Watching the Throne: The Ghost of Harrenhal.
This recap doesn’t believe Robb Stark can’t be killed….anyone can be killed. The Ghost of Harrenhall was without a doubt the most magic-saturated outings of Game of Thrones thus far, featuring dragons, warlocks, an evil shadow assassin, and some good ole fashioned alchemy. There is even a reference to the supernatural in the title of the episode, yet it was the moments devoid of mysticism, and featuring tangible human drama and the most impact. All pretension aside though, dragons and creepy shadow assassins are super badass.
Beyond the Wall
As viewers, we’ve come to associate Jon Snow’s storyline with the more fantastical elements of the series, and for good reason, he did take out an ice zombie last season (or a wight, as their called in Westeros….walkers, wights why do all these fictional characters in Walking Dead and GOT never call them by the z-word?) and we know the super natural beings knows as the white walkers dwell in the frozen lands beyond the wall. Given all the mystical goings-on in the seven kingdoms this week, I found it pleasantly surprising Jon’s scenes were very light in the magic department. The main focus was on Qhorin Half-Hand, the legendary ranger who is assembling a covert team to take out the very human threat of Mance Raider; the former member of the Night’s Watch who has been amassing an army of wildings to attack the wall and eventually invade Westeros. The scenes on the first of the first men were an absolute beauty to behold. The location shooting in Iceland combined with some slightly CGI enhanced skylines created truly stunning vistas, the world building on this show is never ceases to amazes me, and more importantly, it never stands out enough to distract me either.
Sometimes I think Bran traveled to Winterfell via portal from some Wes Anderson movie. The kid defines precociousness. I dug his completely aloof recounting of his eerily prophetic dream about the sea (THEON!) coming to Winterfell. Oosha was clearly freaked out by it, but Bran is taking it all in stride. Despite all the tragedies and turmoil that has befallen him: becoming paralyzed, losing his father, and being separated from the rest of his family, Bran is growing up and owning up his responsibilities as the lord of Winterfell. He is also becoming increasing more aware of the larger role supernatural forces are occupying in world and the larger role they are occupying in his own life.
The Iron Islands
Theon proudly surveys his ship, The Sea Bitch, for the first time. Theon proudly surveys his crew for the first time. Theon’s crew disdainfully surveys Theon and starts to make fun of him. Theon’s sister Yara joins in the taunting. Yara is in command of 30 ships, a fact she rubs it in Theon’s face. Theon looks like he is going to cry. Theon’s first mate turns out to be a pretty decent dude. He helps Theon cook up a plan. Theon has a plan. Though I suspect he will probably still have a lot to cry about before this season is finished. Also, there was no magic or discussion of magic in this scene, which is really throwing a wrench into the whole theme of this recap.
The Strom Lands
Stannis wins the battle of the Baratheon brothers thanks to an assist from the creepy shadow monster assassin. Once again, we are given a big hefty dose of the supernatural here, which works because the shadow monster is essentially a literal manifestation of Stannis’ will to commit fratricide and consolidate his power. This helps ground the magic in an emotional reality, and allows for viewing audience to take it seriously. Another crucial aspect of the storytelling that makes the scenes featuring magic work within the well-established gritty realism of the show is that Ser Davos, Lady Stark and Brienne are not exactly sure what they witnessed inside the cave, and Renly’s tent, respectively. Magic may be slowly returning to Westeros, but not everyone is fully ready to embrace something that creates such a palpable disconnect from the natural order they are used to.
In the South
The hands down best scene of the entire episode took place in Harrenhall this week. Every time I watch it I get cold chills: Arya is pouring wine for Tywin Lannister and his war council, when he inquires what house she hails from. She tells him a lie at first, but Tywin doesn’t buy it, after exposing her lie he asks her if she is from the north and she tells him the truth. Or at least a version of it… and her speech about the tall tales which are beginning to build about around Robb Stark was beautifully delivered. It also complimented this heavily magic infused episode very nicely. Magic is returning to Westeros and even though Robb doesn’t really have the supernatural abilities she is attributing to him, Tywin knows if the common folk believe the tales to be true, Robb Stark’s crusade will continue to gather support all throughout the seven kingdoms. Arya’s love and admiration for her brother comes through without being obvious enough to reveal her true identity to Lannister Prime. The clincher of the entire exchange was the intensely cold stare she gives him after answering his question about whether or not she believes Robb Stark can be killed. Anyone can be killed in Game of Thrones, Arya has already learned this the hard way, and knows the all-powerful Tywin is just as susceptible to mortality as the nest person. And thanks to the 3 deaths promised to her by Jaqen, Arya will be able to get some much deserved vengeance in the upcoming episode.
We get to see some of the interior and inner-workings of King’s Landing this week, as Tyrion takes to the streets to see how the common folk are doing, and be called a demon monkey by a rabble rousing member of the aforementioned common folk. He even makes time to torture his cousin Lancel for information about Cersei, and even makes friends with a batty old pyromancer. The episode’s connective thread of magic and the supernatural is on display here with the discussion of the alchemy involved in creating the wylde fire, which of course Tyrion is still highly dubious of, but in the final scene its appears he is changing his mind….after all, he doesn’t want Cersei to get the credit for saving King’s Landing From Stannis.
Across the Narrow Sea
We get to see more of Dany and company in this episode than we have in quite some time, and we get to see a little more of the dragons as well. And we also learn why Xaro helped her enter the city: he wants to marry her, claim the Iron Throne with her, and make babies with her…naturally. Next to Jon’s storyline, Dany’s has the most direct connection to the fantastical. She is a flame resistant would be queen hauling around three baby dragons in a mystical city in the dessert. Speaking of those Dragons, I have to say, the CGI work on them is better than what we see in most feature films, and I will settle for seeing them everyone once in a while if the CGI is going to be that good every time. It’s better than cheesy looking CGI creations in every episode. It’s a budgetary reality that we can’t see them all the time and I’m perfectly fine with how they’ve been handling both the Dragons and the dire wolfs thus far. If the show continues to be a success and build an even larger audience, I image HBO will increase the budget substantially, thus allowing for more dragon/direwolf screen time.
That wraps it up for this week. Here is a preview for the next episode…which will be airing in a few hours…sigh…to all my readers: I will really, really try to get these up earlier for the remainder of the season.