In case you didn't realize it before, Sunday night's episode of "Game of Thrones" should have made it quite clear: Westeros can be very, very weird.
Think about all the various forms of magic cropping up all over the Seven Kingdoms: the crippled Brandon Stark is able to walk again by way of his wolf dreams. North of the Wall, humanoid monsters with voices like crackling ice exist, with the ability to raise their victims from the dead. And across the Narrow Sea, the first dragons to be born in decades are beginning to grow under the love and care of exiled princess Daenerys Targaryen.
And now, on top of all of that, we have ... a shadow baby?!
Needless to say, episode four of the fantasy series' second season, "Garden of Bones," was a strange one. Keep reading for our take on the latest trip to Westeros, and watch the video below for more from our weekly "Watching the Thrones" roundup!
Hungry Like the Wolf
Robb Stark is a hugely important part of "A Clash of Kings," the novel upon which season two is based. But his physical presence leaves something to be desired — which is to say, he's rarely seen in the book, mostly talked about. That's not the case on "Game of Thrones." Here, Robb is fully present, as seen in the opening moments of "Garden of Bones." Robb's direwolf, Grey Wind, grows stronger with every battle, and Robb's skills as a tactician and leader of men are improving at the same pace. This latest episode also pulled the curtain back on something not seen in the books, but hugely important to Robb's character: a little trace of love. But that nurse on the battlefield does not go by the name Jeyne Westerling as she does in the books; indeed, as she presents herself, she's hardly a noble-born woman at all. Is it just an alias for now, a parlor trick that Jeyne is playing? Or has "Thrones" altered Robb's love interest in a seriously significant way?
The Greatest City in the World
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Qarth! At long last, Dany and her khalasar have reached civilization. And if the people of Qarth are to be believed, Dany has arrived at the greatest city in the world. If you're a bit skeptical of that claim, that's more than fair. But even if Qarth as a city doesn't necessarily live up to the hype (and that itself is up for debate), there are things that happen in Qarth that rank high on the list of all-time greatest "Thrones" moments. Needless to say, Dany has some interesting times ahead of her.
The Ghost of Harrenhal
Poor Arya Stark. It's just not getting any better for the little girl forced to live as a little boy. Arya, Gendry and Hot Pie found themselves at the mercy of the Tickler and the Mountain in this week's episode, watching the pair interrogate their prisoners to death with a disturbingly clever combination of a rat, a bucket and a torch. Not pretty stuff. Even the arrival of Tywin Lannister is hardly a mercy; he's more civilized than their initial captors, sure, but he's a Lannister all the same. On the bright side, now Arya has a few more names to add to her people-to-kill list alongside Queen Regent Cersei and her wicked son Joffrey.
Draining the Poison
Speaking of Joffrey, he's just getting worse and worse with each episode, if you can believe it. From beheading Ned Stark to threatening Sansa's life with a crossbow held at point-blank range, Joffrey's wicked ways seem to know no bounds. And that's not even the worst of it: The way he made the two prostitutes purchased for him by Tyrion torture each other was absolutely sickening to watch. Joffrey is easily one of the most loathsome characters in all of "Ice and Fire" lore, if not the most loathsome — and believe it or not, he's even more unlikable on the show. Brutal, brutal, brutal.
While the latest episode of "Thrones" ended the show's three-week kid-killing streak, it made up for the combo-breaker by having us witness the priestess Melisandre give birth to a shadow baby. A shadow baby. Clearly, it's a bit more complicated than that, but it's strange and horrific to behold all the same. If you ever doubted that Melisandre has magic at her disposal, doubt her no longer. Perhaps she hasn't backed the right horse in the race for the Iron Throne, but she definitely has formidable power on her side, as Davos can attest to firsthand. As for where that shadow baby's headed next? Readers of the books certainly know — and if you haven't read the books, well, keep the Kleenex on hand. You're going to need it.
Tell us what you thought of the latest "Thrones" in the comments section!