Season Five, Episode Two – “The House of Black and White”
By Jarrod Jones. Perhaps this episode should have been called “The House of Maybe, Eventually”. We finally get to continue the saga of Arya Stark, but this latest episode has so many other things on its mind that it almost feels like that doesn’t matter. Cersei is met with familial troubles. Jon Snow is provided an opportunity for something more. Jaime is finally given something to do. But it all amounts to little more than another painfully boring installment where it takes nearly fifty minutes to have a young woman simply walk through a goddamned door.
WHAT WORKED: HBO throws a lot of cash at Game of Thrones, and production-wise, it really shows: The series finally has the feel of a widescreen epic, on par with the best Peter Jackson could ever put onscreen (circa 2003, anyway). The series’ point of focus has been peeled back to reveal a much larger world than what has been seen before, and it looks marvelous.
WHAT DIDN’T: A troubling thing about the fifth season of Game of Thrones thus far is that each episode is obligated to give equal screen time to every single subplot that has built in its wake. Problem is, between Cersei and Jaime and Tyrion and Arya and Brienne and Podrick and Tyrion and Sansa and Petyr and Tyrion and Daenerys and Jesus Christ how can any of you keep all this straight… there’s only so much progress a single episode can make. And even though “The House of Black and White” juggles as much as it can, one can’t evade the impulse to pick their own nose.
So Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) finally comes across Sansa Stark in a wholly convenient manner. As lazy as it is to simply place two crucially important characters together just to move the plot along, the execution of the sequence is handled in an even more sloppy manner. There needed to be much more weight applied to such a moment. Unfortunately, the show simply didn’t have the added screentime.
“Ready the horses.” – Brienne. “But we only have one horse.” – Podrick.
“Cersei has offered a lordship to the man who brings her your head.” – Varys. “She ought to offer her cunt. The best part of her for the best part of me.” – Tyrion.
“A wildling girl, a baby, and Lord Janos. I found him there after the battle was over in a puddle of his own making.” – Sam, continuing to the best thing about the show.
“Nothing’s worth anything to dead men.” Arya.
BEST MOMENT: Sam rights the ship. The position of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch is up for grabs, and in the surprisingly diplomatic process of Elect and Vote, Sam (John Bradley-West) decides to let his voice be heard. And it’s not for nothing; electing Jon Snow (Kit Harington) gives the Stark Bastard the opportunity to show his lordly quality (and that just might come in handy later on in the series). That Sam speaks up at all is a testament to his conviction as a friend, but because he actually wins the day is a testament to the show succeeding in spite of itself to push their characters along in a loving manner. Jon Snow needed the push. Now he has it.
EPISODE’S MVP: Samwell Tarly. When Game of Thrones lays down in the thick of all the awful things these people do, it’s damn near impossible to root for anyone, let alone feel any hope. And then Sam shows up. His ceaseless optimism in the face of adversity, pain, and impending doom makes Sam the stalwart ally that blank slate of a hunk-throb (or, Jon Snow) needs.
– One thought. That statue. Of the Titan of Braavos. Y’think anyone has ever felt compelled to, er, y’know… look up?
– Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) has been mostly quiet this season. I miss his level-headed advice and wit.
– This episode saw multiple divergences from the books. Whereas last seasons changes seemed shallow and sensationalistic, these changes at least seem to be made more with interesting story continuation in mind.
– With Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) finally entering the House of Black and White, one wonders if she’ll continue to be such an audience favorite, what with the changes coming for her.
– Hopefully one of the changes the showrunners made from the books is how long Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and company stay in Mereen. ‘Cause man, that shit was utterly interminable in the books.
– So after months of burning children alive in the countryside, Drogon has returned. But as for what that means, well, you’re gonna have to tell me, because I have no idea where the hell all of this is going.