Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2 “The House of Black and White” Review
*Full spoilers for the TV show and books follow. You’ve been warned.*
“Someone who’s forgotten fear has forgotten how to hide. Fear is useful that way.” -Daario Naharis
“Show too much kindness, people won’t fear you. If they don’t fear you, they don’t follow you.” -Stannis
Are you afraid of the dark?
No, but there’s probably something dark, creepy, or crawly in the back of your mind that makes your skin crawl. Spiders maybe? Snakes? Or there’s always the inevitably of death.
At least you don’t (I would imagine) have to sleep with the fear of getting your head lopped off. The second episode of season 5 of “Game of Thrones” gave us a very good – and keen – look into just what fears are motivating the wise and weary of Westeros at this stage in the game, in hopes of them keeping their own heads.
Arya (Maisie Williams) was absent last week, but has finally arrived across the sea to Braavos. There have been brief glimpses of Braavos before (and that giant Titan), but we finally got to see more of the canals and waterways where Arya is going to spend the next whoeverknowshowlong in training this season.
In a week all about fear, it’s no chance that Arya kicked things off: She told the captain how she feared nothing, and out of everyone on the show she has possibly lost the most and truly has the least left to fear. She has no home, (almost) no family, and no life to return to. She truly is fearless.
In what a very smart divergent from the books (and one of several the show did this week) the show brought back Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha) to be Arya’s mentor. It’s not always the case, but here it’s a good move to have a character people already know and recognize take the place of a totally new character.
(Sure, we could argue for hours that maybe Jaqen is actually the person training her in the books, but let’s not).
Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) is starting to fear she has failed every single oath she has ever made. Every. Single. One. After a cruel near-chance meeting last week, her and Pod (Daniel Portman) actually DO run into Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aidan Gillen) this week, at the Bar of Chance and Happenstance Meetings.
This scene was very well done, and almost a bit too mean, even for a show know for its cruelty. The viewer wants characters that are good to realize that they both are good and go off with each other and be happy and safe and hold hands and run in the fields and frolic in the flowers. But that’s not what happens. We see just how much Sansa has changed here; even at the mention of her mother she could care less about what Brienne has to say. We know Brienne is good for Sansa, but as Littlefinger points out, Brienne’s track record hasn’t been great, and there’s no way for her to prove to the Sansa that she is legit. It’s a cruel twist of fate that the show is milking. It isn’t like Brienne can whip out her cell phone and prove she’s legit!
As a result, we got one of the best action bits in the whole episode, in an awesome escape scene with Brienne. Horses! Sword slashes! Hiyah!
The show is striking close to what it did with Brienne and Arya already, so it will be interesting to see how long Brienne tails Littlefinger and Arya. It seems that evidence is mounting the pair is heading to Winterfell, and I’m not convinced that when Littlefinger said his marriage proposal was accepted, he meant it was a proposal for HIS wedding. Taking bets right now: Littlefinger has set up Sansa with Ramsay (Iwan Rheon), and the fake Arya plot is going to be played out by a fake Sansa pretending to be a real Sansa but is actually real Sansa all along. TRICKERY.
And of course, none of this has happened in the books. But it made for good TV.
Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) both carry similar fears for their family, but can’t come to terms with each other on how to act on them. And that fire that Cersei cast at Jaime for not being a good father. Ouch. That burnt.
On Jaime’s part, he is now heading to Dorne to rescue Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free). It’s a big change from the books, but one that makes for the show. Jaime is an interesting character, and the show can still milk a lot more out of his more redeeming (and not sister-fucking) qualities.
Also, partnering him with Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is a great chance for the show to bring back another fan favorite character and continue to develop Jaime as well. Bronn and Jaime together might initially seem like an odd pairing – especially given Bronn and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) pairing that precedes them – but putting Bronn with Jaime can only soften the seriousness we’ve seen waft from the latter recently.
Sending Jaimie to Dorne also puts a much larger sense of urgency and stake in the quest, which can only lead more credence to it. It also changes it from a sneaky plot of Cersei’s to a much more open air attempt to bring Myrcella back, which can’t be something that is going to go well down in Dorne.
But it isn’t like Cersei isn’t up to enough of her own schemes. We got the first new meeting of the new Small Council Vista Premium Home Edition. I’ve missed the Small Council, and am a big fan of the political wheeling and dealings that happen in these scenes. More of them, I say!
Wasting no time after her father’s death, Cersei is hitting the ground running. There will be no Hand, and she’ll just kind of run things while Tommen (Dean-Charles Chapman) we can only assume is off playing with either his pussy cats (or Margaery’s!) somewhere. Cersei handing our promotions like candy: Qyburn (Anton Lesser) is taking Varys’ (Conleth Hill) old role as Master of Whisperers (pissing off Pycelle (Julian Glover)), while giddy ol’ Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) is lauded with plenty of meaningless titles just to keep the in-laws happy.
It’s Cersei’s own family that isn’t happy. Her uncle, Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder), gave an amazing performance that echoed some of the best we saw from Tywin (Charles Dance). Kevin wasn’t taking ANY of Cersei’s shit, but it would be a shame to see him head off to Casterly Rock so soon.
Him being there, however, did highlight one of the show’s weaknesses: I can’t honestly remember the last time we saw Kevin (I checked, season two!) and I’m sure there were many people who thought he was a new character. I wish they had built him up a little more, and I really hope he sticks around to continue to be the pain in Cersei’s side we all know she needs.
(Side note: I’m guessing his death sentence is waved, as there’s no way Varys can shoot him all the way from across the Narrow Sea).
I’m not quite sure what the denisions of Dorne fear, but I’m a bit fearful for them: This wasn’t the epic introduction to Dorne that the southernmost region of Westeros deserved.
We did get to meet gout-ridden Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), the older brother of our beloved Oberyn (Pedro Pascal), may he RIP. The two could be no more different, and for quite some time in the books Doran comes off as incompetent, indecisive, and weak. Or at the very patient.
It’s that weakness that Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) fears, and while we don’t get to see the Sand Snakes, they are at least name checked to rue some fear in Doran. Doran is a complex and interesting character, though that doesn’t come out at first in the books, and the show seems to be going along that same path. It’s too early to tell for him, but the show doesn’t really want people to like him yet, so it’s tough to say how much of that is purposeful.
The problem here was the dressing: This just wasn’t the vastly different and flashy portrayal of Dorne I was expecting. It doesn’t look or feel that different from any of the other Westeros locations (even though it was filmed in Spain, I believe). Hopefully as we see more of Dorne the location will actually start to feel unique.
Danny (Emilia Clarke) fears a great many things. She’s scared of becoming her father. She’s scared she can’t rule Mereen. She’s scared she won’t be able to control her dragons.
There seems to be a lot of discussion around her decisions this week, and while on the one hand I’m happy to see people finally start getting over Danny, I do think it’s interesting what the show is doing here. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen lords have to deal out justice they don’t like.
Go all the way back to Ned (Sean Bean) in season 1 and chopping off the head of the Watch deserter. Go back to Jon (Kit Harington) killing Rickard Karstark (John Stahl). So keep both of those in mind when condemning Danny for doing the same thing. Just rule is not always fair to the ruler or the ruled, and throughout the season characters have had to make decision after decision that they probably would have rather not be in the position of making.
Danny, on the other hand, is sitting on a field of victory after a bunch of lucky breaks, the dragons perhaps being the luckiest of all. But now her luck is starting to run out. There’s a very heavy colonization metaphor at work here as well: She isn’t going to be able to apply Westeros rule and law to a country that doesn’t want it. She’s going to continue to learn that. As much as she was like Ned and Jon here, the riots at the end were also very familiar to the riots in King’s Landing that Joffrey (Jack Gleeson) had to contend with. Some may argue that this moment is Danny losing her idealism, but it’s a consistent decision in a long line of her being consistently idealistic.
Right now, Tyrion’s only fear is an empty glass. We returned to the Buddy Cop Drama Show with him and Varys (already) slowly making their way to Mereen, now via Volantis.
It was a good scene; but I’m worried about just how much of this season those two characters are going to spend on the road.
The show did manage to pull something new out of each of the characters. We never really get to see Varys be that open and honest (if he ever is, but that’s always up for debate), but Tyrion’s realization of how much he loved pulling the strings and having power is a big moment for the little man, especially now at perhaps his lowest moment. Neither of them will be leaders, either because of how they look, or who they are, but they can still do great things pulling the strings for those who do lead. Deep stuff. Maybe it was the alcohol.
Just hopefully, the show doesn’t keep these two locked in a box for the whole season.
Up at the wall, Jon is scared of leadership.
Stannis (Stephen Dillane) offered the bastard of Winterfell everything that he has ever wanted: A rightful name, a castle, and a lordship.
Jon turned it down.
Instead, Sam (John Bradley) nominated Jon to be the new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. The show again does some nice compressing: The election wasn’t the long, drawn out process it was in the books. (It was nice they at least kept it an initial tie, though).
The best part though was Jon’s reaction to winning, played perfectly by Harrington. Jon doesn’t want to lead. He didn’t want to rule Winterfell. He didn’t want to lead the Watch. He’s just really damn good at leading. But he was shocked he won, and he’s scared of what that means for him. He tried running away from Stannis and ran out of the frying pan and into the fire. He dodged one leadership bullet, but another one (or a knife!) is waiting right for him.
“The House of Black and White” was a strong epsiode, and a step up from last week, and also pretty aptly named. Not just for the doors Arya enters, but for the many decisions that the characters are making. Vows or personal gain? Jon is always going to pick his vows. Idealism or smart political savvy? Dany only has one of those two things. And at the end of the day, everybody has to pick between which of their fears scares them the most, and make a decision, even if it isn’t black and white and clear which way is the right path.
Until next week, and the “High Sparrow!”
Notes and Quotes
-Best line of the week: “That smirking whore from Highgarden.” Let’s make that a meme internet!
-The House of Black and White always makes me think of half moon cookies. It’s a shame the door design here doesn’t have the moon face still!
– “I know S”
-Also, thank you Buddytv.com for being super helpful in getting my quotes together.