HBO’s Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2 “The House of Black and White”

After last week’s pity party premiere, Game of Thrones is back for a second episode filled with people ready to take some action—especially with the pointy end of a sword.

Now that we’ve watched Arya say something extremely dark and awesome for a young child, Game of Thrones is officially back. And with some welcome surprises.

Spoilers for the episode ahead. Spoilers from George R. R. Martin’s published novels are also discussed in the review and fair game in the comments. Please don’t post open spoilers from any leaked episodes or preview chapters of The Winds of Winter. Tread carefully and play nice.

I don’t know who I’m happier to see: Arya or… Jaqen H’Ghar! Boy, those little birds spreading casting rumors during the off-season are pretty accurate. And it seems he’s sticking around for at least another episode. Okay, I’m happier to see Arya, of course. But it’s nice that she gets to share scenes with a familiar face for her training, too.

The House of Black and White looks more like a palace, it was so big. You can tell Arya is still young and naive because she thought she could just walk right up to the immense door and stroll into the secret guild of assassins. I’ll cut her some slack; they don’t have kung fu movies in Westeros. And unlike popular knights, Faceless Men are by nature clandestine so how could Arya know to keep waiting it out on the front steps if she wanted to be allowed into Project Mayhem? (Arya would probably really like Fight Club, too. )

Or maybe what it takes to be accepted is lopping the head off a pigeon with extreme accuracy then taunting a group of would-be thieves with “Nothing’s worth anything to dead men.” Damn, she learned great threat delivery from her time with The Hound.

Meanwhile, at the grownups’ table with ale and everything, goth Sansa practically glows from Littlefinger’s compliments on her skilled noticing of Littlefinger… openly pocketing a raven scroll in last week’s episode. I guess that’s impressive? For Sansa? I’m more impressed by her literal Statement Necklace of Symbolism(tm) from last season. It’s a chain. But there’s a big circle with a bar crossing it that seems to declare “Stop. No creeping allowed.”

Also feeling good, for about a second, was Brienne when she saw Sansa for the first time. Until Littlefinger did a fast job of finding Brienne’s weak points and reminded her that she’s a failure. And Sansa rubs salt in the wound by accusing her of being loyal to Joffrey. Really? How soon we forget, Sansa. Sansa’s such a goth teen cliché. I’d kind of love it if she wasn’t being so obnoxious.

Granted she doesn’t know that Brienne is so solemn, she’ll do whatever it takes to keep her oath to Cat Stark.

I do wish Brienne at least mentioned she had seen Arya alive a few weeks ago, as a courtesy. Sansa and her sister haven’t shared a scene since the first season. Of course, Arya not being with Brienne is just another failure for Littlefinger to use against her.

In less dark and damp climes, Ellaria Sand sports a chic grief haircut and seething rage towards all things Lannister, including Princess Myrcella who dares to enjoy the hospitality of Sunspear while Ellia’s paramour got his head squished like a rotten pumpkin last season. Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig, best known for his portrayal of Dr. Julian Bashir on Star Trek: DS9) is not into joining Ellaria’s Severed Finger-of-the-Month Club.

It’s a small introduction to this country until Jaime’s arrival next week.

Will Jaime be taking Ser Arys Oakheart’s role from the books? It’s a good way to condense the story and keep bigger chunks of the cast together. What else might Jaime have to do otherwise? How else to separate him from Cersei again so she can really stand on her own? And Dorne is more vibrant than the Riverlands, where in the book, Jaime went to take control of the siege at Riverrun. Nevermind that the actor who played Edmure Tully is now scowling for Outlander.

In Meereen—my very early vote for least interesting storyline this season—Dany continues to struggle with the Sons of the Harpy some more. And dares to question the wisdom of Barristan Selmy, who is the one man in her council who never tried to sleep with her. (Until Grey Worm came along.) Dany thinks the stories about Mad King Aerys were just enemy rumours? You’d think she would remember the years of torment she suffered because of her brother.

Selmy talks some sense into Dany and she decides to give her prisoner a fair trial before execution, but the guy whose name I never bothered to learn kills him instead. And it was a waste of time for me to look up that name on Wikipedia (Mossador) because Dany immediately does the stupidest thing and has No-Name publicly executed in front of a crowd of former slaves, former masters, and Sons of the Harpy and incites a riot. And all with a little nod for Daario to do the grisly beheading. Blood would definitely ruin that Lupita Nyong’o-at-the-Oscars dress she’s rocking.

For the second episode in a row, I found I didn’t hate Daario so much. He was right—Dany should’ve executed her prisoner in private. And she should preemptively execute Hizdahr zo Loraq. Mostly because he barely exists on the show and I hate having to spellcheck his name.

Interesting that this big scene for Dany comes after Stannis saying again that he commands respect through fear. That kind of backfired for Dany, didn’t it? She was pretty screwed either way—killing the Son of the Harpy in private wouldn’t send a message. But killing Mossad in front of everyone made her look like just another master. No wonder they hissed at you, Mhysa Dearest.

At least Drogon still loves her. It’s the first time Dany smiled this season.

Followers are fickle and ruling is difficult. It’s a really simple message, but one that will become a theme for this season.

At the Wall, Jon Snow is thrust into a leadership rule in the election for new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. Samwell is quite the speech-maker, especially for a formerly craven crow. Epic burns on Janos Slynt and his “puddle of his own making.” Everything he said about Jon Snow was true, but I was surprised that Samwell didn’t tell everyone what Jon was really giving up to keep his vows to the Night’s Watch. The chance to be a real Stark at the stroke of Stannis’ pen. It was a tempting offer, but one that his honor wouldn’t let him take.

He’s truly his father’s son. (Whatever you believe about his parentage, Ned was a father to Jon.)

Yet between the wildlings, Stannis, and Alliser Thorne’s loyalists, Jon is taking charge of the Wall when it is most vulnerable.

With Jon rejecting Stannis’ offer to become the Lord of Winterfell and help him rule the North, what will happen next? Will Davos go on a diplomatic mission of his own to find allies? Will Melisandre do something magical while naked? With the changes from the books we saw last week, it’s hard to predict and I love it.

 

Final thoughts:

  • Line of the night runner-up: “I know ‘s’.” –Gilly. It’s more than Jon Snow knows.
  • Stannis’ wife is a perfect match for him: cold of heart. Poor Shireen has no one her age to talk to, a disfigured face that makes her shy, and she’s smart so she knows why she’s so lonely. To deny her a friend because Gilly is a wildling is just plain mean. The Baratheon’s will never see the wildlings as equals.
  • Bronn! You can’t be mad at a sellsword, right? I’m so happy he’ll be joining Jaime in Dorne, even if his betrothed isn’t. They nailed Lollys Stokeworth’s simple nature. I pitied her and was bored by her simultaneously.
  • Pod: Rides whores better than horses, even after all this time as Brienne’s squire. Where’s his training montage?
  • Kevan Lannister: the second coolest Lannister. Nice Small Council Cersei’s got, what with sleepy-eyed Mace Tyrell doing double duty as Master of Ships and Coin, Qyburn as Maester Frankenstein, and Kevan as Master of Not-Being-Cersei’s-Lapdog. “You are the Queen Mother. Nothing more.” Bye, bitches. Off to Casterly Rock.

 

Next week: Arya gets a Kill Bill Vol. 2-style Pai Mei training montage in the House of Black and White; Sansa gets… no lemoncakes.

Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.


Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing. Send her a raven through Twitter.

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