Sunday, April 26, 2015

Game Of Thrones (S5E02): "The House of Black and White"

Episode of 2 of Season 5 of HBO's Game Of Thrones aired this week and is titled "The House of Black and White." This episode (S5E02) features Arya Stark, the one main character who did not appear at all in last week's (S5E01) "The Wars To Come." Since Arya is one of my favorite characters I am pleased that the show caught up with her story so quickly

I think this episode is really about shades of gray. Arya has basically devoted herself to a life of revenge for the horrible things that have happened to the her family (Lord Eddard Stark beheaded due to the treachery of Joffrey Barratheon; the death of her mother and brother at the Red Wedding). She basically sees all people in "stark" terms as either friend and foe (and most people are foes). Interestingly, Arya's death list has shrunk to just four people  (Cersei Lannister, Walder Frey, The Mountain, and Ser Meryn Trant). Arya has made her way to Braavos in order to join the guild of shape-shifting assassins called The Faceless Men.

Another character who is shown not  appreciating nuance in this episode is Daenerys who decides to execute one her supporters in Mereen after the former slave takes the law into his own hands and executes one of the former slave-owners associated with the Sons of the Harpy group who was awaiting trial for killing one of the Unsullied last week. "The law is the law" says Dany firmly, but when Daario does the deed the assembled audience hisses at their Mhysa and the beginnings of a riot ensues as former slaves and former slave-owners try to kill each other.

Cersei Lannister is not known for her willingness to see both sides of a situation and she (rightly) interprets a missive from Dorne containing her daughter's unique jewelry as a threat to the life of Myrcella. This fear for her daughter's well-being is well-founded as Ellaria Sand is shown castigating Prince Doran Martell (her deceased lover's brother) for being unwilling to take revenge on their Barratheon hostage guest for the death of Oberyn Martell.

Really the only characters who we know are smart enough to have nuanced views are Varys and Tyrion Lannister, and they have an amusing and interesting dialogue about the futility of trying to make the world a better place.

Two other characters who  we know see things in more details than just black and white are Jon Snow and Stannis Barratheon. They have some good scenes together this week when Stannis offers Jon his heart's desire of becoming a real Stark and the Lord of Winterfell--if Jon just "bends the knee" and pledges fealty to Stannis as the true claimant to the Iron Throne (and forsakes his oath to the Night's Watch). Somewhat surprisingly, Jon doesn't get a chance to accept or decline this offer because instead he gets elected as the 998th Lord Commander with Aemon Targaryen casting the last, deciding vote.

The best parts of the episode were:
  • The return of Drogon, the largest child of the Mother of Dragons
  • The setting for the famous Water Gardens of Dorne (apparently some fancy Spanish castle) looks incredible
  • The banter between Bronn and Jaime Lannister bodes well for their mission to Dorne to try and rescue Myrcella
  • The best lines of the show were of course between Tyrion and Varys: "Are we really going to spend the entire trip to Volantis discussing the futility of everything?" (Varys to Tyrion) and Tyrion's reply "You're right. No point."
  • Another highlight was the fact that Brienne was able to run into the second Stark daughter she swore an oath to Lady Catelyn to defend, a brilliant departure from the books where despite her oath Brienne never runs into either of the Stark girls. In the show, the tragedy is thta both Stark girls reject Brienne's offer of protection.
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  Even though I was happy to see more Arya, the scenes in Braavos did not seem to  make much sense. What did Arya do to get the attention of the Faceless Men? Why did they not let her in to the House of Black and White when she first arrived? Hopefully we will learn more later on because the reasons were not revealed this week.

Grade: 9/10.

Overall: This was definitely a better episode than last week, and brought forward the story of many of the fan favorite characters (like Arya, Drogon, Bronn and Brienne) and set up scenarios which will become even more important later in the season (Dorne,

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