Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 2 (Review)

The House of Black and White

by Ed Blackadder

(Spoiler Warning) Episode 2 was filled with surprises, especially for the book readers. There were two very unexpected appearances this week, one involving someone from Arya's past. And Brienne gets a repeat performance from the second Stark daughter she vowed to find and protect. After the pair being so near last week, while Podrick and Lady Brienne are having lunch at an eatery, Sansa and Littlefinger are spotted by Podrick, eating but a few tables away. Cersei finds herself being threatened by Dorne, forcing Jaime to take action. But this week begins with Arya Stark.

Arriving at the incredible Braavosi port, Arya is taken to the House of Black and White, the temple of the Many-Faced Gods. This is an exciting moment for her, because Arya wants to become like the deadly assassin, Jaqen H'ghar, one of the Faceless Men. "Speak the names, and a man will do the rest." (Watch here) Simple but powerful words, spoken by H'ghar to Arya in season 2, episode 5, after Arya helped save the Faceless Man's life. Thinking she has nothing left to live for but to slaughter each name on her oft repeated, mantra-like hit-list, Arya, just like big sister Sansa, has been forced to grow up and face up to the fact that she must control her own destiny now. Although Arya is initially put off from entering the House of Black and White, things eventually work out for the girl when an old faceless friend finally makes an appearance.

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Brienne of Tarth and Podrick finally catch up to Sansa, in a chance meeting at a local eatery. Not thinking beyond the here and now, the ever chivalrous Brienne vows to protect Sansa with her life. But then she finds herself having to defend against accusations of failing to protect the last two she was sworn to defend. Renly Baratheon and Caitlin Stark. Outnumbered but happy with the progress she'd just made, Brienne and Podrick fight their way to freedom and begin tracking Littlefinger and Sansa. It looks like Sansa is perfectly happy to be on the winning side for a change. She showed no interest in what Brienne had to say about her mother, once again demonstrating how changed she actually is.

Game of Thrones
Created by
David Benioff & D.B. Weiss
Cast
Peter Dinklage, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Release Date
19 April 2015
Ed's Grade: A+


It looks like we'll have to wait a bit longer to see Dorne in greater detail. All we got this week was a brief look at Sunspear, as Oberyn's widow, Ellaria, attempts to goad Prince Doran Martell into responding to the Lannister's in kind, for the death of her husband; his brother. While these two speak, we can see the betrothed pair, Princess Myrcella and Prince Trystane Martell, walking happily around the stunning garden. Ellaria wants to kill Myrcella but Doran will hear none of it. Oberyn was killed fairly by Ser Gregor, during a trial by combat for Tyrion Lannister. Clearly, a seething Ellaria isn't about to let this matter go.

What they don't yet know is that Jaime Lannister is about to go to Dorne to protect Myrcella. "Ser" Bronn isn't having a great time of things, as his betrothed doesn't seem to know when to stop talking. Cersei had made a deal with Bronn, when she bought his loyalty away from Tyrion. And now she's going back on her word. However this is only to force Bronn into accompanying Jaime to Dorne, with a promise of greater wealth and a better wife, on his return.

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On the road to Volantis, heading for Mereen, Varys and Tyrion are traveling in style, in a well appointed coach. Tyrion is still drinking heavily and feeling sorry for himself, while Varys and he discuss a number of things. Varys touches upon how the world finds them both repulsive. It made me wonder if that was part of the reason Varys agreed to free Tyrion in the first place, and perhaps why he wants Tyrion to succeed in helping Daenerys win back the Iron Throne for the Targaryens. Varys also points out how he finds everyone else, just as repulsive as they find him. He has a point.

When we move to a scene with the High Council sitting there, as Cersei strolls in and sits where the ruling monarch or the King's Hand normally sits, everyone shows their displeasure. Cersei efficiently deals with the easily led, like Lord Tyrell, who is quickly appeased with a further title to add to Master of Ships. By making the gullible Tyrell Master of Coin too, Cersei has gained a powerful ally. Maester Pycelle tries to argue his case, however Cersei is no longer impressed with the old conman. Although Tywin knew Pycelle was putting on an act, I doubt the Cersei does. The only one that speaks his mind is Tywin's brother, Cersei's uncle Kevan Lannister. This is a man of unfailing loyalty and unwavering principles. That makes him very dangerous to the likes of Cersei, who doesn't know how to deal with honest people.

Last, but certainly not least, last episode saw Jon Snow go against King Stannis, by shooting an arrow into the burning body of Mance Rayder. However, Stannis is willing to let the matter drop, and instead is now looking to Jon to help get him fighters for his campaign against Bolton's bastard. Jon Snow is just like his father, principled and stubborn. But he's also brave and a born leader, and this then has an impact on the vote for the new Lord Commander to replace Lord Jeor Mormont. The only serious contender is Ser Alliser Thorne, and it looks like he's about to easily win when Sam Tarly speaks up for Jon. He points out that Jon was the one who saved them on a number of occasions, and how he led the Night's Watch to victory when the Wildlings attacked. Even though Thorne tries to cast doubt on Jon with his connection to the Wildlings, the count ends at a dead tie, between Thorne and Snow. But Maester Aemon gets to cast the final vote, making Jon Snow the new Night's Watch Lord Commander. This was a brilliant, inspired move, a bit like when Robb was declared King of the North. What makes this moment all the more powerful is what Jon Snow just gave up for the Night's Watch. King Stannis was prepared to make Jon a true Stark and Lord of Winterfell, if he simply bent the knee. The one thing that Jon had always desired within his grasp, yet like the stubborn Ned, Jon has rock solid principles. Was Jon right to refuse the deal? Yes and no. He wouldn't be Jon Snow if he accepted, but we'd have someone who could take the Iron Throne and rule better than most if he accepted, which is just as noble, and more long-sighted.

Dany has run into more trouble, after a prisoner she was waiting to put on trial was murdered by one of her freed slaves. He thought he was doing her a favor by killing the captured Son of the Harpy, but the whole point of the show trial was to demonstrate how fair a ruler she was. Dany knows she's in trouble, and she's really beginning to feel the pressure. But then she has a surprise visitor. Dany's missing dragon Drogon is perched on her roof. He lets her reach out to him before flying away. This appears to give Dany new determination, and lets her know she still has one dragon she can count on.

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