Game of Thrones 502 recap/ review
The House of Black and White
After an anticlimactic, predictable ending in “The Wars to Come,” director Michael Slovis’ second episode on “Game of Thrones,” “The House of Black and White,” picked up the action and stakes a little more, but the excitement from last year has yet to return to HBO’s cornerstone series. While we still miss Bran, Rickon, Hodor, and Meera this year, Slovis treated viewers to Arya’s (Maisie Williams) seasonal debut to open the episode. She sees the giant statue guarding the city and eventually the ship makes port. The captain of the ship that transported the youngest Stark girl across the Narrow Sea rows through Braavos, dropping her off at the House of Black and White—a temple for servants of the many-faced god and base of operations for the Faceless Men—the league of assassins that Arya learned about in the second season from Jaqen H’Ghar, one of the Faceless Men. She raps on the door and an old man opens the entrance. She tries to gain entry, telling the old man that Jaqen H’Ghar sent her. “There is no one here by that name.” The door closes on Arya and her journey seems wasted. She spends the night on the stairs, saying her prayer of death. When the sun rises and she hasn’t made any progress, Arya casts the coin that Jaqen gave her into the water before the temple.
Brienne and Pod fall upon an inn and take in a meal. While inside, Pod can’t help but look at his waitress. While staring at the waitress, Pod notices two more key figures from his days in King’s Landing: Littlefinger and Sansa Stark. That’s twice now when Pod’s ability to recognize familiar faces came in handy for Brienne. She tells Pod to round up and prepare the horse they have. At their table, Littlefinger tells Sansa his mysterious marriage proposal was accepted. Sansa can’t make sense of men’s love for beer, but Littlefinger informs her it gives some men courage. Brienne approaches the table and offers her sword to Sansa; however, Lord Baelish has nothing except insults and slights for Brienne. He asks the tall warrior who killed Renly and the answer hardly satisfies her audiences. Sansa turns her down as she now prefers the care of her uncle. Littlefinger asks Brienne to stick around, but she turns to his guards and knocks them over before they can make a move. She rushes outside to mount her horse as she and Pod escape Littlefinger’s soldiers. The travelling companions split up on horseback. Both good guys ditch their pursuers, but when a horse bucks Pod and he misses his target throwing a stone at a soldier, it seems like the end for the sweetest squire in Westeros. Luckily, Brienne rides in and saves the day by violently sword-fighting Pod’s aggressor on horseback. She tells Podrick to rise, for they will follow Littlefinger’s small riding party. However, Pod insists that Brienne’s oath is up because both Stark girls refused her service. “I swore an oath to their mother…Do you think she’s safe with Littlefinger?” No, no she isn’t. Who is?
Across the kingdom in King’s Landing, Jaime visits Cersei after she reads a troubling message from Dorne. A snake with Myrcella’s necklace wrapped in its mouth sits on Cersei’s desk. It’s one of two necklaces in the world. “A threat?” Jaime surmises. Cersei describes the note sent with the gesture—the Lannisters are blamed for every single bit of bad luck and ill will in Dorne. “I will burn their cities to the ground!” Cersei shouts in fear for her daughter, surrounded in Dorne by legions of men and women who hate the golden lion. Jaime assures her that everything will be okay—he’s going to get their daughter himself. This scene was a far cry from the events in A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons. Jaime never visits Dorne, and instead leads the King’s army in the Riverlands, overseeing the siege of Riverrun and Edmure Tully’s imprisonment following the Red Wedding. Jaime Lannister headed for Dorne? Okay, I guess, this really seems like more filler to make up for an absence of Bran. The show has yet to establish Balon Swann or Arys Oakheart in Dorne—could these characters’ respective literary arcs get swept into Jaime’s? The camera stays in King’s Landing, hopping over to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater (Jerome Flynn making his season five debut) skipping stones and ignoring his betrothed, Lollys Stokeworth. Jaime Lannister interrupts their quiet walk on the shore as Bronn sends Lollys on her way. The Kingslayer pitches Bronn on a secret journey to Dorne that will result in “a much better girl and a much better castle” than Lollys and Castle Stokeworth. How can he say no to that?
Mention of Dorne naturally transitions there as Slovis introduces viewers to their first dose on HBO. Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) makes her fifth season debut. She wears an angry snake bracelet and menacingly looks down on Myrcella Baratheon and her betrothed, Trystane Martell. She can hardly bare the sight of a Martell and Lannister together, let alone entertain the notion. Storming past epic ax-man Areo Hotah (Deobia Oparei), the captain of Dornish guard, Ellaria confronts Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) about Oberyn’s death. She passionately, however misinformed, chastises her Prince for not avenging his brother—her lover’s—death. Siddig makes his series debut and lives up to everything the character seems like on the page of Martin’s books, a perfectly-cast and acted Doran. From his wooden wheelchair, Doran explains to Ellaria that circumstances surrounding Oberyn’s death were perfectly legal because he died in a trial-by-combat to the death. The Dornish prince doesn’t rashly retaliate, instead he says very little, keeping his cards close to the chest. Not much gets established beyond what we already know except that Doran merely plans to bury and mourn his brother while the rest of the country cries for war. She tells him that the “Sand Snakes,” Oberyn’s eight assassin daughters, are with her. The scene mostly set up the fact that writers Weiss & Benioff have decided to forget Arianne Martell, a crucial POV character who plays heavily into Myrcella’s and Arys’ worlds. It looks as if Doran’s daughter in the books was combined with Oberyn’s paramour for the HBO series. Ellaria requests to send the princess’ fingers back to Cersei one at a time, but Doran never entertains the thought. The scene ends with Doran telling her that they don’t “mutilate little girls here” as long as he reigns, referencing Oberyn’s talk with Cersei last season where he assured the queen, “We don’t hurt little girls in Dorne.” Ellaria storms past Doran then Areo. It felt incredibly out of character for Ellaria to want so much harm for Myrcella especially because it flew in the face of her former lover’s quote. Would Oberyn have entertained the same idea as Ellaria? At the very least, I think he would have staunchly disagreed with such a horrible notion.
In Meereen, Daario and Grey Worm track a lead on the Sons of the Harpy faction by daylight. Daario chooses a home that seems suspicious to him. The squad scans the house and finds nothing, until Daario insists they haven’t looked hard enough because the Unsullied have forgotten fear. The former Second Son stabs the wall and a body falls out with a golden mask. Daenerys calls a meeting to decide what will be done with the prisoner. Obviously nothing gets decided and she’s left with yet one more tough call. When the council clears, Barristan remains behind to tell the Mother of Dragons about the terrors of her father—the Mad King, Aerys II Targaryen. She acknowledges that she won’t make the same mistakes her father made as king. “I will not have the Son of the Harpy executed without a fair trial.”
Across Essos, Tyrion and Varys travel toward Volantis to get on the road for Meereen. Tyrion hasn’t quit drinking and wants to walk outside “the box” of a stagecoach. “You can’t.” Varys explains Cersei offered a lordship to the man who delivers his head to her. He later complements Tyrion’s abilities as Hand of the King when the conversation turns to people like them—people who can’t stand the people that can’t stand them. Tyrion insists on going for a walk. “How many dwarves are there in the world? Is Cersei going to kill them all?” Judging by the next shot, she might. Two men present a dwarf’s severed head to Cersei and Qyburn in the mad scientist’s laboratory. Cersei sees that it clearly isn’t Tyrion and has the men take the head away from her. However, Qyburn suggests that he may have use of the severed head and Cersei agrees to keep it in his care. The camera stays with Cersei and Qyburn as they attend a small council meeting. Mace Tyrell and Grand Maester Pycelle take a painfully awful crack at putting their name in the ring for Hand of the King. Kevan Lannister looks upset and without a clue as to why Cersei summoned him to the council at first, finding it difficult to follow to her words without hearing them directly from the king. If Tommen wants his uncle to serve as Master of War, he’ll have to tell him in person first. Kevan ends the scene storming out for Casterly Rock, presumably.
At the wall, Sam reads a few feet away from where Shireen teaches Gilly how to read. Unfortunately, the conversation turns to Gilly’s life at Craster’s Keep. Shireen’s greyscale reminds Gilly of two of her sisters that had the same illness. She can only remember how feral and covered they were before Craster led them out into the wilderness after the sickness worsened. Queen Selyse Baratheon then creeps her way into the season five to send Sam and Gilly away. She tells her daughter not to hang with wildlings because they could exact their revenge on Stannis by killing his daughter. The Baratheon princess quickly shoots that notion down. “Gilly wouldn’t do that.” Selyse storms out (a lot of that going around in Westeros), but the scene stays at the wall yet jumps over to Stannis’ quarters where the King, Davos, and Jon meet. Stannis wasn’t pleased that Jon put Mance out of his misery because “a King’s word is law.” Jon states that no matter Stannis thinks, the Freefolk won’t follow him. He explains that the Freefolk follow their own kind and that Northerners are similar due to the letter Stannis got from the head of House Mormont (the former Lord Commander’s ten-year-old niece) stating the North only bows to Stark rule. Stannis offers his new friend legitimization—he will make Jon Snow into Jon Stark and bestow Winterfell and all other titles to him if he pledges the North to Stannis. A tempting offer. “He’ll make you a Stark with the stroke of a pen?” Sam asks Jon in the next scene at a meeting in the mess hall. Jon expresses he dreamed of having the name “Stark” since he was a child and wanted nothing more than it. Maester Aemon calls the meeting to order, the brothers will elect a new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch (to finally replace the Old Bear) and the men are given the chance to present a candidate and a platform. Janos Slynt obviously pitches Alliser Thorne to take over while another brother suggests long-time ranger and survivor of ten winters, Denys Mallister. However, Sam rises at the end and puts Jon’s name out there on the ballot. Slynt and Thorne throw accusations in Jon’s direction, but the voting begins. Jon and Thorne seem tied when Aemon happily casts his vote to put Jon ahead of his opponent.
In Braavos, a group of men surround Arya and threaten to take her belongings and more. She draws Needle and instructs them to leave. One man considers the sword’s worth. “Nothing’s worth anything to dead men.” The old man from the beginning appears behind her and the criminals flee. The man leads Arya back to the House of Black and White, returning the coin she tossed in the sea. “You lost this.” The man tears down his face, revealing that of Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Arya points out that the old man said Jaqen H’ghar doesn’t live there, but all we get is his typical, cryptic explanation. The chemistry between Arya and Jaqen returned naturally. I never knew how much I missed that dynamic of the show until it came back. (Don’t throw out your “Pate” theories here, this is just the show.) He opens the black door for Arya, and she enters the temple. Back in Meereen, the former slave Mossador enters a prison cell holding the Son of the Harpy whom Daario found and kills him after hearing a series of taunts. The body gets discovered on the streets, wearing the golden mask with “KILL THE MASTERS” painted on a wall in the background. Mossador’s act is well-known to the public, but he has the people’s favor for killing their equivalent of a terrorist. However, Daenerys understood that the dead man never received a trial before Mossador killed him and orders the former slave’s public execution. “I did what you wanted to do,” he explains aloud to the queen. She puts the former slave up for public display, former slaves and former masters alike, and orders Daario to execute him. This causes a public riot and they must evacuate Daenerys from her people. Inside the pyramid, Barristan, Grey Worm, and Missandei try their hardest to lift the Khaleesi’s spirits. Her mood finally shifts when she wanders out to the balcony and DROGON lands before her. The dragon monstrosity only briefly hangs around before it takes flight over the city and into the distance.
Seeing the alpha dragon certainly helped end the episode on an exciting note, but still nothing really changed in this episode. Tyrion and Varys keep barreling toward Meereen. Brienne and Pod still follow Sansa, albeit with a better clue. Arya made it inside a building. Jon was voted Lord Commander, but that entire scene had a thick air of predictability. Stannis and Davos remain at the Wall. Cersei sits around angry and shouting at Jaime while Margaery and Tommen didn’t even appear. Drogon’s appearance affected nothing except maybe Daenerys’ spirits (I really can’t give you a better reason). Granted, Slovis introduced us to Dorne, but forcing Ellaria Sand into Arianne Martell’s literary role felt undeveloped, leaving viewers to think she’s done absolutely nothing but seethe and brood since Oberyn’s death. She has exactly no plans and zero experience. Revenge is all over this show and adding another revenge tale just feels old and played. The quicker we jump into Doran’s plan, the better for the plot. Ellaria has no plan or experience, merely anger and daughters. Like “The Wars to Come,” this episode was simply too predictable up until Drogon flew in to conclude the episode, but ultimately not affect it.