Home > TV and anime > Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 4. Garden of Bones

Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 4. Garden of Bones


Game of Thrones is based on A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin. The content of Season 2 in this television adaptation by HBO is drawn from A Clash of Kings. As before, the production is helmed by David Benioff and D B Weis. Here is the link to my retrospective overview of Game of Thrones Season 1. This is a spoiler-rich discussion of what happens in each episode, so do not read this if you want to watch without prior knowledge.


Thematically we’ve moved beyond a mere consideration of the nature of power and into a study of what it takes to be an effective leader. Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) is almost completely without charisma, but he has the best claim to the throne so people follow him if only because it feels the right thing to do. Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) demonstrates it’s possible to be a complete nightmare for almost everyone around him yet still command by virtue of sitting on the throne. It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time with enough people cowed into following. As the Hand, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) is proving highly effective in making himself safe and signalling to the other clever people around him that, if they hang together, they can survive despite Joffrey and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey). He’s a survivor as leader because he has real political ability. Robb Stark (Richard Madden) has that rough northern charm that other northerners appreciate and the southeners think is evidence of mental deficiency until he beats them in battle. Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) is quietly competent and people would follow her because she’s full of common sense. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) is a leader in the making because she’s not afraid and instinctively loyal to those for whom she accepts responsibility.

King Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) on the Iron Throne


Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) also has charm, albeit of a different variety, and would prefer to negotiate rather than fight. He may have a big army, but it’s more for show. He’s also not pragmatic enough to be successful in the long term. He should get his wife, Lady Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), pregnant but is so completely gay, he can’t find her attractive enough for an erection. Balon Greyjoy (Patrick Malahide) is a taker. He doesn’t talk or negotiate. He just takes while the taking is good. People follow him because they all get their share. So far, no-one apart from Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) is following Jon Snow (Kit Harington). I suppose more people will follow after he’s had a chance to read Leadership For Dummies, due to be delivered by an Amazon in the next seven days. Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is showing all the symptoms of opportunism hampered by a shortage of brain but unhindered by any sense of morality. Apart from deciding who next to take to bed, he’s never had the chance to lead anything but a life free of responsibilities while held as a hostage by the Starks.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley)


We see Robb Stark winning the latest battle and taking the strategic high moral ground. He refuses to allow prisoners to be tortured to discover what the Lannisters might be planning. He prefers not to give them an excuse to harm his two sisters, while actually taking time to comfort his own wounded as best he can. There are also signs he may be running short of supplies. When challenged by Talisa Maegyr (Oona Chaplin) to defend killing innocent conscripts in the Lannister army, he has no good reply. His denial he would sit of the Iron Throne rings true but when he says he has no plan as to what should happen if he wins the war. . . Is that what leaders are supposed to be like? Joffrey, being on the losing side of the most recent battles, decides that hitting Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) is the best response. Fortunately for her, Tyrion is on hand to save a complete humiliation. Joffrey, however, is diverted by a voyuristic S&M session with two girls sent by Tyrion (HBO just can’t resist that extra sex scene of casual cruelty). To bolster his position, Tyrion blackmails Lancel Lannister (Eugene Simon) into spying on Cersei for him. Forewarned is forearmed, so they say.

Robb Stark (Richard Madden) wins another battle


Meanwhile Petyr Baelish aka Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) is off to see Renly and Lady Margaery Tyrell who seem to think numerical superiority wins battles. Littlefinger scathingly dismisses this idea with the insight that, if this was true, mathematicians would rule the world. To his surprise, Littlefinger finds Lady Margaery loyal to Renly (for now, anyway). When he meets Catelyn, there’s no love but the possibility of a deal is offered if she trades the hostage Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). As a token of his good faith, Tyrion returns her husband’s head (that should swing the deal). Brothers Renly and Stannis briefly discuss whether Stannis will be acclaimed king. Even Catelyn’s attempt to speak sense to the boys fails. So, to settle matters, Sir Davos Seaworth (Lian Cunningham) secretly brings Melisandre (Carice Van Houten) ashore and she gives birth to a dark shadow. Presumably, this is the seed she collected from Stannis in their sexual frolic now given a slightly different existence from the one he was expecting.

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) out in the desert


In the desert there’s word from a scout Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and the survivors will be welcomed in Qarth, a city three day’s march away. Standing outside the city in the so-called Garden of Bones, the Spice King (Nicholas Blane) asks her to show the dragons as a condition of entry. Instead, she threatens to return when they are fully grown and have the dragons burn the city down. Laughing at this display of gumption, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie) gives surety for them and they enter. Arya and the others arrive in jail at Harrenhal and are forced to watch as one of their number is taken every day and tortured. Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) arrives in time to save the remaining prisoners and recruit Arya as a his cup bearer.


This is a better episode and is moving things forward with a more urgent feel. Pleasingly, both Robb Stark and Tywin Lannister are shown with a good practical feel for what’s necessary to keep their troops focused on the essentials. The selection of which scenes to pluck from the book is working well to create a rolling series of insights into the characters and their motivations. Although we’re still in the slow build-up to the big battle coming near the end, we can now see where the real battlelines are being drawn.


For reviews of Season 2, see:
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 1. The North Remembers
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 2. The Night Lands
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 3. What Is Dead May Never Die
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 5. The Ghost of Harrenhal
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 6. The Old Gods and the New
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 7. A Man Without Honor
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 8. The Prince of Winterfell
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 9. Blackwater
Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 10. Valar Morghulis
Game of Thrones: Season 2 — the HBO series considered


  1. July 2, 2012 at 9:47 am

    I haven’t been following the HBO series, but I read the books and one thing I enjoyed was Martin’s penchant for rewarding characters according to their stupidity. The whole series reminds me of the cliche “War doesn’t decide who’s right, only who’s left.” It sounds like the series is playing that out.

    • July 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm

      Although Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark were killers, there was always the sense they achieved relative peace and stability for Westeros. Unfortunately neither was interested in actually ruling the kingdom. With so many greedy and selfish people allowed the space and time to plot and establish their own smaller power bases, it was only a matter of time before chaos would break out. And we can agree it takes a certain type of person to survive the unique type of chaos that comes through a civil war based on family loyalties. The stupid or inexperienced will only survive if they are lucky. Everyone else fights or is sufficiently useful to have others fight for them.

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