Game of Thrones 5.02: “The House of Black and White”

Tension continues to run high in Meereen, and Daenerys’s status is in jeopardy. (Screengrab courtesy HBO)

It’s easy to imagine Game of Thrones as a sprawling game of chess, and “The House of Black and White” moved some major pieces around, but we’re still left trying to figure out who’s on whose team. Arya Stark (Maise Williams) has finally landed in Braavos, but she’s not welcomed in the fashion she assumed. Littlefinger (Aiden Gillen) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) continue their mysterious trek away from the Eyrie, which is interrupted by Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) and Pod (Daniel Portman), who continue to stumble around guided blindly by luck. Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Colster-Waldau) announces to his sister that he’ll head south into Dorne to rescue Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), but not before he picks up Bronn (Jerome Flynn) first. And across the sea, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) inch ever closer to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Imagine if Daenerys headed towards Westeros at the same speed Tyrion’s headed to her! A man can dream.

Many characters might be shuffling around, but some of the biggest movements were a result of stationary characters that saw their statuses rise and fall. After all, chaos is a ladder just waiting to be climbed. And that brings us to this week’s Riser of the Week:

Riser of the Week: Jon Snow

Hmm. Maybe you do know something, Jon Snow. (Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO)

Every once in a while, something good happens on Game of Thrones – something that makes us happy. These moments are rare, and often fleeting, but it’s important to remember these precious segments. Remember them, store them away in your mind, and revisit them when one of your favorite characters suddenly dies. That’s what I do. And after this episode, I’ll now have a go-to moment to turn to: Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) being elected by his peers to the position of Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch! It’s been evident for a while, and crystal-clear since the Battle at the Wall, that Jon Snow is a born leader. The Night’s Watch needs Jon, and he will undoubtedly be forced to make difficult decisions very soon, especially considering that the presence of both Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and the Wildlings have put Castle Black well over full capacity.

Honorable Mention: Bronn, for once again being in the right place at the right time, and seemingly on the verge of yet again cashing in at the expense of the Lannister coffers.

Faller of the Week: Daenerys Targaryen

Better run, Dany! (Macall B. Polay/ courtesy HBO)

For all the criticism I dish out to Daenerys, I want to make it clear I still respect her. She’s done a masterful job of both gaining the respect of the masses while making those in charge underestimate her. We’ve seen her play up the young, inexperienced girl who’s lucked her way into three dragons, only to leave her enemies dead in a smoldering heap of ashes the second they let their guard down. And yet just like the Harpy statue she had taken down last week, she still finds herself freefalling.

After Dany was forced to order the execution of Mossador (Reece Noi), her own small council member, it was impossible not to immediately be reminded of Robb Stark (Richard Maddon). That’s not a good thing for Dany’s longevity. If her character arc ended up matching Robb’s, I wouldn’t be too surprised. Both came to power under unfortunate circumstances, both set out to avenge their family’s mistreatment in King’s Landing, and both possessed powerful (and possibly magical) animals. We all know what happened to Robb; a nearsighted and lustful regression started the chain reaction that led to his downfall. If I were Dany, I’d stay away from Daario (Michiel Huisman), and probably weddings too.

Honorable Mention: Brienne, who may as well go out and look for Rickon now.

Item of the Week: Myrcella’s Necklace

Cersei (Lena Headey) isn’t going to like what’s inside that. (Helen Sloan/Courtesy of HBO).

When Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma) stormed into Doran Martell’s (Alexander Siddig) balcony and yelled about his lack of action after Oberyn’s death, she clearly didn’t know the power move that Doran put into motion in sending Cersei (Lena Headey) the necklace of Myrcella. The message was clear: we have the trump card and you better tread lightly, and as a result, Jaime is off to Dorne to bring his niece-daughter back. This is better than the alternative – the one where Cersei “burn[s] their city to the ground.” You might want to cover up Cersei, your Mad King is showing.

The power of this week’s item is clear, as it results in two major characters traveling alone into enemy territory – a storyline which will be new to all, as it is not in the books, where Bronn disappears after Tyrion’s trial and Jaime wanders around the Riverlands sparring with Ilyn Payne and emasculating Edmure Tully.

Backstory of the Week: Jaqen H’ghar and the Faceless Men

Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H’ghar
Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H’ghar. (Macall B. Polay/ courtesy HBO)

I’m really excited to have Tom Wlaschiha’s Jaqen H’ghar back this season. Like Bronn, his character disappears in the books for a while. (Allegedly, since you never really know if he’s out there masquerading as someone else’s face.) For those who don’t remember, Jaqen helped Arya escape Harrenhal in Season 2 by offering to kill three people for her. She escaped with his help, but spurned his offer to journey to Braavos with him, because at the time, she still had a mother and brother who were alive and winning a war. But circumstances have since changed, and with nowhere else to turn, Arya’s cashing in her iron coin and officially applying to the House of Black and White. Like many high school seniors who find themselves denied from their safety schools, Arya is left bewildered that she couldn’t just waltz into the place. The episode is bookended with Arya, who is finally given admission to the House of Black and White after Jaqen presents himself. I knew Jaqen was returning this season due to casting information that was released earlier in the year, and I assumed it would be to help guide Arya through her training to become a Faceless Man, but I still cheered when he morphed in front of us. As if I needed another thing to look forward to this season.

Maester’s Musings:

  • It was quick, and you may have missed it, but did you catch the head of a dwarf that was presented to Cersei midway through the episode? Cersei has very publically made it known that anyone who brings her the head of Tyrion will be handsomely rewarded. It’s definitely not a safe time to be a dwarf, though was it ever?
  • Never missing a chance to increase his creepiness, Qyburn (Anton Lesser) makes sure he collects the dwarf’s head for his “experiments.” Remember, he’s the one who was working on the Mountain at the end of last season after Oberyn poisoned him. What could he possibly use the dwarf’s head for?
  • Kevan Lannister (Ian Gelder) is the man. Talk about completely undermining Cersei and her small council full of sycophants.

Joe Brosnan is an editor and writer for Criminal Element. He’s a New York Giants fan, a Petyr Baelish supporter, and is only now realizing how weird it is to write in the third person. You can follow him on Twitter @joebro33.

Read all of Joe Brosnan’s posts for Criminal Element.

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