Game of Thrones 205: The Ghost of Harrenhal

SPOILER WARNING: All events that have occurred in the TV show up to and including yesterday’s episode are fair game. I have read the books but I will not go any further beyond small hints that only fellow book-readers will catch on to. You’ve been warned.

Morning Announcements: It’s come to my attention that non-readers (and probably some readers too) have a hard time keeping all the names aligned with their faces. In order to help remedy that problem, the first mention of a character in a post will include a link to a picture of them. 

I almost can’t believe that a show exists where the opening sequence bears discussing week in and week out. But one does in Game of Thrones. No new cities this episode, but as the camera panned from the Wall across the Shivering Sea to Qarth, we actually got an up-close glimpse of the mysterious red comet. Now, all the best shows have incredible attention to detail, but I challenge you to find one that reaches “Throne’s” level in its opening sequence. Moving on.

Renly vs. Stannis, Littlefinger and the Tyrells

Well they certainly didn’t waste any time here, which is a good thing. After leaving us with a cliffhanger last week, not making Renly’s death the opening scene would’ve rustled my jimmies. Now all of us Stark supporters will be left wondering what might have been if Renly and his hundred thousand swords had been able to join forces with Robb against the Lannisters. Stannis is “pure iron, black and hard and strong, yes, but brittle, the way iron gets. He’ll break before he bends.” He will never align with the Starks as long as Robb insists on calling himself the King in the North.

You’ve got to credit the showrunners for the way they handled this. From the preseason trailers they made it seem as though Renly would have a tremendous part to play, which I’m sure made his sudden death that much more surprising. Plus, the CGI was fantastic, the shadow assassin actually looked like Stannis, as it should considering it’s his “son.”

Only Littlefinger knows what Littlefinger’s true motivations are. He knows that war is unpredictable, so he’s trying to be everybody’s friend. Problem is, nobody trusts him. His conversation with Loras and Margaery Tyrell was illuminating for all three characters. Lord Baelish asks Loras what he desires most. Loras responds, “revenge,” which Littlefinger has “always found to be the purest of motivations.” Perhaps a hint as to why he betrayed Ned Stark, who was married to the only woman he’s ever loved, Catelyn.

In this week’s “Inside the Episode,” the showrunners explained that House Tyrell is a “secret matriarchy,” in which the men are “handsome dopes” and the women are the “brains behind the operation.” Littlefinger asks Margaery if she wants to be a queen. “No,” she responds, “I want to be the queen.” Margaery is a saner version of Cersei, she’s not so conniving, but she’s certainly a player in the game of thrones.

King’s Landing

Back in the capital, Tyrion continues his attempts to restore order and institute justice, always quipping as he goes. Lancel tells him of Cersei’s plan to defend the city from siege using wildfire. Tyrion takes control of the plans, knowing that in the wrong hands, the volatile substance is likely to burn the city, and people, it’s meant to protect. On his way to the Alchemist’s Guild, he learns he’s being made a scapegoat for the city’s ills, because it’s easy to blame someone who’s different. Tyrion is incredulous, “Blame me?” he asks, “I’m trying to save them.” Story of his life.

The parallels between both Cersei and Joffrey and Aerys II Targaryen, the “Mad King,” are becoming increasingly clear. Joffrey is quick to punish anyone who questions his reign, or, you know, anyone he feels like punishing, be it Sansa, Ser Dontos, or a lowly bard. And like Cersei, the Mad King had a penchant for paranoia and wildfire. Last season, when asked what Aerys said when he stabbed him in the back, Jaime responded, “He said the same thing he’d been saying for hours. Burn them all.” In the books we learn that Aerys planned to burn the city, and everyone in it, rather than surrender. “Let [Robert] be king over charred bones and cooked meat… Let him be the king of ashes.”


Arya put her badassery on full display last night. Lord Tywin catches her in a lie about where she’s from, and she’s got the stones to follow it up with another. Then she looks him right in the eye and tells him she doesn’t believe Robb can’t be killed, because “anyone can be killed.” The subtext here is “even you.” She doesn’t even blink.

Then she meets up with Jaqen H’ghar. “A man owes three. The Red God takes what is his, and only death may pay for life.” Now, she could’ve chosen anyone, King Joffrey, Lord Tywin, Queen Cersei, but she shows her age when she picks the Tickler. She’s still a child, badass though she might be, so she acts on impulse and emotion, picking someone who’s affected her life directly rather than considering an abstract concept such as turning the tide of war. You might ask why she didn’t pick Lord Tywin, given that she’d essentially just told him he was going to die. That’s simple, remember what it was like at Harrenhal before Tywin arrived? For now, he’s doing her more direct good than harm.

Beyond the Wall

Jon Snow and the rest of the men from Castle Black met with Qhorin Halfhand, the closest thing the Night’s Watch has to a legendary warrior, at the Fist of the First Men. Jon’s being groomed for leadership, there are hopes that he’ll be the Lord Commander someday. This process takes patience, which Jon isn’t exactly chock full of. When he asks to be included in Qhorin’s mission, Jeor rebuffs him, but eventually relents.

And of course Dolorous Edd, dolorous as always, provided some comic relief. Sam asks what his fellow black brothers think the first men were like. Edd responds, “Stupid. Smart people don’t find themselves in places like this.” Jon knows better, “they were afraid. I think they came here to get away from something, and I don’t think it worked.”


I really can’t give the CGI guys enough credit, considering the relatively minuscule budget they’re working with. Anyway, we saw some interesting culture clash between the Dothraki, Qartheen, and Westerosi customs Dany is surrounded by. It’s clear Irri and the other Dothraki aren’t quite as understanding of the new cultures as Daenerys and Doreah. They really put this on display with the “she is not a princess, she is a khaleesi” line.

Dany met the warlock Pyat Pree, who invited her to the House of the Undying, which is going to be important later on, and Jorah met Quaithe, who shows up from time to time to give cryptic advice. Most importantly, she received news of the war in Westeros and a marriage offer from Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Xaro insists he will give Dany the seven kingdoms, but Jorah says she must take them for herself.

Pyke, Winterfell

Theon is still trying to find his way among the Ironmen, aiding his blood relatives in conquering the North. Their way is the old way, “they don’t do as they’re told, they do as they like.” In order to command his father, and his men’s, respect, Theon must do the same. He hatches a plan to attack Torrhen’s Square, knowing full well that he won’t be able to hold it for more than a few days before the Starks send men to take it back. That will leave Winterfell near unguarded, and then, well, that’s why he’s got that stupid smirk.

Bran is doing his best as the acting Lord of Winterfell. It’s clear things are hitting his brother Rickon, who’s too young to understand why his family has disappeared, hard. We can see him growing wild and unhinged without them.

Bran also tells Osha of his dreams, which have been shown to have some significance in the past. He’s dreamt that “the sea came to Winterfell. I saw waves crashing against the gates. The water came flowing over the walls, flooded the castle. Drowned men were floating here.”

Be sure to check out the preview of next week’s episode.