Game of Thrones 2.05 Review- "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

A tv review article by: Dylan Garsee, Nick Hanover


This week was a doozy. Shadow Babby immediately showed why you don't put shadow babby in the corner, while Tyrion got some info out of Lancel in a characteristically amusing way. Theon continued to be his slimy self as Bran held court in Winterfell and Arya stared down Tywin Lannister. Daeny got some more screentime way out in Qarth, where not-at-all creepy warlocks and charming land pirates all wooed her. And Jon Snow was boring.




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This week's Brew of Choice is a limited edition Baltic IPA: Samuel Adams Dark Depths Baltic IPA. Taking the dark roasted malts of a Baltic Porter and adding the bold, citrusy hop character of an IPA, this brew pours dark and intimidating. Its 7.6% ABV seems more frightening than it is, but it's got spirit and a will to prove itself. It can't be hampered by orders to raid fishing villages, and will instead seek out a greater prize, transforming itself from a mild ale to a complex lager that confounds definition. Grab this one while you can. I don't know how long it'll be on the shelves.

Game of Thrones 2.05- "The Ghost of Harrenhal"


Dylan Garsee: To quote my mom, before she hung up on me as I forced her to let me hear her reaction in real time: "I love Renly, he's so friendly...WHAT THE HELL?!"


Nick Hanover: I love how Game of Thrones doesn't give a shit about following traditional serialized structure in regards to shock endings. Last season, we had Ned get beheaded in the episode before the finale. And now, we've got the back-to-back of shadow babby getting introduced at the end of last episode and then immediately making use of itself, like some hyperspeed version of Chekhov's gun. Also: do all shadow babbies have such short metamorphoses? 


Dylan: I have no knowledge of shadow babby metamorphoses.


Nick: I am disappointed by your lack of gynoshadow physiology.


Dylan: It's not the shadow babby that's confusing, I think it's just female anatomy in general. 


I'm upset that my second favorite TV 'mo, Renly, got killed, but I think I'm more upset over the fact that the series changed the order of events. In the book, Renly gets killed by the shadow babby (by a throat slit, not a back stab) before the shadow babby is revealed. This leads to an existence questioning period of time for the reader, because everything they ever knew about shadow babbies and gay kings was wrong.



Nick: That's why I've been waiting to read the books until the seasons are done. I don't want my enjoyment of the show to be impacted by an internal debate over accuracy versus practicality. I thought the way they did the shadow babby death scene here was effective, in that it minimized the CGI required and it was subtle enough that the chaos that followed Renly's death made perfect sense. While I found it a bit odd that everyone immediately assumed Brienne killed Renly, and then later decided it was Cat, and then later still decided they didn't know at all really, the scene was played with enough confusion that I bought it. Plus, now we have Brienne and Cat, who are yet another great duo in a whole series full of great duos. I want to see some of these duos duke it out in some kind of duo arena; Tyrion and Bronn versus Hodor and Bran, or Brienne and Cat versus Shadow Babby and Malisandre. You get the picture.


Dylan: Well, I saw the switching of the scenes as almost insulting to the viewer. It's like the showrunners thought we'd be confused about a shadow being killing Renly without knowing why, so they just walked us through everything. The opening scene of the series with the White Walkers and the circle of dead people still hasn't been revealed fully, yet we had to get our hands held for one death.


Also, I love your pairing of people. You know-nothing Jon Snow, err, Nick Hanover.


Nick: Well, if Renly had just been stabbed and no one saw anything and then Shadow Babby showed up, I'm not saying that wouldn't be better, but considering I didn't even know that was an option since I haven't read the books, it looked good to me. Which is my point about how reading the books creates a schizoid experience in some ways.


Since my pairings of people has apparently foreshadowed something, let's talk about what's likely going to happen with Cat and Brienne. My prediction is that they're going to land in Winterfell right as it's under siege by that pedo-moustachioed pirate asshole Theon (because, come on, how transparent is Bran's dream about Winterfell getting flooded by the sea?) and Cat is either going to spank him or Brienne is going to lop his head right off. One of those options is more appealing to me than the other. Hint: it's the one that doesn't sound like a Savage Love letter.



Dylan: I hate Theon, and the fierce wench Brienne would be just the person I'd like to see lop his head off. I enjoy watching Joff and Cersei-- basically anyone I hate-- but that's because I just love to hate them. In contrast, I hate Theon, but I just hate to hate him. It's great that even his army hates him, because he doesn't deserve any love, even if it's on a horse with his sister. Bran's dreams have been pretty vague so far, with the exception of the flooding one, and seeing Rickon as what I can only assume is a child version of Hodor is just grand.


Nick: It's too bad that Winterfell is going to get its shit stirred up so soon, because I was really enjoying Bran at court. He's a surprisingly capable leader of the people and if he survives, I suspect that he'll be an incredibly valuable asset to Robb, who has proven to be an excellent military leader but still leans far too much on advisors to make decisions. Robb's stupid decision to leave Winterfell so undefended that even Theon "Fuckface" Greyjoy could seriously threaten it proves this.


Still, I don't think Bran is going die, but I suspect that a lot of the Winterfell folk we grew to love over the first season will meet their demise, which I figured, given how little they've featured in this season. I'm also worried that something else might happen to Bran, like perhaps something more magical, maybe getting stuck in wolf form?


Dylan: Catelyn actually gave birth to a wolf, but raised it as a human in some weird alien medieval Sleepaway Camp


Robb is a good warrior, but he's a terrible leader. Leaving Winterfell unattended will bring nothing but harm to him and everyone he loves, yet he keeps stroking his girthy ego with his battle-winning skills. He's letting his skills get to his head, and we all know what happens to Stark heads. And Hodor heads.



Nick: For the sake of my own sanity, I'm going to assume that's not some awful Hodor double entendre there. This Winterfell disaster has been a long time coming, though, since every scene at Winterfell this season has been built around making it clear that they're woefully undermanned and short on resources. Maybe this will be where Hodor reveals himself to be a giant and/or dragon?


But Winterfell's not the only place that's facing a dark, looming threat. King's Landing revealed itself to be similarly threatened, with Stannis now barreling straight for it with Renly's former troops flanking him and giving him a gigantic advantage on both sea AND land. Tyrion seems to be the only one who's aware of how serious a threat Stannis is, and once again, his scenes were my favorite this week.


The highlight, of course, was his absolute humiliation of Lancel, which never gets old, especially when it's taking place in some kind of mini-royal chambers in the middle of the street with Bronn standing guard out front. Tyrion may have dismissed his torture of Lancel as "boring," but it made for engaging viewing, especially after the brutal start of the episode. And it revealed that Cersei and Joffrey are relying on the Game of Thrones version of napalm to keep the city safe. Which worked oh so well for the US in Vietnam.



Dylan: Any scene where Lancel is embarrassed and tortured is automatically my favorite of the week. Only Joffrey being ridiculed or slapped can top that. I'm happy that we get to finally see King's Landing outside the castles that are the setting of most scenes. It's dirty and gross, and exactly like I imagined it would be: run down. I'm excited to see what happens with the wild fire that Cersei has concocted with what I can only assume would be a cartoonish cauldron and a raven. And on a side note, I would sell my body to HBO if that meant I'd see a spin-off starring Tyrion and Bronn. Or at least a guest appearance on Girls.


Nick: Hannah shacks up with Tyrion, who easily outwits her and she winds up dumping him because she can't stand being with someone who makes her friends laugh more than she does. Meanwhile, Marnie has her world rocked by Bronn, but she doesn't know that he's also giving Jessa the bizness.


Dylan: "I got the results Marnie. It seems to be that I'm a dwarf."


Nick: On a slightly more serious note, can we officially begin the countdown until Joffrey forces that street preacher to use a razor blade dildo on someone? Or is he too busy playing with wild fire at the moment to fuck up random citizens? The contrast between King's Landing and Qarth this week was especially telling, since the nobility of the realm are hellbent on making the rest of the world out to be some kind of cesspool. Qarth was clean and gorgeous and vibrant while King's Landing is what London must have been like before hygiene was invented. 


Dylan: Xaro Xohen Daxos is the complete opposite of Joffery, both by ruling tactics and race. I love the dynamic between Quarth and King's Landing; they both seem to be what the other would be if there was drastic changes from within. But there's something about Quarth that gives me the heebie-jeebies. It could be the almost Disneyland quality of life, the over-happiness of its citizens, or it may just be the guy that looks like if Mandark aged 900 years, blew a Smurf and then cloned himself, along with his dominatrix fortune teller. Or it could just be me.



Nick: No, Qarth is definitely unsettling and I'm sure we'll find out soon, what with the House of the Undying talk going on, and the way everyone looks like they came straight out of a Guillermo del Toro film. But my point is more that Qarth keeps its image together (maybe specifically so it can lure people in) whereas King's Landing is ruled by a bunch of self-centered little shits with no regard for anyone other than themselves. As Tyrion found out with the wildfire storage room manned by what I can only assume is Pycell's little brother, Cersei and Joffrey don't really seem to give a shit about what happens to King's Landing as long as that irritating Stannis is disposed of in the process, and that's going to be a major factor in their longevity. People who don't like you aren't going to go the extra mile for you, simple as that, so as Bronn tells Tyrion, having a bunch of sketchy napalm in a jar  won't matter once it blows up in people's faces and everyone decides "Oh, hey, I hate that fucker Joffrey, why would I risk melting my face off for him?" Obviously I'm paraphrasing Bronn here, but now I am disappointed that he never once uttered the phrase "I hate that fucker Joffrey"


Dylan: "I hate Joff more than I hate that show Whitney", or something like that would be more likely. 


I'm really excited to see the House of the Undying; it's going to be wacky to say the least. 


Meanwhile, Jon Snow didn't do much this episode, which is a nice change of pace from the nothing he usually does, so that's good for his development.



Nick: He got demoted, there's that. And now he's off into the wilds, where I'm sure he will get another lesson in how morality isn't black and white, courtesy of a Mr. Halfhand this time around. Maybe he'll even wind up realizing this Mance Rayder isn't so bad after all and will be recruited into his band of merry men! Oh wait, I don't give a shit. 


I'm far more interested in the alliance Daeny is potentially forming, which could have major ramifications. Daxos played it all extremely well by making it clear that he wanted to be as much of a business partner for her as anything else, and simultaneously throwing a wrench in her relationship with Jorah, who Daeny had still somehow not realized is in love with her. I think Daxos can be a great ally for Daeny, regardless of marriage, and I'm hoping that she finds some way to forge an alliance with him and keep her status as a conqueror and independent ruler intact. If we're going all Arabian Nights on this shit, then it will be the result of her cunning; my guess is that she uses her dragons to break open that safe and win the challenge all those thieves and locksmiths couldn't.


Dylan: Ser Jorah is starting to become a bigger presence in Daeny's decision making, it seems. I'm hoping that he just has a thing for a girl three times his junior, and isn't trying to use her for personal gain. Daeny's already been betrayed enough, and I'm afraid to see what would happen if someone so close to her messed with her. 



Nick: Ser Jorah seems to have an honorable streak within him, even if it's tainted by the fact that he is a former slaver. I doubt he's looking to betray Daeny anytime soon, as he already gave up his clemency in order to save her. Meanwhile, on the honor front, am I the only one who was sorely disappointed in the sudden disappearance of Davos' backbone?


Dylan: Davos' backbone that was quickly torn out by Stannis.


Nick: Davos certainly appeared ready to spill the shadow babby beans, then he suddenly backed down, either because he was afraid of Melisandre or because he figured he'd only be able to get Melisandre out of the picture by not making shadow babby references. In which case, he has more willpower than us.


The overall indication seems to be that Stannis is so hellbent on taking King's Landing that he isn't thinking about how to actually LEAD his troops, or what the best strategic decisions are. Giving Davos the leadership of his navy may seem like a way to placate his first mate, but it's also going to piss off a whole lot of people he just brought to his side and even Davos thinks it might be the best military decision considering his expertise is in escaping and evading ships, not attacking them.



Nick: The show is smart to juxtapose that with the state of Tywin's rule, as his reappearance has led to his troops falling back into discipline. Tywin doesn't need to be brisk and rough, he merely has to show off his calculating nature and overwhelming capacity for analyzing a situation and his soldiers know what's what. Stannis is played as an asshole with a meanstreak, while Tywin is a cold but brilliant strategist who scares the shit out of people as soon as he looks at them.


Dylan: Tywin is my second favorite Lannister so far (behind Tyrion, of course) because he's just scary. That scene between him and Arya was strangely satisfying and terrifying; badass and chilling. 


Jaqen H'ghar, the guy Arya saved a few episodes back, gave Arya three deaths in exchange for the three she saved. So, J'qhen will kill anyone she wants him to, so Hitler, Osama bin Laden, and Toby, obviously.


Nick: Well, he already killed Toby. Poor Toby. Left Dunder-Mifflin to take a promising job as a torturer for the Lannisters, only to wind up with a broken neck courtesy of a sellsword and the creepy little girl he's won over like some kind of medieval The Professional.



Nick: Speaking of Arya, though, how about that showdown with Tywin? I know we give Arya shit for being a blank slate/Princess Bride-knock off 75% of the time, but scenes like her conversation with Tywin about how "anyone can be killed" totally made up for it.


Dylan: Just wait. All that I will say is Valar Morghulis.


Nick: Is that Gendry's gay porn name?



Dylan: It's mine.



Nick: And on that note…let's rate this shizzit. I'm saying . It was a good episode, that had an extremely sudden and abrupt start and then ended just as suddenly and abruptly, but luckily there was a lot of plots in motion in-between.


Dylan: I'd say , only because I just got the feeling that the plots were just dumbed down for the audience. The Wire and Twin Peaks trusted their audiences to know what was happening; why can't Game of Thrones?


Nick: Actually, Twin Peaks didn't trust anybody to know what was happening and just went ahead with it anyway. Come on, you've seen the second season.


Dylan: I say that the second season of Twin Peaks is just David Lynch farting into a camera, and then crapping out the gold that is the finale.


Nick: And thus begins the countdown until David Lynch starts releasing coffee that is made from beans that he digested and literally shat out.


Dylan Garsee is a freelance writer/bingo enthusiast currently living in Austin, TX. He is studying sociology, and when he's not winning trivia nights at pork-themed restaurants, writing a collection of essays on the gay perspective in geek culture. An avid record collector, Dylan can mostly be seen at Waterloo Records, holding that one God Speed You! Black Emperor record he can't afford and crying. You can follow him on twitter @garseed.

When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set and functioning as the Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and has contributed to No Tofu Magazine, Performer Magazine, Port City Lights and various other international publications. By which he means Canadian rags you have no reason to know anything about. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticoand you can follow him on twitter @Nick_Hanover


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