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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – “The Ghost Of Harrenhal”

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TV Diary | Game Of Thrones – Episode 2.05 – “The Ghost Of Harrenhal” – Original Airdate: 4/29/12

Episode Grade: B

100% honesty – this may have been my least favorite episode of either of Game Of Thrones’ two seasons to date. Other than the (BIG GIANT SPOILER ALERT) [1] very surprising death of Renly via Melisandre’s newly-birthed smoke monster [2], there really wasn’t much here that I cared about. Granted, the opening scene that saw Catelyn reassuring Renly that Robb has no interest in the Iron Throne and Renly proposing an arrangement with Robb that was much like the one his brother Robert had with Robb’s father Ned was well-constructed and Renly’s death literally came out of nowhere. It was a shot fired that made it seem like “The Ghost Of Harrenhal” was gonna be a balls-out crazy installment of GoT but, instead, it pretty much petered out from there. Daenerys being proposed to by one of the fucking weirdoes in Qarth? Don’t really care. More nonsense with the greatly-removed Night Watch storyline? Don’t really care. Brienne and Catelyn forging an alliance of sorts? Slightly more interesting, but not very. Coming on the heels of the season’s two strongest episodes, “The Ghost Of Harrenhal” was more than a little bit of a letdown even as the material with Tyrion [3] and Arya continues to be very strong. As I’ve mentioned in previous entries on GoT, I have immense faith in the abilities of showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss to tie together the (for now) less essential elements of the show by season’s end but to this point the second season has been a bit of a grab bag where the Tyrion/Robb/Arya/Renly/Theon material is working well, but everything involving Stannis/Dany/Jon is either coming off limply or not at all. Specifically, the Dany and Night Watch storylines are so far removed from the overall story of the season that they’re a slog to get through at this stage. “The Ghost Of Harrenhal” marks the season’s halfway point so there are only five episodes left to bring the season’s narrative to a satisfying conclusion, but episodes like “The Ghost Of Harrenhal” are going to have to be few and far between in order for that to happen.

[1] And, really, if you haven’t seen the episode you probably shouldn’t be reading this in the first place. You know how this works by now.
[2] Who Brienne interestingly mentioned looked a lot like Stannis himself.
[3] Peter Dinklage (rightfully) won an Emmy for his work in season one but good lord… the guy’s on another level this year and will have a strong, strong case for Best Actor in a Drama if HBO chooses to enter him into consideration for a lead role.

Miscellany:
*And even as I spent much of the above paragraph talking about how much I disliked the episode, there were still definitely some high points. We’ve already touched on Renly’s death, which was shocking and effective. In my surprise over his death, I hadn’t considered that not only would his death remove one of Stannis’s key rivals for the throne from the equation, but it also exponentially increased his manpower as the vast majority of Renly’s troops defected to Stannis’s side. I like how the show paints collecting troops as an arms race in the coming war and Renly’s death and subsequent movement of his troops to his brother’s employ certainly qualifies as this. Ultimately, I’m sticking with a “B” grade mainly on the strength of the impact of Renly’s demise, but I don’t feel particularly great about that grade.
*The intent of the conversation between Stannis and Davos where Stannis puts Davos in charge of their offensive, despite Davos’s protests that he’s not as qualified as others, probably could have been presented a little more clearly. Was there a subtext there that Davos has convinced Stannis that Melisandre is dangerous? Because, if so, that’s kind of odd coming after she essentially delivered Renly’s troops to him. And, if they are turning against her and cutting her out, is this the type of woman you want to mess around with? This could end with yet another dead Baratheon.
*Yet more lack of clarity: Theon meets his crew and, in trying to assert his authority, runs afoul of a crew member who basically tells him that he could do Theon’s job very easily and that Theon should watch his back. Left essentially holding his junk in his hand on the docks after the crew departs, Theon is joined by his first mate who’s a bit more sympathetic to his cause and who suggests that Theon needs to prove himself to the crew before they’ll respect him. To that end, he offers up a plan to… do something. Again, not entirely clear but I think that was the jist of the exchange. I’d assume that it has something to do with striking at Robb ahead of time but this probably could have been presented a little more strongly.
*Tyrion’s surprised dismay at being labeled a “demon monkey” by a deranged ranter on the street was the height of hilarity.
*Maisie Williams continues to turn in incredibly strong work as Arya, sparring both with Tywin over her identity and with one of the prisoners who she freed in “What Is Dead May Never Die.” The development with the prisoner is particularly interesting because he informs her that he is in her debt for releasing him and his repayment plan involves killing any three people of her choosing. She starts off by suggesting the torturer from “Garden Of Bones,” and by episode’s end, the torturer is dead, raising the question: What does this do long-term for Arya and her mental state now that she knows she has the power to take life away?
*What’s with the references to wildfire? This must be significant, yes?
*Yo… those people in Qarth (Qarthians?) are fucking weirdoes.
*”Negotiate with Stannis? I’d have better luck debating the wind.”
*”Calling yourself a king doesn’t make you one and if Renly wasn’t a king, I wasn’t a queen.” “Do you want to be a queen, my grace?” “I don’t want to be a queen. I want to be THE queen.”
*”Aren’t you always so clever with your schemes and your plots.” “Schemes and plots are the same thing.”
*”Enough. Even torturing you is boring.”
*”Are we surprised when the fruit of their incest is rotten? A rotten king!” “It’s hard to argue with him.”
*”I remember an old proverb: Piss on wildfire, and your cock burns off.”

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