‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 2 Recap: ‘The House of Black and White’
“Nothing’s worth anything to dead men.” — Arya Stark
Nothing comes easy in this world. This applies to virtually every single character on Game of Thrones. So it’s no surprise that Arya Stark’s much-anticipated arrival in the Free City of Braavos didn’t initially amount to the warm welcome from Jaqen H’ghar that she expected. Naturally, Arya was met by an unfamiliar face at the titular House of Black and White, where she hoped to immediately start apprenticing for Jaqen and become a face-changing assassin, formally known as a Faceless Man. Of course, after she was denied, she threw her iron coin into the sea. And who can blame her? The youngest Stark daughter has been through so much already — now that she’s finally escaped Westeros, why does she have to keep getting turned away at every turn? Some viewers probably already figured that this was all a test by the man in charge, who wasn’t actually Jaqen, but “no one” who assumed his face after rescuing Arya from a couple of thieves who tried to steal Needle (her sword). Having Tom Wlaschiha back on the show was a smart decision, and one instance of how substituting existing characters for new ones that appear in the book pays off. Even though Arya’s been granted entrance into the mysterious house, I’m not getting my hopes up that her training will be a piece of cake — especially since she can’t be “no one” if she keeps repeating her kill list, which currently only consists of Cersei Lannister, Walder Frey, The Mountain and Meryn Trant (she’s removed The Hound from it, which admittedly does still bring a tear to one’s eye).
Meanwhile, Brienne of Tarth had déjà vu when she once again had her offer of protection refused by a Stark. This time, the excuse was that Sansa had seen Brienne bow to Joffrey at his wedding. It’s a pretty crappy excuse, given that everyone had to bow to the late vile king. But again, Sansa doesn’t know Brienne. She just has Brienne’s words to go off of and, unfortunately, Peter Baelish was there to turn her words against her, bringing up Renly’s untimely murder. Nobody except Catelyn Stark knew that a shadow resembling Stannis Baratheon killed Renly, and everyone else thinks her story to be a bunch of crap. Brienne realized it wasn’t safe anymore and murdered a bunch of Vale soldiers to protect Podrick. At least their relationship is getting a little better! And Brienne still isn’t giving up. She’s determined to keep her vow and protect the Stark girls, even if it seems like a lost cause at this point.
Dorne has truly made its way into the show, thanks to Prince Oberyn’s murder last season. The feisty and vengeful Ellaria Sand, played by the always lovely Indira Varma, wants to make the Lannisters pay and she’s not afraid to inflict harm on Cersei’s daughter (who Tyrion Lannister had shipped off to Dorne in season two to live with her betrothed Prince Trystane) as payback. After sending Cersei a snake head carrying Myrcella Baratheon’s necklace, Oberyn’s lover confronted Prince Doran, his older brother and the ruler of Dorne who….is up to a bit of nothing. Played by Alexander Siddig, the physically weak ruler doesn’t seem like a man of action, which Ellaria had no problem pointing out. She mentioned that the Sand Snakes, Oberyn’s bastard daughters, and the majority of the Dornish people would like to start a war against the Lannisters to avenge their beloved prince. But after Doran’s command that Myrcella not be harmed, Ellaria will no doubt take matters into her own hands.
Sadly, the introduction to the Water Gardens and Dorne itself was a bit too brief to get my excitement up, a feat that A Feast for Crows managed to pull off for me in its first Dorne-set chapter. On the plus side, the show has used Dorne as a vehicle for Jaime Lannister’s next journey with Bronn. Feeling guilty after setting Tyrion free, Jaime is set to embark on a secret, possibly somewhat idiotic mission to smuggle his daughter home. This is a huge departure from the books, and I can’t say I’m mad about it. Any road trip involving Jaime and Bronn is one I can get behind, and this show could use some more comedic relief. The downside is that with Jaime gone, Cersei has no one on her side except Qyburn, who’s still as creepy and disliked as ever. Her uncle Kevan saw right through her bullshit when she doled out the small council’s new titles, and smartly and swiftly exited the picture. The only others left are an increasingly annoyed Pycelle (who is still the worst) and the oblivious Mace Tyrell. Seriously, how are the Tyrell women so intelligent and the men so foolish?
At Castle Black, Stannis Baratheon’s efforts to legitimize Jon Snow as a Stark and install him as Lord of Winterfell probably won’t happen now that he’s been elected as the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. For some reason, even though the traitorous Boltons are now settled in his old home, Jon’s vows are still more important to him. Whether Jon has a change of heart remains to be seen but regardless, his election scene was stirring, especially since it was preceded by Jon’s BFF Sam campaigning for him to a great effect. Elsewhere, the adorable Shireen Baratheon was teaching Gilly how to read while giving her and Sam a lesson about greyscale, the nasty, rock-encrusting disease that affected half her face when she was a baby. Apparently, Shireen is one of the lucky ones. According to Gilly, if the disease is left untreated, it spreads throughout the entire body and starts making people behave like animals. I can only assume this is foreshadowing a scene in which we’ll see greyscale in its nastiest form.
In Meereen, Daenerys Targaryen’s empire seems to be steadily crumbling before her eyes, after she had to make an impossible decision. Daario Naharis, a badass as always, found one of the Harpy’s sons hiding in a wall, which brought about the huge dilemma. Have him publicly executed and face even more attacks from the former slavers? Or keep him alive and look weak in the eyes of both the former slavers and slaves? When Mossador took it upon himself to kill the man before he got a fair trial, it went downhill from there. Ultimately, Dany decided to publicly execute the man she recently freed from slavery. Again, it was an impossible decision that leads to the people, who once called her mhysa, hissing at her like snakes. And in turn, a riot broke out and Dany had to come to terms with the horrifying stunt she just pulled. Afterward, Emilia Clarke’s facial expression says it all: Does she really know how to be a successful ruler? Is staying in Meereen actually worth it?
The one glimmer of hope for her was the return of Drogon on top of her pyramid. The very emotional final scene brought Dany face-to-face with her most fearsome dragon, which is now enormous. The scene was a perfect example of how the show’s CGI is a big part of its success, with Drogon’s design giving Smaug’s a run for his money. The reunion is meant to bring out a lot of emotions in the viewer: astonishment, hope, and, above all, sadness. Unlike the two she locked up, Drogon still showed what looked like affection toward his mother, but then he flew away, off to what presumably will be another long, goat-eating adventure. He’s a big boy now, who doesn’t need his mother’s protection any longer; it’s Dany who needs his.
Throne Room Notes:
- Surprisingly, Tyrion and Varys received very little screen time in this episode, as the two are slowly making their way to Daenerys in another box (although it’s slightly bigger than the last). Tyrion wants to get out and about so he doesn’t lose his mind, but it’s an ignorant proposition considering that Cersei has a price on his head — which is resulting in the wrongful deaths of a lot of dwarves.
- Speaking of dwarf heads, Qyburn needed to use one for reasons I don’t ever want to find out.
- Why doesn’t everyone live in Dorne? The weather is warm and tropical, and they probably have delicious food.
- The bumbling Lollys Stokeworth, who’s a lot simpler and more prominent in A Song of Ice and Fire, made a guest appearance as Bronn’s betrothed. Sadly, thanks to Jaime’s proposition, she won’t be marrying Bronn. Those two would’ve made a perfect couple.
Video courtesy of Game of Thrones.
Video courtesy of Game of Thrones.
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