GOT- “The Ghost of Harrenhal”

Another Sunday, another episode of Game of Thrones. As usual, warnings of kinda-spoilers–kinda, because unless you’ve read the books the clues I give won’t make a lick of sense. This offering, titled “The Ghost of Harrenhal,” spent actually little time in Harrenhal, dizzily transporting us from The Wall to Essos and back. We start off with Stannis’s and Melisandre’s freakish shadow baby teaching Renly, and all newcomers to ASOIAF, the dire meaning of “valar morghulis.” This leads to a case of “guilt-on-first-sight” by several guards who implicate Brienne the Beauty in the crime, and pay for their sloppy detective work on the sharp end of her sword. Nice fight scene. Lady Stark urges the lovesick king’s guard (who was seriously barking up the wrong tree) to flee with her, as Renly’s forces sail away, disintegrate into mass confusion or start lining up for Stannis. Later Brienne takes an oath of vengeance and swears her fealty to Lady Stark, in a touching Thelma & Louise moment that we all know is going to end in a brutal hanging. (see? no sense. not a lick.)

In King’s Landing, Tyrion blah…argues with Cersei…blah…humiliates Lancel…blah…dysfunctional Lannister clan…blah blah blah. Bronn, as usual, gives the best one-liners, while all around the city the unwashed masses are forming their own Tea Party. Oh yes, we do get a glimpse of “The Substance.”

On the Iron Isles, Theon Greyjoy is still working out his abandonment and alienation issues and getting disrespected at every turn. But in a brief stroke of “genius” he comes up with what in the end will be a very bad idea, which we will all see come to fruition soon enough. Get used to thinking up words that rhyme with REEK, Theon.

In the North it’s cold. I mean, sh*t,  it’s cold. Sam prattles on about the Andals at the Fist of the First Men while “I’ve-got-to-prove-myself” Jon “The Bastard,” volunteers for some guerilla action with Qhorin Halfhand. And until we get a look at Mance Rayder’s crew folks, I unfortunately have to tell you that watching the snow up here will be more eventful.

In Winterfell, Bran continues to listen to the problems of the smallfolk, treat Hodor as his own private transport and have dreams about mutant crows, while Osha continues to practice the quaint backwoods art of Wildling coyishness every time she’s asked a question. Rickon makes a brief appearance (where’s that kid been?) only to greatly annoy everyone, both on and off screen, with a series of nut-smashing incidents. Master-at-Arm Ser Rodrik Cassel, who we haven’t seen much this season, bursts in on Bran to warn of some trouble elsewhere in the fiefdom. Though there’s hardly anyone left to guard Winterfell (this is a great time to look up the definition of foreshadowing), he leaves with 200 men to take care of matters.

More interestingly, across the Narrow Sea Daenerys Stormborn finds herself being wined, dined, wooed and eventually proposed to by Xaro Xhoan Daxos in Qarth (once more, hooray for a multicultural Qarth!). Marry him and she’ll be wealthy and he’ll give her the army she needs to sail to Westeros and take back the Iron Throne. Her knight turned advisor Jorah Mormont (anyone notice he has the same last name as The Lord Commander on The Wall? no? really? huh.) manages to persuade her against accepting this offer, and reveals a bit of his feelings in a moment that is the height of the phrase “awwwkward.” The warlock Pyat Pree finally shows up (in the book he actually escorts Dany to Qarth) and does some impressive parlor tricks, inviting the Targaryen princess to the House of the Undying. Quaithe also makes an appearance, though I have to say I’d always imagined that mask differently.

Lastly, at the aforementioned Harrenhal, Arya has inexplicably been made Tywin Lannister’s cupbearer. In one of the most stark divergences from the book, she now hangs out with the Lion, listening to him talk about crushing her brother. While an odd choice for the film adaptation, it does allow the youngest Stark girl to show off some of her bad-ass-ness. When asked by an unsuspecting Lannister, who mistakes her for just another girl from the North, if she thinks Rob the Wolf can’t be killed, Arya gives a cold stare and replies in crisp double-speak, “No. Anyone can be killed.” Nice! Making her way through Harrenhal, she runs into none other than our favorite Faceless Man Jaqen H’ghar–who she’d previously saved from a fiery death. In his mysterious Braavosi way, he informs her he is in her debt–three lives worth at her choosing. The first will be The Tickler, who tumbles off a wall with his head screwed on backwards. Of course, in the book, Arya’s the one who does the Tickler in–much later, and quite personally. Taking away this kill from her is somewhat problematic to me, as it erases one of her key scenes of personal strength and pent-up vengeance. Oh well, I guess there’s always another prick in Westeros she can offer up to the Many-Faced-God.

All in all, a decent though muddled episode, despite the changes that keep me guessing at where these writers are heading. We even managed to get through it without any sexpositions at all–not even a breast flash. That’s gotta be worth something. Till next week, wherein Tyrion dreams that one day he’ll be riding a pig.

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