GoT: Don’t End up in the Garden of Bones
So, I’ve noticed that a lot of people are confused about the unifying theme of this episode, and I’d like throw in my reading: the whole episode boils down to Tyrion’s line about Sansa that she “may yet survive us all.”
This episode is about what people will do to stay alive, and if anything they can do will help save them. Almost scene involved a character facing a deadly situation, in which they had only one way out and usually didn’t know what it was. Sansa couldn’t get Joffery to stop hurting her, but she could follow Tyrion and stick to the party line. Ros could either sadistically torture a particularly vulnerable-looking prostitute or be sadistically tortured herself. Petyr could shut up about love or Cat could stab him (great scene).
In a lot of cases, the characters had no idea what they could do to escape, like when Dany tried desperately to figure out how to get into Qarth, or didn’t even realize they needed to look out. Renly had no idea he was bargaining for his life, and no one in Harrenhal knew anything about anything, much less how to avoid getting killed.
Which brings us to the agonizing soul of tonight’s episode, the little people. The high lords and ladies are playing at their games, and occasionally they get captured by the enemy or threatened with Joffery, but they all live largely in comfort, and widows can even get the bones of their husbands returned. Not so for the nameless commoners, who are viciously tortured for information without even knowing why, or the random soldiers like the crippled boy, whose enemy never knew his name or bore him any hate, but who will never walk again. The gray haired woman in Harrenhal represented all these people for me, with her thousand-yard stare and her utter resignation to her fate, to the fate of all those she loves. Most of the people dying in these battles at court and in the field have no names and no luxury of choice.
So I love that they added in the prostitute scene and I think it was totally essential, although I’ll never ever watch it again. I think it’s a really good show-don’t-tell setup for Joffery’s eventual fate at the hands of Margery’s aunt, and solidifies that long term plot in a way the tv show really needed.
Also, I think all the additions work really well here to flesh out non POV characters, like Robb and Jeyne’s story (I can’t remember—did she have any lines?), Tywin (Yes, I laughed, I couldn’t believe it), and Littlefinger (I always wondered in the book why he didn’t try to get Cat after she was widowed).
Finally, I’d like to applaud the choice to not make Qarth incredibly racist. I don’t quite remember if the people in Qarth were as Orientalized as the people in Meereen, but it was an easy trap to fall into and I’m pleased they sidestepped it.