This episode recap for "Game of Thrones" is full of SPOILERS from Season 1 all the way through episode 2 of Season 5. If you wish to remain unsullied, proceed no further. I'll also mention various things in the books, but if they're somewhat spoilery, I will tag them to prevent you from seeing them unless you wish. Enjoy!
Welcome to Week 2 of Game of Thrones Season 5! This episode is titled "House of Black and White," and as always, it has more meanings than one.
The episode begins with Arya Stark being sailed to the Free City of Braavos, where she visits the literal House of Black and White.
But this episode delves into the black and white of many situations occurring all over the world, not just in Essos. Most fittingly, Daenerys Targaryen learned an important lesson this week about enforcing what should be black and white: law and order.
And what does Daenerys get for trying to be impartial and fair? The slaves who adored her turn on her in a second. The masters who already resent her still resent her. And one of her advisors, Mossador, is now dead, alienating the newly free citizens of Mereen he once represented.
The worst part? He deserved it.
Now, a lot of book readers like myself were likely shaking their heads a lot in this episode for many reasons. I'm not getting into it here because at this point, you have to remember that the TV show and the books have to be considered separate for practical reasons. This is ultimately a good thing because book readers who "know everything" can still be shocked while watching an episode of [Game of Thrones](movie:817617). And boy were we shocked this week.
So, let's get started!
The Free City of Braavos
Last we saw Arya was in the Season 4 finale. This week, we finally watch her arrive in Braavos courtesy of the sailor she befriended last season. In case you forgot, Jaqen H'ghar (the faceless man) gave Arya that coin back in Season 2, when she was still imprisoned in Harrenhal. His instructions were to present his silver coin to any man from Braavos if she wanted to see him again.
The first thing Arya sees as she enters Braavos is the large statue known as the Titan of Braavos. It's a stone and bronze statue that guards the entrance of the Braavos lagoon and lets out a loud blast whenever a ship approaches. Arya hears it as they enter the harbor.
You can tell that Arya is charmed by the bustling city and its uniqueness compared to the cities of Westeros. We've only been to Braavos one other time in the series, which was last season when Stannis and Davos visited the Iron Bank during "The Laws of Gods and Men."
For reference, Braavos is the richest of the Free Cities and considered to be the most powerful. It lies across the Narrow Sea and is in the north. Unlike many of the other cities in Essos, it was actually created by slaves and refugees who escaped the Doom of Valyria. They turned it into the a hub for major trade and banking, as we've seen in the show.
The sailor drops Arya off and trades words one last time:
But a man from the House of Black and White tells Arya she has "everywhere else to go" rather than here.
In true Arya fashion, she decides to stay there instead, perhaps to spite him by going nowhere.
Arya repeats her usual list of future murder victims, though it should be mentioned that the Red Woman is no longer on her hit list. You'll also notice the Hound isn't as well. If the Hound has indeed survived his wounds, then that means Arya has chosen to forgive him as a payment for his protection. Or she just thinks he's dead.
The reason I don't believe the latter is because if she really wanted him dead and off her list, she would have done it.
After some time, Arya gives up and tosses Jaqen's coin in the water. She now considers it useless, obviously, though I'm surprised she didn't hang on to it for personal reasons.
Outside the Vale
In the actual flow of the episode, this section starts right after Arya departs the House of Black and White. I bring this up because the first shot we see here with Brienne and Podrick has two horses standing next to each other: one black and one white. I'm not sure why the show would include that if it was intentional.
Anyway, Brienne and Podrick visit a tavern and accidentally stumble upon Littlefinger and Sansa dining across from them, making last week's near-miss feel more important. In typical Game of Thrones fashion, the shock value of this scene is used to hide a subtle line uttered by Sansa that you may have missed.
Specifically, she asks Littlefinger what was on the raven scroll he received in the last episode. Sansa immediately suspects it's bad news, uttering the "dark wings, dark words" saying that was even the name of an episode at one point.
But it's apparently good news. Littlefinger says his marriage proposal has been accepted, to which Sansa snarks as being a little soon after the death of Lysa.
Personally, I have my own theory for what's going on, but it's somewhat informed by the books...
It's probably not Littlefinger's marriage proposal. He's likely arranging for Sansa to be married to someone. I want to believe that the person he's conspiring with is Roose Bolton, and he wants Sansa to marry Ramsay. This isn't in the books, of course.
Sansa takes a sip of ale for the first time (she's growing up) as Podrick and Brienne make their bold plans. I understand why Brienne feels the need to go over there, but it still seems like an overly reckless move.
Brienne interrupts their conversation and reveals herself. Littlefinger instantly recalls her from when he visited Renly Baratheon during Season 2. He mentions how her loyalty then came "free of charge," but judging by her Lannister sword Oathkeeper, someone's now paying for it.
What's interesting is that this jab barely fazes Brienne. She simply proceeds to make her case to Sansa. I expected Sansa to call Sansa out for her failures, but LIttlefinger does it for her. They make their arguments, and Sansa ultimately picks Littlefinger.
And can you blame her? She doesn't know Brienne aside from seeing her bow to Joffrey at his wedding. Unlike Brienne, Littlefinger has more or less followed through on what he says he's going to do, which Brienne can't say if she's being truthful. Ironically, us viewers know the truth about Littlefinger, making this scene all the more hard to watch.
Littlefinger asks Brienne to stay, but it's clear she knows what will happen. There's no way Littlefinger will just allow her to walk around knowing that Sansa Stark is with him, so Brienne makes the first move and escapes with Podrick.
The following scene is one of the most exciting of the episode, with the highlight being Brienne's sword-shattering move with Oathbreaker. Their next move is to follow Sansa and Littlefinger on the East Road (I thought they were going west?)
Interestingly, Brienne is more accepting of Pod's help this time around (last episode she practically begged him to leave). And this episode sets up a possible event from the books that I won't dare spoil here.
That, or she'll come across Rickon accidentally and get rejected by him, too.
Cersei and Jaime have received a threatening message from the Martells in Dorne: a serpent with Myrcella's medallion wrapped in its teeth.
For obvious reasons, Cersei is terrified for her daughter's life, and Jaime also fears for his father (not that he can publicly admit she's a child of incest). Regardless, Cersei blames Jaime for the problems facing their children.
Despite this blame being completely irrational, Jaime pledges to save Myrcella himself by traveling to Dorne and getting her. Though this isn't in the books, I love the set up. Jaime has cunning and instincts, but he's effectively a cripple. He can't bring troops with him because that would be perceived as an act of aggression, so Jaime rightfully turns to someone he can count on for loyalty (as long as he can afford it).
Jaime turns to Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, who we haven't seen since he flaked out on Tyrion to marry Lollys Stokeworth and (maybe) inherit her mother's castle. It's interesting to meet Lollys here since she's only ever talked about in the books by other people. Per usual television fare, they've made Lollys far more attractive than she is in the books (she's supposed to be extremely overweight), which they also did with Mag in the last episode.
I enjoyed seeing Lollys become a total fangirl when she meets Jaime Lannister. Sometimes I forget he's a bit of a celebrity, despite his unfortunate nickname.
I much approve of Jaime's roguish outfit and new swagger as he recruits Bronn with the promise of a better wife and castle. We certainly didn't get enough Jaime Lannister last season, and what we did get was pretty uneventful.
The Water Gardens of Dorne
So what is going on in Dorne? Well, we see that Myrcella isn't really in any immediate danger, at least for now. Ellaria Sand is watching Myrcella be charmed by Prince Trystane Martell, the youngest son of Prince Doran Martell.
In case you forgot, Ellaria Sand (the bastard name for southerners, like how northeners are considered "Snow") was Oberyn Martell's paramour. She watched him die at the hands of Ser Gregor Clegane last season. As you can imagine, she cringes at the sight of a Baratheon (who everyone believes is really a Lannister) walking around the Water Gardens safely.
Quick refresher. The Water Gardens is the private home of House Martell. It's by the Summer Sea and not far west of Sunspear, which is the capital of Dorne. Generations ago, it was actually built by Prince Maron Martell for his new bride...Daenerys Targaryen. No, not the current Daenerys.
Anyway, Ellaria goes to visit Prince Doran, but she's stopped by Areo Hotah, his captain. He's an important character you should keep in your back memory pocket. She calls her lover's brother out for remaining inactive in the wake of Oberyn's death, which she calls murder.
Of course, Doran can't really do anything because it wasn't murder. Oberyn died during a trial by combat. Despite this, Ellaria tells him the whole country of Dorne wants him to go to war, but he still refuses. It's certainly clear that Oberyn was well-liked.
Ellaria mentions that the Sand Snakes are on her side, and they're also loved by the people. So, who are the Sand Snakes? Well, Oberyn mentioned in Season 4 that he has eight bastard daughters, and they go by the "Sand Snakes." We'll get to know them later, but I should point out that if the show is like the books, then that means Ellaria is the mother of at least five of those bastard daughters.
Keep in mind that in Dorne, bastards aren't hated like they are elsewhere in Westeros. Ellaria tells Doran that the Sand Snakes will take action themselves, regardless of what Doran decides to do. She also threatens to mutilate Myrcella as an act of vengeance.
But like Oberyn, Doran says that they don't mutilate girls in Dorne (Oberyn said about the same thing last season). We'll have to wait another week or even two to see what happens next.
In the last episode, we learned that the Sons of the Harpy were causing resistance against Dany's rule, even resulting in the murder of an Unsullied soldier named White Rat. Some time has passed, and Daario is explaining to Grey Worm how the Second Sons are better suited for finding these traitorous criminals.
He claims that because the Unsullied are rigorously trained to have no fear, they lack certain skills that make them effective for keeping the peace. I absolutely LOVE that the show is giving us so much time with the world of the Unsullied, especially when it comes to the motivations of Grey Worm. I have a great feeling it will pay off nicely later.
They find a Son of the Harpy and present him to Daenerys. She consults her "small council" of Meereen to decide how to deal with him. Dany now has someone representing the major factions of Meereen. Hizdahr zo Loraq represents the wealthy houses who once owned slaves. Mossador (only a minor character from the books) represents the newly freed slaves, Grey Worm represents the Unsullied, Daario represents the Second Sons, and I suppose Selmy simply serves as the leader of the Queensquard.
At any rate, they all differ on what to do with the prisoner. Mossador claims that the man they've captured was simply paid by a wealthy family to do their work for him. Barristan rightly points out that they don't actually know what this guy has done, so he deserves a fair trial.
Dany dismisses the council, but Selmy lingers to make a few great points. If Dany executes the prisoner to make herself look powerful, she's no better than her father, the Mad King. He claims that Aerys Targaryen did what he did because it "felt right," when he truly showed no justice at all. This ultimately convinces Dany to give the prisoner a trial.
On the road to Meereen
Varys and Tyrion are well on their way to Meereen, and Tyrion is still nowhere near perking up, despite Varys's best efforts. He's still attached to a cup of wine, which shows by his persistent drunkenness.
We find out through Varys that Cersei is offering a lordship to anyone who gives her Tyrion's head, which leads to his best line yet this season in response. For this reason, Tyrion has to remain undetected.
To get to Meereen, they have to first travel to Volantis (where Talisa, Robb's now deceased wife is from). Tyrion finally questions Varys's desire to find a new ruler for Westeros, but the question isn't answered. Instead, Varys strokes Tyrion's ego by reminding him of how good he was at being Hand of the King. He also claims that Tyrion will never truly be satisfied within this "box."
Back in King's Landing
A pair of men present Cersei with the head of the dwarf, but it's not Tyrion, obviously. She would kill him if it didn't mean others would be too scared to present her with more heads. The sad consequence of Tyrion's "revenge" is that dwarves all over the realm are now losing their heads because of him.
The ever-creepy Qyburn decides to keep the dwarf's head, and you can even see the body of the Mountain underneath a white cloth on the right side of the room. Are the two related?
Cersei and Qyburn head to the small council where a few new changes are made. Mace Tyrell (Margaery's father) is made master of ships and coin in an attempt to appease his pursuit of becoming Hnad of the King. Classic Cersei.
She makes Qybrun master of whisperers at the sheer terror of Maester Pycelle, who absolutely hates him due to his controversy from getting kicked out of the Citadel for his experience. And Kevan Lannister, Cersei's uncle, is named master of war.
But Kevan refuses and calls Cersei out for her constant manipulations and poor decisions. Cersei apparently thought she could manipulate Kevan, but he's much more like his brother than she expected. He's filling into the role of the one Lannister Cersei couldn't control. Well, besides Tyrion.
Sometimes, the show does things that would have been great if they were in the books, and one such scene is the one we see here at the Wall. Shireen (Stannis's daughter) teaching Gilly how to read? Priceless.
And this scene isn't pointless. It reminds us of several things that will likely pay off later. Such as the deadliness of Greyscale, Shireen's affliction. And Sam even works in a quick word about how the elected Lord Commander was once only ten years old.
Queen Selyse (Stannis's wife) arrives and scolds Shireen for associating with a wildling. She says something interesting here that I perceive as a slight against book readers:
OK, I might be reading too much into this, but if there is a theme to this episode, it's that reading the books no longer makes you a know-it-all when it comes to the world of Game of Thrones. The show is certainly not afraid to take some bold steps in other directions.
Stannis and Jon have a little back and forth in response to his mercy-killing of Mance in the last episode. Despite Jon's disobedience, Stannis still seems to hold high regard for the "bastard of Winterfell." He presents Jon with a letter from Lyanna Mormont, the niece of the former Lord Commander. At only ten years old, she's the Lady of Bear Island.
It turns out that Stannis sent out letters asking for the northern lords to join his cause. She sent him a letter back saying:
"Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North, whose name is STARK."
It's no secret the Mormonts are close to the Starks. Lyanna was named after Ned's sister, and there's a reason Lord Commander Jeor Mormont favored Jon Snow.
So Stannis seems to think that Jon, Ned's bastard son, is the key to his taming of the north, and for good reason. As "king," Stannis can legitimize Jon Snow and make him Jon Stark, the Lord of Winterfell. Such a move would certainly rally the north around Stannis's cause, as they would have if Ned Stark had survived.
Now, Jon faces a dilemma. He says to Sam that the first thing he ever wanted (or remembers ever wanting) is becoming a Stark. I admit I got a little misty when I saw that look on his face as Stannis said the name, "Jon Stark."
But the issue is that Jon swore an oath as a man of the Night's Watch. He tells Sam that he has to refuse Stannis because becoming Lord of Winterfell is pointless if his word can't be trusted.
And then Sam does something pretty shocking. During the election of a new Lord Commander, Ser Alliser Thorne and Ser Denys Mallister make their case to be elected. But Sam throws a wrench in the election by nominating Jon Snow.
Janos Slynt heckles Sam, but our favorite Tarly beats him down by calling him out for hiding during the battle for Castle Black.
He makes his case for Jon Snow becoming Lord Commander, and sure enough, Jon wins the day thanks to Maester Aemon breaking the tie.
Moving forward, Jon will face a lot of obvious challenges as Lord Commander. Ser Alliser has yet another reason to make his life miserable (though Jon is the one calling the shots now), and the wildlings outside the wall are still a big question mark for the Night's Watch.
Also, congrats fellow Jon!
Back in Braavos
Arya is roaming the streets of Braavos with...well, nothing to do but hunt pigeons for food. She's encountered by a group of jerks who want to steal her sword, Needle.
Honestly, I was half-expecting Arya to take them on and pull off a miracle, but she didn't need to. The man from the House of Black and White arrived, causing them to run away just from seeing him. So Arya follows him to find out why.
Outside the House of Black and White, the man gives her back the silver coin (which he apparently fished out of the lagoon somehow) and revealed himself to be none other than Jaqen H'ghar.
This is a major departure from the books. To the point where I'm wondering if George R.R. Martin intended this all along. Jaqen says that he is "no one," and Arya must become no one as well.
Back in Meereen
Mossador disobeys Dany's orders and executes the captured Son of the Harpy. It's ironic because judging from his non-remorseful words to Mossador, he would have been deemed guilty at his trial.
As a result, Dany has no choice but to execute Mossador, despite him being the first slave to take up arms in Meereen and call her Mysa. But what can Dany do? If she's not fair in this situation, then how will the people perceive her? She does what she considers "white," but it still has a "black" result.
The execution is very public and turns into a riot. You have to feel bad for Dany. She freed these slaves, but after deciding to be fair and unmerciful, they turn on her in an instant and cause a riot. I haven't always been a fan of the drawn out politics of Meereen, especially in the books. But what plays out in this episode is nothing short of poetic, even if it is ultimately unsettling.
As Hizdar says to Daario at the trial, Dany probably should have had Mossador executed quietly inside the pyramid. But Daario quickly responds, "I keep saying she should do the same for you."
But the episode doesn't end with this botched riot. Instead, we see the surprise return of Drogon, Dany's largest dragon. Perched above her, he inches near her to see his mother. Strangely, I felt terrified for Dany, believing Drogon would take a finger from her at any second. Instead, he flies away and lets out a roar.
Symbolically, Dany looks ahead to see how quickly she's lost control of everything she once had such a firm grasp of.
I have a pretty insane theory about Dany's destiny as a character, and it's continuously informed by everything I read and watch when it comes to this series. My theory is spoiler-tagged below, so read at your own peril (it's pretty simple, though).
I strongly believe that Daenerys is being built up as the true antagonist of this series. So everything we're seeing in the show is really her origin story as a powerful villain.
Guys, I really enjoyed this episode, despite all of its pivots away from the source material. Unlike "The Wars to Come," the episode did more than just set things up for future episodes, though it is still a connective tissue episode. But I'm not complaining.
Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments, but remember...