GoT Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

DISCLAIMERS

So I guess the producers decided that since the last episode was filled with action and violence and gore that this episode should be more sedate and contain mostly conversations and character interaction. This is something I actually appreciated a good deal because there were some excellent character moments.

I am sad that Arya’s first victim was the Tickler, although it made sense from the show’s perspective. However, it does mean that he won’t be around for Arya herself to kill later in what would probably be the fourth season (if that ever happens). Ah well. But I loved the scene with her and Tywin and she barely misses a beat when he catches her lying once and dives right into another set of lies. This season, I’ve been really into the groundwork the show’s been laying for Arya’s storyline. She’s learned a bit about the power of names from Yoren, she’s now learned a bit more from Jaqen H’Ghar, and she’s probably realizing she needs to get better at lying and obscuring the truth from others. Also, I just love how at times she’s reserved, calm, and aware like when she’s with Lord Tywin and then turns around and snarks at Gendry for his bad fighting form. I should take the opportunity right now to state that I DO NOT ship Arya and Gendry. I just don’t. Arya’s arc is so far removed from romance as possible that it doesn’t even make any sense. Friendship? Yeah, it’s there. But Arya keeps herself to herself and she isn’t going to care about people any more than they deserve to be cared about. Also, Jaqen H’Ghar is amazing and I love him. So creepy and mysterious, so wonderful. His voice. God.

Another awesome moment was between Catelyn and Brienne. I think I really love this scene because it’s these two women who’ve quickly formed an unbreakable bond born out of the suddenness and tragedy that was Renly’s death. And just the fact that this episode makes clear that Catelyn is someone who deserves respect – she has courage, she’s intelligent, she’s loyal to Robb as both her son and king, she loves her children, and has both compassion and integrity. And Brienne sees all that, and so offers up her vow of fealty and protection to Catelyn. Not only that, but Catelyn returns Brienne’s respect for her own in acknowledging her unwavering devotion to Renly, her desire for vengeance against Stannis, and vowing that Catelyn will never force Brienne to behave dishonorably. Just… gah. The only downside is how they once again pulled the “mother” card for Catelyn and her desire to go back to Winterfell. I’m really feeling the loss of Riverrun and her father in the show.

Another lady being particularly savvy was Dany. First off, I was intrigued by the addition of what looks like a burgeoning conflict between Dany’s loyalty and obligations as a khaleesi to the Dothraki and her own personal ambition to conquer and reclaim Westeros. I really like the fact that in both last season and this one, Irri actually as more of a character! (Now if only the same could be said about Jhiqui…) But yeah, I hope this is explored a bit more. As of now, I greatly prefer this show’s Xaro Xhoan Daxos to that of the book. Here, he actually gets nuance, and I loved how he carefully paints his offer to Dany of gold and ships in return for marriage. He’s a self-made man who came from nothing and the woman he wed for love is dead. This marriage would purely be based on politics, self-interest and ambition, but according to him both would benefit. He’s careful to not portray himself as a threat, but merely someone who has ambitions that are on the same scale as hers. And yeah, he probably wants her dragons too, but right now he’s being careful and controlled in order to win Dany’s trust. Even though Jorah’s advice and warnings about Xaro are rational, it’s understandable why Dany fobs it off.

One theme I noticed running through a number of scenes was the question of power in relation to who’s pulling the strings. Davos advises Stannis not to take Melisandre with him to King’s Landing, saying that people whisper the Red Lady whispers in Stannis’ ear and he does whatever she says. The common people in King’s Landing distrust Tyrion as the “demon monkey” who’s pulling Joffrey’s strings. Dany has two men on either side of her telling her what she should do – Xaro Xhoan Daxos offers her money and resources to conquer Westeros in exchange for marriage while Jorah would have her set out on her own for Westeros and conquer the country from within. Arya is Tywin’s cupbearer and someone with seemingly no power whatsoever, but Jaqen H’Ghar’s repayment of his debt gives her an unexpected avenue of power, albeit through a secondary source of power. She holds three – now two – people’s lives entirely in her hands. In other cases though, such as with Theon and Bran, they give orders without taking into consideration the thoughts of others. Because he wants to be a Captain of his own ship and have his men actually follow him, he has to prove himself as one who can give orders that can be followed, which means being bold and decisive. Bran, on the other hand, is acting Lord of Winterfell and a Stark. This means when Torrhen’s Square is attacked, Bran doesn’t entertain any other option other than sending as much help as they can afford to defend them. To do otherwise is to fail in his duty as the protector of his people. Likewise, Margaery has ambitions of her own, beautifully demonstrated in the last line of her scene – “I want to be the queen.” Can I just say how much I LOVE Margaery in the show? Go on with your politically savvy badassery, you.

Things I did not like – Renly’s death happened way too quickly for my taste. The shadow was only there for a couple of seconds before it started knifing Renly. There was also no Sansa in this episode, which is problematic when you think about how there are only five episodes left and her story arc as laid out in A Clash of Kings has barely taken off the ground. No sign of Ser Dontos, nothing about any hopes and prospective plans about getting out of King’s Landing and going back to Winterfell. These things are *important*. In the book, she’s not just sitting around in the Red Keep trying to keep it together in front of Joffrey and Cersei – she wants to go home and in her own small way, she does what little she can do. She has fucking agency, goddammit. I’d sort of realized this already and tried to ignore it, but this episode made pretty clear that ten is definitely not enough to tell the entire story they want to tell this season. So many characters, so many storylines, most of them occurring in very different locations. It was always going to be tricky doing this, and while I loved a lot about this episode, it also made very clear how much the show is rushing through scenes to fit in as much as they can.

And yeah. I know I’m not doing a good job putting these up on time. This’ll probably continue for the next couple of weeks as long as I have final papers to write.

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2 thoughts on “GoT Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

  1. On my way out the door so only a quick comment, but YES, I ADORE the portrayal of Margaery on this show. She’s so savvy and so unashamed to be ambitious. In the books, I don’t think we ever got to see too far behind the ingenue facade (or when we did, it was too colored by Cersei’s plotting and biases). On the show, she’s so fabulous.

    • I know, I LOVE it! Another big reason is because in both the books and the show, I really wish Cersei was competent enough to be a legitimate threat to all the truly dangerous power players like Littlefinger and Varys. She has so much ambition, drive, and ruthlessness that she could actually hold power and keep it if it weren’t for her growing paranoia and utter lack of subtlety. So yeah, I am really pleased to see show-Margaery showing signs of becoming what Cersei’s unable to be.

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