypical petulant little brother in his quest to take the throne over Stannis, but he's playing the game right. There's no way Stannis can beat his 100,000-plus army in a fair fight and he knows it. As Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) pointed out, they'd be much better suited to put the sibling rivalry aside and join forces. Unbeknownst to everyone else, it would seem that Stannis has already passed the point of no return, and whatever he and Melisandre had cooking in her oven is sure to even the playing field next week.
—Robb reportedly has a bigger presence this season than he does in the corresponding book, and he scores high with the female portion of the audience. Last night he met a hot, opinionated nurse(?). Doesn't take a mathematician to see where this is going.
—Tyrion releases Pycelle but gains a new ear in his dim-witted cousin Lancel, after putting the fear of the gods into him when he quickly deduces that he's keeping Cersei's sexual needs met while Jamie remains prisoner (knowledge of either pairing would drive Joffrey more mad than he already is).
—Speaking of Jamie, Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) visits Cat to appeal for his release in exchange for the Stark girls. He's still a disgusting, bold-faced liar (he has no idea where Arya is) but at least he returned what remains of Ned's corpse.
—The well-written and delivered jokes about Renly and Loras will never get old.
Written by Frazier Tharpe (@The_SummerMan)