Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 2 Review: “The House of Black and White”

(Beware, spoilers below – scroll down to skip the recap!)

New lands await us in “The House of Black and White” and we see what has finally happened to Arya Stark, who is on a ship to Braavos. She enters the exotic city with a smile on her face and is brought to the titular house where she is meant to find Jaqen H’ghar. At the magnificent black and white doors she knocks but is only turned away. She sits outside reciting the names of those she wants to kill… and time passes. Night, rain and sun pass by until she gives up and throws her coin in the water.

Pod and Brienne end up eating at an inn, the same one that Littlefinger and Sansa are eating in. Pod alerts Brienne to Sansa’s existence and she tells him to ready the horses. Brienne confronts Sansa and Littlefinger in the inn. She tells Sansa of her oath to the late Lady Stark but Littlefinger dismisses her because of her past failures. However, Sansa saw Brienne kneeling to Joffrey and decides that she doesn’t want her services. The lady warrior elbows her way out of the inn and feels on horseback with Pod – until he loses control of his horse. She turns back to look for him, but he’s been thrown off his horse and she arrives in the knick of time. Brienne decides that she’s going to follow Sansa and Littlefinger, even though Pod tells her that maybe she should do otherwise.

In Cersei’s room she asks to see Jaime because Myrcella’s necklace has been sent back and she’s afraid. Jaime decides that he will bring their daughter back. Meanwhile Bronn is talking with his fiancée Lollys Stokeworth as she plans their wedding. She tells him about her mean sister that will inherit her castle and he tells her that mean people always have things coming to them. Ask they talk they see Jaime in the distance, who is here to try to make a deal with him to come to Dorne.

Speaking of Dorne, Ellaria Sand is still furious over Oberyn’s death. She goes to talk to Oberyn’s brother asking for him to take his revenge, especially as Myrcella is safely in their custody. He refuses but she tells him that her and the Sand Snakes are ready to go to war over Oberyn’s death. In Mereen there is still trouble over the Sons of the Harpy, but Daario’s men have actually made headway and find a member. Dany’s council discuss her options as to what she should do. Ser Barristan attempts to help her see reason and reminds her about the actions of the Mad King which lead to his downfall. She tells him she will let the Son of the Harpy have a fair trial.

Tyrion and Varys are travelling together on the way to Mereen in a coach, but Tyrion isn’t allowed to leave as a lordship is on Tyrion’s head. In King’s Landing the head of yet another dwarf is brought to Cersei before she goes to address her council. She appoints Master Tyrell as Master of Coin, Qyburn as the Master of Whispers and Kevan as Master of War. The latter, however, wants to hear it from Tommen himself and he states that she is nothing more than the Queen Mother. He promptly leaves for Casterly Rock.

In the Castle Black the Princess is teaching Gilly to read and they end up talking about Gilly’s sisters who died of grayscale. The Queen comes downstairs and tells her that she has to stop talking to Gilly because she might harm her to get to her father. Stannis is talking to Jon about his displeasure over the mercy he showed to Mance. He still wants the aid of the North and they discuss the election of the new leader of the Night’s Watch the coming evening. Stannis offers to make Jon a true Stark with the stroke of a pen, and therefore with the ability to command Winterfell and the North. However, Jon is planning to refuse him due his loyalty to his oath.

At the mess hall Ser Allister’s name is put forward, as is another’s but at the last moment Sam steps forward to put forward Jon’s name to raptures of applause. Thorne puts forward some opposition but when all the votes are counted in the end there is a tie between Jon and Ser Alllister – until the Maester adds his token and Jon ends up triumphant. Back in Braavos Arya is out killing pigeons until the doorman from The House of Black and White shows up again to give her coin back. It’s Jaqen H’ghar! He welcomes her inside the House and tells her that she must become no-one.

In Mereen the Son of the Harpy is taken and killed… without a trial. Dany is unhappy, even when he tells her he did it for her, and for the freedom of all the slaves she liberated. Her people ask for mercy but she insists that the law is the law and has him executed anyway, much to the unhappiness of her people, many of whom start hissing and throwing eggs at her. In her palace she asks to be left alone and out on her balcony she looks up to see Drogon once again.

The second episode of the fifth season weaves many more threads in its web as we see things unfold in Dorne, Mereen and Braavos, cities with a much different climate – and therefore temperament than the chilly grey world up north. Arya’s role in the House of Black and White is one of those long-term plans that is less immediate (and possibly more significant) than the more immediate issues of Cersei’s reign, for example, so it’s good to see her storyline treated with the appropriate care and mystery that it deserves. For me the most unexpected moment was in Jaime and Bronn’s expedition to Dorne. It helps justify the greater inclusion of Dorne this season whilst also adding another spot of unpredictability to the show. If I’m honest, I like this deviation. Both Jamie and Bronn are brilliant and dynamic characters on the show and whilst I could debate forever about whether or not Jamie’s decision to go after Myrcella is logical, he’s not only utilised to greater dramatic effect but also manages to add more weight to Cersei’s ineffectual leadership if all (as I suspect) eventually goes South.

Meanwhile Jon’s storyline, as with most of the others, were scene setters. Jon’s election gave us the idea of the tense situation he’ll be in next week. He’s jostling between those below and above him; he might be liked but he isn’t loved just yet, and this will make his new job as an elected leader harder. Brienne’s role with Sansa is becoming all the more interesting because of it’s unexpected nature. We’re still to see Lady Stoneheart from appearing and whilst I’m wondering if she ever will at least the writers are keeping Brienne for us to enjoy watching on TV. Littlefinger is in many ways similar and yet completely opposite to Brienne: watching the two entering spheres for very similar purposes hints at much greater sparks for the future. Quite unexpectedly this left Dany with the less (admittedly only comparatively) interesting storyline this time round, as we’re touching on all the same topic of her troubles with balance and ruling. It throws up the same questions Game of Thrones has flaunted time and time again and I’m sure some viewers might find it a little cloyling by now. However I feel it also manages to build up the tension like a festering boil, with the pus of discontent accumulating and getting worse bit by bit. Five or six episodes of this and we know Dany will have more than just a couple of snake-imitators and bad-aimers on her hands. Sit and hold tight kids, the Mother of Dragons will definitely need her children very soon.

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