Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Game of Thrones 2.5: The Ghost of Harrenhal

Trusted Advisors and Grimm Fairytales 

This week’s Game of Thrones manages to hit upon all of the storylines; however, the events while advancing the plot are still building up to a climactic scene which will hopefully come to fruition within the next few weeks. This week saw the exit of Renly Baratheon. He is killed by a shadowed man sired by his brother, Stannis and birthed by the fire priestess Melisandre. Catelyn, being a witness to the incident, flees the scene with Brienne, one of Renly’s guards. Brienne then swears her loyalty to Catelyn on their way back to Rob’s camp. Jon Snow continues with the Night’s Watch beyond the Wall and prepares for battle with the Wildlings. Tyrion discovers Cersei’s plan to beat Stannis in battle which involves the making of Wild Fire. This substance stored in pots, when hurled at enemies will burst into flames and burns hotter than standard fire. Daenerys is enjoying her stay in Qarth as an honored guest of Zara; however, she wants to get ships so she can regain the Iron Throne. Arya meanwhile still resides in Harrenhal serving Tywin Lannister. She acquires a new friend Jaqen J’ghar who will help her avenge those who have wronged her.

Though a lot occurs this episode a main theme resonates throughout the entire show: the importance of good advisors. It seems everyone in power has someone close to them, giving them their opinion on a subject. In fact the strength of the ruler is tied to the quality of his or her advisors and how well he or she listens to them. This episode is full of characters in power heeding the advice from their most trusted and loyal friends and being better prepared for future events in the long run. Ser Davos confronts Stannis about bringing Melisandre into battle with him when they sail to King’s Landing. He warns him that with her being a foreigner, Stannis’s men would take it as an affront if she were to enter into the city with him after their victory. Bronn comments to Tyrion that fighting with Wild Fire in a walled up city with inexperience soldiers would do more harm than good, most likely leading to the destruction of their own city instead of Stannis’s ships. Ser Jorah warns Daenerys not to marry Zara for his money even though Zara claims he can buy her the fleet she needs to take back the Iron Throne. Ser Jorah advises that after taking money from rich men, one is always in their debt. He offers his service to procure one ship to sail away from Qarth and to lead them to a friendlier land where they can acquire the army they need without strings attached. Stannis, Tyrion, and Daenerys heed the advice of their advisors which set them on the right track.

This theme of loyal and wise seconds in command always manifests in two ways: the rulers who listen to their advisors and end up being wise, successful and most often supported by their followers and rulers who ignore their advisors getting into trouble and becoming tyrannical and hated by their people. Game of Thrones exemplifies this dialectic. Obviously Stannis, Tyrion, and Daenerys though all enemies of one another show that they know how to rule their people and gain their support. Goffrey on the other hand constantly snickers at those on his council and proceeds to do whatever he wants causing his subjects to speak out against him in the streets. Even Renly ignores the sage advice from Catelyn to make amends with his brother Stannis and ends up dead. This dialectic is seen all throughout television and film in similar genres as well as in genres completely different. In The Tudors, Henry VIII constantly defies his council when they speak against him. Henry even puts Sir Thomas Moore to death for refusing to acknowledge his break from the Catholic Church. Ignoring his closest advisors leads to his subjects rising against him in revolt and the Catholic Church waging warfare to get him overthrown. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Froto has Sam who keeps him on the path of good even when the ring pushes him to succumb to its power. Because Froto accepts Sam’s advice and friendship, he is able to destroy the ring in Mount Doom. Even shows completely different from Game of Thrones like Dexter portray the importance of accepting the advice of an advisor. When Dexter follows the code his father taught him as a child, he is able fulfill the hunger inside of him and kill without being caught; however, when he strays from the code chance of his true identity being discovered increases exponentially.

Besides showcasing the value of trusted advisors and following their advice, this episode took an interesting turn with Arya’s storyline and almost added a whimsical twist. In a story that the Grimm brothers would have loved to tell, Ayra seems to have become a part of a twisted fairytale in this episode. Harrenhal while portrayed last episode as hell on earth, seems to have transformed into the setting for Arya’s fairytale. Much like Cinderella, she waits on Tywin Lannister jumping at his beck and call when he needs her but being banished to the corner when she is not needed. To add to her fairytale, she meets Jaqen J’ghar, the man she saved during the skirmish in the woods. He becomes her genie in a way. Though instead of granting her three wishes, in a tradition even darker than Grimm’s, he offers her three deaths (however, after everything she has been through maybe her three wishes would have involved death). It will be interesting to see how her fairytale continues to unfold…maybe a romance between her and Gendry, the long lost king turning her into a queen?

Though not an incredibly action packed episode, the story development definitely covered some interesting themes. With half the season already behind us, I predict that the next five episodes will be action packed.