Game of Thrones · NIU · Scholars of the Throne

The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

This week’s blog covers:

S2 Ep 4: “Garden of Bones”

S2 Ep 5: “The Ghosts of Harrenhal”

S2 Ep 6: “The Old Gods and the New”

This Week’s Highlight(s):

I’d like to start out this week’s highlights with a shout out to the commoners of King’s Landing. This week, they not only made their opinions known, they acted out against the royal family, whom have ignored their starvation and strife. In “The Ghosts of Harrenhal,” Tyrion previews the distaste for the Lannister’s and their reign while walking about the city with Bronn. The commoners despise King Joffrey and rightly so. This foolish ruler has no respect for his people and would rather have them killed at any sign of dissonance, than to rule with just and concern. The outraged commoners return in “The Old Gods and the New” as Joffrey, Sansa, and the Lannister crew return from Princess Myrcella’s departure. The commoners heckle the King as he passes, beg for food, and even throw a massive cow pie at his face.


If anyone ever deserved a cow pie to the face, it’s King Joffrey.


In previous blogs, I have discussed production elements that are the basis for what you see and what you hear in Game of Thrones. Understanding how the auditory and visual elements combine helps viewers understand the show’s depth and detail. This week, Game of Thrones audio is a highlight. Neil Verma discusses the sound artistry of the series in, Wall of Sound: Listening to Game of Thrones. He looks at the entire auditory experience of the series from its soundtrack to the ambient sounds of the universe. Verma asserts that the most menacing and graphic of scenes may be those that are ‘shown’ only through sound. This technique is amplified even further when the sources of the sounds are not revealed. Verma explores the torture scenes in “Garden of Bones” when Arya first arrives at Harrenhal. As we hear a man screaming for mercy and chains rattling, we only see the faces of the prisoners, the camera focused on an expressionless woman, who explains that they have just killed their son, her sister and husband before that. Verma calls this, “a radiophonic supplement to the televisual space” (81), which instills even more terror in the viewer. Verma’s article explains much more and expands on all four seasons. Please be aware that this article is spoiler heavy, so if you do not want anything spoiled, wait until after you catch up to read it.

This Week’s Lowlife(s):

Theon is quickly rising to the top of the lowlifes. Theon solidifies this when he takes over Winterfell in “The Old Gods and the New.” In an attempt to establish himself as “Prince Theon” and gain respect from his men from the Iron Islands, Theon executes Ser Rodrik Cassel, on the basis that he should pay the iron price for spitting on him. Theon’s beheading of Ser Rodrik proves he is weak and unjust. We see Theon’s initial blow but are left with only a low angle shot of Theon fruitlessly hacking away with his sword and splatters of blood. Like the Harrenhal scene discussed earlier, Ser Rodrik’s actual beheading occurs mostly off screen. We hear the screams of Bran in the background and the dramatic soundtrack, which all add to the intensity of the moment. A completely botched beheading made possible by the Foley artists of Game of Thrones, Theon eventually kicks Rodrik’s head off and we see it roll away. Theon left standing in the rain, he has truly lost his mind and can never come back from this moment. This scene is almost immediately followed by Ygritte’s request for Jon Snow to strike hard and true during her beheading or she will haunt him as a ghost. We can only hope that Ser Rodrik comes back to haunt the treacherous weakling, Theon.

Thought Provoking Theme:

This week’s stand out theme is that of torture. We see it throughout these episodes and will become even more abundant as the series moves forward. We see physical torture played out on Joffrey’s behalf. In “Garden of Bones” Joffrey has Sansa stripped and beaten for her brother’s defeats over the Lannisters, as well as, witness Joffrey force Ros to beat Daisy senselessly, even adding a wooden cane to the torture. Joffrey’s madness continues to grow and torture is his weapon. We also see physical torture at Harrenhal, which the man known as the Tickler inflicts. These gruesome scenes add horror to the episodes and truly express what a savage world we inhabit as we watch. We also see emotional torture in Cersei in the departure of her daughter, Princess Myrcella to Dorne. Both physical and emotional torture is utilized as a tactic of war between houses and families alike.


Verma, Neil. “Wall of Sound: Listening to Game of Thrones.” Critical Quarterly 57.1

(2015): 71-85.

10 thoughts on “The Night is Dark and Full of Terrors

  1. That beheading scene where Theon takes Rodrick’s life is gruesome. At this point in the show, I’m expecting beheadings. But that? Let’s just say that although Theon was my most disliked character – that scene was powerful in garnering even greater dislike. It’s combines ruthlessness, weakness, and instability. Nastiness, thy name is Theon Greyjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The audio in this show is very effective and at times quite sickening. On a lighter note, that slap Tyrion lands on Joffrey;s face alone should have won Emmys for sound mixing and editing.


  3. I have to say that Jon Snow is more honorable than Theon right now. They both had willing sujects, but Jon just could not go through with it. Theon deserves to be on your list. I enjoyed the fact that Osha was able to trick him and escape with Bran, Hordor, and Rickon.


  4. I like that you brought up the intro to the torture, and that at first, we only see the faces of the prisoners. Sound effects and music are so powerful. It’s better that we only hear it at first, I think that was more powerful than if we had seen what was going on right away.


  5. A “Radiophonic supplement”? What is that supposed to mean? I’m hoping he explained.

    The botched beheading is interesting in that it’s the moment where Theon attempts to do something in the Ned Stark manner. Joffrey, on the other hand, is only too glad to order Ilyan Payne to do the honors. There’s some other famous movie that features a character botching the beheading but for the life of me I can’t think of the name, but Theon was much more capable when he killed the Wilding who had Bran in his grasp. Theon has so many transgressive moments I kind of feel for the guy, but he’s also quite awful to the Captain of the ship’s daughter as well as to Roz and Osha. Just not a good idea to send a kid off to be a hostage apparently.

    As far as Cersei being tortured by losing Myrcella, well, there really aren’t any scenes where she actually enjoys having the kids around–seems more interested in Lancel.


  6. The violence seems to me amping up hardcore. The head being hammered onto the spike in Harrenhal and the rat in the bucket torture scene made me squeamish. But good news, it only gets worse.


  7. I thought the torture and cruelty of that scene was interesting with Theon. For a moment you see him almost lean towards not beheading him. And it’s sad knowing that his choices later end up not appeasing his father as he hoped. So the killing of Ser Rodrik was pointless and just garnered the hatred of people who may have actually cared for him and fails to impress the people he wants the respect of. In a lot of stories cruelty seems to pay off as a means to an end but for Theon, definitely not.


  8. Interesting points about the music and the audio! There are definitely times where I find myself paying more attention to the sounds that accompany what I’m seeing on the screen. The moment when we first see Harrenhal sends chills down the viewers spine, and I think this has to do with what you’re seeing and hearing. The sounds of the beheadings in the show always make me cringe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I also wrote on torture this week. These scenes absolutely feel like watching a horror movie. The question really becomes.. is Joffrey actually mad/insane? I think it’s interesting to talk about torture and madness as intertwined commodities.

    Liked by 1 person

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