'Game of Thrones' recap: 'The Ghost of Harrenhal'

Nonso Anozie as Xhoan, Courtesy HBO

This week's episode of Games of Thrones was undoubtedly extra magical. From the opening scene to the last, supernatural forces, creatures and the power of three, permeated the kingdoms. Unfortunately though, no nudity this week.

In a surprising opening scene, Renly Baratheon (Gethin Anthony) and Lady Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) are discussing a Stark/Baratheon alliance and Renly's strong desire to attain the Iron Throne and defeat his brother, Stannis (Stephen Dillane). Remember when Melisandre (Carice van Houten) gave birth to that smokey mass of evil last week? Of course you do. Well, apparently it didn't appreciate Renly talking smack about its daddy, so it killed him. Catelyn and Renly's loyal knight, Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) were the only ones present, so soldiers assumed it was Brienne and they attack her. Brienne wins the fight and Catelyn urges her to flee so that she could avenge Renly's death. Avenging the death is certainly on the mind of Renly's boy toy, Loras (Finn Jones), as well. In a later scene, Brienne pledges her loyalty to Lady Catelyn but makes her promise that she will not hold her back when the time to kill Stannis comes. Catelyn agrees and has a new pal. Stannis better watch his back.

News travels fast in Westeros, and Cersei (Lena Headey) and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) are aware of Renly's mysterious death and the possibility that Renly's army will merge with Stannis's army. They must prepare for the coming of Stannis to King's Landing to take the Throne. Cersei alludes that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) is making preparations. Cersei tries to hide this info from Tyrion. She clearly doesn’t know her little brother very well. Tyrion later finds out from his new spy, cousin Lancel (Eugene Simon), that the Alchemist's Guild is making and hoarding "wildfire", a volatile steel and flesh burning green liquid they intend to catapult at Stannis's army when they attack. Tyrion also discovers that the “Occupy King’s Landing” protesters know about “rotten fruit” Joffrey being the product of incest. They also refer to Tyrion as Joffrey’s “Demon Monkey”, much to his chagrin since in his mind, he is trying to “save” the people of King’s Landing.

In a brief scene, Ser Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) wants to tell Stannis about the “birth” incident with Melisandre in the cave and warns him that if he takes her with him to King’s Landing and achieves a victory, she’ll be in charge. Davos was told he will lead a fleet into Blackwater Bay and Stannis agrees to leave Melisandre behind.

Proud Theon (Alfie Allen) smiles upon his Sea Bitch as he is starting his new job as Captain and heading to the Stony Shore. His crew is not very reverent and needless to say, gives him a hard time, but snarky sister, Yara (Gemma Whelan) congratulates him even though she rubs it in that she has 30 ships. He is reminded by a more loyal crew member that “they’re not going to respect you until you prove yourself.” and that he is just like the rest of the crew in that they’ll do as they please. Theon’s crew member clues him in on a key land takeover strategy involving the Starks and gives Theon new confidence.

In another brief, but very interesting scene, we find Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) fulfilling her waitressing duties for Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance) during a counsil meeting. She gets an earful of private information about defeating her brother Robb and when she tries to give Tywin more wine, he quizzes her on where she is from. She obviously lies (quite well, actually) and convinces him. Or does she? Fetching Tywin some water, she runs into the prisoners that she saved during the Goldcloak raid including the kind and mysterious, Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha), who knew she was a girl all along. He grants her three wishes for saving him and his prisoners by giving her the opportunity to name 3 people to death (“only death pays for life”). She chooses “the man who tortures everyone” aka the Tickler.

Dreamy Jon Snow (Kit Harington) and the rest of the Night Watch are found wandering through the snowy and treacherous mountains (beautifully shot on location in Iceland). They spy a group of wildlings in the distance that appear to be organizing themselves to storm the Wall. They communicate through blowing a horn and we learn from book-smart Sam (John Bradley-West) that when they blow it 3 times (there’s that #3 again!), it means White Walkers. This story-line involves Mance Rayder who is the King-beyond-the-Wall and the feared rival of the Night Watch. A possee is thrown together to see what this wildling army has in store and Jon Snow volunteers to make use of himself. Sam steps up to the plate to take over for Jon when he’s on his chilling mission.

Well Qarth looks amazing and so does training dragons to cook a piece of meat! Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) looks beautiful and well-rested and gets a new dress from wealthy, Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie). She socializes in the courtyard and even gets shown a magic trick. Looks like a deceivingly fun place! Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) encounters a mysterious masked woman who reminds him that Dany is in need of protectors and that “fire is power”. Later in the episode, Dany gets a proposal from Xaro and he promises her enough riches to get her home, and claim the Iron Throne that she deems as hers. Well, he’ll obviously get half so he stands to benefit quite nicely from his scheme. Jorah advises against this and tells her to move carefully. “To win Westeros, you need support from Westeros.” She ultimately listens to her faithful advisor when he tells her that his ultimate goal is to see her on the Iron Throne where she will be respected, feared and loved.

Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) shows evidence of his maturity and power in a brief scene where he learns of, what technically is, Theon Greyjoy’s attack with his Sea Bitch. Bran later describes another one of his omen dreams to wildling, Osha (Natalia Tena). He dreamt that the sea came to Winterfell and flooded the castle (right again Bran!). Osha reassures him that the sea is far away but she looks worried. He asks her again about the symbolism of the three-eyed raven and she gives him a cryptic answer. This story-line proves to get interesting.

The final scene takes us back to gloomy Harrenhal where Arya is hanging out with Gendry (Joseph Dempsie) while he engages in a little sword play. We hear a scream, the camera pans to a dead “Tickler”, killed in a very “twisted” way. Arya spies Jaqen H’Ghar who gives her a knowing gesture, and Arya smirks knowing that her wish came true. Spooky!

Who do you suppose will be Arya’s next two choices to meet their deaths? Did Daenerys make the right decision to listen to Jorah in his advisement against marrying Xaro? Will Tyrion actually try the pissing experiment with the volatile wildfire...just to see what happens?

Next week, “The Old Gods and the New” at 9pm ET/PT on HBO.