The season’s second episode featured dragons, an election and in vintage GOT fashion, a beheading.
If you’re like me and managed to resist the temptation to binge-watch the four Game of Thrones episodes that leaked onto the Internet last week, HBO rewarded you with a solid, if not spectacular, hour of TV’s most must-see show.
Building past last week’s bore of an episode, this week’s “The House of Black and White,” while not kingdom-shattering in any sense, quietly expanded the show’s various plotlines and introduced us to the exotic city of Dorne, featuring scenes filmed on-site in the medieval Islamic palaces in Spain that inspired the fictional city’s design.
Many viewers predict this season will be one defined by converging storylines, and already we’ve seen Tyrion in Essos, Stannis in the North, and Shireen Baratheon teaching the wildling Gilly to read.
We got the season’s first glimpse of my personal favorite character, Arya Stark, as she tries her luck with the Faceless Men, meandering around hungry and homeless on a new continent, reduced to killing pigeons with her sword just as she did in the show’s first season.
The show’s most impelling character, Jon Snow, zestful and intriguing as always, turns down a chance to rid himself of the bastard status that has haunted him all his life and instead is rewarded for his efforts of the past two seasons by being elected as the new commander of the Night’s Watch, effectively assuring him to be the first to come into contact with the White Walkers whenever the show’s writing staff decides to pursue that plotline.
Additionally, Jamie and his fresh new haircut interrupt fan-favorite and newly-knighted sell-sword Bronn for the kidnapping of, you guessed it, the product of Jamie’s incestuous relationship with his sister. All jokes aside, it’s nice to see Jamie acting fatherly for once, especially after watching Joffrey choke to death at his own wedding.
Lastly, it wouldn’t be Game of Thrones without philosophical wanderings followed by a beheading. Varys and Tyrion muse on the nature of power and the inherent instability of keeping it while Daenerys proclaims her theory that freedom and justice cannot coexist, affirming her status as the most conflicted iron-fisted ruler since Machiavelli himself made it cool.
On the whole, The House of Black and White probably didn’t feature enough deaths to warrant five stars. The tension within season 5 is building, however; we seem poised for an outstanding mid-season tempo change from a show notorious for throwing its viewers for a spin.
Three out of five stars, one for each of the times we’re forced to watch Arya recant her infamous prayer: “Cersei, Walder Frey, The Mountain, Meryn Trant…”