Game of Thrones: Season 2, Episode 5 – ‘The Ghost of Harrenhal’ Review and Synopsis

After giving birth to a shadow in the last episode, we return to Renly’s camp to see what has to become of Melisandre’s magic. In a parlay between Catelyn and Renly, Renly offers to recognize Robb as King of the North so long as Robb swears fealty to Renly as King on the Iron Throne. Catelyn beseeches Renly to make peace with Stannis.

‘Negotiate with Stannis? You heard him out there. I’d have better luck debating with the wind.’

With a fell breeze the shadow assassin enters Renly’s tent and stabs him through the chest in full view of Lady Stark and Brienne. The guards coming in to investigate the commotion believe Brienne killed him so they attack her but she easily dispatches with them.

Brienne loses control after Renly’s death and begins to sob over his corpse. Catelyn warns her that, if she remains she will be hanged and unable to avenge her his death.

The Tyrells need to flee before Stannis’ arrival at Renly’s camp else they will be sold out by their former allies. Of course, Loras is upset by the death of his former lover and correctly surmises that Brienne did not kill Renly. Not only was she fanatical about Renly, but she had little to gain from his death, while Stannis had much to gain from his brother’s untimely demise.

‘You can’t avenge him from the grave.’

Petyr Baelish and Margaery Tyrell convince Loras to flee. Once again, it is questionable whose side Baelish is ultimately on other than his own.

‘Do you want to be a queen?’

‘No, I want to be the queen.’

Tyrion informs Cersei of Renly’s death and the two speculate as to who could have done it. Any intrigue not involving the Lannisters is probably cause for concern in the royal palace.

‘To whoever did it I say well done.’

Of course, Tyrion reminds Cersei that now with a united force, Stannis has little left to do other than come for them in King’s Landing. The Lannisters are employing ‘wild fire’ in the defense of King’s Landing, a response to which Tyrion can express nothing other than incredulity. The plan is to launch the wildfire at Stannis’ invading ships. Tyrion gets this information firsthand from Lancel, Cersei’s new Lannister lover. ‘Wild fire’ is apparently like the ‘white walkers,’ the stuff of fairytales. If it is true and Cersei and Joffrey have developed such a thing, then naturally they will have an advantage over the invading Baratheon fleet.

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Ser Davos tells Stannis that the Iron Throne is not worth what they are doing to achieve it and, like the fanatic he has been portrayed as thus far, Stannis will hear nothing of it. Davos reminds him that Melisandre is a foreigner preaching a strange religion and that the appearance this gives off to the people of the Seven Kingdoms will not be well received.

‘Hard truths cut both ways Ser Davos.’

After expressing his concerns about Melisandre, Davos is given command of the fleet to invade King’s Landing. Though honored, Davos is likely aware of the difficult task ahead of him.

‘Brother fornicates with sister in the bed of kings. Are we surprised when the fruit of the incest is rotten? Yes, a rotten king.’

Theon is commanding the dregs of the Sea Bitch, his ship, and his crew is the bottom of the barrel. After being challenged by one of them, Theon realizes he has little power over anyone from the Iron Islands, son of Baelon Greyjoy or not.

Ever the scheming weasel, Theon plots to harry the coast and distract the armies of Winterfell by drawing them to Torrhen Square. In order to prove himself to his father and his people, he is plotting something big and likely delusional. It is Theon after all.

‘You keep waiting for him to fail. He’s not going to fail. Not without our help.’

In a moment of awkwardness, Tywin questions Arya on her origins and, in the course of conversation, reveals that she is a northerner. He then begins to question her about what the people think about Robb Stark in the North and she reveals all manner of superlatives and myths attached to her brother. When he asks her if she believes the rumors, she says no, because among them is the rumor that Robb cannot be killed.

‘Anybody can be killed.’

As to whether Tywin knows or has some idea of who Arya really is we don’t know, but that we know who she is lines the scene in an interesting kind of tension.

‘Three lives I will give you, no more, no less.’

Jaqen H’ghar asks Arya for three names, three names of people to be killed for the Red God. The assassin was among those men Arya freed from the wooden cage while with the Night’s Watch. He’s utterly badass, and the first target he’s given is the ‘Tickler,’ Harrenhal’s sadistic torturer introduced in the last episode.

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

According to Cersei’s pyromancer, after the dragons died, ‘wild fire’ was the backbone of Targaryen power.

‘The substance is fire given form.’

Xaro Xhoan Daxos, merchant prince of Qarth, is hosting Daenerys in his palace in Qarth and showers her with finery and provides her with a paltial apartment. A mysterious woman called ‘No One’ tells Jorah Mormont by name that he must protect Daenerys because she is the mother of dragons.

Brienne is convinced that the shadow assassin was in the shape of Stannis while Catelyn thinks it was merely in the shape of a man. Nothing will stop Brienne from avenging Renly’s death though that is complicated by the presence of Stannis’ army around him. She promises to serve Lady Stark if she will have her, because she has ‘courage, a woman’s kind of courage.’

Little does Brienne know how that courage has led to all of the events that have consumed Westeros in a maelstrom of civil war.

Apparently someone left Bran in charge of Winterfell and, of course, he responds to Theon’s ploy with a force of 200 dispatched to Torrhen Square. Bran tells Asha that he had a dream that the sea came to Winterfell and washed over its walls and overtook the castle with drowned men floating among debris

So, we can intimate from this that Theon is going to launch an attack against Winterfell to take the castle.

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season [Blu-ray]

Mance Raydar has united the wildlings behind his banner and this causes the Night’s Watch to rethink their strategy in fighting the wildlings. Jon is finally given the opportunity to be the ranger he always wanted to be when he is asked to join a scouting group.

Xaro offers Daenerys all that she needs if she marries him. His wealth will more than provide her with the implements of war to launch her campaign to retake her kingdom. During this conversation, he lets her know that the Seven Kingdoms are torn apart by civil struggle.

After dropping some of the most touching lines anyone ever could, Jorah informs Daenerys that she should make her own way rather than rely upon Xaro’s gift.

The episode closes with the Tickler’s corpse falling to the ground in front of Arya as Jaqen H’ghar looks on from a walkway above, proving that he is capable of fulfilling her nightly prayers for vengeance.


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