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"Game Of Thrones" — "The Ghost Of Harrenhal": Anyone Can Be Killed

By Joanna Robinson | TV | May 1, 2012 |

By Joanna Robinson | TV | May 1, 2012 |

Note: Your usual recapper, the cantankerous TK, is home caring for his new son and heir. I’ll be taking over the recapping duties just for this week. So don’t worry, TK’ll be back again next week to snarl at you about spoilers. Speaking of which, please limit comments to discussions about the television show, and don’t spoil future events in the series for those who haven’t read the novels. Talking about how the show has deviated from the book is OK, but any spoilers will be deleted. *Snarl*. -JR

After a pretty disturbing hour last week, “Game of Thrones” is back in fine form this week with “The Ghost Of Harrenhal.” Oh, sure, there were murders, but as far as I can tell, no prostitutes were maimed in the making of this episode. It must be said that it was very nice, in the wake of all the female humiliation and abuse last week, that we saw so many women in positions of strength throughout the Seven Kingdoms. We’ll start, of course, with the shocking death of Renly Baratheon at the hands of the Smoke Monster. For those who haven’t read the book, I think the writers did an excellent job of giving us yet another surprise death (though, obviously, not as emotional as Ned Stark’s). As is mentioned later on in this episode, “anyone can be killed.” You’re still allowed to be taken aback that a major player in the game was taken out so abruptly. What came next (excellent horror and despair from Gwendoline Christie’s Brienne followed by even better swordplay) was a bit of a blur, but the gist is that Catelyn and Brienne are on the run because the “It Was A Smoke Monster, I Swear” Defense likely won’t hold up in court.

Also on the run are the Tyrells, Margaery and Loras, who Littlefinger rightly points out would be in terrible danger should Stannis get ahold of them. Once again we see some interesting gender dynamics as the sensitive Knight of the Flowers is broken hearted over Renly’s death while his more pragmatic and politically-minded sister declares her intention of being THE Queen. Why let the death of your king get in the way of your dreams, Margaery? So Margaery, who couldn’t tolerate Littlefinger just last week (or last night, if the fact that she’s in the same ridiculous space dress is any indicator), has now seemingly shifted her allegiance.

Speaking of dresses, over in Qarth we finally get to see Dany in something other than dusty leathers as she tries on the role of princess. The pull she feels between her Targaryan and Dothraki identities plays out very nicely. She also discovers something we’ve long known; the impossibly sexy Ser Jorah Mormont thinks she’s just the prettiest little Khaleesi he’s ever clapped eyes on. Dany looks unaccountably dismayed (did I mention the sexy?) because she realizes she can no longer rely on her closest advisor to give her unbiased advice. While we’re in Qarth, we also see a bit of mysticism with the introduction of the suitably creepy Pyat Pree (the blue-lipped warlock who invites Dany to visit The House Of The Undying) and in the shape of a masked woman who declares “Fire is Power.” Funny, I thought “Power is Power.” Or was it “Power resides where men believe it resides?” Hmmm.

But if Fire is Power, then Tyrion and company are sitting pretty atop thousands and thousands of jars of it. The Wild Fire (George RR Martin’s version of Greek Fire) will prove a formidable, if unpredictable weapon against Stannis and his forces. Tyrion also engages in one of his customary verbal smack downs against Lancel Lannister (a totally unworthy opponent). But perhaps my favorite Tyrion moment was when he realized that no matter how hard he works to defend King’s Landing and curtail the damage the other Lannisters have caused, he will always be seen as a “demon monkey.” Dinklage played the comedy and pathos of the scene perfectly. When he gets a chance to show his wounds (as he did in episode 2 after Cersei cruelly accused him of killing their mother), Dinklage never disappoints. I was a bit disappointed, however, that we didn’t get to see more of the aftermath of Joffrey’s brutality from last week. Not that I wanted to see the physical evidence, but if the point of that violence was to show that Joff can get the upper hand on Tyrion, it was an odd choice not to show Tyrion’s shock or dismay.

Over in the frozen expanse North of the Wall, Jon and his fellow members of the Night’s Watch continue their weary trek. I don’t know how much of the effects budget they saved up for this sequence, but the scenery was absolutely staggering. I also loved the interplay between the younger members of the Watch. Pudgy, bookish Samwell may be different from his comrades in arms, but he is still very emphatically One Of Them. It seems that Jon will finally get his deepest wish as he is allowed to join Qhorin Halfhand on a ranging mission to take out some Wilding scouts. Let’s hope Ghost gets to join him as well. Ain’t no party like a Dire Wolf ranging party. And on the stormy shores of the Iron Islands, Theon Greyjoy is hatching a plan. I’m not sure how clear that plan was to those who haven’t read the books, but what is clear is that Greyjoy has been pushed and humiliated to the breaking point and that any action he takes now is the action of a desperate man.

And, finally, we got what was undoubtedly the most compelling storyline of the night: Arya Stark in Harrenhal. The interaction between Maisie Williams and Charles Dance (Arya and Tywin) is the kind of stuff that makes “Game of Thrones” some of the best television around. “Anyone can be killed” is a good enough line on its own, but Arya’s delivery and Tywin’s reaction made it the most deliciously tense exchange of the season. The murdery icing on the cake is, of course, the queer alliance between Arya and Jaqen H’ghar, who offers Arya three deaths in exchange for the three men she saved from a fiery death. Though “The Tickler” is not who Arya picks in the book, it was a neat bit of storytelling. And, lest we forget, this episode was not completely devoid of sexy times. We were treated to a bit of shirtless Gendry swordplay. If Khal Drogo can play Conan, then I don’t see why Gendry can’t star in a completely unnecessary Beastmaster remake. Make it happen Hollywood.

It was a fascinating episode, as usual, of “Game of Thrones.” But one, perhaps, where they tried to do a bit too much. Renly’s death ended up feeling a bit rushed. Maybe we could have left the Wild Fire for a later episode. I did love the interplay between Tywin and Arya, Catelyn and Brienne, Stannis and Davos and Dany and Ser Jorah. The Lord/underling dynamic and the varying degrees of truth, loyalty and trust we see in those relationships make for a fascinating comparison. Ultimately, however, it doesn’t matter how good your advisors or how strong your relationships. Anyone can be killed, and Arya still had two more names to say.

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