Sunday, April 19, 2015

Game of Thrones "The House of Black and White" Review

Your reviewer, who is me, and your other favorite reviewers, which does not include me, will write that the second episode of the season continues to set up storylines, establish relationships, introduce new locations and new characters, and that once things have been established and set up, the crazy stuff that’ll allow click-bait sites, which is every site but mine, to generate the most click-baity headlines. “WHICH GAME OF THRONES CHARACTER MET A SHOCKING AND BRUTAL END?!?” David Benioff and D.B. Weiss hate book report style reviews in which the reviewer targets a theme and writes about the whole episode through that lens. It’s similar to a beat writer or sports columnist writing on deadline and snatching the easiest storyline from the game that night. “Felix Hernandez ate a cupcake before the game and knew he’d strike out 15 batters” and I don’t know; that’s nonsense. TV reviewers, professional and amateur, quickly write reviews to beat the utter deluge of reviews. So, you may read, “This was about power” or “this was about identity” or “this was about gender dynamics” or “this was about the Marxist idea of nonsense” which is fine. I’ve done it, you’ve done it, Ross Perot has done it, and I note it because I will not bloviate about the annual setting up of storylines for the season or that this episode was about anything at all.

Arya made her first season five appearance on a boat to Braavos. Her ultimate destination is The House of Black and White. A Feast for Crows had too little Arya and too much Cersei, but the Arya chapters show George R.R. Martin at his finest. The small alleys of Braavos that Arya walks, the docks she observes while riding in on the boat, and that house she’s taken to by a good Bravoosi man, are wonderfully described and made alive in the Arya chapters. I’m delighted season five will add more to Arya’s time at the House of Black and White. She doesn’t enter until near the end of the episode, and we don’t enter the house with her. A man denied her entrance after looking at her coin and stating that a Jaqen H’gar never lived at the house. Arya said her daily prayers before wandering Braavos. The man returned to her as she engaged three brutes over a dead pigeon. Arya learned that Jaqen doesn’t exist, but she saw the man change his face from old to who she knew as Jaqen. I dig this story a lot when it’s supernaturally weird, when shadows with the faces of kings kill potential kings, when Melisandre delivers a shadow demon from her body, when Sam sees white walkers, and Bran’s warging and seeing what he can’t see because he no longer walks.

Cersei’s increased paranoia and insecurity in King’s Landing led to Jaime’s decision to head south for Dorne, as a diplomat, for the purpose of bringing Myrcella home to her mother. The Dornish leader, Doran, who Ellaria scolds for allowing the Lannister girl to walk freely, eat freely, and breathe freely, is sedate, neutral, accepting of his brother’s death. The law is law, he more or less feebly says to Ellaria. Dany uses ‘the law is the law’ when scolding a former slave for killing the son of the Harpy before a trial, too. The viewer sees Doran and knows he’s not like his brother; he’s without passion, without fire, and he’s stricken to a chair. Cersei worried Dorne will murder her in retaliation for Oberyn’s gruesome death. Jaime went to Stokeworth for Bronn’s assistance in bringing his “niece” back to King’s Landing. The Jaime/Bronn partnership was the best part of the King’s Landing scenes. Kevyn’s sharp opinions about Cersei also delighted me. He’d rather return to Casterly Rock than be the Queen’s puppet. The council seems weak and comical with Mace Tyrell as master of coin and ships, and Qyburn’s sadistic self as Cersei’s most trusted councilmember.

The Night’s Watch elected Jon Snow as the Lord Commander. Sam spoke for Jon. His monologue was great character work. Timid Sam wouldn’t speak for anyone before he met Gilly and before he slaughtered a white walker. Sam may take jabs at the men who jab at him. Jon’s still dour, honorable, brooding, but Sam is Sam. His presence lightens the dark and dour Castle Black. Jon’s burdened by responsibility. He’s the secret hero following the hero’s journey. He’s Frodo, and Sam’s Sam. Heroes need a Sam. Stannis wanted Jon to become Lord of Winterfell, but Jon reasons a man who breaks his vows’ word would mean nothing. Stannis also repeats that the law is the law. The line echoes in “The House of Black and White.” Now there’s a Lord Commander and a self-righetous and deluded King sharing a castle.

Finally, Dany continues struggling to rule Meereen. Ser Barristen explains the history of her father, the mad king, who acted because he loved power. He loved the screams of burning men and women that disobeyed his rule. Barristen does not want Dany to become her father, to rule with fire, to rule with murder, to instead let the law be, and to deal out justice by the law and only the law. The suggestion is, throughout the episode, that rulers make the law. Whoever is King is the law; however, Dany begins to change that. The law, for her, exists separate from her. The final 10 minutes of the episode shows Dany executing her new justice by executing the former slave she saved who killed the son of the Harpy before the trial determined his guilt or innocence in Dany’s Meereen. I noticed a particular thing during the scene, which was that Dany wouldn’t look at the man about to lose his head, because Ned Stark would never take the life of a man without looking him in the eye and swinging the axe himself. Winterfell was mentioned three times, if I remember, in the episode. Bear Island wouldn’t aid Stannis because the only true King of the North is the Stark.

All that’s dead is not lost.

Other Thoughts:

-I liked "The House of Black and White" quite a bit more than "The Wars to Come."

-Drogon said hello to his mother at the end of the episode before flying away into the Meereenese night. I loathe the use of “Chekhov’s gun.” Read a story of his before copping something he wrote in a letter which he may not have meant (I liked Nabokov’s opinion about the “Chekhov’s gun"). However, ending the episode with Drogon flying away seems significant.

-Tyrion and Varys held for Volantis. Cersei put a bounty on Tyrion’s head. She received the wrong head. She’ll probably receive more wrong heads. Tyrion dropped a line in his conversation with Varys that one may want to remember.

-Sansa rejected Brienne’s offer for protection, opting to remain with Littlefinger. The tavern scene led to a great action sequence with great fight choreography and horse work. I love Pod and Brienne together. I do not like Sansa with Littlefinger. Littlefinger, though a criminal mastermind, has a dramatic flatness to him that can span seasons. He needs Varys.

-Ellaria mentioned the Sand Sisters. The Meereen citizens hissed at Dany like snakes. I’m looking forward to seeing the Sand Sisters and more of Dorne. I love Dorne.

-D.B. Weiss and David Benioff wrote the episode. Michael Slovis directed.

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.