GAME OF THRONES 2.5: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

One king down, and… how many to go? GAME OF THRONES has so many kings and men-who-would-be-kings, that the show can afford a little regicide to keep viewers on the edge of our seats. especially during a largely expository episode.

That hideous shadow beast that Melisandre graphically birthed at the end of last episode got right to work at the beginning of this one. No sooner had Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) cut a deal with Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) to align with her son Robb then the shadow beast arrived in his tent, assumed the form of Stannis Baratheon and skewered Renly through the heart. Catelyn convinced the horrified Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) to delay her revenge and flee with her, and later Brienne swore allegiance to Catelyn. The next day, Renly’s bannermen flocked to Stannis (Stephen Dillane) — all except the Tyrells led by Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and the grief-stricken king’s lover, Loras (Finn Jones). She convinced her brother to delay his vengeance, as well. I wouldn’t want to be Stannis and the Red Witch with all that frustration against me festering.

Within the forbidding-yet-pleasant walls of Qarth, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) was teaching one of her dragon babies to barbecue its own meat. Then she was gifted with an expensive gown and invited to a garden party. Then Xaro Xhoan Doras (Nonso Anozie) offers her enough riches to buy a fleet and an army to conquer Westeros — as long as the Mother of Dragons marries him first. Brushing that proposal aside, she suddenly realizes that Jorah Mormont (Ian Glen) is in love with her. (Even she can’t remain oblivious to flowery lines like, “There are times when I look at you and I still can’t believe you’re real.”) Jorah thinks she can conquer Westeros with a single ship.

Arya (Maisie Williams) seemed to be settling into her role as Tywin Lannister’s (Charles Dance) cupbearer, which means bringing him food as well as drink. She eavesdropped during one of his war councils, learning that her brother Robb is doing quite well against the Lannisters. Perhaps suspicious of her, Tywin quizzes Arya on her origins (she lies) and the opinion of Robb in the North. Again, she lies, building up the myth of Robb Stark. When Tywin asks if she believes Robb is immortal, Arya locks eyes with Tywin and growls, “Anyone can be killed.” If Tywin is smart, he’ll hire a food-taster before dinner! Arya also runs into Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), one of the guys he freed from the cage. He vows to repay her by killing any three men she names. I’m not real sure why Arya used her first wish on the Tickler, since another sadistic interrogator will surely take his place. She should have named Tywin or Joffey or Cersei right off, amiright?

Overall, I found this week’s episode rather dull, to be honest. I guess this is what happens when GoT deviates from its “blood and boobs” formula; there was precious little of the former and absolutely none of the latter. Was this a first? Am I was completely lost with all the events north of the Wall. Something about Wildings and blowing a horn. Ah, well…

Even Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) seemed a little less awesome than usual. Perhaps because he was mostly just lording it over the benign Lancel (Eugene Simon) and the royal pyromaster, neither of whom were in his class. His quick exchanges with his sister, Cersei lacked the usual zip. (Was she drunk? I think Lena Headey was playing her drunk.) But there were a couple of nice quips:

Cersei: “Aren’t you clever, with your schemes and your plots?”

Tyrion: “Schemes and plots are the same thing.”

But then Cersei scored a grammatical zinger on her brother:

Tyrion: “May I ask specifically what the king has in mind?”

Cersei: “You may ask specifically or you may ask vaguely. The answer will be the same.”

Oh, Cersei, you had us laughing around the copy-desk cooler this morning, let me tell you!

However, the best badass line of the week came from the exchange between Margaery and Lord Baelish (Aidan Gillen):

Baelish: “Do you want to be a queen?”

Margaery: “No. I want to be the queen.”

Anyway, here’s hoping for a return to greatness next week. I’m all for taking a breath and doing some exposition to catch up everyone who hasn’t read the phone-book-size novels, and yes, I understand that players have to be positioned on the board. But let’s not make it all quite so obvious next time. We’re halfway through the season now, so I expect events to start picking up speed!

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