The anticipation one feels from week-to-week as a fan of Game of Thrones is almost maddening. Like any great dramatic work, every new chapter delivers as many new questions as it does answers. “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” season two’s fifth chapter, is absolutely no exception. Critics of the overwhelming nudity in Game of Thrones can relax for a week — this one isn’t about the sex — but plenty of people are violated. With our weekly Blog of Thrones entry, it’s time to see what happens as the battle between brothers Baratheon escalates in an unexpectedly swift manner, Daenerys and her dragon children settle in to Qarth and Tyrion Lannister continues to maneuver around his twisted sister.
Remember, Blog of Thrones is written from the perspective of a “Song of Ice and Fire” novice — no making fun of me if I can’t pronounce all the names correctly — and it is done so with the understanding that you have seen last night’s episode and those before it. There won’t be any spoilers beyond that, of course, but before you read on, get yourself caught up, then come have a good old fashioned discussion about all the intricately crafted drama of Westeros.
“I have always thought that to be the purest of motivations.”
Talk about kicking things off with a bang. After the massive cliffhanger of an end to the previous episode, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss come back to write this week’s episode for themselves, opening big with the first shocking death of season two. It would also come to pass that all of big questions raised at the end of “Garden of Bones” — mostly “what the hell just came out of Carice Van Houten’s vagina and what is it going to do — were answered swiftly. Westeros is left with one less King. However, as the interaction between the ever-opportunistic Littlefinger and the siblings Tyrell proves, the lands now have two far more motivated schemers — one who wants revenge for the death of his love and one who wants to be The Queen. Personally, I’m alright with that. My affection for Natalie Dormer knows no limitations.
Sadly, the death of Renly is yet another turn in which this show kills off one of the good guys. If there’s any constant in Westeros, it’s that men of relative virtue and good heartedness are the ones who die. This is good for fans of Peter Dinklage and his continuing ability to be electrifying as Tyrion – “Tell my friend Bronn to kill you if anything should happen to me.” — but it’s no good for those of us who raise the banner of House Stark. Can’t stand Stanis, but you love Robb Stark and his quest to save his poor little sisters? Don’t get your hopes up, one could guess. Do you absolutely hate the detestable rotten brat king Joffrey and think that Daenerys’ dragons aren’t growing up fast enough? Somehow I get the feeling that the little shitburger’s going to be around for a while, even as his uncle schemes and plots (and other synonyms) behind his back.
“The King is a lost cause, it’s the rest of us I’m worried about.”
The continuing chess matches are what matter in our season two in Westeros. Tyrion Lannister, ultimate demon monkey schemer, is outwitting his sister without her even knowing that she’s in the game. His conversation with Bronn walking through the market is illuminating — he has no loyalty to his nephew, the King, but there’s an underlying goodness in his motives. Sure, he’s always going to default to self-preservation, but there’s something less sinister about his end goal. Joffrey wants it all. And that’s always a dangerous proposition.
Elsewhere in Westeros, much plotting is afoot. Alfie Allen continues to usher in the change in Theon Greyjoy. Competing with his (completely impressive) warlord sister, he is now completely disconnected from his life in House Stark, looking to take his new attitude back to Winterfell. Will he make it back to House Stark before Robb catches wind of his turncoatedness? It’s one of the many questions that will have to be answered. Who will Arya have The Man kill? How will the showrunners find a way to continue to put Charles Dance on my television screen? What sort of cinematically scaled brilliance lies further North of The Wall? Despite the continued whirlwind of storylines that force me into multiple viewings to understand exactly what the hell everyone is talking about — like who is “the Halfhand” and why do I itch to know so badly — there’s a continued excitement growing across Westeros. Winter has been coming for fifteen episodes now and to its credit, Game of Thrones continues to amp up the excitement without ever really showing us something on a grand scale. Little moments of battle, political movement in conversation. There’s a massive battle building, and we can only hope that they payoff will be as fun as the build-up.
“The last time a rich man gave me a dress, he was selling me to Khal Drogo.”
Then again, it is all about the scheming, isn’t it? As much as this show deserves credit for bringing truly cinematic scale and impressive visual flair to the small screen, it’s the incredible character development and relationship management done by its writing team that keeps us coming back. In a series of momentary conversations between Daenerys and her friends, new and old, we’re brought back into the fold of what’s happening with her quest to retake her birthright. Up to this point, we’ve been away from The Mother of Dragons. Her storyline, one that until now has been completely distended from everything else is happening, now appears to be on a collision course. Get a ship, Mother of Dragons, and let the fun begin.
One final note is the episode’s best moment — the newfound relationship between Catelyn Stark and Lady Brienne. Of all the monsters to be set loose in Westeros, Lady Brienne has proven to be one of the more impressive. Even though she couldn’t stop the Stanis Smoke Child from taking out Renly, she is more dangerous with vengeance in her heart and House Stark behind her.
This Week’s Final Thought: Did anyone else get a bit of a Beneath the Planet of the Apes vibe from the warlocks of Qarth?
Next Week: Hopefully someone will start listening to the dreams of that little crippled wolf boy soon, otherwise the wrath of “The Old Gods and the New” will bring The North to its knees.