Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.4: Garden of Bones

A Demonstration of Marquis de Sade and Machiavelli

This week’s Game of Thrones covered a wide range of stories. Robb conquered another Lannister army while Lord Baelish confronted Cateyln and brought her back Eddard’s bones for burial. Arya made it to treacherous Haranhal where endless amount of prisoners died while being interrogated. Daenerys found safety for her people in the city of Qarth. Meanwhile, Joffrey further showed his evil nature by beating two prostitutes.

The Marquis de Sade would have thoroughly enjoyed this episode for the torcher and violence was nonstop. This episode makes and argument against young rulers who inherit their power and do not know what it means to be a good leader. Joffrey does not have to make any decisions concerning the realm. Tyrion is in charge of all of the day to day affairs leaving Joffrey with ample amount of leisure time. He does not know how to conduct himself in a kingly manner or what it means to lead a kingdom. His only concern is for his own earthly pleasures, which in true Marquis de Sade fashion involves torture and pain. He gains pleasure from Sansa begging him to spare her life in the wake of her brother’s transgressions. He then sits and watches with anticipation and glee as one of his knights beats her in court. Joffrey even enacts his love of pain on two innocent prostitutes sent to his room to ease his “physical” discomfort. He proceeds to stop them from comforting him physically and casts them as characters in his torture chamber play. Game of Thrones is not the only story that warns against the sadistic and selfish nature of rulers. The Tudors on Showtime also showcases what happens when the king is able to do whatever he wants without consequence. Henry VIII carries on multiple affairs and even kills one of his queens in order to allow himself to wed again. Dragonheart also offers a warning against young rulers. Though Einon was taught an honorable code as a young boy, when he becomes king in his late teens he quickly turns into a tyrannical ruler enslaving his people so they can build him a better castle.

This episode also focused on the lack of respect for human life during times of war. Cruel and unusual ways were thought up to torture people in order to extract information from them or just to punish them for being on the other side. This episode makes the viewer squirm as prisoners of Haranhal are interrogated and tortured. It showcases the utter depravity that went into thinking up these interrogation techniques. For example, Arya watches in horror as another prisoner is tortured and killed by placing a rat in a bucket, strapping the bucket to the prisoner’s chest, then heating the bucket so the only way the rat can escape is by burrowing into the prisoner’s chest. Though these scenes are uncomfortable to watch, showcasing the depravity of human torture techniques during these medieval eras is common place in television and film. The Tudors has a scene where someone is boiled alive in oil. Braveheart portrays a vivid scene of William Wallace being drawn, disemboweled, and then beheaded. The use of these scenes of egregious violence play a prominent role in television and film productions that take place during medieval time periods. One wonders if this is just to add to the entertainment value of the piece (but how much entertainment can be added by making someone repulsed and physically ill) or is it to show the extent of the horrors that occurred during this era and allow people to be more grateful that they live in a more civilized time. 

All in all Garden of Bones seems to juxtapose two types of rulers: those that rule their people well and those that are found lacking in leadership skills. In fact this episode seems to be a clear cut example right out of Machiavelli’s The Prince. This episode brings to light the debate of whether it is better to be feared or loved. All of the leaders in this episode definitely ascribe to the “it is better to be feared” motto of ruling but only two follow Machiavelli’s guidelines so that they are feared but not hated. Joffrey obviously is feared but his tactics that make him feared do not enable his people to respect him and often lead the people of his realm to hate him. His bloodlust and idea that since he is king he can take anything that he likes and do anything that he likes, leads to those around him to hate him, only giving him a few loyal subjects. When the war comes it is most likely that he will not have a large base of subjects to defend his kingdom against the usurpers. Robb and Lord Tywin understand what it means to be feared but not hated. Robb will strike vengeance on the Lannister armies but when the battle is done, he respects the rules of war not executing prisoners or harming those that help wounded men, whether they be fighting for Stark or for Lannister. Lord Tywin, though a Lannister and thus thought to be one the antagonists of the series, rules wisely. He too is obviously feared for he commands a large army and extracts pain on those who fight against him. Lord Tywin, however, also shows ruling grace by admonishing those soldiers who would torture and kill prisoners instead of putting them to work to help better serve the Lannister army. The juxtaposition of these leaders greatly demonstrates the qualities that make a successful ruler and the qualities that will eventually lead to a ruler’s demise.