Game of Thrones Review: Night Terrors

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Give Melisandre points for honesty. She's been warning almost everyone whose path she comes across on Game of Thrones: The night is dark and full of terrors.

Meaning what, exactly? We found out on "Garden of Bones"

Stannis and Melisandre

This was easily my favorite episode of season two, due to one exhilarating scene after another, but we need to start at the end: What the heck was that?!?

Now seems like an ideal time to once again mention that I have not read the George R.R. Martin novels on which the show is based, so I can only speak as a TV viewer. (Check out Carissa Pavlica's Novel Approach to Game of Thrones for a different kind of take). And while I understand magic plays a role in Westeros - from Dany's dragons to Bran's direwolf-based dreams - and while I'm excited see what comes of Melisandre's unorthodox attack, my initial reaction to it is not positive.

For now, it just comes across like cheating. Random, unexpected cheating at that.

I loved the showdown between Stannis and Renly, brother against brother, wannabe king against wannabe king. I was anxious to learn how it would be resolved - so you can only imagine my reaction when the answer was... via magical vagina smoke?!? Safe to say I didn't see that coming.

There's no real way to analyze or make sense of such a conclusion. I obviously had no idea Melisandre was capable of, ummmm, magical vagina smoke. I thought she was more of spiritual advisor.

And I hope this isn't a trend. Game of Thrones is fascinating due to its rich, manipulative, layered characters and their machinations/schemes/actions. Granted, Melisandre's - one final time - magical vagina smoke does say an awful lot about Stannis (he doesn't exactly fight fair, renegging on his word to let Renly change sides in the morning; and then using a secret, indefensible weapon in the middle of the night), but it says it in a confounding language.

I'm content with a sci-fi element to GoT, but I don't want to see it become a dominant narrative.

Sansa on Her Knees

But that's my only complaint because, wow, "Garden of Bones" was engrossing from starting to final credits.

The opening stand-off between Tyrion and Joffrey was initially troubling... then amusing... and then quickly nauseating. Who didn't at first grimace over Joffrey's treatment of Sansa, only to then smile broadly when the Hand of the King interrupted and treated his boss and his henchmen like no one else in the kingdom would ever dare? (Now that is a threat...)

It was Tyrion at his best, as was his subsequent attempt to understand the situation and send two whores in to help his nephew... relax. Only Joffrey then treated viewers to what had to be one of the most disturbing scenes in television history.

He's smarter than he sometimes seems, quickly realizing Tyrion's scheme and punishing an innocent woman with lash after lash as a result. It was legitimately difficult to watch. The screams from the prostitute. The smirk on Joffrey's face. The imagining of what might lie ahead for Stansa or anyone who crosses Joffrey. Great, grotesque stuff all around.

Nor was Tyrion done being awesome. He later manipulated his way through Lancel, getting to the bottom (or sometimes top, I suppose) of that character's sexual relationship with his cousin (hey, it's an improvement upon her brother! Maybe Cercei will go for her second nephew once removed next.) and, of course, using it for his investigative purposes. It can only help to have a mole inside the kingdom.

And when I say inside the kingdom... nevermind. Let's move on.

We finally got some movement on the Daenerys front, as well. This Khaleesi was also at her best, even if the situation surrounding her people has been anything but for awhile now.

But Daenerys stood her ground, fighting and clawing in the face of desperation and adversity and eventually winning over at least one resident of Quarth. It's too early to really have a gauge on Xaro Xhoan Daxos, but that is one fine looking city! And also one interesting structure of rule, with merchants meeting potential visitors at the gate.

Daenerys remains far removed from the battle over the throne, but I can only assume her storyline will soon merge with many others and, for this episode at least, it was a pleasure enough to watch that tough Targerian we all fell in love with last season back in menacing action. Props, as always, must be given to Emilia Clarke here, who portrays Daenerys with the ideal mixture of moxie and fear.

Finally, we arrive at what can only be described as the second most disturbing scene in television history: Arya. Gendry. Prisoner rat torture. My insides hurt just thinking about it.

And I've never been so happy to see Tywin Lannister in all my life. I'm actually a big fan of his character in general - the man is all business and possesses tremendous screen presence - but he was especially welcome here, first for putting an end to the rodent gnawing (what were those captors asking about? Will it come into play later?), then for saving Arya's life and finally for offering up the intriguing future of how she'll work under his command.

Game of Thrones features so many characters in so many areas of Westeros and it's always interesting to see unexpected alliances form. Arya clearly will never be aligned with the Lannisters, but she'll have to pretend that she is now in order to both survive and hopefully cause some eventual problems within the family that murdered her father.

Just entertaining stuff from start to finish this week, with Joffrey at his cruelest, Tyrion at his funniest/most savvy, Daenerys at her bravest and Melisandre at her... smokiest. What did everyone else think?

And what has been the most disturbing scene for you so far on season two?

Garden of Bones Review

Editor Rating: 4.7 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.7 / 5.0 (123 Votes)

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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