The Ghost of Harrenhal

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"The Ghost of Harrenhal"
Game of Thrones episode
Melisandre’s shadow creature fatally stabs Renly before disappearing.
Episode no.Season 2
Episode 5
Directed byDavid Petrarca
Written byDavid Benioff
D.B. Weiss
Featured musicRamin Djawadi
Cinematography byMartin Kenzie
Editing byKatie Weiland
Original air dateApril 29, 2012 (2012-04-29)
Running time55 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"Garden of Bones"
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"The Old Gods and the New"
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.

“The Ghost of Harrenhal” is how Arya Stark describes herself while at Harrenhal in A Clash of Kings, the novel on which the season is based, although the phrase is not heard in the episode.

This episode marks the final appearance of Gethin Anthony (Renly Baratheon).


In the Stormlands[edit]

Renly and Catelyn negotiate an alliance in his tent with Brienne standing guard, when the shadow creature birthed by Melisandre suddenly enters and fatally stabs 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, whom she believes played a role in Renly's murder.

Meanwhile, Renly's death causes confusion amongst his men. Loras also holds Stannis responsible for Renly's death and wants revenge, but Littlefinger and Margaery 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 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, and gives a reluctant Davos the command of the fleet in the coming siege of King's Landing.

In King's Landing[edit]

Tyrion blackmails more information out of Lancel, who reveals that Cersei has been stockpiling massive amounts of "wildfire", a dangerous flammable substance. While crossing the city with Bronn, Tyrion is unsurprised at hearing an agitator rail against Joffrey's incestuous parentage, but surprised and hurt to hear himself blamed for Joffrey's misdeeds. He visits the royal pyromancer, Wisdom Hallyne, 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 doubts the effectiveness of the plan, but Tyrion decides to use it and claims the cache for himself.

At Lordsport[edit]

Theon 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, comes to his assistance and suggests that Theon will need to win the respect of the men with a more impressive deed. When Dagmer proposes an assault on the Northern town 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 in order to leave Winterfell poorly defended for his takeover.

At Winterfell[edit]

Bran receives the news that Torrhen's Square is under assault, and urges Ser Rodrik Cassel to raise a force to defend it. Later he tells Osha 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.

At the Fist of the First Men[edit]

On their trek northwards, the Night's Watch meet up with the legendary ranger Qhorin Halfhand 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 volunteers to join Qhorin, which he is eventually allowed to do.

In Qarth[edit]

Daenerys enjoys holding court at Qarth and watching her dragons grow. At a party given by her rich host, Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the warlock Pyat Pree invites Daenerys to visit the "House of the Undying", while the masked Quaithe warns Ser Jorah 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.

At Harrenhal[edit]

Arya serves as cupbearer for Tywin. 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, 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 was written by series co-creators David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

"The Ghost of Harrenhal" is the fifth episode of the second season written by the two showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and the fifteenth in the whole series. The script is based on the chapters Daenerys II, Arya VII, Catelyn IV, Jon IV, Bran V, Catelyn V, and Jon V (28, 31, 34, 35, 36, 40, and 44) from George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings. Tyrion's scenes with the Pyromancers and Cersei are taken from the chapters Tyrion V and Tyrion VIII (21 and 37).[1]

There are numerous divergences from the source material: in the books Lord Baelish is sent by the Council to negotiate with the Tyrells only after Renly is dead; Theon's departure from Pyke is not shown, and Dagmer Cleftjaw is a scarred old master-at-arms who is fond of Theon because Cleftjaw trained him when Theon was a boy; Arya is a scullion instead of a cupbearer and is not able to interact with Lord Tywin; and the character of Xaro Xhoan Daxos has been drastically changed making him a black heterosexual of humble origins and giving him a vault that is never mentioned in the books.[1]


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.[2]

After the series was greenlighted, Martin wanted to involve Dotrice, suggesting Maester Aemon, Rodrik Cassel or Grand Maester Pycelle as possible roles.[3] He was eventually cast as Pycelle,[4] but he had to withdraw from the show for medical reasons and Julian Glover was cast to replace him.[5] In the second season, with his health recovered, he was given the role of Hallyne.[6]

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. This is also the first episode in which Pyat Pree (briefly seen standing in Episode 4) has any lines.

Filming locations[edit]

The episode's interior shots were filmed at 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). Renly's camp was once again filmed on the country's northern coast.

The crew used the Icelandic volcano of Snæfellsjökull to represent the vast mountain chains of the Frostfangs.

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." [7]

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).[8]

The Benedictine monastery of Lokrum was used as a Qartheen garden.

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.[9]



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.[10] In the United Kingdom, the episode was seen by 0.851 million viewers on Sky Atlantic, being the channel's highest-rated broadcast that week.[11]

Critical reception[edit]

"The Ghost of Harrenhal" received generally positive reviews. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes surveyed 12 reviews and judged 92% of them to be positive with an average score of 8.6 out of 10. The website's critical consensus reads, "'The Ghost of Harrenhal' utilizes some unexpected character pairings to explore GOT's shifting power structure and build momentum leading into the second half of the season."[12] James Hibberd from Entertainment Weekly found it "one of the strongest season two episodes yet,"[13] Jace Lacob from Televisionary considered it "sensational,"[14] and Matt Richental from TV fanatic called it "another enjoyable, complex, involved Game of Thrones episode."[15] IGN's Matt Fowler gave the episode an 8.5 out of 10,[16] and at The A.V. Club David Sims gave it an A-[17] and Todd VanDerWerff rated it B+.[18]

"A central challenge of Game of Thrones is that it presented most of its central cast together, then scattered them to (more or less, as of now) a half-dozen different locations. Generally the series has done a remarkable job, even as it rushes through a lot of story, of making their threads feel connected, even when they’re not in each other's presence. Jon Snow and his men in black have felt like the most disconnected from the rest of the story this season: they're playing the show's long game, the existential threat of the White Walkers. (...) As rich as their story is in mystery and mythology–this week we get some information about the 'First Men' who colonized Westeros thousands of years ago–it can feel like watching a separate show within a show."

— James Poniewozik (Time)[19]

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.[18] 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. Elio Garcia of shared this view, saying that while many individual scenes were very good he missed a strong narrative thread connecting the multiple storylines.

Renly's death received many criticisms: David Sims wrote that Renly's death "came out of nowhere,"[17] 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.[13][14][17] 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.[20] Another scene that was usually highlighted was Brienne's pledge of fealty to Catelyn Stark. Lacob described Christie's acting superlative, rendering a tragic air to Brienne,[14] while VanDerWerff noted how Fairley's subtle performance with just a hint of tears and wavering voice made the scene almost a perfect one.[18]

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.[20] 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.[21]

In his ranking of the episodes of the series, Adam B. Vary of BuzzFeed criticized the episode, placing it at number 47 and citing "tedious setup" for his reasoning.[22] Patrick Koch of WhatCulture was less critical, though he conceded that "the episode is pretty bare in terms of plot developments."[23]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result
2012 Portal Award Best Episode Nominated
Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards Outstanding Art Direction for a Single-Camera Series Gemma Jackson, Frank Walsh, and Tina Jones Won
2013 ADG Excellence in Production Design Award One-Hour Single Camera Television Series Gemma Jackson Won


  1. ^ a b Garcia, Elio. "EP205: The Ghost of Harrenhal". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  2. ^ "Most character voices for an audio book - individual". Guinness World Records Corporate. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  3. ^ Martin, George R. R. "The Beans Are Spilled". Not a Blog. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  4. ^ Martin, George R. R. "Fessing Up". Not a Blog. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  5. ^ Martin, George R. R. "A Change on the Small Council". Not a Blog. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  6. ^ Martin, George R. R. "Hot New Casting Hints". Not a Blog. Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  7. ^ Roberts, Josh. "'Game of Thrones' Exclusive! George R.R. Martin Talks Season Two, 'The Winds of Winter,' and Real-World Influences for 'A Song of Ice and Fire'". Smarter Travel. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  8. ^ Roberts, Josh. "'Game of Thrones' in the Real World: See Where the HBO Hit Was Filmed". Smarter Travel. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  9. ^ Ericsson, Josh. "Game of Travel". Auto Europe. Retrieved May 3, 2012.
  10. ^ Bibel, Sara. "Sunday Cable Ratings: 'Game of Thrones' Rises, Ties NBA Playoffs + 'Real Housewives,' 'The Client List,' 'Army Wives,' 'Mad Men' & More". TV by the numbers. Retrieved May 1, 2012.
  11. ^ "Top 10 Ratings (30 April - 6 May 2012)". BARB. Retrieved January 19, 2017.
  12. ^ "The Ghost of Harrenhal". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  13. ^ a b Hibberd, James. "'Game of Thrones' recap: Assassin's Deed". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  14. ^ a b c Lacob, Jace. "Hard Truths: The Ghost of Harrenhal on Game of Thrones". Televisionary. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  15. ^ Richental, Matt. "Game of Thrones Review: Hard Truths". TV fanatic. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  16. ^ Fowler, Matt. "Game of Thrones: "The Ghost of Harrenhal" Review". IGN. Retrieved April 29, 2012.
  17. ^ a b c Sims, David. "Game Of Thrones (newbies)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  18. ^ a b c VanDerWerff, Todd. "Game Of Thrones (experts)". The A.V. Club. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  19. ^ Poniewozik, James (April 30, 2012). "Game of Thrones Watch: Three Wishes". Time. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  20. ^ a b Ryan, Maureen (April 29, 2012). "'Game of Thrones' Recap: Finding Light Amid The Darkness". The Huffington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  21. ^ McNutt, Myles. "Game of Thrones – "The Ghosts of Harrenhal"". Cultural Learnings. Retrieved May 4, 2012.
  22. ^ "Every "Game Of Thrones" Episode Ranked From Worst To Best". Retrieved 2015-06-30.
  23. ^ "Game Of Thrones: Ranking All Episodes From Worst To Best". Retrieved 2015-06-30.

External links[edit]