Game of Thrones: The Winter of Everyone's Discontent

Game of Thrones S02E05: "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

Winter, you have company. The cold season is nigh, but war is also coming to Westeros, and that was the biggest takeaway from "The Ghost of Harrenhal," another excellent episode of television's greatest drama about horrible things happening to good people. I might suggest an alternate title for the episode, though: "The Shitshow is Coming to Westeros," because things are getting awfully chippy in Game of Thrones right about now!

We've seen the posters, we've seen Stannis playing with his miniature war pieces, and we've heard lots and lots of talk about the W-word ("There's a war coming, Ned!), but it wasn't until tonight that war felt actually real. Well, to everyone except Cersei, who can't be bothered. From the North where Winterfell stands vulnerable while men protect fishing towns from the Krakens, to the North of the North where Mance Rayder's assembling his army of hobos and mutants, to the South where Dany channels her dead hubby and rants about taking the throne, to the East where the S.S. Stannis and the rest of the fleet looms just offshore, war is on the brink. And the anticipation is killing me! I've never been more excited for a bunch of people to kill each other.

You can even argue that war has already started with the shocking assassination of Renly Baratheon (more on that later). Author George R.R. Martin is a total history nerd and has used real wars as inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and Renly could very well be his Franz Ferdinand (Austro-Hungarian heir whose assassination sparked World War I, not Scottish indie-rock band responsible for commercial jingles). But in Martin's world, there isn't an Axis or Allies. There are more axes than the 15th dimension and allies are only reliable until a better offer comes along. It's total mayhem. Or as the Greyjoys call it, "lootin' time."

As is the case with all wars, location is key. So it's probably as good a time as ever to check up on where everyone is in this wacky war-y world (after Episode 5). Here's a map of the central portion of Westeros, where most of the action is currently taking place. (click on the image to go full-res)

Pay particular attention to where Stannis and his newly acquired mega-army are (Storm's End, I believe) in relation to King's Landing. Geography will play a big part in all this. He's coming in with a ton of boats for a naval siege on King's Landing, and Blackwater Bay is the only place that can be done. Maybe he'll march his infantry through the Kingswood and attack King's Landing from both sides? This is going to be fun!

Now that you've oriented yourself, let's review what happened in "The Ghost of Harrenhal" in ridiculous detail because a ton of great stuff happened! This is a long one, folks. Best go to the bathroom now. I'll wait.

"I want to be THE queen."

Things took all of 0.3 seconds to get ridiculously awesome. Speaking for Robb, Catelyn told Renly that Robb has no desire to be king and just wants to be left alone, once the rat-faced weasel that killed his dad is out of power. Renly is pretty cool with the idea, given the history of their houses, and says let's run a tag-team on the Lannisters like the old days, brunettes versus blondes. It's a great plan and what could possibly go wro- UH OH SPOOKY BREEZE NEVER EVER MEANT ANYTHING GOOD.

Well that didn't take long. Shadow baby grew up before we even got a chance to squeeze its cheeks and crashed the party, shadow shanking Renly through the heart and ensuring that Westeros' fashion renaissance would have to wait. Brienne freaked out, because her only job was to keep Renly alive and boy oh boy the men who said she couldn't guard him because she's a girl are really going to have a field day with this one! Renly's other guards entered just in time to see Brienne standing over Renly's corpse, and being the detectives they are decided that Brienne killed Renly. Instead of arguing her innocence, she utterly destroyed those two fools in what was the finest display of swordsmanship we've seen in the series, and she did it with style! That little sword twirl at the end got high marks from the Braavos judge, but Brienne could care less. She was ultra-bummed that Renly got killed on her watch. She ain't pretty, but she's loyal to the point where it's clinical.

Renly's death pretty much changes EVERYTHING. Look, we all know Game of Thrones is going to kill about half the characters it introduces, but that doesn't mean we'll ever get used to it. There was no fanfare, no sentimentality. He died, and that was it. There was no time to reflect, because the story had to move on. Catelyn and Brienne had two options: get into a two-on-80,000 fight or run. They chose run.

Oh look! It's Stannis' fleet about an hour away ready for battle. That's what I mean by war being imminent. The next scene with Petyr, Loras, and Margaery was fantastic. Ser Loras might be gayer than a waxed chest on Fire Island, but when you mess with his man, he's as ferocious as anyone. Not going to lie, I got pretty sad seeing Loras so angry-sad. Margaery was bummed too, but more so because she has to go through all the trouble of finding another would-be king to fake-marry. By the way, what was she wearing? It's like she just rolled herself up in a rug and called it a dress.

Littlefinger was there to offer up some common sense (and perhaps win their favor so he can cash in later), and convinced Loras and Margaery that it behooved them to get the heck out of there. But before Margaery leaves, she and Petyr had a nice little chat in which Margaery said she wants to be THE queen. Guys, I think I'm falling in love with Margaery. She's like a mini-Cersei but more comfortable being topless.

Later, Catelyn and Brienne had a chat about their futures. Brienne is lost without serving someone, so after she asked a rock, some twigs, and a horse if she could be their sworn protector, she settled on swearing her servitude to Catelyn until they reached Winterfell. Then after that, she'll turn into the Briennenator! Briennenator kill! Briennenator smash Stannis! Catelyn accepted and had some pretty awesome words for Brienne, something alone the lines of "you can eat with me and I will try not to embarrass you." It sounded better coming out of her mouth, honestly, but that was the gist. Girl power!

"Nothing is worth what this will cost you. Not even the Iron Throne."

Stannis arrived ready for a battle but instead found an army ready to swear allegiance. Well that was easy. Thank you Melisandre and your spooky vaginal discharge! Davos wanted to talk to Stannis about what he saw, but Stannis didn't want any of that. Out of sight, out of mind. Stannis would rather put his fingers in his ears and yell, "LA LA LA LA LA LA!!! I CAN'T HEAR YOU" anytime someone said Melisandre is a black-magicking she-witch than accept the truth. Now not only does Stannis run unopposed as the only Baratheon, but he's got Renly's host on his side. Taking King's Landing should be a slam dunk or whatever equivalent sports metaphor there was in Westeros. Jousting against a no-armed man? What do they do for fun out there anyway?

Davos was seriously worried that his friend was way too pussy-whipped to be king. He's got a point. Who wants a king that is ordered around by a foreign chick practicing a crazy religion? Stannis was already facing an uphill climb winning over the people, Melisandre and her voodoo won't help things at all. Despite his "hard truths," Davos was given command of the fleet that will assault King's Landing via Blackwater Bay, which may as well be called Bottleneck Bay or Brokenship Bay, if you ask me. Davos says he's a pirate and his skills are in running away, but I think he knows that it's just dangerous. Seriously, it's gonna be a bloodbath. Not saying it won't work, but Ye Olde Westeros Corpse Removal Company is going to have plenty of business once the siege begins.

"Men win wars, not magic tricks."

Over at King's Landing, the Lannisters have finally stopped procrastinating about the impending war and are making preparations to defend themselves. If Joffrey spent half the time preparing King's Landing for war as he spent having hookers paint each other with bruises, King's Landing would be as impenetrable as Ros is penetrable.

Tyrion knew that King's Landing was as war-ready as a preschool, and he headed to Cersei's to get some scoop on what his nephew was planning to stop people from killing him. I love Tyrion and Cersei scenes, it's just spite on top of spite and passionately aggressive passive-aggressiveness. Cersei was in Real Housewives of King's Landing mode and just wanted to drink wine. Cersei! Put down the glass and take some crossbow lessons or something! Instead, she said Joffrey has it taken care of and even though you're Hand of the King we're not going to tell you because I put family disputes and grudges ahead of the personal safety of everyone because I'm a c*nt. Seriously, she said that!

Tyrion called an audience with his mole Lancel in his doghouse and got the truth: WILDFIRE! They're going to use wildfire! Quick question: who is prettier? Lancel or Cersei? Anyway, if you don't know what wildfire is, let me explain. If you could liquefy a two-dollar Tijuana whore's crotch and throw it at someone, that would be wildfire. It burns! And because Tyrion is the only smart one within the walls, he knew that wildfire was not to be taken lightly. As the old proverb says, "Piss on wildfire and your cock burns off." And how great was the Pyromancer's very serious response? "I have not conducted this experiment." Pyromancer is my new favorite character, that guy is a hoot. "Our order does not deal in pig shit!" Stop it man, you're killing me!

Even Bronn knew using wildfire was a stupid idea. Think about it: chucking jars of liquefied whore's crotch at objects really far away means you'll hit one target out of 10. If a guy throwing a pot happened to get pierced by an arrow, said pot could fall down and set fire to their own men. Not good. But then Tyrion got a look at exactly how many pots of wildfire the pyros had been making–7,811 pots to be exact–and he decided that the pyros would make the wildfire for him now. Does Tyrion have a plan? Of course (probably)! Tyrion always has a plan. And he's quite fond of whore crotches. Besides, it's in man's nature to look at stuff that blows up and catches fire and want as much of it as you can get because explosions are cool.

Tyrion (aka Demon Monkey) also spied a man on his soap box spouting off about Joffrey and those in power in King's Landing. Clearly the natives are restless, and that's never good for the ruling party. Especially when thousands of men are about to storm the castle.

"I have been reaving and raping since before you left Balon's balls, captain."

Theon continued to get absolutely roasted in his hometown of Pyke. It's not Theon's fault he got shipped off to Winterfell and started doing fancy things like shampooing his hair, but that don't mean squat to his men. All they saw was a dude wearing a pretty dress who was ordering them around. Theon just wanted approval from anyone, dad Balon, sister Yara, the citizens of Pyke. Ironically the only person who appreciated him was Robb Stark. But his desire to be respected is so consuming, that he came up with a plan: attack a castle in the north called Torrhen's Square, and when the men of an already deficient Winterfell run to help, it will leave Winterfell practically defenseless... gulp. I think Theon just hatched a plan to take Winterfell. Dickest of all dick moves, Theon. But won't those men who left come back? What then, Theon?

"Smart people don't find themselves in places like this."

Meanwhile in Canada, the men of the Night's Watch were headed further and further into Wildling territory on their quest to discover what Mance Rayder, the self-proclaimed King Beyond the Wall, was up to. One of the things that sets Season 2 apart from Season 1 is the location shots HBO is getting, and all these shots following Jon Snow's story are incredible! Even the producers of Frozen Planet were like, "I'm impressed." The production on this show continues to amaze me. And they even found time to CGI in Ghost in the background (he's in the picture above!). Game of Thrones, I am yours.

The gang was on the lookout for an old friend of theirs, Qhorin Halfhand. He's a total badass ranger that had the privilege of trekking through a bunch of snow looking for Jon's uncle Benjen and gathering whatever other intel he could find. They decided to meet up at the Fist of the First Men, an icy mountain top that Samwell totally geeked out over. If Sam were alive today, he'd be the biggest Game of Thrones nerd out there.

Qhorin Halfhand finally met up with them, and he told Lord Commander Mormont that Mance Rayder is gathering up his troops and preparing an assault on the giant ice cube we know as The Wall. Like the badass he is, he said let's run in there with a small group all sneaky-like and kill Mance. Like the idiot he is, Jon Snow said he wants to tag along. Jon, you're too handsome for guerilla combat! Your job is to wash out Mormont's chamber pot! But Mormont said Jon could go, and I'm guessing Jon's about to embark on one crazy adventure. First order of business? Sneak up on a nearby wildling camp. This will go well, said I, sarcastically.

"If we can't protect our own bannermen, why would they protect us?"

Bran's taken to this lording thing pretty well, hasn't he? Need some help around the house? Take an orphan! Toilet clogged? Take an orphan! Hungry? Take an orphan! Everyone that's not an orphan wins! His little brother Rickon, meanwhile, wasn't doing too great. You know how when you're frustrated you make mountains out of your mashed potatoes or rip the labels off of beer bottles? Rickon was torturing nuts on the table. The little guy needs his mommy.

Rodrick came to tell Bran that Torrhen's Square was under siege, but they didn't know from who. It's the Greyjoys, Bran! Weren't you watching the episode? So Bran tells Rodrick to take a bunch of men and help them, leaving two men, three sheep, and a couple of buckets behind to defend Winterfell.

But Bran already saw what's coming in a dream. He dreamed that Winterfell was submerged by water and waves crashed into the walls, killing everyone. Perhaps eating all those lemon cakes before going to bed wasn't a good idea, kiddo. If Osha knew a lick about dream analysis she'd be able to tell Bran that the water and waves represented the briney Greyjoy men and that Winterfell is, more or less, fudged. She does know what the three-eyed raven represents though, and... then she didn't tell us? YOU TEASE.

"The time is right, Daenerys Targaryen, first of your name."

Baby dragons just cracked my Top 5 cutest baby animals list, somewhere between baby cheetahs and baby puffer fish. Imagine how much tail you could get if you showed up to a bar and lit chicks' cigarettes with a baby dragon. TONS is the answer. Metric tons.

Life in Qarth seems to be working out pretty well for Dany. She's got some lip balm to take care of her chapped face, conditioner to untangle the platinum rat's nest that was on top of her head, and handing-out-medals-at-the-end-of-Star Wars-Leia outfits so she doesn't have to wear slave Leia outfits anymore. But are all these luxuries just the result of kindness, or is it something else? Of course it's something else. Dany told her girlfriends that she didn't know much about these people, and asked the slutty one to have sex with some guys to get some information on Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the big dude who vouched for Dany and got her accepted into Qarth. Seriously! She did that! And the girl was like, "Okay." Someone please give that woman an injection of self esteem.

At a garden party, everyone was looking to talk to Dany because she's the Mother of Dragons and she be looking fine in that blue dress. Andy Dick, looking well, approached her and pulled off a pretty sweet David Blaine-ish magic trick where he duplicated himself, and invited her to some club called The House of the Undying, which sounds of spooky. Okay, it wasn't actually Andy Dick. Sorry, Andy. It's Pyat Pree, and he's a member of an order of warlocks in Qarth and one of The Thirteen that rule Qarth. I know he's trying to be generous, but holy hell he just creeped me out.

Xaro told Dany that those people are weirdos, then proceeded to try and buy Dany's hand in marriage with his vault-load of wealth. Now who is creepy, Xaro? One of these days, someone in Westeros will marry someone because of love. However, Xaro's proposal is interesting. With Westeros a bunch of squabbling idiots all claiming to be king, it's a good time to strike. Xaro can provide her with the money she needs to get boats and men, but it will cost her half the Throne and she'll be stuck with kids that don't share her awesome porcelain skin. Decisions, decisions!

If only there were someone who actually did love Dany. Well hello there, Jorah Mormont! It's becoming quite clear that Jorah wants to be MTF (more than friends) with Dany, and when he said, "I still can't believe you're real," and told her how everyone would fall in love with her it was a major step for Team Jorny. But he's more than kind of old for her. This is awkward for all of us, Jorah. Still, he offered sensible advice and begged Dany to wait and grab allies in Westeros instead of these weird sand people. I'm siding on him with that, even if he's only saying it to cockblock Xaro. There are a lot of parallels between Jorah's advice to Dany and Davos' advice to Stannis. Don't share the power with someone who can get you the throne now, get the throne later and take all the power for yourself. It's like that joke between Robert Duvall and Sean Penn in Colors about cow-fucking.

"This is war, no one's content."

At Harrenhal, Tywin was explaining that war pretty much sucks for everyone. Especially during winter. He's pretty tired of Robb Stark kicking his ass, and that's got to sound pretty great to Arya, who was eavesdropping as Tywin's cup-bearer. And with apologies to baby dragons, the best part of this episode was when Arya stuck it to Tywin by praising Robb and telling tales of his legend as a hero that rides into battle on a giant direwolf and can't be killed. When Tywin asked Arya if she believed that he couldn't be killed, she said, "No. Anyone can be killed" with her mouth while her eyes added, "Especially you, motherf***er! Die! Die! Die!" Maisie Williams just won MVP for the episode with that exchange. Also, Charles Dance (Tywin) looked an awful lot like his role in The Last Action Hero right then.

We wondered what had happened to Jaqen H'ghar, the guy who talked funny in the cage, and now we know: he joined up with the Lannister men. But he's still an independent contractor and offered Arya a very interesting repayment plan for her saving his life. Since she saved the lives of three men, he'll kill three men of her choice, no questions asked. As a joke, I would have said "kill Jaqen H'ghar" to see if his head exploded, but instead she wanted revenge on The Tickler for torturing everyone and just being a jerk in general. He said, "Done and done," and sure enough, The Tickler ended up dead later on. Arya, couldn't you just have said, "Joffrey" and made the entire world happy? Also, Gendry swung a sword around shirtless. Hubba hubba.

Game of Thrones Season 2 Power Rankings

I'll be ordering the 10 episodes of Game of Thrones' second season from first to worst in terms of quality. But remember, these rankings are just, like, my opinion, man.

This Week: Another fantastic episode! "The Ghost of Harrenhal" pinched the world together by moving us closer to war. It's the feeling and anticipation of the war that this episode was so good at conveying, and I just don't see it slowing down. This was also an episode that checked in on just about everyone, Robb, Joffrey, and Sansa being the only main characters that didn't make an appearance, and it moved the stories it did follow forward a lot. Any pacing gripes should be non-existent now. Game of Thrones is on a roll. Still, I can't put this ahead of last week's masterpiece. It's close though.

1. "Garden of Bones" (Episode 4)
Joffrey entertains a few ladies by having them beat each other; Melisandre gives birth to the Smoke Monster from Lost; Dany meets a bunch of salesmen from Qarth.

2. "The Ghost of Harrenhal" (Episode 5)
Shadow Baby gives Renly a big hug, wildfire wildfire wildfire!, Theon sets out for the North, and Arya's new friend does her bidding.

3. "The North Remembers" (Episode 1)
Annnnd we're back! Joffrey orders death for Robert's bastards; Melisandre, Davos, and Stannis make their grand entrance; Robb sends an all tomato ultimatum to the Lannisters.

4. "The Night Lands" (Episode 2)
The Goldcloaks set out to find Gendry (and Arya); Theon gropes his sister and disappoints his dad; Jon sees something strange in the forest.

5. "What Is Dead May Never Die" (Episode 3)
Theon suits up for Team Greyjoy; Tyrion gives Pycelle the boot; Cat arrives to see Renly assembling a circus; Arya and Gendry get captured.

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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