Game of Thrones, S. 5 E. 2: “The House of Black and White”

"Nothing's worth anything to a dead man." Channeling the Hound much, Arya? Image Source: HBO Game of Thrones Viewers Guide

“Nothing’s worth anything to a dead man.” Channeling the Hound much, Arya? Image Source: HBO Game of Thrones Viewers Guide

Welcome to week 2! This one was a weird one for book readers – there were a lot of deviations. I’ll do my best to compare without giving away future events that might occur, and apologize for being totally wordy. Let’s have at it, shall we?

Yay, Arya! Everyone’s favorite angsty little street urchin returns, venturing to Braavos to the House of Black and White. Does she know why she is there? No. Does she know what it is? No. Clearly there’s some magic afoot, and it’s not enough to just walk up and knock on the doors. There’s much she has to learn, and I’ll tell you now, it doesn’t involve better ways to kill pigeons. The House’s cranky old man turns out to be trusty old Jaqen H’ghar, complete with his mystical theme music (which I find total ridiculous). This is a small deviation from book plot, but serves to return a familiar face and simplify Arya’s Braavos experience. Stay tuned!

(P.S. Her list of names is shortened by one: Ilyn Payne. He was the King’s Justice, aka the guy who swung the sword that cut off her father’s head. He was also meant to be the one who taught Jamie Lannister to fight one-handed. He was written off the show early on because the actor Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with cancer.

Still on her list is Meryn Trant, a member of the Kingsguard and supreme a-hole who killed Arya’s dancing master, Syrio Forel back in season one – though many fans theorize this is unconfirmed and he is still alive – and beat Sansa in season two.)

Tidying up last week’s ridiculous little coincidence, which is clearly more intentional than previously thought, is a whole new plot with Brienne and Podrick Payne (By the way, I will riot if Pod dies. Isn’t his smile just the best??). Much like last season’s efforts with Arya, it turns out that Sansa doesn’t want to be saved by a stranger carrying a Lannister sword. Come on Brienne, the Stark kids obviously don’t know that Jamie is totally cool now. You’re not gonna win anyone over by telling everyone how many promises you’ve made and failed to keep – as Littlefinger is quick to point out.

There’s a lot to speculate on, given that Brienne never encounters either girl in the books. For one, Brienne is determined to keep her vows. She’s broken a lot of them, and her spirit is suffering. Her and Pod’s fate in the books is a bit of a mystery – both receive total cliffhangers. I suspect her plot will continue to be close to Petyr’s and Sansa’s, as it seems unlikely she’d find a trail to Braavos to seek Arya.

For another, Petyr alludes to a marriage proposal (also not a book plot). We can assume two things: one, it’s his, and he is marrying to acquire another powerful house; or two, he is marrying off Sansa as he’s assumed the role of uncle  and can theoretically do so. I’ll call the first one unlikely at best, simply because he’s already made a power play using himself to gain the Vale. Sansa is – as far as he knows – the only legitimate heir to Winterfell and holy cow, is that a strategic partner or what?

I think I can see where this is going, given the clues the show writers have graced us with, but I think any further discussion will turn into spoiler fest. Let’s just say that Sansa would have been wise to GTFO when Brienne appeared. Oh, poor Sansa.

On to King’s Landing. Cersei has received an eerie reminder that her daughter is in the clutches of a family that they have egregiously abused both in the distant and recent past. What now? Jamie is going to head off to Dorne to retrieve Myrcella – but oh, right! He only has one hand. Can he even fight at this point? Good thing his bro Bronn is still available.

(Holy mother of leather jackets, everyone. Is Jamie Lannister channeling his inner Star Lord? Did he just pull up on his motorcycle to fetch Bronn? Good grief. )

Okay, sure, this is also a book deviation – one that possibly neglects introducing another member of the Kingsguard – but it’s one I am totally OK with. Jamie and Bronn, off on the most bromantic adventure since… Tyrion and Bronn? We don’t get a lot of good bromances here.

Speaking of Dorne… Ellaria Sand is still peeved that her lover was killed (aren’t we all? Oberyn was the BEST). Note her last name is “Sand” – generic names like “Sand” and “Snow” are indicative of bastard status. She holds no title other than being a lover to Oberyn, which Prince Doran, Oberyn’s brother and ruler of Dorne, reminds her of. She’s a tad more vengeful here than previously thought – showing readiness to cut off pieces of a helpless teenage girl to exact her revenge. Doran attempts to put her in her place by reminding her that Oberyn was slain in a trial by combat, not murder, but is that going to go over well? What’s the saying about a woman scorned?

Ellaria introduces a whole lot of scorned women ready to avenge Oberyn. The Sand Snakes, for anyone wondering, are the daughters of Oberyn. There are eight in the books, four of whom are Ellaria’s daughters. And yes, they’re all bastards by different mothers – thus “Sand” Snakes.

Prince Doran, who has the world’s nastiest case of gout (which confines him to the chair), has some tough strategic decisions to make. He’s not one for harming guests in his care, nor does it seem wise to completely break ties with the capitol. Did he send the warning to Cersei? Did Ellaria? We’ll see as the plot unfolds – Doran has more tricks (and family) up his sleeve than one might think.

I love how Daario schools Grey Worm in the art of espionage – but really, how on earth is an assassin that easy to find? Capturing a Son of the Harpy is a major deal , but a tough political dilemma. Daenerys has been quick with easy decisions – releasing slaves and exacting some vengeance on the slave masters – but now she has to start creating and executing real laws and real political power. Sucks, don’t it?

Maybe she’ll find some valuable council from matchy-matchy Varys and Tyrion, who continue on the path to Meereen. This mostly serves as a plot device to remind us that there’s a price on Tyrion’s head – one that we see exacted on a poor soul who looks a teeny bit like Tyrion.

… And that head serves as a plot device to also remind us that Qyburn, the queen’s new maester, is a total creep (one who never officially earned his maester chain/title because he was thrown out for … experiments). Can’t wait to see what he’s making!

Cersei surrounds herself with Qyburn and weak-willed or otherwise questionably loyal partners, her uncle Kevan points out that he is not so easily manipulated.

“You’re not the boss of me!”
–Kevan Lannister

In another episode of “hey, pay attention to this! It will be important later” plot device, we get a full description of gray scale and what happened to poor Shireen’s face. You can bet your shiny Braavosi coin this will come back later. So will her mother’s creeptastic warning “You have no idea what people will do.”

Meanwhile, at Castle Black, Jon Snow is offered the ultimate “out.” Holy shit, wouldn’t it be awesome for him to officially take the name “Stark” and be the good ruler of Winterfell everyone wants? No, no it wouldn’t. Not if Ned Stark taught him anything about honor.

BUT… That doesn’t mean Jon Snow can’t lead. This all feels sort of Hogwarts-y, with Maester Aemon standing in as Dumbledore and casting his vote for the chosen one. I love Sam’s jabs at Janos Slynt – Sam, the known coward of Castle Black fought more bravely than Slynt!

It’s kind of fascinating that Jon doesn’t stand up for himself, but he wins the election anyway. What’s that going to mean for his role as Lord Commander? Since Pip and Grenn died, his friends are definitely fewer. Alliser Thorne and Jon have never been friendly – this goes back even to season one when he was teaching the boys to fight and Jon undermined him. How’s this going to play out? And how is Stannis going to take Jon Snow rejecting his offer? What’s Stannis going to do with the Wildlings next?

Rounding out the episode is Dany’s toughest political decision yet. When one of your trusted council betrays you and you have to take his head to make a fair point (Hey, anyone remember Robb Stark had to do the exact same thing to Lord Karstark?). Her people riot against the decision – it will be interesting to see what steps she takes to unite her people. So far, she’s not doing a great job.


– the Meereenese

Drogon makes an amazing appearance in this episode as well, fabulously showing that while he remembers his mommy, he certainly doesn’t want anything to do with her. Will we see him again soon?

The stage has been pretty well set now, folks! Stannis, Daenerys, Margaery, Petyr Baelish, and Prince Doran are all poised to make some really interesting strategic moves. Not to mention the others – particularly Ellaria and the Sand Snakes – who are eager to act first, ask questions later. Those in transition mode – Jon Snow, Tryion and Arya – will have much to experience as their stories unfold. Exciting? You bet.

Now taking bets on when – or if – Bran is going to make an appearance this season. Thoughts?


  1. There actually was another name of her list, inexplicably: Tywin Lannister. It’s quite possible that the second her ship moored at Braavos, right before she and the captain hopped in the rowboat, someone ran up yelling “Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Tywin Lannister dead a couple of weeks ago! Very depressing funeral happening right now! We assume!” to let her know that Tywin was off the list.

    I would kind of liked her to hold on to that name for awhile, until someone told her the news explicitly.

    Good call on the parallel between Dany and Robb. Was it just me, or should Dany have had a more public trial for Mossador, which would have made it clear why this was a death penalty, as well as being able to try the Harpy in absentia and make it clear that he would have been sentenced to death. It’s important to set a precedent against revenge killing, and I’m not sure if Dany is doing that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right! We could assume word like that travels fast, but I agree that it is totally unlikely she knew Tywin was dead. Perhaps another simplification on the writer’s part?

      And I totally agree! You can’t just execute a dude in front of people who don’t understand legal process, which Mossador himself pointed out to her! I wonder if perhaps she’s missing the council of Jorah? Baristian seems like a good stand in, but perhaps she doesn’t trust him enough yet. She’s definitely acting rashly and young – she built an empire in a matter of weeks without any real education in leadership. Gut instincts don’t build an empire.

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