Garden of Bones
|"Garden of Bones"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
Daenerys and her khalasar at the gates of Qarth, in the area known as "the Garden of Bones"
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||David Petrarca|
|Written by||Vanessa Taylor|
|Featured music||Ramin Djawadi|
|Original air date||April 22, 2012|
|Running time||51 minutes|
"Garden of Bones" is the fourth episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones. The episode is written by Vanessa Taylor and directed by David Petrarca. It premiered on April 22, 2012.
The episode's title comes from a phrase used by Ser Jorah Mormont to describe the desert surrounding the city of Qarth to Daenerys.
In the Westerlands
Robb Stark (Richard Madden) wins another battle over the Lannister armies. Afterwards, he discusses the captured Lannister personnel with Lord Roose Bolton (Michael McElhatton). Bolton favours torturing and eliminating the prisoners for practical purposes, but Robb insists on their fair treatment and reminds him that his sisters are still prisoners at King's Landing. Robb later meets a neutral field nurse, Talisa (Oona Chaplin), while aiding in a foot amputation on a Lannister soldier. Despite Robb's protests, Talisa holds him accountable for the carnage at the battle; her spirit and forthrightness leave him impressed.
At King's Landing
King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) continues to grow more and more cruel; after hearing of Robb Stark's latest victory, he orders Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie) to deliver a public beating and shaming of Robb's sister, Sansa (Sophie Turner). Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) arrive in time to defuse the situation; Bronn later suggests to Tyrion that sex may calm the boy king, and Tyrion arranges for the prostitutes Ros (Esmé Bianco) and Daisy (Maisie Dee) to service Joffrey. However, Joffrey instead sadistically forces Ros to beat Daisy to send a message to Tyrion. Later, Ser Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) visits Tyrion and informs him that Queen Cersei has ordered the release of Grand Maester Pycelle. Tyrion tells Lancel that he is aware of Lancel's affair with Cersei, but will keep the truth from Joffrey in exchange for Lancel spying on Cersei for him.
Having been previously captured, Arya (Maisie Williams), Gendry (Joe Dempsie), and Hot Pie (Ben Hawkey) are brought to the ruined castle of Harrenhal, currently under occupation of the Lannister Army. The garrison there, under command of Gregor "The Mountain" Clegane (Ian Whyte), is brutally torturing and killing prisoners daily for information concerning a group called "The Brotherhood." Gendry is eventually selected to be tortured next, but before he can be harmed, Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) arrives, ending the brutality and ordering the prisoners be put to work. When Polliver (Andy Kellegher) catches Arya staring at her sword, Needle, he threatens her. However, she is spared by Tywin, who recognizes that she is a girl and makes her his cupbearer.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) receives word from Kovarro (Steven Cole) that the city of Qarth is nearby, and they are willing to welcome the "Mother of Dragons." Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) cautions that Qarth is located in the "Garden of Bones," the brutal desert in which those turned away by Qarth have perished. When Daenerys' "horde" arrives in Qarth, they are met by the Thirteen, the leaders of the city. One of the Thirteen, a spice merchant, speaks for the group and bargains to see Daenerys' dragons in exchange for food and rest inside Qarth. Daenerys asks that her people are attended to first before she reveals her dragons, and the Thirteen decide to turn Daenerys's group away and abandon them to the Garden of Bones. Daenerys swears vengeance on Qarth should they not comply, and one of the Thirteen, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), breaks with the group and vouches for the behavior of Daenerys' people through a blood oath, after which they are allowed to enter the city.
In the Stormlands
Petyr "Littlefinger" Baelish (Aidan Gillen) arrives in the Stormlands and meets Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) to discuss the siege of King's Landing. Later, he presses Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) about her marriage and Renly's relationship with her brother Loras (Finn Jones), but the potential queen rebuffs his questions. He next meets with Catelyn (Michelle Fairley), who flies into a rage at the sight of him. Littlefinger tells her that the Lannisters have both Sansa and Arya and want to trade them for Ser Jaime. As a gesture of good will, he brings her Ned's remains. Later, Renly and Catelyn meet with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre (Carice van Houten). Stannis offers Renly the chance to surrender in exchange for becoming his heir, but Renly denies Stannis, since he possesses the larger army and the support of many noble families. Before departing, Stannis tells Renly he has until sunrise to reconsider or be destroyed.
At night, Stannis orders Davos (Liam Cunningham) to take Melisandre to shore and to be sure they are not seen. Once ashore, Melisandre reveals she is, impossibly, in late-stage pregnancy and gives birth to a horrific, shadowy figure, which disappears in a cloud of smoke.
"Garden of Bones" was the first of two episodes written by Vanessa Taylor, the season's addition to the writing staff. The producers acknowledge that Robb's storyline is "one of the places where novels diverge pretty drastically from television." They felt that the book's approach of having him off-scene most of the time and portraying his deeds in the battlefield only from second-hand reports was not going to work in a visual medium. Also, the talent and magnetism that Richard Madden demonstrated during the first season convinced them to expand his presence and portray his love story onscreen.
The new setting of Qarth is also introduced, and with it three roles cast among The Thirteen, the governing body of the city:
- Xaro Xhoan Daxos played by Nonso Anozie. In the books, Xaro is a native of Qarth and is white, but in the series Xaro is an immigrant from the Summer Isles and is black. Many other traits of the original character, such as his homosexuality and constant crying, have been removed in the adaptation. Anozie revealed that he had auditioned for another role for season 1, and HBO wanted to cast him, but a schedule conflict prevented him from appearing.
- The Spice King played by Nicholas Blane. The character has been created for the show, but he embodies the book's Ancient Guild of Spicers, one of the merchant factions that rival Xaro Xhoan Daxos.
- Pyat Pree played by Ian Hanmore, who has no lines in this episode but is present in the reception at the gates.
Charles Dance returns as Tywin Lannister and is added to the main cast list and included in the opening credits (he had been a recurring guest star during the first season). The episode marks the first appearance of Ian Whyte as Gregor Clegane. Clegane had been previously played by Conan Stevens in season 1. Whyte had previously played the White Walker seen in the first episode, as well as in the second season episode "The Night Lands."
The episode also introduced numerous external locations: the gates of Qarth were constructed in Dubac quarry near Dubrovnik, on cliffs over the Adriatic Sea; the scenes in the caves below Renly's camp were filmed at the Cushendun Caves, County Antrim; and the set representing the huge ruined castle of Harrenhal was built near Banbridge, County Down.
Staging and props
The closing scene with Melisandre birthing the shadow creature was shot at night, in a real cave and in cold weather. The scene was very taxing for actress Carice van Houten, who had to be naked and scream loudly during the labour. For this reason, the scene could not be rehearsed before filming. To make van Houten appear pregnant the show's prosthetic artist Conor O'Sullivan prepared a fake belly that could be operated by pneumatics to simulate the childbirth. The creature was added using CGI.
Masie Dee, the pornographic actress who played the abused prostitute Daisy, described her experience with Game of Thrones on her blog. She wrote that her character was unnamed during the shooting of her first scene (her trailer was labeled "Nubile Whore") but graduated to having a name later. The scene of her abuse at Joffrey's orders took a day to shoot, using alternately a real leather belt and a soft prop to depict Daisy being whipped by Ros.
The number of viewers of the first airing remained steady for the fourth week in a row, reaching 3.7 million viewers.
"Garden of Bones" was received with generally positive opinions from most commentators. IGN's Matt Fowler gave it a 9 out of 10, calling it "a ferocious treat, overloaded with misery, torture and a total 'WTF!' black magic-fueled ending."  Both David Sims and Todd VanDerWerff, the two reviewers from The A.V. Club, rated it with a B+. TV fanatic's Matt Richenthal also considered it the best of the season but was worried about the ending and how magic would be dealt with in the show.
There was consensus in considering the episode the most violent and gruesome to date. Writing for The Guardian Sarah Hughes summed it up: "This was an exceptionally violent episode. It featured: one death by Direwolf; one graphic foot amputation; two separate uses of a crossbow as a weapon of intimidation; the continued humiliation of Sansa, stripped and beaten on Joffrey's orders; the brutal whipping of a whore again at Joffrey's command; two torture scenes (one of which was interrupted); a couple of backhanders; several dead bodies and one (slightly camp) Qartheen blood oath."
Many commentators praised the acting in this episode, highlighting Michelle Fairley in the scene where Cat receives her late husband's bones and Peter Dinklage when Tyrion confronts his cousin Lancel. Myles McNutt at Cultural Learnings wrote: "The problem is that I’m pretty sure any viewer who watched this would know immediately that she is intended as Robb’s love interest, and there’s a simplicity to that which I object to."
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