02 “The House of Black and White” (Game of Thrones season 5) [SPOILERS]

game of thrones season 5

It’s amazing what a phenomenon Game of Thrones has become. Even in our fad-ish world of viral whatevers, it really does seem to have taken over.

Especially amazing given that it’s a fantasy series about dragons and knights, packed to the rafters with sex and violence.

Actually, these days it’s more violence than sex. I like to think that the story has gotten so interesting and labyrinthine that even “sexposition” can’t untangle it. I shudder to think how impenetrable this would be to anyone coming in cold to the fifth season.

You know what, though? Good.

You wouldn’t come into a book at chapter seventeen and start complaining that you can’t immediately pick up the plot threads, so it’s a mystery quite why for years that same arguemnt was used to stop TV shows from having extended story arcs.

(Yeah, we may have stumbled on a bugbear that needs a whole blog post of its own, here. How about we just get on with the review? -Ed)

In King’s Landing, Cersei tries to assert her dominance in the absence of her father, whilst sending Jaime south, to bring Myrcella home from Dorne. In the Eyrie, Brienne and Pod finally catch up with Littlefinger and Sansa. At the Wall, both Stannis and the Night Watch plan their future. In Meereen, Danaerys struggles with the tensions between the liberated slaves and the dispossessed masters. And Arya arrives in Braavos.

We’re into the thick of things this week, with the plot starting to accelerate. There is an awful lot going on this episode, and the interesting thing is that it’s more and more starting to deviate from the books. but this isn’t a review of the books, and I do know how tiresome it can get when the comparison is continually waved about.

So the capital first. In the vacuum left by Tywin’s death, Cersei is looking to plant her flag. At the small council, she looks to place herself as the hand, ruling in the stead of her son. One after another the council members object, only to be bought off with roles and trinkets. Except for her uncle, Kevan Lannister.

Kevan hasn’t been much of a character up until now, but I’m rather impressed with him. He has some of the iron that Charles Dance put into Tywin, and when he stands up and refuses to recognise her authority in Tommen’s name, he does so like a Lannister.

Cersei is a bit irate generally (Isn’t she always? -Ed), having received her daughter’s pendant in the teeth of a snake. Which she interprets as a threat from the Martells of Dorne. After a row with Jaime about what a bad father he is — which he truthfully counters with the fact that they would have long since been killed if he had been a father — he agrees to go to Dorne to save her. And he takes a blackmailed Ser Bronn of the Blackwater with him.

Our only actual glimpse of Dorne, though, manages to be both tantalising and a little disappointing. After Oberyn’s death, Prince Julian Bashir Doran Martell sits sombrely in a chair. Ellaria tries to rouse him to kill Myrcella as revenge (So it was her sending elaborately threatening messages to Cersei -Ed). Doran isn’t having any of it though, and nor is the bloke with the big pointy axe.

In the Eyrie, Brienne and Pod by chance end up at the same inn as Littlefinger and Sansa. Somehow Pod recognises Sansa, and Brienne offers her her protection. But like Arya, Sansa — or Littlefinger on her behalf — refuses.

Now, I like Brienne. I think she’s a wonderful character, brilliantly portrayed by Gwendoline Christie. But Littlefinger has a point that everyone she has sworn to protect has ended up dead. She’s not giving up, though, and after killing half of Littlefinger’s knights, not-knight and not-squire set off in pursuit.

After heading off in a boat to Braavos at the end of last season (In one of the least climactic final scenes Game of Thrones has yet produced -Ed), Arya has finally arrived. Previously all we’ve seen of it was the Iron Bank, when Stannis came to beg for money. Now we see the titular House of Black and White. Now, Arya is clearly going to end up inside, so quite why we have to go through the game of having obviously Jaquan turn her away, before eventually letting her inside.

But it sets the scene, I suppose.

In Meereen, Daario has finally smoked out one of the Sons of the Harpy. And now Danaerys gets to struggle with what to do with him. The slaves want himn dead, but as Ser Barristan counsels her, her father used to dole out punishment brutally, and the people rose up against him. Unfortunately, as with Robb Stark back in the third season, her underlings aren’t patient. Mossador takes matters into his own hands, killing the prisoner and displaying the carcass as a warning.

As Dany intones, the punishment is death. The poor slave, begging “Mhysa” for mercy, is beheaded in front of a crowd of slaves and former masters, and when their pleas are ignored by the Queen, the slaves hiss at her, and a riot errupts. Conquering, it seems, is easy. Ruling, less so.

Up at the wall, Stannis is doing his grumpy thing about Jon Snow putting Mance out of his misery with an arrow at the end of the last episode. Which, you know, sort of felt like a relief to everyone. Stannis has had a response from Lady Mormont of Bear Island, saying her only king is called Stark. So, a slave to reality, Stannis offers Jon the Stark name — and with it Winterfell — if he kneels before the moody king.

It’s a nice idea, and clearly tempting to Jon. Particularly with it looking a lot like Ser Alliser Thorne is about to become Lord Commander. Motivated by love his friend, and the fact that Ser Alliser is a bit of an arse, Sam gives a stirring speech anointing Jon as the true saviour of the Watch. When the vote comes down to a tie between Snow and Thorne, Maester Aemon’s vote swings it for the new Lord Commander Jon Snow.

Now this was more like it. Okay, so it didn’t reveal everything at once, and the hint of Dorne was just enough to whet the appetite, and the developments both in Mereen and at the Wall pushed the plot along. A reminder of why this is the best show on TV.

Which is not — and I can’t stress that enough — a free pass. Season 5 delivers, or I will damn it. But on the strength of “The House of Black and White”, it is definitely delivering so far.

  • Drogon seems a happier chap than his siblings. Though he hasn’t been chained in a dungeon for God knows how long.
  • It turns out that I like Varys and Tyrion enough that the scenes of them doing basically nothing are still watchable and entertaining.
  • Bronn is surprised at being screwed over by Cersei. Has he not been paying attention?
  • It’s hard to judge from such a distance, but it does look like the young Prince Martell is rather taken with the Lannister Baratheon princess.
  • Cersei has replaced Littlefinger with Mace Tyrell as Master of Coin. So where does Littlefinger stand in the various faction wars now?
  • Has Daario Naharis always had one of those curvy Dolthraki swords?
  • There are more slaves than former masters. Therefore piss the masters off before you piss off the slaves. Basic maths, Danaerys.
  • Actually, Dany’s story really is starting to mirror Robb Stark’s dull trudge towards the Red Wedding.

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