Last night's "The Ghost of Harrenhal" marked the halfway point of the second season of HBO's Game of Thrones, so it should come as no surprise that the plot is finally revving up. The four episodes leading up to this one were far from boring, but here we finally see oft-talked about plots and schemes (which are apparently the same thing) in the early stages of fruition. Things are about to get messy.
The (Other) Avengers
Of the many proclamations made last night, the vow to avenge was the dominant recurring theme. The episode starts with Stannis (Stephen Dillane) and Melisandre's (Carice van Houten) hellspawn—which bears a creepy likeness to Stannis—murking Renly, with Lady Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) bring the only witnesses. With the Stannis in Black fleeting in and out in mere seconds, the blame falls on Brienne, who then flees with Cat. Brienne is wracked with guilt over failing to protect her master, and pledges her allegiance to Cat with the caveat that when the time comes, she is allowed to make Stannis pay.
Renly's much ballyhooed 100,000-man army flocks to the nearest Baratheon after his death, giving Stannis the edge he so desperately needed, and forcing Loras (Finn Jones) and the Margaery (Natalie Dormer) the beard to flee as well. Loras vows revenge, but Marg hints at an ambition for power that may not have been quelled by Renly's death. Will she and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) strike up an alliance?
Elsewhere at Harrenhal, Arya (Maisie Williams) continues to impress Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) with her wits. Of course, as soon as he finds out she's a Stark, the niceties will cease, but that may not be a problem now that Little Lady Stark has her own three-time hitman in Fake Gambit Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). He's the prisoner that she freed from a fiery death when the Red Guards stormed the Wall bound camping party, and he's now joined the guard himself.
His moral code supersedes his new duties, however, and he offers his services to Arya in return for her mercy. She saved him and his two companions, so he will exchange three bodies for her. She tests the waters by marking The Tickler, the rat torturer from last week, for death, and by episode's end Jaqen comes through. We have a feeling he's going to play a big part in thinning Arya's lullaby hit-list.
"Nothing is worth what this will cost you, not even the iron throne."
Last week, Danerys (Emilia Clarke) finally scored a win, and Stannis got a huge look in the beginning of this episode, but last night both of their advisers had to keep them from letting the victory get to their heads and blind them from the big picture.
Dany is the guest of the wealthy Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), and her reputation as the Mother of Dragons has made her a celebrity within Qarth. Xaro wastes no time in revealing his motives for letting her beyond the city walls. He'll grant her half of his fortune and thus the means to travel to Westeros and take back the throne, if she will agree to marry him. When Dany takes Westeros, Xaro would like to be the First Gentleman, and Dany, no stranger to arranged marriages, is seriously considering it.
That is, until Jorah (Iain Glen), who is definitely in love with her, by the way, intercedes. He may have personal reasons for not wanting to see Dany enter another marriage, but he makes good strategic points as well. Why invite this unknown third party into the fray, when all they really need is one ship? Furthermore, foreign allies won't matter much in the bid for the throne if they don't make some in Westeros first.
Meanwhile, Stannis is ready to march on King's Landing now that he has Renly's army, but Davos (Liam Cunningham) isn't about to just bury the fact that he saw murderous smoke come out of Melisandre's nether region. The flame-haired priestess is becoming too integral and influential too fast and if Stannis doesn't protect himself, he may end up like his brother. Dude doesn't know Melisandre as well as he thinks he does, though; there's no way she's going to sit out the King's Landing siege.
- Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) learns from Lancel that Cersei (Lena Headey) and Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) are stockpiling wildfire to combat the oncoming army, and proceeds to jack their haul, not to mention the alchemist, for himself. To what end, no one knows...yet.
- Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) is still having trouble gaining respect from his own people, who have launched their attack on the North. They hope to deplete Winterfell of able-bodied soldiers by laying siege to a nearby town first. Judging from Bran's (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) dream of water washing over Winterfell, their plan might just work, if Theon doesn't get a crisis of conscience first.
- Margaery's line that, "Calling yourself king doesn't make you one" should be the season's tagline.
- Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) is finally promoted to ranger, as the Night's Watch plan a stealth attack on a rogue Watcher who has taken up with a band of crazy wildlings.
- Brienne is cool and all but for those of us who haven't read the books, the writers could do a better job of explaining why she is so ride or die for Renly.
- Dragons learning how to eat = awesome. Pretty much any dragon sighting is awesome.