There’s a general rule in television whereby a major character can only be killed right at the end of an episode. The idea is to leave you with something shocking to make you come back next week. Unfortunately for Renly Baratheon‘s hopes of becoming the true king of Westeros, Game Of Thrones doesn’t hold much stock by rules or expectations.
And so, the shadow demon thing that we saw emerge from Melisandre at the end of last week’s episode made a quick impact in the brief battle of wits between the Brothers Baratheon, creeping into Renly’s tent and killing him in front of a stunned pairing of Cat Stark and Brienne before either knew what was happening. So much for his claim to the Iron Throne then. Cat and Brienne were forced to flee before trying to convince vengeful bannermen that Renly really was killed by a shadow.
The interplay between those two characters afterwards was promising for hopes of widow Stark getting something more than wandering around looking sad, particularly as Brienne is hard as nails. It will be interesting to see where that storyline goes. Certainly the young Starks at Winterfell could do with a motherly touch, what with Bran’s apocalyptic dreams and Rickon’s sociopathic table-wrecking habits, and if Brienne will have to wait for her chance to avenge Renly’s death, she’ll make a hell of a nanny.
The title of this episode ‘The Ghost Of Harrenhal’ refers to Arya Stark, who is at least a little more safe now that she’s serving drinks to Tywin Lannister, though she should probably avoid saying things like ‘Anyone can be killed’ with quite such a steely glare in his direction if she actually wants to make it happen. Her act of kindness rescuing Jaqen H’ghar a couple of episodes ago gets repaid when he offers to kill three people for her, leading to the death of one of last week’s torturers. Who will she nominate next? It’s like an even more brutal version of Big Brother at Harrenhal.
Speaking of which, her Big Bastard Brother Jon Snow is surrounded by, well, snow and peril up Beyond The Wall, with that storyline finally kicking into gear. A former Ranger is leading the wildings and must be stopped, so Jon manages to force his way into the Rangers line-up, so we can expect him to see some action soon. The same can be said for Theon, whose captaincy of a mutinous ship gets him down at first, but soon presents itself as a way to win him some respect at the expense of his old friends at Winterfell. Will he go through with it?
Choices are a big thing in this episode, with Renly’s widow and her brother (his lover, of course) being convinced by Littlefinger to seek revenge later against Stannis, who isn’t having any of Davos‘s qualms about this new weapon that he has at his disposal. Tyrion (sparkling as ever) finds out what the secret plan to save King’s Landing is, and takes the decision to co-opt the supplies of wildfire for his own purposes rather than leave it to Cersei and Joffrey to wield it, a horrifying thought for all. Though given that the people have started calling Tyrion a ‘demon monkey’, who knows who he’ll use the wildfire on.
And then we have Daenerys, who is finally out of the desert and getting to feed and train her baby dragons, the first time we’ve seen them for a while. They’re still cute now, but will surely be getting dangerous soon. The Thirteen who rule Qarth are also pretty slippery (and scary) and we got to meet the weird Pyat Pree and the masked Quaithe (wearing one of Lady Gaga’s cast-off costumes). Last week we wondered what Xaro Xhoan Daxos wanted from Daenerys, this time we found out; he wants to marry her and rule the kingdom with her. Ser Jorah isn’t keen and wants her to take the slower route to power, but is he just jealous? It’s up to Daenerys to decide.