The Ghost of Harrenhal
|"The Ghost of Harrenhal"|
|Game of Thrones episode|
|Episode no.||Season 2
|Directed by||David Petrarca|
|Written by||David Benioff
|Original air date||April 29, 2012|
|Running time||55 minutes|
|Game of Thrones (season 2)
List of Game of Thrones episodes
"The Ghost of Harrenhal" is the fifth episode of the second season of HBO's medieval fantasy television series Game of Thrones. The episode is written by series co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed, for the second time in this season, by David Petrarca. It premiered on April 29, 2012.
In the Stormlands
King Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) negotiate an alliance in his tent with Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) standing guard, when the shadow creature birthed by Melisandre suddenly enters and assassinates Renly before disappearing. Two of Renly's guards enter the tent and, taking Brienne for the murderer, attack her. She slays them and is convinced by Catelyn to escape with her so that Brienne may at least avenge Renly someday. During their journey, Brienne swears allegiance to Catelyn, who promises not to interfere with Brienne's vengeance on Stannis (Stephen Dillane).
Meanwhile, Renly's death causes confusion amongst his men. Ser Loras (Finn Jones) holds Stannis responsible for Renly's death and wants revenge, but Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) and Renly's widow Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer) convince him that they must escape before Stannis' fleet arrives. As Stannis reaches the camp, his dead brother's bannermen swear fealty to him, but Davos (Liam Cunningham) warns him to stay away from Melisandre because his men whisper that she is controlling him. Stannis takes Davos' advice not to bring Melisandre with him during his forthcoming assault on King's Landing. Stannis gives a reluctant Davos the command of the fleet in the coming siege of King's Landing.
At King's Landing
Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) blackmails more information out of his cousin Lancel (Eugene Simon), who reveals that Queen Regent Cersei has been stockpiling massive amounts of "wildfire," a dangerous flammable substance. Tyrion visits the royal pyromancer, Wisdom Hallyne (Roy Dotrice), who reveals a secret cache of close to eight thousand pots of wildfire that Joffrey intends to catapult onto Stannis' forces when they attack the city. Bronn (Jerome Flynn) doubts the effectiveness of the plan, but Tyrion decides to use it and claims the cache for himself. While crossing the city with Bronn, Tyrion is unsurprised at hearing an agitator rail against the incest-born king, but surprised and hurt to hear himself blamed for Joffrey's misdeeds.
On the Iron Islands
Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen) has been made the captain of a single ship, with orders to raid fishing villages on the northern coast. Before even setting sail, Theon's crew openly disrespect him and abandon him on shore. Theon's first mate, Dagmer Cleftjaw (Ralph Ineson) comes to his assistance and suggests that Theon will need to win the respect of the men with a more impressive deed. When he proposes an assault on the Northern fort of Torrhen's Square, Theon disagrees at first, saying that the raid will attract the attention of Winterfell's forces, but later realizes that Dagmer intends to besiege Torrhen's Square, leaving Winterfell poorly defended for his takeover.
Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) receives the news that Torrhen's Square is under assault, and urges Ser Rodrik (Ron Donachie) to raise a force to defend it. Later he tells Osha (Natalia Tena) of his recent dreams wherein the ocean floods, destroying Winterfell and its inhabitants. He also asks Osha about the "three-eyed raven" that appears in his dreams, but Osha deflects his inquiries.
Beyond the Wall
On their trek northwards, the Night's Watch meet up with the legendary ranger Qhorin Halfhand (Simon Armstrong) at the Fist of the First Men, an ancient fortification. Qhorin warns that the wildlings have become more organized and dangerous under the leadership of former ranger Mance Rayder (the King Beyond the Wall). With a small party, Qhorin intends to approach and eliminate a wildling watchpost. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) volunteers to join Qhorin, which he is eventually allowed to do.
Across the Narrow Sea
Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) enjoys holding court at Qarth and watching her dragons grow. At a party given by her rich host Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), the warlock Pyat Pree (Ian Hanmore) invites Daenerys to visit the "House of the Undying," and the masked Quaithe (Laura Pradelska) warns Ser Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) of dangers that face Daenerys. Later, Xaro asks Daenerys for her hand in marriage in exchange for enough wealth and power to take King's Landing. Jorah vehemently opposes this, arguing that she needs to win the Iron Throne on her own rather than as a perceived foreign puppet. After questioning Jorah's motives, Daenerys eventually hears him out and agrees with him.
Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) serves as cupbearer for Lord Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance). During a meeting with his lieutenants regarding the war, Tywin deduces that she is a Northerner, but remains unaware of her identity. Later, Arya encounters Jaqen H'ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), whom she had rescued along with Rorge and Biter, and who is now disguised as a Lannister guardsman. Jaqen offers to return her past favor by offering her "three lives" he will claim for the Red God, as a compensation for the three lives she saved. Arya designates "The Tickler," Harrenhal's cruel interrogator, as her first victim. Soon enough, he is found dead with a broken neck, and Jaqen signals to Arya that the first debt has been paid.
The episode introduces the character of the pyromancer "Wisdom" Hallyne, played by the British actor Roy Dotrice. Dotrice is a personal friend of George R. R. Martin, since the two met while working on the 1980s hit TV series, Beauty and the Beast (Martin as a producer, and Dotrice playing "Father"). Years later, Dotrice was Martin's choice to read the audiobooks of A Song of Ice and Fire, a work that brought Dotrice a Guinness World Record for the largest number of characters voiced in an audiobook.
After the series was greenlighted, Martin wanted to involve Dotrice, suggesting Maester Aemon, Rodrik Cassel or Grand Maester Pycelle as possible roles. He was eventually cast as Pycelle, but he had to withdraw from the show for medical reasons and Julian Glover was cast to replace him. In the second season, with his health recovered, he was given the role of Hallyne.
Other characters introduced in the episode are the Night's Watch ranger Qhorin Halfhand, played by Simon Armstrong, and the mysterious Quaithe, played by the German actress Laura Pradelska.
The episode's interior shots were filmed at the The Paint Hall studios, close to Belfast, where the main sets are located. Also in Northern Ireland were filmed the scenes at Harrenhal (in a set built near Banbridge) and Pyke (at the port of Ballintoy).
After having filmed the Night's Watch storyline beyond the Wall in Irish forests for the first four episodes of the season, the producers decided that the unexplored land further to the north would be filmed in Iceland. According to the creator George R. R. Martin's vision of the setting, "the area closest to my Wall is densely forested (...). And then as you get further and further north, it changes. You get into tundra and ice fields and it becomes more of an arctic environment. You have plains on one side and a very high range of mountains on the other." 
Co-Producer Chris Newman said that until then they had been able to reproduce the lands north of the Wall by adding artificial snow, but now they needed a bigger landscape. According to David Benioff, they always "wanted something shatteringly beautiful and barren and brutal for this part of Jon's journey, because he's in the true North now."
To represent the Frostfangs and The Fist of the First Men, the production filmed at the glacier at Snæfellsjökull, and also at the glacier of Svínafellsjökull in Smyrlabjörg and the hills of Höfðabrekkuheiði (near Vík).
The other main location introduced in the episode was the gardens of Qarth, which were filmed at the Benedictine monastery of the Croatian island of Lokrum. The abandoned monastery was built in Gothic-Renaissance style in the 15th century.
The island of Lokrum is only 680 metres offshore from Dubrovnik, the location used for King Landing's exteriors, and can be reached by boat in 15 minutes. Coincidentally, Lokrum shares with its fictional counterpart of Qarth having peacocks among its distinctive features: Lokrum is inhabited by families of peacocks that were introduced to the island in the 19th century by the Austrian archduke Maximilian.
The first airing of the episode obtained 3.903 million viewers, which represented the series high to date, and a 1.9 in the 18-49 demographic. The encore airing brought an additional 0.8 million for a total of 4.7 million.
"The Ghost of Harrenhal" received generally positive reviews: James Hibberd from Entertainment Weekly found it "one of the strongest season two episodes yet," Jace Lacob from the televisionary considered it "sensational," and Matt Richental from TV fanatic called it "another enjoyable, complex, involved Game of Thrones episode." IGN's Matt Fowler gave the episode an 8.5 out of 10, and at The A.V. Club David Sims an A-. and Todd VanDerWerff rated it B+
One of VanDerWerff's criticisms of the episode is that it was too cluttered for him, treating important moments such as Renly's death in a matter of moments and moving away fast to the next thing. In his opinion this was because this was the first episode of the season to incorporate all the locations instead of omitting one or two.
Renly's death received many criticisms: David Sims wrote that Renly's death "came out of nowhere," Todd VanderWerff found it too rushed, and Elio Garcia said that due to director David Petrarca's mediocre direction choices, the effect of what should have been one of the most shocking scenes of the season was ruined. Garcia extended his harsh criticism to the scene depicting the aftermath of Renly's death and specially the decision to portray Loras' reaction to the murder of his lover with a contained grief instead of the book's homicidal rage.
On the other hand, the exchange between Arya and Tywin was unanimously praised, both in terms of acting and direction. Writing for The Huffington Post, Maureen Ryan commended Maisie Williams for being able to hold her own in a scene with the charismatic Charles Dance. Another scene that was usually highlighted was Brienne's pledge of fealty to Catelyn Stark. Lacob described Chistie's acting superlative, rendering a tragic air to Brienne, while VanDerWerff noted how Fairley's subtle performance with just a hint of tears and wavering voice made the scene almost a perfect one.
Other aspects that were praised by the reviewers were the production choice of filming in Iceland due to the magnificence and beauty of the shots, and good work done by the CGI team in making the dragon look like a real animal. Also, the reviewer Myles McNutt who coined the term "sexposition" to describe the use of sex in the show, noted that this was the first episode that did not feature nudity.
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- Lacob, Jace. "Hard Truths: The Ghost of Harrenhal on Game of Thrones". Televisionary. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
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- "The Ghost of Harrenhal" at HBO.com
- "The Ghost of Harrenhal" at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Ghost of Harrenhal" at TV.com