Before getting into what happened in last night's episode of Game Of Thrones, titled The Ghost of Harrenhal, we should address what did not happen: Sex. From the opening screen listing what in the episode was inappropriate it was made clear that fans would be treated to the first ever nudity-free episode of the show. Maybe the show just needed a break after last week's sadist romp.
So on to the recap: the story got violent and freaky early on when the smoke-monster-slash-love-child conceived by Stannis Baratheon and his Red Priestess shows up in Renly's royal tent and stabs him through the heart with a smoky knife just as Renly and Lady Stark were about to strike a deal to divvy up the kingdom. With one king less vying for the Iron Throne, Cate and Brienne (Renly's only female guard) take off, fearing they will be blamed from Renly's murder (not too excited for this plot-line...)
In the South at sunny Kings Landing, Tyrion Lannister is still scheming to wrestle control away from Cersei and Joffrey, who won't divulge their battle plans for the upcoming war against Stannis Baratheon.
While walking through the city Tyrion witnesses a local man railing against the young King. Apparently the entire kingdom knows that their new ruler is the son of brother and sister Cersei and Jaimie, and argue that it is no surprise when the fruit of incest comes out rotten.
Tyrion has a spy of his own in his young, his long-haired brother who served wine to Robert and has been sleeping with the queen ever since Jaimie was captured by Rob Stark's army. Through his spy Tyrion learns that Joffrey has been stockpiling kegs of explosive acid to use during battle with Stannis, or whoever else attempts to threaten his rule.
The story in Winterfell opens on northern subjects bringing their boring problems to Bran, the young and crippled lord, which served to remind the viewer that they can hardly wait for the coming invasion from the Iron Island. Speaking of which, the surprise attack is finally getting off the ground as Theon appears to lose a power struggle over his assigned ship, the 'Sea B-tch, while his butch sister prepares to launch a 30-ship invasion of Winterfell.
In Harrenhal, everyone's favorite lovable scamp Arya Stark, has a couple of her own adventures. The Faceless Man, a highly trained assassin who she saved from a burning wooden cage offers to kill three people as repayment. For her first choice Arya picks the blonde-haired Harrenhal torturer.
Meanwhile, Arya is forced to think quickly on her feet as Tywin Lannister's new wine server. She's tricked into admitting she comes from the North, but still keeps her identity a secret, telling Tywin with some obvious relish that in the north they say Robert Stark is poised to invade the South riding a giant dire wolf, and can even transform into a wolf himself.
Finally we get to Qarth, the greatest city that ever was or will be. Dany is still my favorite, although a lot of people seem to dislike her plotline, but come on, she's got the dragons. We get to see one of the little guys in action as he cooks his own piece of steak with fire breath. Xaro Xhoan Daxos, the merchant who helped Dany and her barbarian followers into the walled city offers to provide Dany with the army she needs to take back the Iron Throne, but only if she will marry him. He also points out that Jorah Mormont is in love with her. In an awkward scene later on it becomes pretty obvious that this is true.
Xaro also delivers the news to Dany that King Robert is dead and the Iron Throne is up for grabs, leading her to argue that she should buy a single ship and sail across the narrow sea to rally an army of people who still support her family's claim to the throne.
The episode's action climaxed early with Renly's assassination, a huge boon to Stannis's claim to the Iron Throne but a new obstacle for Catelyn and the Stark's to overcome. Meanwhile the rest of our main characters (Dany in Qarth, Arya in Harrenhal, and Jon Snow beyond the wall) explore new worlds. Back in Kings Landing political tensions are rapidly spinning out of control while Joffrey's tenuous claim to the Iron Throne creates a potential powder keg as dangerous as the one he's prepared for his war with Stannis.