TV Show Review

TV Review: GAME OF THRONES: Season 5, Episode 2: The House of Black and White [HBO]

Maisie Williams House_of_Black_and_White

HBO‘s Game of Thrones The House of Black and White TV Show ReviewGame of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 2: The House of Black and White is the second episode of the ten episode season. After the excruciating 9-month spell between seasons, enduring the meager 1-week wait between episodes should be a walk in the part. Unfortunately, that’s not how Game of Thrones withdrawal works. Much like the watchers on the wall, Game of Thrones fans spent the last six days vigilantly waiting for time’s slow march to deliver The House of Black and White. Much like last week’s The Wars to Come, The House of Black and White is densely packed with characters and destinations both old and new. After watching The House of Black and White, it feels that now more than ever, Game of Thrones is scrupulously setting up plots in anticipation of the series conclusion.

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones looked stunning. The show’s depiction of Bravos and Dorne were further examples of the elaborate lengths the show undertakes in order to translate the books to television. The opening scene felt as though my television screen were a portal, offering me a rare glance at a time and place in history slightly adjacent to our own. The sun kissed courtyard in Dorne and bustling market places in Bravos could have easily sucked up the entire budget of lesser television shows.

With so many characters, plots and locations constantly in play, Game of Thrones has always had issues with holding back certain character’s arcs until they could chronologically line up with other major events in the story. This was certainly true in the case of Arya (Maisie Williams). For the longest time, Arya’s story alternated between her wandering the land and being captured (sometimes both simultaneously). As much as I enjoyed the Arya and The Hound (Rory Mcann) travelling road show, she is long overdue to make her way through a season with a sense of purpose.

Now that Arya has arrived in Bravos, her tutelage by Jaqen H’ghar (Thomas Wlaschiha) at the house of black and white finally puts her on the path of evolving into a character who can have an effect on the world. Arya now has a mentor, is acquiring the skills needed to survive and avenge her family and the audience can finally see the character’s trajectory. Arya can now transform from a constant victim of circumstance to someone whose decisions can have an effect on the world that she inhabits.

Given the show’s penchant for stretching out plots, it was quite a surprise to see Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Podric (Daniel Portman) cross paths with Sansa (Sophie Turner) and Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) so soon. I can’t help but wonder if now that Game of Thrones is deviating from the books the show no longer has to find creative ways to pass time until characters timelines sync up. In true Game of Thrones fashion, Sansa and Brienne’s encounter wasn’t even close to the happy union that we had hoped for. Instead of Sansa being grateful to the woman sworn to protect her, we got to see a desperate Brienne, forced to flee for her life.

Littlefinger wields words as weapons, unleashing verbal daggers that cut as deep as the finest Valyrian steel. Little finger didn’t even break a sweat convincing Sansa not to go with Brienne. To be fair, with Brienne’s track-record, Hodor could have easily argued the case against her.

It is notable that the noble Brienne is adapting to life in the Seven Kingdoms by throwing honor to the wayside. Game of Thrones often destroys characters that strictly adhere to their ideals, and it bodes well for Brienne that she is starting to see the world in shades of grey. The old Brienne never would have ordered Podric to steal a horse or slashed an idle horse’s neck in order to keep her pursuers from following.

Now that Tywin (Charles Dance) is dead, the Lannister’s power and influence is slowly circling around the drain and we saw how determined Cersei (Lena Headey) was to to maintain control. We watched a desperate Cersei try to turn the small council into her own personal kangaroo court. It was amusing to watch certain members of the council so easily flattered by her glib declarations on behalf of the king while her uncle Kevan (Ian Gelder) sat seething, seeing right through her act. With her father and oldest son dead and daughter shipped off to Dorne, Cersei is like a wild dog backed into a corner, striking out at every passing shadow. With the way that this season feels like it’s moving forward so quickly, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cersei and Kevan clash in the next episode.

The more that Jamie (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) becomes in touch with his conscience, the more defiant he becomes to his sister and her constant manipulations. It seems that it was Jamie’s role in his father’s death just as much as the threat to Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) that motivated him to head to Dorne. Whatever the reason, I’m just ecstatic that the show found a way to bring Bronn (Jerome Flynn) back into the fold. I can’t wait to see how Jamie and his burgeoning conscience will get along with the morally bankrupt sellsword.

The House of Black and White only stayed in Dorne long enough to show us that Ellaria (Indira Varma) and the sandsnakes are as bloodthirsty as Cersei. The book that this season is based on spent so much time with the characters in Dorne that I’m amazed that we haven’t spent more than a few minutes focused on the sun-drenched city.

As important as Daenery’s (Emilia Clarke) time in Mereen is, the story still feels old and repetitive. We don’t need to see any more episodes explaining that her noble declarations often have unforeseen consequences. Hopefully, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) get their soon and make her story line interesting again. It remains to be seen if the ceaseless complaints of her underclass will drive Daenerys towards behaving more like her tyrannical father. I would pay a lot of gold dragons to see Tyrion arrive in town and have to deal with an oppressive Khaleesi.

Back on the wall, we watched the collision course between Stannis (Stephane Dillane) and Jon (Kit Harington), two men known for firmly adhering to their ideals. Unlike Stannis, Jon has shown a willingness to put aside his beliefs for the greater good. Jon only remains alive because of his decision to compromise his oath to the Night’s Watch and temporarily join the wildlings. Now that Jon is once again on the wall, he shows us that he is back to his old self, stubbornly refusing to bend his knee to Stannis and take the Stark name. Isn’t becoming a Stark and uniting the north at least a decision worth taking a night to sleep on?

Much like his half-sister Arya, Jon is a character that does a lot of reacting to events. By refusing the Stark name and becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, he has inherited some authority. Perhaps becoming Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch will finally transform Jon into a person whose decisions force the world to react to him.

Similar to last week’s episode, The Wars to Come, The House of Black and White continued pairing up characters and giving them each a sense of agency. For the longest time, the show’s numerous villains and lack of a central hero made it difficult to figure out what direction the series was headed in, making for a confusing, albeit fun show. Now that most of Game of Throne’s characters are on intersecting paths and have a sense of purpose, it finally feels as though we can see the “bigger picture”. Even though The House of Black and White expanded Game of Throne’s world by touching on so many stories and new locations, it also felt more focused than the series has been in the past. Game of Thrones continues to wield its own dark magic, one that makes the series feel both bigger and smaller at the same time.

Notes:

Why didn’t Shireen (Kerry Ingram) die of greyscale as a young child? Was it some form of magic that kept her alive?

Game of Thrones dark sense of humor has never been more on display than with the sight gag involving a severed dwarf’s head.

Cersei mentioned that there were only two necklaces in existence, hers and Myrcellas. Did she use her own necklace to trick Jamie into heading to Dorne?

Considering that Sansa is in the Westerosi version of witness protection, weren’t Brienne and Littlefinger speaking pretty freely in front of the pub’s patrons?

Which Game of Thrones power couple is most deserving of their own spin-off? Daario (Michiel Huisman) and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Jamie and Bronn, Tyrion and Varys, Brienne and Podric, Littlefinger and Sansa or Arya and Jaqen?

Drogon’s abrupt return was an apt metaphor for Daenery’s brief illusion of control over the kingdom and how quickly it slipped through her grasp.

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to www.zone-six.net

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