Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 42 – April 19, 2015
Title: The House of Black and White
Summary: A connector episode
Last week we were off to a great start for season 5, and I approached this week with a sense of excitement, particularly as the title promised some good Arya time.
Arya – So, like the episode, we can start with everyone’s favorite killer Stark. She enters through the legs of the Titan of Bravos into some quite epic shots of the city. Not only does it look like Venice, it had me wondering if it was actually filmed there. But I suspect this is a collage of various Croatian towns, particularly given all that grey Croatian limestone in evidence. But there are cool canals and a whole host of wide views to show of the show’s ever increasing budget. A far cry from Season 1’s fairly tight control of the camera. The captain of her ship rows her straight up to the House of Black and White, a massive thing with yin-yang doors. I loved the way it sits right on the quay like The Church of San Giorgio Maggiore (one of Palladio’s gorgeous constructions). A few knocks draws out a grim faced, dark skinned monk who rejects her inquiry after Jaqen H’ghar. Rebuked Arya waits for at least a day and a night and another day, through rain and shine, reciting her death list. And while some of us may wonder why no one enters or leaves the house during this time, eventually she tosses her coin into the water and heads off.
Much later in the episode, we find her hunting pigeons, a return to her old ways from Flea Bottom. This time she skewers one effortlessly. A girl walks by with the costume we know she will later assume and she is set upon by a trio of thugs, but her calm stance and embrace of death scare the off. The monk watches and she follows him back to the House of Black and White — where he transforms into Jaqen. Now in the books Jaqen doesn’t make a reappearance, but I’m happy to see him because he was a fabulous character, and in the context of TV it makes sense to reuse rather than introduce when you can. His line is perfect, “I am no one, and that is who you must become.”
Now, while I liked the look of Bravos and Jaqen’s reappearance, I can’t help but feel “cheated” by the small dash of Arya we received in this titular episode. As they have for some time they are likely to stretch her story out in small chunks through the season.
Brienne and Pod – Dine at another of those typical Irish Pub Inns. The pretty bar maid clearly notices Pod, a nod to his “special talents.” And what a coincidence, Littlefinger and Sansa are at the same place! Pod recognizes both of them and Brienne, in typical straight up fashion, confronts them and offers her service to Sansa. Sansa, having continued to study Littlefinger’s modus operandi is cautious. Peter tries to undermine Brienne’s “qualifications” and it becomes clear to her that she not only isn’t going to win Sansa over but is in danger herself, so she flees, knocking aside Littlefinger’s guards. I loved her calm attempt to disrupt and free the horses as she and Pod flee the inn. We get a brief horse chase where Brienne’s riding skills are shown off as she ditches her pursuit. Brienne circles to look for Pod. Who, however, manages to lead most of the guards off one way and then loses his own horse in the river. A guard nearly cuts him down but Brienne sweeps in and takes out a pair of them. She then orders Pod up. Pod suggests that maybe her quest is over, but Brienne has set aside her melancholy and is determined to follow Sansa.
At the Wall – Shireen is teaching Gilly to read while Sam does his own research. This is a nice repurposing of a likable character and provides opportunity to explain Grayscale (the weird disease that Shireen has) a bit more. Apparently Gilly had two sisters with it and it took over their whole body and made them like animals. This is clearly a setup for what Tyrion will encounter. Her mother then chases out Sam and Gilly and warns her against the Wildlings. There is absolutely zero to like about Lady Selyse.
Meanwhile, Stannis takes Jon to task for making him look like a fool, but uncharacteristically, is pretty lenient because he really wants Jon to kneel and become Jon Stark so he can rule the north for Stannis. But as Jon later explains to Sam, he can’t break his vows. As Davos setup before it’s election time and Ser Allister Thorne (aka Thorne in Jon’s backside) is the lead contender. Maester Aemon calls for candidates and speeches and Slynt speaks for Thorne while someone else speaks for the Commander of the Shadow Tower (total filler). Sam steps up to speak eloquently for Jon, proposing him and making a good case while slamming Slynt (we all love to had that loser). The vote results in a tie, which the Maester breaks in favor of Jon with his own vote. Nicely done.
Jaime (and Bronn) – is summoned by Cersei to examine a cobra-shaped “letter” with Marcella’s pendant in it. Cersei is just all rage, almost spitting as she talks. Jaime offers to “make it right” by going down to Dorne and getting Marcella. Again as alterations from the books, this follows the essential line (Cersei’s attempt to “rescue” Marcella) while at the same time giving existing characters more to do. Characters like…
Bronn who is playing finance to his ugly bride-to-be Lollys in front of a large and lovely CGI manor. He plays her well (as she isn’t the brightest) and alludes to the mortality of Lollys’ annoying older sister. But Jaime is there waiting for him with a document breaking off his marriage and a request/order that Bronn “tag along” with him to Dorne in exchange for the BBD. I’m glad to see Bronn included, as in the books he disappears and he is far too witty a character to lose.
Dorne – In what is clearly Southern Spain, the Prince of Dorne sits VERY stiffly on his ebony and ivory throne. Ellaria Sand bursts in (past huge guard, Areo Hotah) to take the role of Arianne (deleted daughter) in arguing for vengeance against the Lannisters for Oberyn’s untimely head smushing. This is pretty cut and dry 2 point argument with Ellaria playing the hawk and Doran forced to take the side of caution, for he has to balance the well being of his kingdom. Like Cersei, Ellaria is almost foaming at the mouth. The gardens (and we do catch a glimpse or two of Marcella) are lovely and formal.
Tyion and Varys – Ride in a very large carriage and exchange their usual witty dialog. This is a total filler scene, and brief at that, merely informing us they are under way and headed toward Volantis. There are some good jokes though, like Tyrion’s liquid diet and “best part of her for the best part of me” (you had to be there). Tyrion continues to wallow, musing about Shae and the fact that he wouldn’t leave because of his zeal for the “game.” In one of those typical GOT transitions they mention that Cersei has offered a Lordship for his head…
Cersei – Gets a present of a dwarf head (kinda sad), but alas, it is the wrong little person. Qyburn however is happy to take it for his experiments. They then head into the ever Smaller Council. Kevan has joined, along with the buffoons Mace Tyrell and Pycelle. Unlike the other 3, however, Kevan isn’t going to curry favor with Cersei and expects to be asked directly by the king for his service. He tells Cersei point blank that she has no power (certainly true in name). She certainly isn’t used to being questioned like that by anyone other than her father.
Dany – Has a long and drawn out Meereen storyline. Following up on the Sons of the Harpy killing an Unsullied last episode, Dario leads Grey Worm and some Unsullied to a house that seems empty, but then with the usual Dario panache he stabs the wall and finds a traitor. Dany hears out her council on the matter. Many advise executing him, but she goes with Barristan’s measured opinion to give him a trial. However, the young freed slave busts into the guy’s cell and kills him (publicly).
Sigh. We’ve seen this before, and in this very show. It’s the same dilemma that Robb Stark faced in mid Season 3 when he executed Karstark for killing the boys. And Dany has essentially the same “fair” solution, to execute (literally) justice in an impartial manner. But this earns her no friends. The freed slaves riot and threaten her. I loved the way the Unsullied covered her in an umbrella of shields and we get some more nice wide shots of the CGI composite that turns part of Dubrovnik? into Meereen (might be some other spot in Croatia, they film in Split too).
Dejected at this political blunder, she goes back to her apartment and balcony to find a giant Drogon lurking on the roof. When she reaches out to his glorious reptilian CGI-ness, he flies off, leaving her to feel abandoned.
All in all, not the greatest episode. Mostly connector stuff, and too little of Arya, Tyrion, and other favorites. Not too much happens, and what does is in the more boring storylines like Dany stuck-forever-in-Meeren Targaryen. The Brienne/Pos/Sansa stuff was fine, as was what little Arya we did get. I’m sure the episode will be “fine” taken in the context of the whole season, particularly when I go to rewatch it all together, but right now it’s just setting up for better. However, the episode does LOOK great, with lots and lots of big wide shots of the world — and Drogon.
Some of HBO’s inside the episode clips: