Mon
Apr 30 2012 12:30pm

Game of Thrones, Season 2, Ep. 5, “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Things got off to a characteristically grim and shocking start on this week’s episode of Game of Thrones.

After the opening scene, we were treated to an episode heavy on characters. It was a welcome relief after the torture and gratuitousness of last week. Why, this might’ve been the first episode of Game of Thrones without a single bared breast. (Except for that shirtless fat guy begging in King’s Landing.) But just because this episode didn’t earn a hard R doesn’t mean it was without some exciting developments.

Warning: episode reviews contain episode and book spoilers. If you want to remain spoiler-free, follow Leigh Butler’s read of ASOIaF. Tor.com is not liable for your further enjoyment of the series if later books get spoiled in the comments.

Three minutes into the episode and Renly’s dead. It happened so fast even I was shocked — and I knew it was coming. I kind of wish Stannis’ shadow could stick around a bit longer, cause a little more chaos. It was a cool effect. Much better than those green ghosts in Return of the King.

Anyway. Now the clash for the Iron Throne is down a king and Cat and Brienne can run off on a Westerosi buddy adventure. You have to feel for Brienne, losing Renly like that when she loves him as more than a king. I may have chuckled a bit when I saw that last night’s big plot point on HBO’s Girls—don’t judge; I was too lazy to change the channel—was a character’s relationship with an ex who turned out to be gay. It’s an issue women have faced since probably the dawn of time.

Renly’s widow Margaery didn’t seem too broken up about his death. She’s a crafty one and though it will most likely be a while before we see her again, I’m already looking forward to it. Her hunger for power doesn’t rub me the wrong way, like Theon’s does, for example. It’s all in the attitude. (Who else could rock a high fashion dress that looks like an embroidered burrito?) Or maybe, because I’m female, I recognize and root for Margaery to get her throne because it’s so rare for women to have any agency in Westeros. She’s making the best of what they’ve given to her. One could say the same for Cersei, but she’s got that hubris. Margaery hasn’t done anything vile. Yet. So for now, I like her.

Inside the city of Qarth, Dany finally took a bath and has a sweet little set-up thanks to the rich merchant Xaro. The costume and set designers must have a blast working with Dany. There’s such a different, vibrant color palatte in the East. We got to learn how Dany trains her dragons. I loved those parts of the book. Like Margaery, a smart marriage seems to be the easiest way for Dany to secure a good future. To his credit, Xaro isn’t a starry-eyed suitor. He’s a practical man, crafty in his own way. I like him, too, but I kind of hope those Dothraki swipe some of his best silverware because really? Xaro may throw a great garden party, but what person could even consider proposing to such a new widow.

Fire is power in Qarth and in King’s Landing. I love when Tyrion’s got a plan.

Over in Harrenhal, the dreariest castle in Westeros, Arya just learned what agency feels like, thanks to her new friend Jaqen. Arya’s got some set on her, to stare down Tywin Lannister like that. The look that passed between them when she said “Anyone can be killed,” was chilling. When she immediately met Jaqen and he offered to knock three names off of her prayer list, I thought for sure the show was going to go in a completely different direction from the books. She still might. Who knows? She’s still got two wishes.

I wish Arya would just randomly name Theon. Sea Bitch is an appropriate name for his ship. Or maybe it’s just prophetic. I wonder if George wasn’t making a little joke because Theon is a bitch, for what he’s got planned to get in his father’s good graces. As good as the little lord of Winterfell is, I don’t think Bran’s prepared for what’s coming.

Beyond the Wall, the Night’s Watch has reached the Fist of the First Men and Jon gets his chance to be a ranger.

And there you have it. An episode of Game of Thrones without boobs. We’re now halfway through the season. Things are only going to get more exciting from here as Dany vies for position in Qarth and Jon goes after Mance Rayder, the King-Beyond-the-Wall.

Game of Thrones airs 9PM E/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com. She covers True Blood, Game of Thrones, and is also an avid gamer. She has also covered tech and TV for Geektress.com and Action Flick Chick. Follower her on Twitter @tdelucci

33 comments
Jim Burnell
1. JimBurnell
This was my favorite episode in the series so far. Easily.

Other things that deserve mention:
* First encounter with Pyat Pree, of the House of the Undying, who was CREEPY. Kept expecting him to try to eat Dany's brains.
* First encounter with the REALLY COOL mysterious Quaithe of Asshai
* The scene where Mormont explained why Daenerys has his undying loyalty -- for very good reasons -- and she realizes that Xaro is correct: Mormont is in love with her. Was that in the book? I need to re-read.

Also the scene that seems to have been left out that I was most surprised by: Jon Snow (with Ghost's help) finding the ancient stash of dragonglass. That's gotta happen somewhere, doesn't it?
Richard Fife
2. R.Fife
Huh, it registered yet didn't that yes, this was a breastless episode, which is even odder seeing as GRRM went at pains in the books to describe how the fashion in Qarth is to leave one breast hanging out. Guess they didn't want to give Jorah too much to look at yet.

Otherwise, I agree: this episode was actually really good all around. Stannis actually felt like book-Stannis with his conversation w/ Davos, and Tyrion was finally getting to his high-crest of Made-of-Awesome that I remember from the books.

The one gripe I have is nothing to do with the execution of the show, per se, but more just about how I dislike a trope of character, and that is Theon. I mean, I know the poor git is a tragic bastard who just cannot catch a break, but after the fairly sympathetic burning-of-the-letter-and-baptism, I was hoping he might have strayed from the book a bit and been a hair more Iron-Islander-esk instead of falling back into his "I'm a lord, you must listen to me" mindset. Tragic to the end, I suppose. A litany of "almost-but-not-quites". And I'm hyphen happy today, so I'll stop on that.
Theresa DeLucci
3. theresa_delucci
I apologize for the less than astute observations this time around. I've had a stomach thing and feeling a bit foggy.

I loved Pyat and Quaithe. That mask was awesome. That illusion was great.

@1 You're right! I forgot to mention the lack of finding the dragonglass. Maybe Sam will find it next week instead. We're still going to be following Sam at the First, I assume. (I hope. I love that actor.)
Pritpaul Bains
4. Kickpuncher
@1 Pyat Pree reminded me of Yellow Bastard circa the Sin City movie, minus the yellow. Creepily well done.
Black Dread
5. Black Dread
Mormont is obviously in love with Daenerys in the book, although I forget when exactly she figures it out.

Funny how the book had Renly as only possibly closetted gay and Xaro as an open homosexual. In the series, Renly is the flambyant one while Xaro appears to be straight and actually interested in Dany. At least he hasn't started crying yet.
Black Dread
6. AverageJoe
Did anybody notice Roy Dotrice as the wild fire alchemest? He read 4 of the 5 audio books for ASoIaF.
I think this is probably the best episode of the season so far, with better yet to come.
Rob Munnelly
7. RobMRobM
Jorah kisses Dany at one point in the books. Unfortunately, the earth didn't move for her.
Black Dread
8. Lsana
@1, 5,

In the books, Dany figures out that Jorah is in love with her when they are in the abandoned city prior to going to Qarth. Jorah tells her the story of his wife Lynesse, Dany asked what Lynesse looked like, and Jorah says, "She looked like you."
Black Dread
9. sofrina
i don't like that quaithe was not in red like melisandre. she is clearly a red priestess in the books, it's just that dany doesn't know what they are.

what person could even consider proposing to such a new widow
really? this shocks you? in medieval times where marriage is a power move? if she were a landed lady she would probably be required to marry soon. in the book bran is trying to decide what to do with a childless rich widow who won't name her husband's bastard heir. and we know what happened to her. anyone would have been better than what happened when ramsay bolton got her. men are still protection for women in this world.

Arya’s got some set on her, to stare down Tywin Lannister like that.
ditto. that was awesome.

question: did they recast loras from season 1? this guy looks bigger and less androgynous.
Black Dread
10. benrubinstein
Nope, that's the same Loras from Season 1. I'm glad they bulked him up a bit. It seemed totaly implausible for a dude to be such a reknowned tourney knight, wearing full plate all the time, and still have 0 muscle mass. They DID darken his hair a bit, I believe. Which makes sense--almost--because his hair is supposed to be brown, not blonde, as it was in Season 1.

And I really loved Quaithe of Asshai! Man was that mask fantastic. I really hope they expand on her role in the book, though.
Black Dread
11. jmd
Don't forget Shirtless Gendry for our dose of toplessness this week - smithworking definitely builds up the upper body.

And the throwaway talking about Joffrey being a loss because of what he did to Tyrion's "presents".
Rob Munnelly
12. RobMRobM
I have to confess to a touch of depression - Bran's usurpation of Jojen's greendream seems to be an early deathknell to my hopes that the Reeds will make a belated appearance. So, I'm betting Osha travels north with Bran and someone (Maester Luwin, probably) will go South with Rickon. *sulks* No good Howland Reed talk for near future I guess.
Rob Munnelly
13. RobMRobM
Re lack of nudity - funny that in book, the Qarthian women wear dresses with a breast exposed. This could easily have been the most R rated episode in show history, but it turns out to be least so.
Black Dread
14. sofrina
ditto on the reeds. i keep hoping they meet in the forest or something.
Justin Golenbock
15. jgolenbo
@2 & 13 -- heh, i forgot about Qarth-ian dress fashion...for all the cr*p HBO gets for over-the-top nudity, seems like even they blink once in awhile!

i gotta say, even though it was just a bit near the end, I'm most-excited for the Jon Snow/Halfhand storyline. "North of the Wall" continues to be my favorite show environment (if we're making more LotR comps, what with the signal fires and all, it looks like a more realistic bleak tundra than the mt scenes from FotR) and I'm psyched/queasy for that story thread to develop...
Black Dread
16. Twi
Only the fat beggar was showing some skin? Um, are you forgetting the little show Gendry put on at the forge at the end? Even Arya was appreciative there ;D
Black Dread
17. Twi
@15 I must confess I love the scenery north of the wall as well (I'd be getting excited about the history like Sam was), but it mildly irritated me that they had no eye protection to prevent UV burns on their eyes, like arc eye.
Theresa DeLucci
18. theresa_delucci
@16 I said boobs! The beggar had man-boobs. Gendry had pecs. Very nice pecs. (Um, how old is he? I feel like a creeper.)

@15 Yeah, I'm definitely looking forward to Jon and Qhorin next week. The storyline is heating up now. Dany's not wandering anymore, Jon is going to meet some wildlings. Stannis is turning his fleet towards King's Landing, putting Tyrion on the defensive. (Will they get into Tyrion and his chain?) And Theon is ramping up his disastrous plans.

@17 I love that they're really shooting on location in Iceland. It makes such a difference. No green screen, puts the actors more in the world. And you just can't recreate anything better than the real thing.
Black Dread
19. PJK
I read somewhere that they changed the Qartheen fashion because they couldn't find enough extras in Croatia willing to bare one breast.

This doesn't surprise me with Croatia being a predominantly Roman-Catholic country.
Scott Silver
20. hihosilver28
@theresa_delucci
First off, Gendry is played by Joe Dempsie who is a more-than-safe 24. No need to feel like a creeper.

Second, am I the only one who thinks that the entire chain is going to be abandoned? As far as storytelling goes, I don't think it's necessary for the show. Obviously essential to the book, but I think they'll explain it away with a line or two in the show, thereby saving money.
Black Dread
21. sacredhonour
@hihosilver28, I don't think they will comlpetely get rid of the Chain. I do think they will shorten the story of it being made, but it played a very big role in the battle in the books and making Tyrion seen as a hero for saving the city. I don't see GRRM letting them get rid of it completely, as that was a major cause of the desctruction of Stannis' fleet.
Black Dread
22. AlBrown
I very much enjoyed this episode. Kind of glad at the lack of breasts--don't mind it in support of the plot, but don't care for gratuitous nudity. They are doing a good job, and I especially think that the girl playing Brienne is not only physically well suited for the her role, but is absolutely nailing it from an acting standpoint.
Vincent Lane
23. Aegnor
1) The Reeds aren't necessarily gone for sure. They are definitely gone from season 2, but we've known that for months (as they weren't cast). They could very well meet up with the Reeds in season 3 after leaving Winterfell.

2) I thought Theon's characterization so far has been tremendous. Also, regarding the hatred on Theon in the original post...I HATED Theon after ACoS. I mean really hated him. I wanted him dead, and preferably painfully. But in ADwD GRRM worked his magic again. He did the same freaking thing with Jamie. Make you hate him, and then reel you back in until you find yourself rooting for him.

Theon has paid for his crimes. I didn't think that possible for him to do while remaining alive, but what he was put through was worse punishment than I could have imagined. And then the way he found himself over the course of the book, and ended up saving Jeyne Poole? Really masterful writing to redeem a character that I thought long past redemption.
Theresa DeLucci
24. theresa_delucci
@19 Then I guess the people who enjoyed the lack of female nudity should be glad they film in Croatia and not New Zealand (home of Spartacus and the insane arena crowd extras.)

Also, thank you for assuring me I am not a creeper.

@21 I can see them cutting the chain and focusing on wildfire. It's unfortunate because it was so damn cool in the books, but so long as the end result of Tyrion saving King's Landing with his foresight is achieved, it's okay.

@22 Brienne is doing a bang-up job. She looks a lot taller than "just" 6'3". I wonder if she's got lifts in her armor.

@23 Oh, I absolutely loved Theon in ADwD, don't get me wrong. His chapters were my favorite in an otherwise pretty tedious book. But I hate his current douchebaggery. And his smirk. And greasy hair and mole. (Alfie Allen is fantastic. He's the perfect fit for this role, as much as the actor playing Joffrey is instantly hateable.)
Rob Munnelly
25. RobMRobM
Note that in Theon's entry to Pyke harbor, he watched a boat go out and a blocking rope was raised behind it. My guess is that is was very subtle foreshadowing of the Blackwater chain. It's also an easy one to work on film - one scene of Tyrion with some armorers and taking them off of Cersei's projects, and leaving the mystery of how he plans to use them in the defense. And perhaps an ep 8 or early ep 9 scene installing the chain.

Re the Reeds - I now think they are gone. If Bran will be doing his own greendreams, why do you need Jojen? Or Meera. They just have to figure out who is taking Rickon off on his separate quest instead of Osha (I'm still betting Luwin). And have to figure out how and when to get key info in Howland Reed's possession into the story line at a later date.
Black Dread
26. Spiegel
@12, I got the impression that Osha and Rickon end up somewhere that isn't really Maester territory, so maybe Luwin goes North with Bran, guided by Summer and visions?

Bronn and Tyrion were great and also, for completely different reasons, Theon. I'm not convinced by his sister yet. She doesn't strike as any more competent than Theon at leading people.
Vincent Lane
27. Aegnor
RobMRobM@25

Yeah, I think they are likely gone too. All I was saying is that there is still a chance. I'd say there is about a 20% chance they show up in season 3.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
28. tnh
I think my favorite moment this episode was when Stannis corrected Davos' grammar. "Oh, he would," I thought. It's not in the book, but it's pitch-perfect Stannis.
Black Dread
29. jcfocarino
I don't know how upset I should be over the fact that they made Jaqen a follower of the Red God when he's really a follower of the Many-Faced God...I wouldn't normally care, but his role as a Faceless Man is crucial to Arya's storyline later, and it won't make sense if she a) goes to Braavos later in the series and is a follower of the Red God - or b) randomly follows the Many-Faced God for no reason. Meh. It bothers me but oh well.
Rob Munnelly
30. RobMRobM
@29 - Jaqen says the Red God in the book too, probably because they avoided a death by fire.
Black Dread
32. Evan R
Just 'cause Jaqen serves Death/the Other/Many-Faced God doesn't mean he wants to cheat his brother/enemy the Lord of Light. Wouldn't be prudent. That's my read on it anyway - books/TV both. Hm. Servants of Death have a more balanced approach than the servants of Light?

I had a historical realism problem with the golden peacock bit - nomadic warriors who had no problem with mass murder still felt hospitality and honor were sacred.
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
33. tnh
Evan R: historically, that's quite plausible. If you want a well-documented case, you can start with the Israelites in the Old Testament.

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