Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal
“The Ghost of Winterfell” was very much a “moving the pieces” kind of episode, in which people discussed plans and strategies, but very little happened, with two big exceptions (one of which was done offscreen). Throughout Westeros, people wonder how to deal constant warfare. As Tywin Lannister says, no one is content during wartime, and in between the battles, people need to plan how to survive the next one. However, sometimes things you weren’t expecting occur, and you are forced to radically shift your strategy.
The episode begins with Renly on the verge of accepting an alliance with the Starks. He offers to let Robb be King in the North in name only, and requires that the boy who has been winning battle after battle swear allegiance to him, who has done nothing to secure the Iron Throne aside from amassing a huge army. Clearly, this alliance will cement a victory for the Starks and the Baratheons against Joffrey and the Lannisters. Then Renly dies. Melisandre’s shadow baby arrives, kills Renly, then dissipates, leaving behind a shocked Brienne and Cat. So much for the alliance.
This development forces multiple camps to change their strategies. Loras and Margaery flee to Highgarden with Littlefinger while the bannermen of Storm’s End decide to declare for Stannis, the only remaining Baratheon brother. Cat is forced to return to Robb’s camp without any help except for Brienne, while King’s Landing now is faced with a single consolidated threat from Stannis, who can now match the throne’s land army as well as its navy.
Most of the episode is devoted to characters talking. This isn’t a huge departure from most episodes, but this one just drags. In spite of Renly’s death, Tyrion’s realization that King’s Landing has a huge supply of “wildfyre,” a very powerful and dangerous substance used in warfare, and Arya’s pact with Jaqen H’Ghar to assassinate some pesky Lannisters, it seems like very little happens.
Beyond the Wall, the men of the Night’s Watch do some walking, then decide that it’s time to emulate the Wildlings if they hope to defeat them. Jon ultimately gets tasked with being part of the raiding party, but very little else happens. And in Qarth, Dany gets wined and dined by the city elite, all of whom want access to her dragons. Or so we’re led to believe based solely on what happened last week, as almost nothing is said about them this week. Both of these stories do a lot of setting up for the future, but not enough happens in the interactions to devote as much time to the scenes as is given. (And while we’re on the subject of Qarth, what the hell was up with Qaithe’s mask?! She looked like she was from some upscale bondage club.)
But this episode did present an interesting theme; that of “hard truths.” Many people seem to forget their limitations and need their advisors around them to remind them of hard truths. Stannis needs Davos to tell him that he can’t keep relying on Melisandre because of how others see her. Dany needs Jorah to remind her that she’ll never win Westeros without support from the Westerosi. Jaqen needs to remind Arya that her righteous anger at him for becoming a Lannister soldier is misplaced, as she is now the cupbearer for none other than Tywin Lannister. Theon needs Dagmer to remind him that he won’t get respect from his crew until he shows them that he deserves it. And many people need to be reminded that they’ll have a hard time getting revenge if they’re dead. Too many people in Westeros want things but don’t want to work for them. Or forget that other people have opposing goals. And when people forget that, they die. Renly really should have given more credence to Stannis’ threats.
· The major offscreen event was the sacking of Tohren’s Square by Theon and the Ironmen. Bran has his heart in the right place as a ruler and wants to do well by his people, but he is not prepared for what’s to come.
· Speaking of Bran, it looks like he is being given Jojen Reed’s “green dreams.”
· Major foreshadowing for the future of the King in the North, coming from none other than his sister.
· Unfortunately for Tyrion, his problem is not that he needs to be told the hard truth, it’s that many people wrongfully blame him for everything that’s going wrong in King’s Landing. Which really hasn’t been shown well enough for new viewers to understand why the citizens are so upset. (Well, aside from the fact that Joffrey the psychopath is king.)
· Brienne swears fealty to Cat, who responds that she will never ask Brienne to do something that will bring her dishonor. I wonder if Tywin said the same thing to Gregor Clegane.
· Margeary doesn’t want to be a queen. She wants to be the queen.