Game of Thrones: "The Ghost of Harrenhal"

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Oh, what "shadow"-related quote to introduce this week's GOT recap? The possibilities are endless...

But darkness makes me fumble
For a key, to a door that's wide open - The Police

No? How about

Because the night belongs to lovers
Because the night belongs to us - Bruce Springsteen

That was Stannis and Melisandre's prom song, I bet. For me, I prefer

We're running with the shadows of the night
So baby take my hand it'll be all right. - Pat Benatar

The program description for last night's episode began in delightfully understated fashion: "When the Baratheon rivalry ends..." Oh, it ended all right. And the fallout looks to be bad news for everyone except Stannis, that humorless, table sexing lout.

These are dark times in Renly's camp. Literally. No sooner has he offered Catelyn a truce -- provided Robb swears fealty like his father did to Robert -- than Melisandre's shadow spawn kills him, forcing Brienne to fight against some of Renly's guard who naturally assume she did the deed. Afterwards, she and Catelyn exercise the better part of valor.

In the aftermath, Loras wants revenge on Stannis, Littlefinger and Margaery counsel patience, and he reluctantly agrees. The Tyrells flee, but they're in the minority as the bulk of Renly's bannermen decide to side with Stannis.

Because of this, the Lannister celebrations are short-lived. Tyrion is stymied by Cersei when he asks after Joffrey's preparations. Lancel informs Tyrion that Cersei is commissioning the creation of wildfire, a substance that burns wood, steel and flesh. "Fire given form," in the words of the lead pyromancer. The plan being to fling the substance from the city walls and destroy Stannis's fleet. Bronn is unconvinced, pointing out the substance's indiscriminate burninating potential. Besides, "men win wars, not magic tricks." nevertheless, Tyrion approves the effort, enlisting the pyromancer to continue production (and they already have over 7,000 pots produced).

Whatever happy feelings Tyrion is experiencing are swept away pretty quickly by a street-corner doomcrier blasting Joffrey's bastardy and calling Tyrion a "demon monkey." Him, who's doing so much to help the people (though I was half expecting Brian of Nazareth to drop in and do some ad libbing). Bronn cannily points out that the people will likely never love him, which -- let's be Tempestt Bledsoe honest here -- is probably true.

Stannis, flush with a mostly bloodless victory, doesn't want to hear about Davos's concerns concerning...that thing that happened with the...thing. Nonetheless, Davos tells him if he takes Melisandre to King's Landing, the victory will be viewed as hers, and he stands to lose Renly's supporters to her. Stannis, apparently not (yet) entirely in the thrall of "The Red Woman," agrees.

Theon's humiliations continue. His crew doesn't take him seriously, and Yara rubs in the fact she's got 30 ships to his one. Deliverance of a sort comes in the form of a dude named Dagmer (Ralph Ineson), who not so subtly informs Theon that "true" Iron Islanders don't do as they're told. Theon figures he can take Torrhen's Square, a holdfast near to...Winterfell. And then he gets an idea. A wonderful, awful idea.

Back at Harrenhal, Tywin is despairing of how to defeat Robb. Lacking adequate input from his commanders, he questions his new cupbearer Arya about her unknown brother. It's a nice exchange that establishes two things: 1) Anyone can be killed, and 2), Tywin is out of his mind to have a ten-year old with murder in her eyes hanging out in his quarters and touching his food.

But someone else is hanging around Harrenhal: that wacky Jaqen H'ghar, now in Lannister armor (more like Jaqoff, am I right?). After some brief back and forth about career choices, he informs Arya she must give three names to the Red God to repay those she stole when she rescued him and his companions. Now there's an opportunity. Arya gives him "The Tickler," who tortured everyone. Not who I would have gone with, but okay.

At the Fist of the First Men, an ancient ringfort north of the Wall, we meet legendary ranger Qhorin Halfhand. He wants to take a party north to eliminate wildling lookouts in advance of a strike against the person of wildling leader Mance Rayder (an ex-man of the Night's Watch himself, it seems). Jon volunteers, and the Old Bear not-so-surprisingly agrees.

Dany's dragons are growing, and learning to breathe fire, and her handmaidens are arguing over how she should appear before Xaro. She also receives a rather creepy invite from the warlock Pyat Pee (who looks like a desiccated Dean Pelton from Community), to come to the warlocks' House of The Undying. Xaro has a proposal of his own for the khaleesi: marry him and he'll give her the Seven Kingdoms, and half the loot in some vault. Jorah is uncertain, and of course he would be, because Xaro believes he's in love with her. Mayhap he is.

Meanwhile Jorah has a meeting of his own, with a masked woman who warns him to be on guard for Danaery's safety. Her dragons will attract attention because they are "fire made flesh." Huh, wildfire is "fire given form." There would appear to be some connection, unless the same old dude wrote all the prophecies.

Having safely fled from the Stormlands, Brienne vows to serve as Catelyn's bodyguard until such time as she's allowed to go after Stannis, and Catelyn agrees. Hey, you gotta serve somebody, as Dylan McDermott once said.

Next we go to Bran holding court in Winterfell. When word comes from Ser Rodrik that Torrhen's Square is under attack (by Theon, but they can't know that), Bran sends 200 men with Rodrik to relieve the siege, despite his dream of "the sea" coming to Winterfell and drowned men in the courtyard. He tells this dream to Osha, who unconvincingly attempts to dismiss it. This kind of foreshadowing isn't helpful, and only serves to make people anxious.

Finally, Arya's attempt to give a beefy Gendry fighting pointers is interrupted by the death of the Tickler, whose head looks to have been uncomfortably twisted around his neck. Jaqen indicates that's one down, two to go. Arya, it would seem, is the ghost in Harrenhal.

Things are about to get hairy for a great many folks. Winterfell is in danger, Tyrion and the rest of the Lannisters are about to be attacked by Stannis's new army, and the Night's Watch is about to square off against several thousand panicky wildlings.

Noticeably absent this week: Robb (again), Sansa and Joffrey (thankfully).

Next week: Dany gets irritated, Robb gets pissed and Jon is fixing to fight.

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