Game of Thrones S5 E2
“The House of Black and White” by Nikole Gunn.
The last we saw of Arya Stark, she was sailing towards a new life in Braavos in the final episode of Season Four. Having survived her journey through Westeros with The Hound, Arya was looking to a new beginning.
She was notably absent in the season premiere, but in The House of Black and White we get a glimpse of where fate has taken her. We also get another look at the Free City, where Stannis asked for a loan from the Iron Bank.
Arya is taken to the House of Black and White, where she tries to gain entry by presenting the coin given to her by Jaqen H’ghar. But “Valar Morghulis” is not “Open Sesame” and the doors are closed on her.
She camps outside through rain and sunshine, reciting her hit list, which is considerably shorter than when she was cupbearer for Tywin Lannister. But the doors remain closed.
Eventually, she throws the coin into the water and wanders off in to Braavos, where she runs into a gang in the back streets. She pulls out Needle to give them what for and they run away.
They’ve been scared off by the gate keeper from the House of Black and White, who gives her back her coin. She follows him back to The House, where with a wave of the hand, the gatekeeper reveals himself or herself as Jaqen.
Arya’s own fate is sealed when she follows him inside. Valar Morghulis, Arya.
Episode two also gives us a new location: Dorne, where Ellaria Sand is demanding revenge for the death of Prince Oberyn. You remember him – he met an unfortunate death as Tyrion’s champion. Unfortunately, the Viper isn’t ready to give in to her demands.
Dorne is also home to Cersei and Jaime’s daughter Myrcella, who was sent to the Water Gardens for her own ‘protection’. But Cersei wants her home in King’s Landing and convinces Jaime to go and rescue their daughter.
With dear old dad no longer running the show, Cersei is just a teensy bit drunk on power, making appointments in the name of King Tommen. In the process, she manages to antagonise her Uncle Kevin Lannister. He could be an ally, but he storms off in disgust.
Jaime needs an ally in his quest to return Myrcella and turns to the sell-sword Bronn, who was just settling in as a ‘man of means’ with a castle and a wife on his horizon. Back to square one for Bronn.
Episode two also gives us more of The Wall and Meereen: the two main story lines from the books. Jon Snow is offered the chance of legitimacy by Stannis, who wants him controlling the North from Winterfell as Jon Stark. But before he can give it much thought, the men of the Night’s Watch vote him in as Lord Commander.
There’s no going back for Jon now. He may have dallied with a Wildling, but he’s now forever tied to his vows as a man of the Night’s Watch.
As for Daenerys, the Mother of Dragons, she’s trying to rule Meereen but comes to realise that she can’t please all of the people all of the time. A decision to execute one of the freed serfs, who killed a Son of The Harpy has repercussions. The people turn on her. They wanted mercy; she gave them ‘justice’.
But just when things look really grim, her missing dragon Drogon makes a return. They’ve clearly spent a lot of money on CGI this season. Dany’s dragon-baby is visually gorgeous. The detail is money well spent.
While episode two is much, much better than last week’s season premiere, there was one low point. Brienne and Pod’s storyline has run its course in the books. They’re meeting with Sansa and Petry has been contrived to spin out their stories. It’s a storyline that treads water and deviates from the books.
Dany’s sojourn in Meereen could also become rather tedious, but reflects the frustration felt by book readers. George RR Martin has often referred to the frustrations trying to untangle his “Meereenese Knot”.
Given the HBO version of Game of Thrones has moved away from the book version, it will be interesting to see how the scriptwriters resolve it.
Let us know what you thought of this episode in the comments below.