Game of Thrones “The House of Black and White”

Game of Thrones S5E2 “The House of Black and White”

Season premieres of Game of Thrones tend to feel like an attempt by the show to check in with as many characters and plot lines as possible so we can get re-acclimated to the numerous situations around the map. “The Wars To Come” was no different in this regard, but “The House of Black and White” did something quite interesting. “The House of Black and White” added significantly more locations to check in with and despite the show’s tendency to lose momentum with an increase in locations, this episode moves along much better than the season premiere did and it delivers plenty of momentum as well. In “The House of Black and White”, Arya comes to Braavos seeking Jaqen and ends up finding “No One”, Cersei receives a threat from Dorne, Jon receives an offer and is given an honor, Brienne is presented a chance to uphold her oath, and Dany does what’s right but earns no friends in the process. And here we go.

Arya closed out season four in dramatic fashion and sadly sat out the season five premiere. With her season five debut occurring in this episode, there’s no better place to start than with her. Arya arrives to Braavos and is mesmerized by the Titan of Braavos. Once they dock, the ship captain rows Arya to The House of Black and White and tells her this is the place she seeks. Arya approaches the door that is fittingly black and white and knocks on it. An elderly man opens the door and Arya struggles to figure out what to say. She pulls out the coin and tells the man that Jaqen H’Gar gave it to her. The man simply states that there is no one by that name in the house and promptly closes the door after telling Arya she can go anywhere else but here. Arya’s always been a stubborn lady so she stays out day and night, rain or shine, near the entrance of the house, only reciting her death list to pass the time. She eventually gives up and goes to explore the city, not before throwing Jaqen’s coin into the water.

Sometime after, Arya is roaming the city and is killing pigeons for food, much like she did back in season one’s “Baelor”. A group of thieves pass by her when she has a pigeon in hand and they try to take it from her as well as Needle. The elderly man from the House of Black and White arrives and the thieves fearfully run away upon seeing him. Arya follows the man back to the House of Black and White and when they arrive, Arya asks the man who he is. The man gives Arya back her coin and then reveals himself to be Jaqen H’Gar, using a different face sort of like a magical mask. Arya asks why Jaqen said he wasn’t here and Jaqen replies that he isn’t Jaqen. He says that he is “No One. And that is what a girl must become”. He opens the door and Arya follows him into the house, ending her portion of the episode. I can’t wait to see the actual training get underway.

Just across the Narrow Sea from Braavos is The Vale so let’s take that hop across the pond. Brienne and Pod are enjoying lunch at an inn when Pod spots Sansa dining with Littlefinger at the other side of the inn. Pod notifies Brienne of Sansa’s presence. Brienne tells Pod to go outside and ready the horses while she goes over to confront Sansa. Brienne introduces herself and explains her story, including her oath to Cat, and asks Sansa to leave with her. Littlefinger interjects Brienne’s request by bringing up that Brienne was in the service of both Renly and Cat and they both died pretty quickly after she swore her sword to them. Sansa is suspicious of Brienne and ultimately denies Brienne’s request to come with her while Littlefinger insists that Brienne stay at the inn. Brienne quickly realizes this is a threat from Littlefinger and storms out of the inn before Littlefinger’s guards can stop him. She gets on her horse and hurries off, Podrick not too far behind.

Littlefinger’s guards follow them and all but one go after Brienne when Brienne and Pod split up. Brienne is able to elude her chasers by stealthily doubling back. Now in the clear, she spots Littlefinger and Sansa riding somewhere, the guards having given up on her and returning to them. Brienne goes in search of Podrick and comes just in time as Podrick was found unarmed by the guard that was chasing him. Brienne is able to kill the guard and save Pod. With the danger averted, Pod asks Brienne where Sansa is and she tells Pod that she spotted her and Littlefinger going down the road. Pod deduces that Sansa refused her as well and says she may be freed from her vows now that both Stark girls have refused her. Brienne’s identity has always been to serve though. She doesn’t want to think about what she would do without this last oath she has to carry out. So it’s not surprising when Brienne tells Pod that Sansa isn’t safe with Littlefinger and they will continue to follow her. Pod readies the horses and the two continue in pursuit of Sansa, Brienne isn’t calling it quits just yet.

Over in King’s Landing, Jaime is summoned by Cersei to her chambers. Cersei points Jaime’s attention to the “gift” she received from Dorne, a viper statue with the necklace she gave to Myrcella before she left. Cersei takes this as a threat and Jaime is hard pressed to argue otherwise. Cersei chastises Jaime for never taking care of their children while Jaime argues that it would have proven extremely difficult given what would happen if other people knew about them. Jaime decides he’s been passive with his parental duties for far too long and tells Cersei he will travel to Dorne and bring Myrcella home in a stealth mission. Cersei is skeptical that a man with one arm is going to infiltrate the Water Gardens of Dorne and sneak out Prince Doran’s son’s betrothed.

Jaime acknowledges that as a good point and gets to work on addressing that issue. He travels down to Stokeworth, where he finds Bronn along with his betrothed, Lollys. Bronn sends his fiancé  away so he can talk to Jaime alone, and he already knows that he’s not going to like what he has to say. Jaime hands him a letter saying that Bronn will not marry Lollys Stokeworth. Before he can get too mad, Jaime tells Bronn that he will get a prettier wife with a prettier castle, as long as he accompanies him on a mission. Bronn asks where they’re going and Jaime replies “As far south as south goes”.

“As far south as south goes” brings us to Dorne, and it’s where we find Ellaria Sand, as she overlooks Prince Trystane and his betrothed, Myrcella Baratheon. Ellaria wants to have a word with Oberyn’s brother, Prince Doran, but is stopped by his menacing guard Areo Hotah. Doran allows Ellaria in and she voices her displeasure at Doran doing nothing. She demands revenge for the death of Oberyn at the Lannister’s hands and asks Doran to give her Myrcella so she can send back bits and pieces of her back to Cersei to show they’re not messing around. Doran scoffs at the suggestion of mutilating his son’s betrothed and says that he too is upset at Oberyn’s death, but a champion dying in a trial by combat is perfectly legal and thus not a murder. Ellaria leaves Doran, implicitly threatening him that he won’t rule for long.

Back in King’s Landing, Cersei calls for a meeting of the small council, which has been gutted with the recent vacancies caused by Littlefinger, Varys, Tywin, and Tyrion’s departure. Cersei starts running the small council herself, naming people to new positions such as Qyburn to master of whisperers, while deciding to leave the Hand of the King position vacant. She asks her uncle Kevan to be master of war but Kevan declines, seeing right through Cersei’s act. He announces that he will depart for Casterly Rock, not wanting to take part in Cersei’s manipulation of the small council. He says that if Tommen personally calls for him, he will return. That wouldn’t have happened under Tywin, that’s for sure.

At Castle Black, Jon is brought before Stannis, thinking that he will have to answer for defying him. While Stannis does start with that, Jon’s mercy kill to Mance is not the reason Stannis has summoned him. Stannis has realized that northerners are a stubborn group that will only follow one of their own. Stannis also knows that without more men, he won’t be able to take back Winterfell. His solution to this is to legitimize Jon and make him Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell. Jon Stark would be someone the northerners could rally behind, and give the numbers needed for Stannis to continue his march. While Jon is flattered by the offer that he has dreamed about since childhood, he later tells Sam at the Lord Commander’s election that he’s going to decline it. Jon tells Sam that his vow to the night’s watch is sacred. While a king does have the right to release a night’s watch brother from their vows, Jon says that his word will be meaningless if he leaves the night’s watch, even if it was from a royal pardon.

Let’s get back to the topic of the election, shall we? All of the brothers have gathered inside the main hall to cast their votes for Lord Commander. Alliser Thorne is the favorite to win and Janos Slynt gives a speech to support his claim. Another brother vouches for Denys Mallister, the clear but distant second. Sam spices things up a whole lot when he puts Jon on the ballot and gives a rousing speech that gets much of the crowd going. When the time comes to cast votes, a tie is reached between Thorne and Jon. Aemon hasn’t voted yet though, and with his decisive vote, he seals the victory for Jon, making Jon the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Well-earned Jon!

Final stop of the day is in Meereen. Daario and Grey Worm are making rounds looking for Sons of the Harpy and thanks to Daario, they manage to find one and bring him to Dany. Dany brings the subject of what to do with the man to her council but no consensus is reached. Dany orders everyone to leave and Barristan sticks around to ask Dany to allow the man a fair trial. Barristan confirms to Dany that everything she heard about her father, the mad king, is true and his cruelness basically led to the near extinction of House Targaryen. Dany seems convinced by Barristan’s words and tells her knight that the son of harpy will have a fair trial.

Dany’s ex slave council representative Mossador does not take kindly to this news though and decides to unleash some vigilante justice. He sneaks into the dungeons and kills the son of harpy himself before he can be brought to trial. When Dany finds out, she has a tough choice to make. Mossador tries to convince Dany that the former slave masters will never give in to her and the only way to beat them is with force. Dany insists that the harpy’s life was not Mossador’s to take and the law has to be applied to everyone. Dany holds a public execution for Mossador who must pay for the crime of murder. The whole city gathers to watch. Dany tells the crowd what Mossador did and tells them that justice must be had, regardless of person or circumstance. Dany gives Daario the command and he slices Mossador’s head off. The once loving ex slaves who called her their mother, turn on her at this very moment, hissing their discontent at what Dany has done. One of the ex slaves throws a rock towards the ex slave masters and the scene quickly turns into a riot. Dany has to flee the scene immediately, avoiding being crushed by rocks only by the shields of her Unsullied. On a day where she lost her children in the Meereenese citizens, she is also deprived of another. That night, Dany goes outside the top level of the great pyramid and is shocked to see Drogon perched to the top of the structure. Dany reaches her hand out to touch him and gets very close, only for Drogon to fly away again. Drogon flew away for a long time last time and you get the feeling it’ll be more of the same this time. The mother of dragons and the liberator of Meereen hasn’t done a whole lot wrong, but finds herself very much isolated as Queen of Meereen.

Other Thoughts

In today’s edition of Pod is a bad squire, Pod can’t control his horse and it veers off towards a river which the horse drops him into, he’s unarmed, and he’s an awful thrower of rocks. He really does try his best but that makes it funnier when he fails at things.

Gilly is learning how to read. Shireen is teaching her and a subtle humorous moment happens when Sam brings up an obscure fun fact from a book and Gilly replies “I know s”. I wonder if Gilly will share Davos’ dislike of the letter g being in night.

In the sake of honesty, Jaime probably could have found someone other than Bronn to help him out. Also in the sake of honesty, I’m not complaining. The more Bronn the better. I loved how Bronn’s implicit threat to kill his wife’s older sister so they can inherit the castle went right over her head.

Stannis and Davos went to Braavos in season four but all we really got to see was the Iron Bank. We get a scope of the entire city in this episode and it’s beautiful. Canals are always pretty.

Some notes about the intro map as it seems to be kind of odd this season. Dorne was prominently featured in the episode but gets no feature on the intro map. The Eyrie does feature on the map despite Sansa and Littlefinger leaving The Eyrie back in season four. The Eyrie was prominent in season four but never found its way in the credits for some reason. In less confusing news, Winterfell has its sigil back after two seasons off, it’s now the flayed man of House Bolton.

Sam calling out Janos for hiding during the battle got a laugh out of his fellow brothers and made for a good roast as well.

We actually did check in with Tyrion and Varys in the episode, albeit for just one scene. Tyrion continues to drink all day, swapping his fucking crate for a fucking wheelhouse. He would like to go for a walk but Varys insists he stay inside as Cersei is offering a lordship to anyone who brings her his head. Tyrion sarcastically asks Varys if he thinks Cersei would kill every dwarf to get to him, and the answer is yes, Cersei is doing just that. Tyrion best stay in that fucking wheelhouse until it gets them to Meereen.

“The House of Black and White” greatly broadens the show’s focus while managing to have meaningful scenes from location to location. 

Grade B+

 

 

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