A girl says nothing. A girl keeps her mouth closed. No one hears. And friends may talk in secret, yes?
Written by: David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Directed by: David Petrarca
I hope that not for one single second did you think that this war between Kings would end in some bloody death match between them all with swords in hand on a battlefield. The war, and all of season two for that matter, has its first real twist in "The Ghost of Harrenhal", as one of the kings gets the swift and sudden Game of Thrones axe. Surprisingly however, "The Ghost of Harrenhal" does not end with this king's death, which you think should happen so that you're left hooked to find out what happens next time. No, this king's death happens right at the beginning of the episode, and after thinking it over some, I have to think of this death as a little disappointing.
Without delaying it any further, the king who gets killed is Renly. Turns out that the shadow monster that Melisandre gave birth to somehow found its way to Renly and it fatally stabs him. Brienne of Tarth and Catelyn are there to witness the scene, but Renly's men take Brienne for the murderer. Catelyn convinces Brienne that she can avenge Renly someday, and the two flee together. I don't understand why this scene is treated so casually; there's no kind of emotional hangover like we got with Ned Stark at the end of season one, the characters simply proceeding through the rest of the episode, business as usual. Renly Baratheon was no Ned Stark, and no, it's not like he was ever built up to be an almighty savior that we should shower with love and adoration. But his death still has a major impact on Stannis, Brienne, and the war at large, and the fact that Renly's death happens right away only tells me that D&D felt that they really needed to give Stannis some extra momentum heading into the second half of the season, as well as move Brienne's story arc forward.
I'll skip over to what actually is the final scene of the episode: the mysterious man Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), whom Arya had saved from being burned alive, killing a man whose name Arya had requested. Basically, Jaqen is grateful to Arya that he saved his life as well as those of the two other prisoners that were with him, so in exchange, she is allowed to give him three names, and he will kill those three people. Alright, well, Tywin Lannister sounds like a logical first choice for Arya. I'm sure she is aware that Tywin's death would essentially end the war and crush the Lannister household. For her first name, Arya chooses.....the Tickler (Anthony Morris)? The guy who was doing all of those fiendish interrogations? Maybe Arya just wanted to test that Jaqen would live up to his word, which he certainly does. She still has two more names to give, so she'll probably pick Tywin later. It's bizarre that the episode ends with this scene; Jaqen is cool and all, but this first killing just doesn't feel like it's what we should end on, rather it seems better suited as a scene that happens in the middle or, better yet, right before the final scene.
The other locations we go to in "The Ghost of Harrenhal" don't have anything too crazy going on: Theon Greyjoy continues to get crappy treatment from his sister and his crew. Bran continues to have dreams of the three-eyed raven. The Night's Watch meet up with a ranger named Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong), who agrees to take Jon to go and take care of a wildling watchpost. Finally, Daenerys settles in at Qarth and watches her dragons start to grow.
I shouldn't say that essentially nothing happens with the likes of Theon, Bran, Jon, and Daenerys; every single one of them gives us the impression that danger is afoot. Theon realizes that his crew intends on striking a town close to Winterfell. Bran also speaks of a dream he had in which ocean waves flood Winterfell. Jon learns that the wildlings have become more organized and dangerous under a man named Mance Rayder, known as the King Beyond the Wall. Daenerys has a weird encounter with the warlock Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore), who invites Daenerys to the House of the Undying. It looks like there's trouble ahead for all of them; just what we should expect heading down the stretch.
I refuse to call "The Ghost of Harrenhal" disappointing. Even with its awkward editing choices, particularly having Renly's death happen right away, this is still a satisfying episode of television, and one that doesn't derail the build-up that the prior episodes have created. Plus, the likes of Theon, Bran, Jon Snow, and Daenerys are able to spice things up even more in this episode, assuring that not all of the excitement will come from whatever fighting happens between all of the remaining kings. That's one of the truly wonderful things about Game of Thrones, even when you're watching "okay" Game of Thrones (okay by the lofty standards that the show sets for itself), you're still putting an hour of your time to good use. Although, as we move further along in the series, I doubt this is an episode we'll remember too much.
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