All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
2.5 The Ghost of Harrenhal
Remember when I said the rumor was Harrenhal was haunted? It is- this time,by Jaqan H’ghar. He’s even the logo for this week’s episode. SYMBOLISM.
We pick up right where we left off last week in Renly’s Camp, where he’s negotiating with Cat. Cat is reassuring Renly that Robb has no interest in the Iron Throne and in an offer of alliance, Renly says Robb can have everything north of Moat Cailin, which is the northmost part of the Neck and the Riverlands. Robb can also keep his King in the North title and he and Renly will continue a similar, if not the same kind of relationship Ned had with Robert. It’s not a bad deal right?
Too bad- Mel’s smoke baby makes its way into the tent, forms a Stannis-like shape, and stabs Renly through the heart. I liked Renly. He was a likeable character. Brienne is immediately accused and fights off two Kingsguard before holding Renly’s lifeless body. Cat urges her to leave, saying, “You can’t avenge him if you’re dead.” This line is so authentically delivered and perhaps a testament to how she has been cautioning Robb in his moves as well as herself. It’s reminiscent of the scene she shares with Robb after Ned’s death in Season 1, Episode 10.
Littlefinger, Loras, and Margaery are all standing over Renly’s dead body and Marg is watching her title slip away from her fingertips. In a very political move and as an easy culprit, she blames Brienne and interestingly enough, Loras defends her, saying she would never bring harm to Renly and Marg knows that. She tells Loras a similar line that Cat gave Brienne- “You can’t avenge him from the grave” and this is a bit of a manipulative point on her point, using Loras’ feelings to keep him focus on Renly’s death and not the war itself. Marg very badly wants to be queen and to do so, she knows she’ll have to marry. Stannis is already married and Robb wants nothing to do with the Iron Throne. Balon is out as an option, so Joff is the only one left and the alliance and wealth between the Lannisters and Tyrells would make the most sense.
In a weird enunciation, Marg says she wants to be “tha” queen instead of “THE” queen. The delivery which used to bother me at first, but I think this line goes pretty perfectly with her character- she’s not nearly as obvious in her manipulation as Cersei is and Margaery really wins people over with her smile and good-natured vibe. It matches how everyone underestimates her kindness instead of seeing her as a major player.
If we’re being honest, Margaery is a much more ambitious character that Stannis in the show. I never get the sense of… why Stannis even wants the throne, other than it being the throne and that he is older than Renly, and wait, maybe the Red Woman really did convince him that it’s his destiny aaaaaand I guess I’m wrong? Still weak though. Maybe it’s different in the books. I can’t remember.
Somewhere outside all this, Brienne and Cat are setting up shop and Brienne remarks that the shadow had the face of Stannis- add this to the drinking game. Cat acknowledges it was shaped like a man and nothing more. Both Brienne and Cat lost their mothers when they were young and Cat says everything after birth is harder. She desperately wants to get back to Bran and Rickon and Brienne says she’ll escort her- but Cat must release her from her service when the right time comes. Brienne swears fealty to Cat, saying she will always protect her and Cat says that Brienne will always have a place in her home and at her table. It’s a quietly beautiful scene and we see these two heartbroken women find a friendship and solace in each other.
Over in King’s Landing, Cersei is in BRIGHT RED. Guys, I did it. Cersei and Tyrion both don’t believe the rumor that Cat killed Renly and Cersei says it doesn’t matter because they can outspend Stannis three-to-one. Besides, Cersei has a plan and it includes Joff overseeing anti-siege operations- which means Cersei will be overseeing operations. Tyrion doesn’t trust this, rightfully so and sends Lancel to find out why.
Touring the city, Tyrion and Bronn come across a man ranting about Joffrey’s war and how it is keeping the city starved. It seems that Stannis’ letter really has reached every corner it possibly could, and he refers to Joff as a bastard king.
It turns out Cersei’s been commanding the city’s pyromancers to make wildfire, a mythical old weapon that melts flesh like tallow and a favorite of the Targaryens. He doesn’t want to believe it, but the pyromancer reveals there are 7,811 tupperwares of the stuff, all under the city. Bronn’s concern is that there are no real fighters in King’s Landing, as they’ve all left to support Tywin and he doesn’t trust a bunch of peasants with catapults. Tyrion commands the pyromancers to make more, knowing it’s a good weapon to have- but also immensely dangerous to keep below the city.
In Storm’s End, all of Renly’s men have defected over to Stannis, but the Tyrells have gone back to the Reach with their soldiers. Davos tells Stannis not to take Melisandre to King’s Landing- people are quietly talking about how Melisandre is really the one leading the war, not Stannis and taking her will only take the victory away from Stannis if he is to be king. Stannis orders Davos to lead the attack at Blackwater Bay and says Davos is lucky that he wasn’t hung for treason.
They keep referring to this but it’s not explained until later- this show does like to allude to things before telling us the real backstory. Davos was a pirate and smuggler, but saved Stannis and his men from starving in a battle during Robert’s Rebellion by delivering onions. So, Davos’ unofficial title is The Onion Knight and Stannis let him live, but chopped off some of his fingers as a smuggler’s punishment. Technically, by his code, Stannis should have executed Davos.
Over in Pyke, Theon gets steamrolled by his crew as they completely ignore him when he tries to give him orders. Dagmer, his new first mate, says they’re iron born, so they won’t show him respect until he proves he deserves it and should make some bold moves to reflect that. Theon thinks that maybe that instead of a tiny fishing village, the crew would prefer to raid Torrhen’s Square, a holdfast in the North as there are no men there… and no men for the Starks to send to get it back… and all the Northmen… HANG ON A MINUTE! I can take over the whole North in the name of the Iron Islands!
Uh, I guess… we can go to Qarth from here. Sure. After watching How to Train Your Dragon, Dany tells Doreah to keep Xaro what’s his name, the Sumai guy and wealthiest man in Quath, happy because happy men like to talk. Sexually happy men, if you catch my drift. Xaro has apparently sent her a dress, and the last time Dany was given a dress, she was given to a man like a slave- but she’ll wear it anyway as a sign of respect to her host. Let’s note in the books that Qarth fashion is to leave one breast out and about. Glad they didn’t do that here.
Ain’t no party like a Xaro Party is there? It seems schmoozy. Not my scene. The North has better feasts. Dany meets Pyat Pree, a warlock, who multiplies himself as a parlor trick and invites Dany to stay with him in his Tower of the Undying. Whatever. A woman wearing a really incredible costume with a repeated hexagon shape over it (shout out to the costume department) warns Jorah that he needs to protect her- for people will lust over her and her dragons and dragons are fire made flesh. This might also be her way of saying that those who fall in love with Dany will get burned. This woman has been theorized to be a another Red Priestess as her dress matches Melisandre’s necklace, but she’s never shown up again. In fact, none of Qarth has ever shown up again. So…
Ok. Let’s wrap up Qarth. Xaro says Jorah is in love with Dany and calls her quest for the Iron Throne unfocused, which is fairly true- she doesn’t even know why she wants it except because she knows that she is entitled to it. Xaro offers to share his wealth with her and points out this giant, impenetrable vault to demonstrate how much money he has and how many ships she could buy- if she marries him. Jorah advises against it and Dany’s attitude towards Jorah has changed because Xaro’s words have really gotten to her- she does understand that Jorah has feelings for her, but she wants to know if he’s doing this for the greater good and the realm and not just his own purposes or because of her birthright. Jorah wants her on the throne because he truly believes she can be a good leader, a fair leader, and that Westeros deserves that kind of rule. It gives Dany more of a reason to believe in herself, rather than just her “I AM A KHALEESIIIIIIIII.”
Up at Winterfell, Bran offers two orphan boys to an old man who needs help running his farm. The old man and his wife have wanted more children but are unable to and this is just super sweet. Wins for everyone. Bran also sends 200 men to defend Torrhen’s Square, which is under attack by Lannisters? Baratheons? Who knows? Anyway, it’s the mark of a good leader as Bran wants to protect those who also protect him- a true Northern move. Bran’s also had a dream that the sea came to Winterfell and crashed over the gates and flooded the castle, with “drowned me” n the yard- an obvious metaphor for the eventual invasion of Winterfell by the Iron Islands and their Drowned God or whatever.
It’s weird that Bran’s face is stretching out but his voice is still light and airy and- ok, I’m done. ANYWAY.
North of that, Jeor, Jon, and their Merry Men are making their way to the Fist of the First Men and talking up Qhorin Halfhand, who is kind of a rogue Ranger who spends most of his time above the Wall. The Delta Force of the Night’s Watch, if you will. They need him because he was close with Mance Rayder when Mance was still a member of the Night’s Watch and perhaps Qhorin can give them some intel on Mance as well as the army he has been raising. The horn blows once for Rangers and Sam points out if it were three, it would be White Walkers but that hasn’t happened in about 1,000 years because HE READ IT IN A BOOK. Seriously. Someone dub over Hogwarts: A History for all these scenes. Qhorin shows up and says they need to extinguish a bunch of Wildling fires, because they are pretty much beacons for Mance, telling him where the Night’s Watch is at, so Jon, Qhorin, and a few others go off to put those out.
Down south in Harrenhal, Arya is eavesdropping on all of Tywin’s battle plans and overhears the rumor that the Northmen are full of dissent and want to go home to prepare for the winter. Tywin is smart enough to stay focused on their battle plans and not the rumor mill, understanding the loyalty of the Northmen and Robb’s popularity as well as his success. Tywin orders that Arya only bring water, as they need to work out their strategy and there are only a few people capable of doing so- and they all need to keep clear heads.
Tywin starts to test Arya by asking where she is from- he already knows she is of the North due to her facial features and dark hair. He also catches onto the small details she drops, probably her accent and dialect as well. This might be the first lesson Arya gets in lying- come up with something that you know enough about to make it realistic. She gets tripped up in her claim that she’s from Maidenpool when she’s unfamiliar with their sigil- then chooses a North house that she grew up knowing about, House Dustin of Barrowton- and ally of the Boltons, just saying. Ahem.
Tywin wants to know what Robb’s own men are saying about him and Arya drops a few warging hints, enough mythical imagery to keep her youth and lowborn ignorance at the forefront of her persona. There’s a bit of affection between Tywin and Arya- he can tell that she’s quick and smart, and she also most likely breaks up the monotony of his day and gives him a chance to feel wise. Then this moment is broken when Tywin asks if she thinks Robb can’t be killed and she’s like, “Oh no. Anyone can be killed.” It was nice while it lasted- these few scenes with Tywin are some of my favorite because we do get to see a different side of him a softer side that his own children probably have never gotten to know for the sake of appearances and because he sees his role as father as more of something like a profession in order to keep that Lannister name alive and well.
Sent for water, Arya runs in a familiar face- Jaqan H’ghar, but he’s dressed as a Lannister soldier. Like Arya, he’s playing a part in order to survive and tells her since she saved him, Rorge, and Biter from the fire when they were initially captured, she stole three deaths from the Red God. To appease the god, Jaqan will take three lives for her.
Instead of asking for a death that would affect the War of the Five Kings, or you know, save Sansa, or perhaps avenge Ned, Arya can only see about three steps in front of herself and requests that Jaqan kill the Tickler. This is one of the first indicators that Arya’s storyline is on a smaller scale- still important, still interesting, but very much her own and not much to do with the rest of Westeros. From here, she moves further and further away from the political landscape and even in the most recent episodes, it’s unclear of the role she’ll play.
With the Tickler dead, we’re moving on to 2.6 The Old Gods and the New!