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Even in Thrones world of dragons, the birth of a shadow monster was something new

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Month of Thrones

We’re counting down to Game Of Thrones’ final season by distilling the fantasy epic to 30 essential moments. This is Month Of Thrones.

The moment

Melisandre gives birth to a shadow monster

The episode

Garden Of Bones” (season two, episode four)

Throughout the first season, there was the sense that Westeros was, barring some folklore and celestial alterations to seasons, not all that unlike our own medieval history. The arrival of Dany’s dragons shook up that mentality, but with the events of “Garden Of Bones,” we leave any real-world considerations behind, as the show confronts us—and the disbelieving Davos—with the incontrovertible proof that there are magical forces at work far beyond anything we could ascribe to natural causes. Stannis dispatches Davos and Melisandre on a mysterious mission to deal with the problem of his brother Renly, and after their midnight boat ride, the witchy redhead disrobes, lays on the ground, and groans her way into giving birth to the pure CGI creation of a shadow monster, tasked with murdering the younger Baratheon (which happens the following episode).

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Unveiling Melisandre’s pregnant form—and the supernatural being residing within her—sent the series firmly into the realm of magic and sorcery, opening up the swords-and-soldiers clash to far more mystical possibilities. It prepped its audience for the many hyperreal flourishes to come, from the face-swapping capabilities of Ja’aqen H’ghar, to the swirling ethereal realms of the House Of Black And White, to the eventual undead armies that will eventually threaten all of Westeros. None of it beggared belief, thanks to this early display of the potential for paranormal machinations. We knew this meant the Lord Of Light had some real juice—and that poor Renly was surely doomed.

What we said then

“Stannis is cold and somewhat brutish, and he’s not above using underhanded tricks to get his way. (Every time your personal witch gives birth to a demon baby, you should probably assume nothing good will come of it.)”

Elsewhere in the episode

Dany and her khalasar are half-dead by the time they’re allowed into the city of Qarth by the merchant Xaro Xhoan Daxos; Joffrey takes out his anger over Robb’s military victories on poor Sansa, until Tyrion saves her from a very public beating; Littlefinger meets up with Catelyn and convinces her that Sansa and Arya will be fine if she lets Jaime go; Robb meet his wife-to-be on the battlefield, where she gets him to think a little harder about the effects of all this carnage; and Arya becomes Tywin Lannister’s new cup-holder at Harrenhal.

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Previously: Daenerys Targaryen “gives birth” to her dragon babies
Next: Ygritte tells it like it is: “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”

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