Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 2 “The House of Black and White”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Stannis’s daughter is teaching Gilly how to read. She hasn’t made much progress, as Gilly struggles to recognise the letter S. Gilly starts asking the girl about the scaly deformity on her face, implying that it’s some sort of known affliction that usually spreads, and wondering how it was stopped. I don’t remember what the answer was. Anyway, the girl’s mother (Stannis’s wife) arrives and breaks up the fun.

Stannis tells Jon off for showing mercy to Mance Rayder, by killing him with an arrow while he was being burnt alive. But then he offers Jon the chance to swear allegiance to him. In return, Stannis will declare him a legitimate son of Ned Stark, thus granting him the title of Lord of Winterfell, and will help him rebuild it and claim rulership of the north – as a vassal to Stannis the King. Jon turns down the offer, saying he’s already sworn his loyalty to the Night’s Watch, and if he’s not good for his word, what good is he as a lord?

That evening, there is a vote to see who will become the new Lord Commander of Castle Black. This is a bit odd – I’d always assumed that Ser Alliser would simply take over, seeing as he seemed ot be the next in the chain of command after the previous commander got killed. And because he’s antagonistic to Jon, so of course making him the commander would provide the maximum drama. But I guess the Night’s Watch is a democracy, not an autocracy!

People get a chance to speak in favour of various candidates. Janos Slynt, the weasely guy who hid in a room with Gilly during the battle, speaks for Ser Alliser, and it seems essentially settled already. Another man talks up another candidate, but you can he’s not going to win. Maester Aemon is about to call the vote, when Sam steps up and makes a speech about Jon, much to Jon’s obvious embarrassment as he tries to wave Sam off. Sam mentions how Jon essentially single-handedly saved the fort from the attack, and a bunch of other cool stuff. Alliser rebuts, saying all that may well be true, but calling into question Jon’s loyalty, as he has spent a lot of time in the company of wildlings.

The vote happens, everyone casting a shaped chip into a jug, which is smashed open to spill the contents, which are placed on wooden spikes through the holes in the middle to tally them. Alliser and Jon are equal first. But Maester Aemons has the deciding vote, and drops his chip on Jon’s tally, making Jon the new Lord Commander! Alliser casts him a black look as Jon manages to break a smile.

Well, as soon as Sam started speaking I knew this would be the result, but prior to that this was completely unexpected. As Commander, Jon has new responsibilities, and Stannis will find it harder to pull him away. But this primes Alliser to do something nasty to get even. He really seems to hate the wildlings, so I doubt he’ll do a full on betrayal, but he may well stab Jon in the back at some point – either figuratively or perhaps literally.

Leaving The Eyrie: Petyr and Sansa are having a meal break in an inn on the road. Who should walk in but Brienne and Podrick? Podrick recognises the others and informs Brienne, who steps forward to talk, but is blocked by a group of burly armoured guards. Brienne tells Sansa that she served her mother, Cat, and swore to protect Cat’s daughters. So would Sansa kindly come with her? Sansa is not keen, especially when Petyr points out that Brienne didn’t manage to save either Cat or Arya. Brienne tries to push through the guards, but they attack and she and Podrick have to flee, taking horses. She kills a few of the following guards, then saves Podrick. He says that maybe Brienne can consider her vow null and void, now that both Arya and Sansa have refused her service. But Brienne doesn’t seem happy about that, saying that Petyr can’t be trusted.

Hmm. It’s true that from Sansa’s point of view there’s not much to go on in trusting Brienne, and even if she did, Petyr would probably stop her, so maybe she’s just playing along for her own safety. She seems to have been in trouble for so long now that she’s rather inured to it and has become docile and unprotesting as a form of self-defence. Which unfortunately makes her a bit of a boring character at the moment. Maybe Brienne can kick some more butt and shake things up a bit.

King’s Landing: Cersei has a message from Dorne: a small snake sculpture with a necklace. It’s the necklace she gave to her daughter Myrcella. She interprets this as a threat from Dorne, probably over the death of Prince Oberyn. She argues with Jaime for a bit (as usual), and then he decides to go to Dorne to rescue their daughter.

A bit later we see Bronn dressed in fine leather armour, walking along the beach with a young woman, his betrothed, with a castle in the background. This is the woman he told Tyrion he would marry to settle down and inherit a castle. She seems a bit dim-witted and plain. Jaime appears and tells Bronn that he is going to Dorne, and Bronn is coming with him. Bronn says this was a deal with Cersei, he doesn’t want to cross her, but Jaime tells him that if their mission to retrieve Myrcella is successful, Bronn will get a better marriage and a bigger castle. Bronn says pack the bags!

There is a cut scene with Tyrion travelling in a carriage with Varys, from Pentos to Meereen. Tyrion is bored and wants to leave the carriage and go for a walk. Varys points out how dangerous it is out there. Cersei has put a price on his head, and he is very recognisable – how many dwarfs can there be in the world?

It seems at least two, as the scene cuts back to Cersei, with a couple of bounty hunters dropping a dwarf’s head on a table in front of her. Cersei disappointedly says, “It’s not him.” The hunters are relieved to be let go, rather than punished for bringing the wrong man. The creepy guy who said he could rebuild Gregor Clegane claims the head for his “research”. This guy is some serious Dr Frankenstein. Maybe he’ll stitch the head onto Gregor, making him a two-headed monster! That’d be cool.

Cersei calls a meeting of the Small Council. Her uncle, Tywin’s brother, Kevan Lannister asks why the King isn’t present. Cersei says that he is too young to appoint a new Hand of the King, and to attend the Council, so she will be representing him. This doesn’t go down well. Kevan in particular points out that she is “merely” the queen mother. She tries to appoint Kevan as Master of War, but he walks out of the meeting and says he’s going back to Casterly Rock, until the King himself summons him.

Dorne: Meanwhile in Dorne, Oberyn’s brother is the ruler. A bitter woman who I think was Prince Oberyn’s partner is upset over his death (understandably), and demands justice for his murder. But Oberyn’s brother says that he died in a trial by combat, which by law is not murder. The woman seethes. She looks at Myrcella walking through the gardens and you can see the wheels turning in her head.

It seems likely that this woman was the one who sent Myrcella’s necklace to Cersei. I guess the ruler will want to protect Myrcella, but she looks very vulnerable to a vengeance strike by bitter woman. That would mess up Jaime’s plan to rescue her. Given the dictates of drama, I wouldn’t be surprised to see bitter woman make her move either as or just before Jaime arrives. I fear Myrcella may not be much longer for this world.

Braavos: Arya arrives in Braavos, taken by the merchant she showed the iron coin to. Okay, she said she was going north – I guess Braavos must be north of wherever it was she was before. Near the Eyrie, wasn’t it? Anyway, the merchant rows her across a Venetian-like lagoon, to an island where there stands a large square building, with a door half black and half white. He says Arya will find what she seeks in there, and drops her off. Arya goes up and knocks on the door. It opens and an old man in a robe answers, but tells her to go away. She shows him the coin, but he says she’s come to the wrong place and shuts the door.

Arya is stuck sitting on the steps. She recites the names of the people she will kill. The weather changes… maybe she’s there for a few days? But what does she eat? Eventually she stands up and throws the coin into the water in disgust. Later she is walking through the streets of Braavos, when some thieves accost her. She draws her sword… yes, we’re going to get to see her fight! But no… the old man from the black and white house appears and the thieves scarper. Arya loks at him, and the man peels his face off and becomes Jaqen – the one who gave her the coin! He hands it back to her, saying she dropped it. Jaqen takes her back to the black and white house, and takes her inside.

All very mysterious. Who are these people and what is Arya going to learn here? Probably a bunch of skills to turn her into a more formidable fighter, hopefully!

Meereen: Daario and Grey Worm work together and find a hideout of the resistance group who murdered one of the Unsullied. Grey Worm thinks the place is abandoned, but Daario suddenly stabs a wall, piercing the plaster and the guy hiding behind it! They take him into custody.

One of Daenerys’s local Meerenian servants says the rebel must be executed. Daenerys is about to order it so, but Ser Barristan tells a story about her father, the Mad King, and the fact that he killed thousands of people without trials, which was what made him Made and unpopular, to the point that the people overthrew him. Barristan suggests a fair trial, and Daenerys agrees. But this incenses the servant, who later attacks and kills the prisoner. Daenerys now has to apply her justice to the servant, and orders him executed, to show her adherence to law. The execution is held in public, with the populace of Meereen watching. They don’t take kindly to one of their own being executed, and start throwing stones at Daenerys, who is led away to safety by the Unsullied.

Later, Daenerys stands on a battlement at night looking down over her city, wondering how best to rule it. She really has a big problem here. Nothing she seems to do is working to win over the people, despite her freeing the people and applying a rule of justice. As she ponders, her black dragon, Drogon, returns, landing above her. There is a moment of reconnection, and then he flies off over the city…

Is this the solution to her problems? Will Daenerys move on from this attempt to be a peaceful ruler and go back to what she really knows how to do best, conquering? Is dragon fire in the future? Torch Meereen and move on? I don’t know, it seems a bit drastic. But Daenerys can’t go on as she is – everyone is turning against her.

Over all this episode felt a bit disjointed, and trying to pack too much in, without really advancing the story very much. There’s a lot of things that got a bit of development, but still left us hanging as to what happens next. The most interesting thing was probably Jon being elected Lord Commander – that might shake things up a bit, depending what he decides to do.

3 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 2 “The House of Black and White””

  1. Glen says:

    “Okay, she said she was going north – I guess Braavos must be north of wherever it was she was before.” … Her intent was to go north *until* she discovered where the ship was headed (to Braavos, which the captain said was south), at which moment her plans completely changed. She didn’t change his destination, she got passage to where he was already headed.

  2. Ah. I must have missed that subtlety. I don’t think I really have a good picture of the geography, except that Winterfell and The North are somewhere north of King’s Landing.

  3. Glen says:

    Yeah, I noticed that you’d missed it back when you wrote up the episode where the conversation between Arya and the ships captain took place but I figured it would become clear once she got to Braavos so I didn’t say anything at the time; such minor confusions are natural (I had my share of them!) and generally straighten out as the show progresses. I only mentioned it this time because it still was causing a bit of confusion.

    Braavos was shown in the opening title sequence for some episodes in season 4 — it is on the west coast of Essos (though they make it hard to see where it is relative to anything in Westeros). It is north of Pentos which itself is pretty much due east of Kings Landing.

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