Let me start off by saying that episode 5 (“The Ghost of Harrenhal”) was the best episode in season two thus far. It got everything right. Less sexposition and more dialog, more canon characters and more depth. There were a lot of big changes and events in this episode, and a few deaths, one that non-readers were probably shocked by. Spoilers ahead!
The episode begins with Renly talking with Catelyn, telling her about his plan to attack and beat Stannis on the battlefield despite Catelyn’s pleading with him to forfeit and align with Stannis against the Lannisters. Renly promises to work with Robb against the Lannisters and is way too cheery for someone who is about to get into a battle with his own brother. What happens next is crazy. A black, liquid-like shadow comes in and stabs Renly through the heart. Renly collapses wide-eyed, with blood pouring out of his chest and and dies. Catelyn didn’t even have time to process what she saw, and Brienne had her back turned to get Renly’s armor. They see him collapse, but don’t see much but the shadow and are in shock. Brienne is attacked by other nights who hear the commotion because they believe she did it, as she and Catelyn were the only ones present. She fights them off and Brienne and Catelyn decide to high tail it out of there before they hang them both.
Littlefinger is there when Ser Loras is brooding by the body. Littlefinger and Margaery tell Loras to avenge his lover’s death by regrouping and finding a winning team. Margaery does not seem the least bit hurt by the fact that Renly is lying there dead. She indicates that she wanted to be “the queen”. Littlefinger hints at the fact that he can help make that happen with just a look alone.
Tyrion tells Cersei the news of Renly’s death, with Cersei being her usual disdainful self. We also get an idea of the “wildfire” plan that Cersei has hatched when Tyrion meets Lancel outside in the streets in a little canopy carriage type thing that he travels in. Tyrion keeps messing with Lancel, and has him kicked the hell out, telling Bronn that if anything should happen to Tyrion, to kill him. Just as Tyrion told him to say. I find Lancel annoying because he’s so scared all the time. I guess for being a Lannister, I would prefer more spunk, not less.
Davos meets with Stannis about Renly’s death and tries to talk about what he saw when he saw Melisandre birth that black wraith in the last episode. We know that Davos is firmly anti-Melisandre, even at the expense of Stannis’ wrath. Davos seems to imply that she’s a foreigner and will alienate the people that have defected from Renly to him if Stannis decides to bring her. This Stannis was alright in the last episode, but I felt like he lost a bit of that edge that he had to him. Perhaps they were going for the melancholy that he seemed to have when he found out that Renly died in the book.
Tyrion and Bronn hit the streets of King’s Landing where he finds that the people are disgusted with the rumors of Cersei and Jamie, in addition to the city’s problems. They really don’t have a lot of love for “the imp” in the streets.
We fast forward to Theon. Theon believes that by birth he can command respect. The Ironborn don’t work that way. You have to show that you are and have been a capable killer and tyrant it seems. When Theon tries to flex muscle on his crew, he is told by the leader that he’d been reaving since before Theon left “Balon’s balls”. Ah, such tact and subtlety. This is why Theon hatches a plan that is against what he was originally ordered to do in order to win respect. Problem is, it’s totally screwed up and sinister.
Arya is serving Tywin Lannister and his generals while they plot and scheme. Tywin begrudgingly admits that Robb Stark is hard to stop and that he’s winning his battles. He wants to figure out how to beat Robb. Tywin asks Arya where she’s from and she lies saying she’s from Maidenpool. Tywin of course knows that she’s lying and gets her to tell the truth. Tywin says he knows that she’s from the North. She still lies, but more believably and he asks her what they say about Robb up north. She says that they believe that he cannot be killed. Tywin asks her what she believes, and she stares him right in the eye and says, “Anyone can be killed“. Excellent acting by Maisie. You can tell just how grown up Arya’s become just by watching this exchange. She’s harder and more aware that life sucks. Hard.
Jaqen and Arya finally meet after she tries to hide from him. Jaqen is better than that, though. When she least expects it, he catches her unaware,well aware that she’s a girl and she’s more than she lets on. He tells her he owes her for saving his life, along with Rorge and Biter so she needs to make a wish. Whoever she wishes dead will be killed. No problem. She tells him to kill The Tickler. He owes her three deaths, so Tickler is as good as buried.
Jon Snow and the Night’s Watch finally appear. They are treading the vast northern waste and they talk about what it means to sound the horn three times. It’s NOT good by the way. Three times means “The Others”.
Tyrion talks to the Alchemist making Cersei’s wildfire. After the alchemist shows him rows upon rows of the highly flammable liquid in storage (as far as the eye can see), Tyrion tells the alchemist that he no longer works for Cersei, but for him.
Daenerys teaches Drogon to roast meat and eat it by saying “Dracarus.” Doreah… *sigh* Doreah shouldn’t even be there and I will leave it at that. She reminds me of a groupie and she is obviously annoying to everyone else because Jhiqui snaps at her for being annoying. I can’t say I blame her. Daenerys goes to a very nice outdoor party and has some very weird eye contact with Doreah. Her Dothraki try to steal a gold peacock and she has a moment of trying to tell them “This is why we can’t have nice things”. We meet Pyat Pree who tries to urge her to visit him at the House of the Undying and to leave Xaro Xhoan Daxos. Jorah is warned by one of the Qartheen women (masked) to have Dany protected and not to trust the Qartheen.
Catelyn and Brienne stop in the woods for a break. They bond over the early losses of their mothers. Brienne asks to leave to kill Stannis once she helps Catelyn get home, but Catelyn tries to reason with her. We now know that Brienne was in love with Renly. I love seeing Brienne. She is such a quiet storm. Don’t underestimate her. She asks Catelyn if she can serve her because Catelyn is courageous, not in the battle sense, but in the innately female wa. She swears fealty to Catelyn and Catelyn accepts her with open arms.
For the first time in too long, we see Bran and Rickon listening to the people of Winterfell as good rulers should. Bran is impressively cunning. Just when they think it’s over, Ser Rodrick comes in to tell them that Torrhen’s Square is under siege and being a good leader, Bran sends help. At this time we don’t know who is attacking, but they assume it is the Lannisters. Bran tells Osha about his dream that Winterfell will be flooded by water and bodies will be littered all over the place. Osha tells Bran that his dream is nothing, but the look in her face betrays this. I think she really believes this.
Qhorin Halfhand and the Night’s Watch spot a wildling fire and they set out their plan to take out Mance Rayder but with less men. He takes only a few people and Jon volunteers to go. Lord Commander Jeorah Mormont is at first not willing to let him go, but Halfhand and Sam Tarly make it hard for him to say no for long. He let’s jon go saying, “I hope you make a better ranger than you do a steward.”
Daenerys and Xaro Xhoan Daxos talk about her relationship with Jorah, and Daxos indicates that he thinks Jorah is in love with her. Daenerys tells him that she plans to get her kingdom back and she asks him what he wants. He shows her to a very fortified door. No one can get past it. He tells her she can have half of what’s behind that door if she marries him. Daxos tells her that he came from nothing and offers to give her everything, and even talks about as children. He tells her Robert Baratheon is dead so now she has to think on a whole lot.
Jorah and Dany argue about what Daxos told her with Daenerys seeming to want to accept Daxos’ offer. Jorah tells her that he wants her to be queen because he truly believes in her. He comes very close to telling her he loves her.
In a STARTLING bit of fairness we see Gendry, all topless and oiled up (how YOU doin’?), posing and shadow-fighting in front of Arya. I would love to know what Maisie thought of this. Anyway, she’s chiding him for his fighting stance when we hear two women scream. Everyone runs over to the scene to find The Tickler on the ground, with is body facing downward and his head completely backward. Arya looks up and sees Jaqen standing there from a window, munching on something. He sees her and he puts one finger to his eye. That’s one. She has two more left and we know that he is very good for it.
Overall a strong episode, and you can tell they have gotten their groove back. They should. Only five episodes remain in season two. And there’s a lot of drama to cover yet.