‘Game of Thrones’ Season 2, Episode 5: ‘The Ghost of Harrenhal’ Recap

Published 2 years ago by , Updated April 30th, 2012 at 11:13 am,

Kit Harrington Game of Thrones The Ghost of Harrenhal Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal Recap

[WARNING: This recap contains spoilers for 'The Ghost of Harrenhal.']

As suggested by Petyr Baelish (Aiden Gillen), if revenge is the truest of motivations, then the various kingdoms depicted in Game of Thrones are going to be mired in the pit of war for a very long time. As every killing is meant to place one at an advantage over another, or to right a wrong that occurred even years prior, the notion that there will ever be an end to the bloodshed may require the intervention of a power greater than mankind – or at least one mankind doesn’t yet have the ability to control.

After ‘Garden of Bones‘ left audiences with the unholy birthing of a shadow assassin by Melisandre (Carice van Houten) it certainly did not take the creature long to carry out its mission. The assassination of Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) comes so swiftly that it’s clear all foreshadowing of the event happened in the last few minutes of ‘Bones’. Of course, the death of Renly means depriving the Starks any chance for the sovereignty of the North they wanted, and depriving the people a ruler they may actually support. For now, the iron throne is a matter to be settled between Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) and Stannis (Stephen Dillane) – neither of whom are too keen on the idea of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) acting as the King of the North.

Renly’s death not only dashes the hopes of a swift end to the war, it displaces Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie), who is thought by Renly’s guards to have been the one to murder him, as well as putting Margaery (Natalie Dormer) and Loras (Finn Jones) on the run in Petyr Baelish’s care. Naturally, Brienne’s inclination toward conflict, and her loyalty to Renly, lead her to vow revenge against Stannis, but the calming influence of Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) delays her retribution just a little bit. In the end, Brienne pledges fealty to Catelyn, creating an interesting ally for the Starks in the future.

On the other end is Renly’s young wife, Margaery, who is revealed to be more in thinking with Petyr Baelish than her brother or Brienne. For Margaery, the death of Renly is the loss of her chance to be Queen – not just a Queen, but the Queen. Vengeance is not on Margaery’s mind, but rather how she can seek to gain from this loss and move closer to her ultimate goal.

As every character is driven by his or her own motivations, the concern of what the endgame is becomes even more pressing as events compound and begin to spin out of control. For example: even though Robb continues to deplete the forces of Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), the army that Stannis has amassed in the wake of Renly’s death makes him the new primary threat to King’s Landing – one Joffrey and his mother Cersei (Lena Heady) would defend against with the incredible stockpile of Wildfire being cooked up by Hallyne the Pyromancer (Roy Dotrice).

But unforeseen elements are also in play that will make things equally difficult for those in King’s Landing as in Winterfell. On one hand, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) has taken up arms against the Starks by pledging loyalty to the father he’s never known and plotting with his first mate to turn a simple raid into an assault on Torrhen’s Square – the defense of which will stretch the Northern army beyond what it already has been.

Iain Glen and Emilia Clarke Gam of Thrones The Ghost of Harrenhal Game of Thrones Season 2, Episode 5: The Ghost of Harrenhal Recap

Additionally is the more distant, but distinctly more problematic threat of Daenery’s Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) – who, along with her band of Dothraki, has survived the Red Waste to be in the care of Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anonzie) in the city of Qarth. It seems in vouching for Daenerys and her Dothraki, Xaro saw the chance to move higher than his already admirable perch in Qarth, by funding the Targaryen’s assault on the throne in exchange for her hand in marriage. As Xaro said, men will lust for the power that comes from Daenerys’ dragons – and he is clearly no different. However, before invitations to the Qarthian social event of the season can be sent, Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) talks sense into Daenerys by urging her to make her own way – a comment that calls to mind the plea of Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) to Stannis in regards to Melisandre’s presence at the pending assault on King’s Landing.

Despite all the maneuverings elsewhere in Westeros, the plight of the Night’s Watch has Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) poised to finally become a Ranger after volunteering to accompany a few men looking to engage some of the wildlings unified under Mance Rayder. Perhaps it is the unforgiving landscape, the isolation or the threat of the White Walkers, but somehow this band of men marching through the snow has become one of the most harrowing segments of Game of Thrones.

Similarly, though Arya (Maisie Williams) has little to do directly with what’s going on between those vying for the iron throne, her situation is equally thrilling. Now serving Tywin Lannister, Arya comes across Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who vows to kill any three men in exchange for the lives she saved in ‘What is Dead May Never Die,’ including his. Perhaps not fully convinced at first, Arya sees the light after the brutal interrogator known as The Tickler (Anthony Morris) is found to be the first life Jaqen pays to his debt.

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Game of Thrones continues next Sunday with ‘The Old Gods and the New’ @9pm on HBO. Watch a preview below:

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15 Comments

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  1. It was a spectacular episode IMO. I enjoyed every bit of this one.

    I didn’t even mind the changes from the book this time around.

    • This episode actually had the first change from the books that I minded: The death of the Tickler. In the books that scene is so much sweeter and significant – it also comes much, much later – near the end of the 3rd book.

      • @ Kofi,

        Did you really mean the end of the 3rd book or did you mean the end of the 2nd. I just started reading the second book this weekend (only on the second chapter, Sansa going to Joffery’s name day party) so I’m going to take your word for it, but that seems to be way too far away in the books for them to do it halfway through the second season of the tv series.

        If it is the case, that it doesn’t happen till the end of the 3rd then that leaves me with a lot of questions. Is Arya stuck at Harrenhal for a very long time, does the Tickler travel with the group Arya is with since he doesn’t happen till later, does Jaqen H’ghar play that big of a role with Arya that he is a round for that long?

        While watching the show I felt that there would be some type of relationship forming between Arya and H’ghar, but I wasn’t sure how long it will last. You may have given away the answer about their seriousness of their relationship, but I must say I happy with it.

        • In the books, the Tickler died in the 74th chapter of A Storm of Swords. So, yes, the OP really meant the end of the 3rd book. I assume the rest of your questions were rhetorical.

          • Thanks for clearing it up. I was a little confused at first, but Todd (comment down below) also made a good point about pushing things up in the show to move keep it moving forward. Also, thanks for assuming they were rhetorical, as I wouldn’t want any spoilers, so thanks for not going into more detail.

            I’m really enjoying these books and TV show and from some of the comments down below it looks like I’ll be introduced to some more interesting characters. Can’t wait to get to book 3, all my friends say it’s their favorite.

  2. Is it just me, or is anyone else getting a little bored with all of the politics and set ups for future events this season? I still love the show, but it seems to have hit a bit of a lul. I know all of this stuff is necessary, but I want some action. This season, while obviously leading to big events in the future, seems to be dragging in the process.

    p.s. Arya should use her last two “wishes” on Joffrey and Cersei. At least off Tywin, he’s right friggen there!

    • She wasted her first killcommand. Let’s hope she does something useful with the second and third one

    • Quite the opposite. I think that the show IS politics at its core, and almost all of politics is posturing and positioning. Last nights episode provided more insight into the motivations of the characters then perhaps any episode before it. The strength of the show is texture and dialogue. Beinoff’s strength as a writer has always been his dense, meaningful dialogue that almost has to be taken apart and studied after it is spoken. There is so much to the interactions and conversations taking place between the characters on this show that many of the discussions are “the action” that you are looking for.

      As vocal of a critics as I was of Garden of Bones, Sundays episode was outstanding.

  3. another great episode- only issue i had, not really a issue tbh- would like to see a scene with ROB! you know, get and update whats going on… rather just word of mouth from other characters..

    regardless- great show..

  4. My biggest gripe with this season so far is that they havent introduced the Reed Children. They play a very important roll with Bran and his dreams. Not really sure how they are going to introduce them in Season 3.

    • Agreed. It’s s shame because their omission means we won’t see their father, Howland Reed. He is yet to appear in the books, but Ned Stark made him out to be a legend.

      I think the Reed kids are being replaced by Osha. In the book, she didn’t know what the three-eyed crow was, but in the show she seems to know of it. I suspect she’ll be taking up their role full-time. But then, what happens to Rickon and Shaggydog?

  5. @DT

    I dont want to give to much away for people that havent read the books but there is a relationship formed with Arya. Also there is some stuff in the books that dont really need to be in the show that they have removed and replaced with other things and just to press the show forward.

    @Richard Jason Timothy Wayne

    the book is like this. Its a lot of people playing the game of thrones. To me the 2nd book was to set up what really happens in the 3rd book. From what i read on the net, the 3rd book is going to be cut into 2 seasons so lets hope AGOT get renewed for the 4th season on on

  6. Man I can’t wait for Reek. Stupid douche.

    • I’m not sure if Reek is coming. The B*****d of Bolton thread has been dropped (so far). Roose is alive and well, but he’s had no screen time. If Reek is going to appear, it’s going to be short, sharp and one hell of an episode.

  7. it seems that this season has far more variances from the books than last season did. the same things are happening but in different ways which as a fan of the books is an awesome thing as it keeps me drooling for the next episode as i know whats coming but at the same time i dont

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