‘Game of Thrones’ – Season 2, Ep. 5 – ‘The Ghosts of Harrenhal’ Review


After last week’s exciting cliffhanger, there was a lot of anticipation for this week’s episode. Naturally, I assumed this episode would start off a bit slow, build the tension throughout the episode or something. How wrong was I?!

We begin our episode with Renly and Lady Stark discussing a possible truce and alliance. In  a verbal agreement, Renly asks that Robb Stark pledge fealty to Renly and if he does so, can remain King of the North. All seems well as Renly and Cat talk while Brianne stands by as the watchful guard. That is until the wind picks up. In a piece of pretty decent CGI, Renly is stabbed in the back and through the heart by our new friend and local monster to Westeros—the Smoke Baby! In an instant, Renly is dead and Smoke Baby is gone. In the chaos, Brianne slays the two accusatory guards that enter the tent and then escapes with Cat. Phew! That, my friends, is an impressive opening!

The next morning, Loras and Margaery Tyrell mourn over the death of Renly as Littlefinger enters to work his wordplay magic. Loras wants revenge while Littlefinger suggests it’s best to flee or pledge their banner to Stannis. Margaery, on the other hand, tells Littlefinger of her aspirations to be not just a queen, but THE Queen. She sets excellent goals.

Back in King’s Landing, Tyrion and Cersei are discussing the news of Renly’s passing. There are, as expected, various accounts of what really happened, but Cersei’s playing her stubborn sibling games with Tyrion who seems genuinely passionate about doing all he can to prepare for the eventual attack by Stannis’ army. He asks Cersei to detail her and Joffrey’s plan of attack only to be verbally blocked at each attempt. Knowing his only option, Tyrion talks to his cousin (and sharer of Cersei’s bed) for details after last week’s “agreement.” Tyrion learns the King and Cersei have been preparing Wildfire. The look on Tyrion’s skeptical face suggests that such a thing is either a lie or highly unlikely.

From here we catch up with Stannis who discusses the passing of his brother Renly. Apparently, he’s only slightly bummed out. The Onion Knight enters his tent to discuss the previous night’s events and what he witnessed in the cave. He warns Stannis that should he bring Melisandre with him to King’s Landing in the attack, the victory will be hers. Stannis then agrees to leave her at their camp and that she will not join the attack. We’ve come this far into understanding George R. R. Martin’s story to know this is highly unlikely to unfold exactly as Stannis expects.

Meanwhile, we return to the Iron Islands and Theon to see him attempt to assert his leadership with his new band of misfits and as captain. It doesn’t go well. Only when his first mate arrives does Theon discuss ways to win their respect—and it doesn’t include following his father’s orders. Theon will fully betray his loyalty to Robb Stark and attack one of his bannerman’s lands while the army is away. Good job Theon, you’ve officially become an asshole now. Not Joffrey asshole levels (that’s a very high mark), but you’re on your way.

In Harrenhal, we finally see what Arya is up to now that Lord Tywin knows she is a girl. He doesn’t know who she is and Arya does a wonderful job lying that she is from a different northern town. Tywin finally appears to respect the fight that Robb is doing. While talking to his inner circle of advisors, no one seems to have a good idea of what to do. Tywin asks Arya what the Northerners think of Robb. Arya responds that he is viewed with great respect and that he supposedly rides into battle on his giant Direwolf—but drops the bombshell that she believes even Robb can be killed, as can anyone. It’s unclear if she truly believes it, or smartly responds this way to continue gaining favor and aid her survival. As she goes to fetch water, she runs into one of the three bandits she helped release during the raid from a few episodes ago, Jaqen H’ghar. In thanks, the now solider of Lannister Red, agrees to kill three men that she names. Her first response is “The Tickler” who tortured all the prisoners asking if they knew where the Brotherhood was.

So far, we’re using this episode to really cover the smaller stories that haven’t been touched on in awhile. This rings true as we join the journey of the Night’s Watch and their adventure in the far north beyond the Wall. They’re wandering around in Hoth, discussing what awaits them. It’s all conjecture and guesses at this point in the wide open snow covered lands.

We jump to King’s Landing to see Tyrion talking to the city’s alchemist who admits openly about the Wildfire. He shows Tyrion the 7811 canisters filled with the Wildfire, at which point Tyrion says he’ll no longer be making the Wildfire for his sister, he’ll be making it for him. DUN-DUN-DUUUUNNNNN! This Wildfire sounds like pretty wicked stuff. Should be exciting to see how this story unfolds.

Our last story to follow is that of Daenerys who is now a guest of Qarth and Xaro Xhaon Daxos. Xaro has invited her to an extravagant party at Qarth where Daenerys is greeted warmly and with intrigue as the Mother of Dragons. She is introduced to the Warlocks of Qarth with a bit of creepy magic, or just the use of twins. Jorah is warned by a stranger that she needs protection now more than ever. Later, she talks with Xaro privately who proposes a marriage of convenience. He will marry Daenerys and share his extreme wealth and resources with her, which would allow her to sail to Westeros and reclaim her throne. It’s a tempting offer, but one that Jorah later appears to convince her otherwise. Jorah’s suggestion is to sail quietly with one ship and captain to land in Westeros and gain their allies and army there. Daenerys begrudgingly agrees. It’s hinted that perhaps there is more than loyalty in Jorah’s feelings, but we don’t really jump into this.

Finally, our episode ends back in Harrenhal with the death of The Tickler. While everyone looks confused as to how he may have fallen to his death, Arya looks up to see her new friend Jaqen wink at her. With the invitation of two more names, Arya looks as though for the first time in a long time, she is happy that revenge may be close at hand.

It is again a busy, busy episode filled with lots to discuss. It’s one of the season’s weaker episodes and while there isn’t as much action to move the story ahead rapidly, it serves as plot setup. The foundation is set to lead us into the second half of the season. With only five episodes remaining, season two is sure to resolve quickly, bloodily, and with all the surprise, deaths, and shock we’ve already become accustomed to from Martin and his stories. Bring it on!

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  1. Myrcella? You mean Margery of course.

  2. But of course I did! It was all a test to see how closely the readers actually paid attention to the story and articles. You win! Your prize is pride, congratulations. Thanks for the heads-up

  3. Wow, this is easily the best recap I’ve read online! I wish I’d seen this before feeling the need to re-watch the episode (TWICE), once right after I saw it the first time, then again yesterday off my iPad using dishonline.com…even after the third viewing I was left feeling winded. There’s not a single wasted frame in the entire hour long episode. Even the moments that at first glance would seem to play slower, like Littlefinger’s interaction with the Tyrells…that’s actually a HUGE moment for the series! I know it wasn’t in the book, but I know what it leads to, and this is going to have repercussions into the third, fourth…even the fifth season, maybe longer! There are certain characters whose arcs will be changed irrevocably because of this, so I know it was hugely important. A friend and coworker of mine here at Dish hasn’t read the books but is just as hooked on the show as I am, and she knew something major was afoot, too! If you haven’t seen some of the awesome behind the scenes features HBO has put out, I recommend them, I watched them using that same dishonline.com web portal, and they were pretty awesome. Anyway, just wanted to let you know I loved the recap and have bookmarked your site in hopes each new episode will get this same treatment. Thanks again!

  4. Mike Mierendorf

    Thanks you Elias! I promise you, my obsession with the show knows no bounds! I'll do my best to replicate this quality of reviews for the rest of the season. Help us build some traffic, tell your friends! We're only 5 months old. 🙂

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