Game of ThronesRecap

Game of Thrones: Season 5 Episode 2 – The House of Black and White

Out with the old and in with the new.

It’s a strange old episode this one, containing some much longed for moments, some unexpected delights, all capped off with a bit of been-here-done-that in Meereen.

Let’s start with the delightful. Somewhere near The Eyrie, Brienne and Pod stop for a drink at an inn. And, despite us thinking she’d come so close and yet still failed to find Sansa, there Sansa is with Littlefinger, propped up in a booth discussing the weather.

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She stakes her claim, but Sansa refuses to come with her, the second Stark to do so. Brienne it seems is all honour and servitude, a knight-errant following the old ways, the old codes. But after the refusal, she beats a hasty exit with Pod and the two escape into the woods, not without a bit of bloodshed along the way.

This is interesting on a couple of levels. Firstly, Pod tells Brienne her time honouring her pledge to Catelyn Stark has ended. Brienne is quickly confronting the fact that she is out of place and out of time – there is no role for her. She must reinvent herself or face becoming obsolete. But on top of this we have the idea that her character is literally being reinvented from her counterpart in the books – none of this happens at all, or at least has happened. While there is a vague echo with a corresponding scene in the books at an inn, it’s still markedly different.

Far away, we get Arya arriving in Braavos, sailing under the Westeros version of the Colossus of Rhodes and dropped off at the House of the Black and White. It’s here where she brings her Braavosi coin, but she receives no entry, she has ‘everywhere else to go.’ In the bay goes the coin, and Arya sets off to wander the streets and pick fights.

But eventually she does gain entry. Her coin is returned by the hooded old man, who then reveals himself to be Jaqen H’ghar, he of the many faces who hasn’t been sighted since Season 2 when helping Arya escape the horrors of Harrenhal. This again is a slight deviation from the books, but maintains a continuity for the viewers who are familiar with the character, and can therefore encounter a new location with a friendly face.

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To gain entry, it appears Arya has to learn to give up her name. She must, like others in this episode, learn to let go of being a Stark, and let go of all the other names she’s been dragging around like totems.

And it’s here we get the connection with Sansa’s story. Both have said no to Brienne, refused her service, and then gone elsewhere. Bran too has said no to his heritage, leaving Jon Snow alone north of the Wall, and heading out into the wilderness. The Stark children are clearly keen to find new beginnings, new stories, and have no set on the Iron Throne. Robb, their brother, was like the older generation, and he died for it. These three still thrive.

The invited contrast is with the Lannisters, who are still in King’s Landingattempting to cleave themselves more tightly to the throne. Cersei is increasingly worried about Myrcella, and sends Jaime off to Dorne to save her. Cersei herself is killing dwarves, or at least having them killed for her, in the hope that one is Tyrion. But also so that Qyburn can, uh, do something with the heads.

She is trying to take hold of things, all but assuming the role Tywin had. There’s an interesting angle here in that Tywin essentially commanded expectation that he was in charge, whereas Cersei has to grease the wheels a bit more just to get some recognition, not least because of her gender. Unlike the Starks, she can only look back, and worry that it might be lost.

Meanwhile, in another change, Jaime is taking Bronn – Ser Bronn – to Dorne with him, which no doubt looks to bring the Dornish plot into the fold as part of the major story, rather than being an extension of the fallout from Oberyn’s death-by-head-explosion. Screen-Shot-2015-04-14-at-09.08.14

So we get a little preview of Dorne, brought to us by the already familiar, and now grieving Ellaria Sand. She takes us to Doran, and tells him that she and the Sand Snakes – Oberyn’s bastard daughters – are bent on revenge and want to kill some Lannisters, starting with Myrcella. Seriously, does nobody learn that revenge leads to death in this show? Anyhow, Doran says no, though this may change once Jaime and Bronn arrive.

Up at The Wall, Sam and Gilly and Shireen are having a ready circle, or something, and there’s more talk of Shireen’s greyscale affliction. As mentioned last week, this fuels my suspicion that the illness has some part to play in the grand scheme of things, so we’ll have to watch with interest.

Stannis wants Jon to join him in taking the North, promising him legitimacy as a Stark, and Winterfell when they take it. But Jon – like the other Starks – turns his back on the past and settles on the future as part of the Night’s Watch, though really he’s been doing that since the pilot.

However, they hold an election for the new Lord Commander, and it’s left to Sam to make Jon into the leader that he’s struggled to become all this time. He was the one they turned to when the night was darkest, and so Jon wins the vote. It’s a nice moment, despite being a bit of a dog-and-pony show, because really, who else was it going to be?

Between Pentos and somewhere else, there’s a small scene with Tyrion and Varys, but it doesn’t reach too much new territory, except in the odd repetition that Tyrion was very good as the Hand. This is the second time Varys has mentioned it in two episodes, and we can only assume this is leading toward some future development.

So we finish with Meereen, despite the groans from the audience. There’s some more kerfuffle about the Sons of the Harpy killling Unsullied, but we know all this. Daenerys has the opportunity to execute a prisoner but doesn’t because politics, and so someone else kills the prisoner and she then executes them. Eh. We’ve seen all this before.

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This is the problem with Daenerys’ storylines. After the early flourish, it’s settled into a repetitive plodding of politics and power struggles. We’ve seen both aplenty, as well as leaders struggling with conflicting priorities, and so this plotline is suffering from a lack of the new, in contrast to the rest of the show. If there’s anything to be gained, it’s that for once Daenerys seems to agree, and rushes away from the upset that her execution causes with overwhelming disinterest.

That is, until Drogon arrives. And though he doesn’t stay long, we get a sense once more of the future, of the new, and of the freedom that these dragons promise her. Phew. There’s life yet in dusty old Meereen.

  • Valar Morghulis: a Son of the Harpy, and that guy who killed him. You know that guy. Him.
  • Where is Littlefinger taking Sansa?
  • Does anyone know where Gendry is? Still rowing a boat? Does anyone care?
  • Best exchange of the episode between Brienne and Pod:
  • ‘Ready the horses.’
  • ‘We only have one horse.’
  • ‘Find more.’
  • Next episode: more Arya and Jaqen, Cersei paranoid again, and I’m sure everyone is just delighted to get more adventures of Theon Greyjoy and the Boltons.

 

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