Game of Thrones Review: “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

We did it folks, an entire episode of Game of Thrones without ANY nudity. Who ever thought that was possible? Instead we had to compensate with some killing, and lo and behold we have our first major character death of the season. Oh George R. R. Martin, you never fail to disappoint.

Spoilery discussions of all that ensued in last night’s episode start below:

We ended last week with a shadow demon coming out of a sorceress’s vagina, and it was clear that Game of Thrones is going places it’s never gone before. The dragons are back, and therefore magic is back, and it’s kind of throwing a wrench into things. Why clash with an army when you can send a vagina shadow demon to kill their leader for you?

And that’s just what happened. The Smoke Monster v2.0 murdered Renly when only Catlyn Stark and Brienne were present. As smoke monsters have a tendency to disappear, the pair of them is now being blamed for his death. This is where magic is starting to seem like cheating. Do we really need complex war strategies and power plays and such when shadows can simply be summoned to kill a potential king in an instant? I think magic has started to lose some of its mystery when it starts crawling out of vaginas, and I think I liked the less fantastical version of the world a bit more.

My favorite giant lady.

I’m not sure why, but Brienne is the most instantly likable character that’s been introduced in a while, and I hope she is around for a while and is able to stick it to Stannis at some point. And yeah, it’s probably good for Lady Stark to have a beefy bodyguard now that she’s a murder suspect and 80% of the land wants the Starks dead.

Winterfell is in trouble, that much is clear. Clever bastard Ian Theon Greyjoy may not have the respect of anyone in his hometown, but he’s cooked up a damn good plan. If I understand correctly, he attacked a nearby village so Winterfell would send its last remaining troops to help. With the men gone, he’s planning to swoop in and take the main city for himself. I hope Bran’s archery skills have improved. Maybe Hodor can flash them and make the Greyjoy army go blind.

Further north, the expeditionary force has finally found some wildlings to hunt down and destroy. I rather liked the short history lesson from Sam about the “First Men” and all that. I got to thinking about how if this series ever ends, a prequel might not be the worst thing ever. Anyway, the Knight’s Watch (or is it Night’s Watch, I still have yet to figure that out), is going to try and assassinate the barbarian king that was once one of them. I bet we’ll have to wait two weeks to see how that goes. No, I don’t watch the previews for next week.

“I’m regretting my life decisions.”

Arya has made a few new friends, one being Tywin Lannister himself, as she serves as his new cupbearer, the other a man she saved from the fire, who has now turned out to be a magic genie assassin. She gets three death wishes, and with her first, she kills the torturer that was putting everyone to death. Now she gets two more right? I really feel like one of them is going to have to be Tywin, but that might be tough for this male version of Rogue. Hopefully someone gets that joke.

What the hell is Tyrion plotting with all that wildfire? He says it’s a stupid idea to use it in battle against Stannis, but why does he order the Pyromancer (best job title ever by the way), to start making it for him instead? I’ve no idea what he’s up to, but I’m just glad we didn’t have to see Shae again this week. But no Joffrey, again? He’s been in 2/5 episodes this year, and he’s the king!

Qarth is proving to be a fascinating city, but I have a feeling Daenerys won’t be there for too much longer. That’s a shame though, as there seem to be a great many mysteries to be found there. The Undying brigade pulling magic tricks from The Prestige, the masked woman who looks like an extra in 300 and knows Ser Jorah. Does he really have a crush on Daenerys? I still can’t tell. I did appreciate his heartfelt point about how he believes that she truly would be a great ruler. I never really stopped and thought about that, but of all the candidates, I think he’s right. I can’t think of another power player that would make for a better ruler (outside of Tyrion of course), provided she didn’t start going nuts with her dragons out of blind vengeance. But she’s not really the type for that. Let’s have the Lannisters kill Stannis, Rob kill the Lannisters, and Daenerys can swoop in to take the throne after he heads back north. There, all problems solved!

“Are you watching closely?”

One final question before we depart. This episode is titled “The Ghost of Harrenhal.” What exactly is that referring to? Harrenhal is the big, dragon burned city where Arya is right. Is the ghost her new genie friend? If so, that’s kind of the best nickname ever. Oh, and Arya totally has a crush on Gendry. Just saying!

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  1. The “Ghost of Harrenhal” does refer to Jaqen H’ghar in this instance, but he is a manifestation of the belief that Harrenhal is cursed and haunted. The original lord of the castle was roasted alive in the castle by the dragonfire that melted its walls and misfortune has visited every lord given the castle since (for instance Harrenhal had been given to Janos Slynt, the commander of the City Watch, before Tyrion sent him to the wall).

    It is the Night’s Watch. Their vow starts “Night gathers, and now my watch begins…”

  2. Great to read your review of GoT (as always) AFAIK, Ser Jorah has a crush on Dany according to the books. Atleast that is what you can read in the character description for Jorah on Wikipedia.

  3. Just a few points I wanted to touch upon, having recently read all of the books myself. No spoilers though, promise!

    1) Can understand the unease and somewhat cheap way the shadow was used to kill Renly. But as you will find out, it’s not as simple as “give birth to a shadow creature, go kill the leader of our enemy army”.

    2) Theon (not Ian) Greyjoy is coming across as desperate and still somewhat likeable as he is in the books. This is a testament to the acting talent of Alfie Allen and also the writers.

    3) It is the Night’s Watch, not Knight. Thought I would help clear up that little niggle you had.

    4) Tyrion will use the wildfire in an extremely clever way. Keepm watching and you will find out. Regarding Joffrey, as he isn’t a POV character in the books, I don’t think we need to see much more of him at this point, what we have seen from him so far is all we need to see.

    5) Pyat Pree (warlock with the blue lips) was done fantastically well, and the appearance of the woman to Ser Jorah (Quaithe, as she is introduced in the books) really set this scene apart from the rest of the episode, as it gave me a sort of Twin Peaks/Lost vibe.

    6) “The Ghost of Harrenhal” – not really that important, but I can mention who it refers to if you like, thought it might be seen as a very minor spoiler.

    Another great episode, and it really is interesting watching the show after reading the books. They have left out a few characters but I feel this has been done in a clever way – for example, the part that Osha (the wildling who tried to kill Bran in Season 1) plays with Bran, explaining the three eyed crow and discussing the dream he had about the sea drowning Winterfell, is actually covered by two different characters who come to Winterfell as wards of the Crannogmen (friends, not sure if Bannermen, of Ned Stark).

    So yeah, it would have been nice to see these characters, but it’s good of the writers to leave these out and include the story through Osha. I feel the writers have struck a good balance between keeping in the main plotlines of the books and keeping the character count as low as possible, as there are a fair few to keep track of!

    Expanding on this point, it is definitely still worth reading the books after watching the tv show. I only started reading them after the first Season of Game of Thrones, and felt the first season included pretty much everything in the first book, but as the books become lengthier, such as with the second book, A Clash of Kings, it makes sense to cut out less important plotlines and characters.

    Hope I didn’t spoil anything!

  4. good post 🙂

    i have a few complaints about this episode…
    In the book the wildfire thing is Tyrions idea from the begining and Cercie has nothing to do with it. Also the plot against Winterfel wasn’t hinted to Theon in the book. I dont understand why they had to dumben these characters

  5. Yeah seriously, its Theon Greyjoy. This and the Knights Watch thing almost made me stop reading.
    I liked the episode quite a bit, although to me they should have killed Renly on the previous episode and made Brienne and Cat stand there for the cliffhanger. Totally loving Jaqen H’ghar, dude nails it (minus the hair, is the entire half not a streak) with his whole peaceful mysterious demeanor.
    Totally hated it that they made the Wildfire thing Cersei’s idea in which Tyrion is gonan capitalyze, it was his baby altogether, I dont know why they are making Cersei seem actually capable in the show, first she treathens Littlefinger in a much effective manner (but only effective becasue Littlefinger totally pussies out which was so un-littlefinger) and now she actually thinks the whole wildfire tactic, bullcrap.
    I understand some changes being made due to timing, like I can almost let it go that Osha is the one leading Bran on and the Reeds are not gonna be featured (which sucks because they totally rule) but i really have a big issue with the whole wildfire thing, that and the other thing were part of why Tyrion becomes even more awesome.
    Liked how they showed how Margeary Tyrell is now plotting plan B, I hope we at least get a glimpse of the Queen of Thorns come the season’s ending.

  6. @zuzu petaz I’ve recently started the second book and I’m pretty certain it was Cersei’s idea to make the wildfire but i think Tyrion has better use of it. but i’m not certain cause I’m at the same point in the book as the series and there’s overlap

  7. @bubba

    I dont remember that well, it made me doubt a bit but all i remember was Tyrion going down to meet the Pyromancer and finding out Aerys kept all that wildfire about. I would check Clash but I lend it to a friend.

  8. “The Ghost of Harrenhall” refers to the fact that Black Harren’s ghost supposedly still haunts the caste and Arya, not Jaqen, is causing it to be a bad place to live once again. She’s invisible with how low her station is yet has power over life and death. It’s a very cool section of the books when Arya revels in finally being able to get revenge and have some semblance of control over her life.

  9. Yeah, the wildfire wasn’t Cersei’s idea. That sucked.

    The Brienne actress totally nails the part. She seems fierce, brave and loyal, just like in the books.

    “Scheming and plotting are the same thing.” Great line by Tyrion, every episode we get an epic line of dialog from him.

    Soon we’ll find out more about The Ghost of Harrenhal. The actor that plays Jhaqen is also nailing it. He’s just a great character from the bookks.

  10. The thing with Joffrey being left out is that even in the books which are told from specific characters points of views he is never one of them. In book two it was Jon, Bran, Tyrion, Dany, Caitlin, Cersei, Davos, Theon and Arya. So unless Tyrion or Cersei are interacting with the King he wasn’t in the chapter.

    Jaqen H’ghar is a fantastic character though and so far the guy that is playing him is excellent.

  11. I don’t think I’m asking for spoilers or anything but can someone explain the whole Jaqen thing to me? He was one of the 3 locked in the cell all the time, everyone was told to stay away from them, Arya was threatned to be put in the cell with them end of last season if she didn’t behave….heck, even Gendry (who I think should never put a shirt back on) was scared of them…what’s the deal?
    He was made a knight? He’s giving her 3 kills because he and his cell mates were spared and now there needs to be 3 deaths to even things out? Why is evening it out important? I get him killing people for her out of gratitude but that isn’t it…is it?
    P.S. I don’t know if it matters but do they ever say why Jaqen was kept in that cell when I was under the impression that most of the men that go to the wall are murders and rapists anyways? (is it even important?)

  12. “I think magic has started to lose some of its mystery when it starts crawling out of vaginas”

    What could be more mysterious than a vagina, and the things that crawl out of one?

  13. @Cheryl
    I dont know what you want to be explained, I cant go deeper into it without being filled with Book spoilers, but I can say that these three I think were gathere from the prisons at Kings Landing under orders from Ned Stark when Yoren asked to go to the dungeons to recruit for the watch, Arya’s interactions with Jaqen are much lenghty in the books but you can see that Jaquen is an interesting dude for Arya, so thats why she releases him. Now as how he got to harrenhal, they are currently at war, you can see that Clegane doesnt really want the most uptight citizens to be in his gang, after they get released from Arya they probably wandered until they found Tywin hosts *\(or was it Clegane?) and they get recruited because they are sellwords.

  14. @ Cheryl

    Jaqen is not a knight. He was taken in by Tywin’s army to be a soldier/guard. Yoren found Jaqen in the black cells beneath the red keep, the cells meant for the most dangerous criminals. That’s why he was kept in a cage, though the exact reason for his imprisonment is kind of inconsequential, so Martin never really gives one. As for the three deaths, it’s merely a religious belief.

  15. “Gr gr gr, I’m so mad it wasn’t Tyrion’s idea all along LIKE IN THE BOOKS”

    This is EXACTLY why I do NOT want to read the books. It gives you reasons to be disappointed in the show when it is totally not necessary.

    I very much enjoy every single time Tyrion gets the best of his sister. You know it just eats her alive… Just because it wasn’t his idea in the beginning to create Wildfire, doesn’t mean he’s not going to use it cleverly, as Tyrion is known to do.

    I’m not quite sure who Arya will pick as her last 2 victims. I have a feeling the next will be the Mountain.

    Not sure if she will kill Tywin or not… or if he’ll try to kill her first. He knew she was from the north, how much more does he know?

    I can’t wait to see more of Qarth and am very curious about Daenerys’ new mysterious friend who wants to marry her and give her all she wants… Does sound too good to be true… I am very excited to see more from the masked woman… perhaps Danny will get an entourage of assassins?

    I can’t wait to see the red sorceress’ wrath when she learns she is not going into battle with all the men… I don’t think her and her demon-birthing vag are going to be too happy.

    Come on next Sunday!

  16. Yea it was definitely Cersei’s idea in the books, they didn’t make that up for the show… @Mandy you can rest assured that Tyrion is just as good at one-upping the ideas of others as he is coming up with ideas himself.

    I don’t really understand this trend of book fans jumping on the show for “doing it wrong” for instances where it’s actually exactly the same as the book (I’ve seen complaining about Jaqen’s speech patterns as well), but it’s been happening a lot recently.

  17. Everyone here is so up in arms about the wildfire being Cersei’s idea when they think it was Tyrions in the book. It was her idea in the book and it pretty much played exactly like it did in the show.

    (Spoilers ahead maybe)

    The main thing everyone is missing about the wildfire fire idea is that it’s a reflection on Cersei’s character. She’s a really good at acquiring power however once she has it she has no idea how to use it. Sure she thought of using wildfire to defend the keep but that’s it, if Tyrion didn’t interfere the whole castle would have likely burnt down as well as both armies. She never thought of what to do with the power(wildfire) once she has it and how to use it properly(train the men).

  18. NOT a spoiler, i swear, but… in the book the women of Qarth wore dresses that exposed one breast. So the lack of nudity in this episode is disappointing to say the least.

  19. Oh good lord, of course Jorah’s in love with Daenerys. At what point has that not been painfully obvious? I imagine that will lead to great distress, because this is Game of Thrones and we can’t have nice things.


    Tyrion – Steals EVERY scene he’s in

    Arya – is the Ghost (Curse) of Harrenhal
    Also, if someone offered to kill three people for you, wouldn’t Joffrey Baratheon be the first name out of your mouth.

    Ser Jorah is indeed in love with Dany, as is The Hound with Sansa.

    My friends and I have a pool, betting who is the death of Joffrey. We put every character in a hat and pulled names. I got Sansa.
    Fingers are crossed.

    Ever since the first season, I’ve been tempered with the “don’t get attached” mantra, but I’ll be disturbed if one of the Stark childrens lives end.

  21. @ James

    I don’t think the two characters you are referring to, the children of Howland Reed, are going to left out of the show. I mean the writers can, but they are huge characters in the books. If they do, it changes Bran’s story considerable.

  22. It’s always interesting to read the reviews, predictions, and opinions based on things he thinks are to come of someone who has never read the books/watched this show (apparently) before.

  23. When Arya was seeing villagers getting tortured and killed, she couldn’t do anything and was feeling useless, like a little mouse. Now, the place she find herself in is said to be haunted by The Ghost of Harrenhal, everyone from cooks and slaves to Lannisters men are scared of it. But Arya being awesome as she is, is obv not scared of any bloody ghost, and with these 3 wishes in her pocket, she’s not that weak mouse anymore, she’s seeing HERSELF AS the Ghost of Harrenhal, and like someone said before, it finally gives her a bit of control.
    Sorry about my poor english skills, but I hope you got the point.

    GoT <3

  24. Hi.
    @ Cheryl; The reason that Jaqen gave Arya three lives has to do with his belief system. She took 3 deaths from his god, and to maintain balance give them back.
    I would think of Joffrey too, and in the books it does take her a while to figure out who she wants dead the most.

    For those who have read the books:
    I don’t get what point there is to changing Asha’s name at all.
    Also, I am quite sure that Arya became cupbearer to the elder Bolton. Without the Bolton’s there are way too many things they would have to miss out of the subsequent seasons – ie Theon’s life, and I don’t think they would be able to have Lannister senior keep his own plotlines, while also going about that of the Bolton’s. This isn’t Wheel of Time. They cannot Travel (as of yet, at least).
    Also, where are the Twins? Without those and the family that live there, no red wedding…

  25. @siuanon
    Bolton comes in later.
    I think its a good idea to give some screen time to Tywin Lenister.
    In the book we learn about him much trough memories and thoughts, the screen writers had to come up with a way to present him.

    @feelsgoodman: very good point!

    Anyway, Tiryon is great in this show as well as in the book, but TV-Theon has no wits at all.

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