Review: Game of Thrones: ‘The House of Black and White’

Well, we came to this point much sooner than I had anticipated. Second episode of the new season and already we’re starting to go off book in much bigger ways than previous seasons did.

From here on out, show watchers and book readers stand to be equally in the dark about some of what’s going to happen. I have to admit, I’m actually really liking some of this.

Keyword – some.

game-of-thrones-title-card

I’ve always had kind of a love-hate relationship with Benioff and Weiss’s extra creative touches on this show. This isn’t even coming from the purist aspect talking, either. The fact is, some of their additions and changes are honestly good ideas but then there are some which feel like they were done without really thinking them through when they set them up, despite knowing how this will end.

So I’m trying to, again, keep these changes in mind purely on the show’s perspective and less on how they hold up compared to the books, though there will be a Black Cells entry this week.

But, let’s not make this all about changes and just get right to it.

This week is taking another look at the idea of ‘where do we go from here?’, although in a different style from the season opener. In this case it’s becoming more a question based on the roles each of the people has taken: Brienne watches the last of her quest slip away from her, Sansa makes a conscious choice in her path for the first time in a while, Tyrion and Varys reflect on their place in the realm as outsiders, Jaime decides to act on his own feelings of obligation to the children he never got to raise, Jon continues to find his loyalty to the Watch tested, but now by an offer from Stannis, and Dany is starting to realize she may need to temper the Targaryen way to rule if she wants to keep power.

"I sat out the season opener for THIS?!"

“I sat out the season opener for THIS?!”

Yeah, I’m not just gonna try and go blow by blow with these if I can help it, since that’s what the episode’s for, but there’s the main points for recap’s sake.

Like I said at the start of this, I’m feeling split on the changes so far this season, and this episode in particular is providing good examples in both camps.

Jaime’s storyline is right now one of the ones I’m most curious about. A part of me will miss his begrudging diplomat role from AFFC, but I have to admit, the idea of his going to Dorne with Bronn has a lot of potential depending how they take it. Plus, last season showed Coster-Waldau and Flynn have a good rapport together, so sending them out into unknown and (relatively) hostile territory for king and country (as it were) lends itself well to a good alternative to the slower road that works in print, not so much on screen.

"Don't look over your shoulder, but I think the showrunners just noticed we were in here. ...and from the looks on their faces, that's not a good sign."

“Don’t look over your shoulder, but I think the showrunners just noticed we were in here.
…and from the looks on their faces, that’s not a good sign.”

By comparison, Brienne’s storyline is becoming frustrating now. As a woman who has been operating under vows for as long as we’ve known her, her mission to find Arya and Sansa was supposed to be a major force driving her this season. As of now, she’s met both girls, and subsequently been rebuffed by them. I’ll concede this could get interesting from here – how can Brienne reconcile herself as a knight when her quest has gone up in flames in front of her? – but as it is now, it just feels like Benioff and Weiss are playing keepaway with the character.

While I still feel uncertain about the changes with Sansa, I do have to admit I’m seeing promise here. Especially considering how long Sophie Turner’s had to play the passive part, seeing her openly choose to continue as Littlefinger’s apprentice has me hopeful that she’s going to show a lot more range this season. She’s certainly earned it by this point.

I’m trying not to just discuss each plot line here and going with the standouts, but this one’s not making it easy. To just keep it down to one more, I do have to give the show this much – the show is much more directly taking on Dany’s struggles with power, and honestly, it feels like this may be some of the best writing she’s had in a while for that.

"Nothing personal here, but travelling with the manipulative, murderous, sex offender has turned out to be the safest, most stable time I've had here yet. I think I'll take my chances."

“Nothing personal here, but travelling with the manipulative, murderous, sex offender has turned out to be the safest, most stable time I’ve had here yet.
I think I’ll take my chances.”

For a lot of people, her arc at this point in the books was a slog – not without point, but really bogged down in minor politicking. The show so far seems to be doing well at boiling it down to the key points. Prior to this, she’s met most of her problems with brute force and done well with it. Now that she’s in power, she is finding out the hard way it may not fix everything. Seeing it actually blow back in her face this week has me wanting to see where they take this, since the ‘Fire and Blood’ has been so much a part of Dany and her diplomacy to this point.

My issues with Brienne’s arc aside, this is a pretty strong episode overall. It’s still much the same question as last week, but reframing each character’s decisions around who they are and what that means to their decisions helps. Additionally, that theme also makes a great angle for introducing us to Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) this week, weighing his position of ruler against the calls of his family for vengeance.

"Now that I think of it, once you peel back the nudity and graphic violence, it's not all that different from working on DS9."

“Now that I think of it, once you peel back the nudity and graphic violence, it’s not all that different from working on DS9.”

It’s one thing I will continue to give this show. For having a lot of stories to juggle, they tend to do well with finding a common theme to tie them all together and keep an episode feeling cohesive. It’s the kind of thing that helps me continue to feel confident even when being uncertain about certain decisions the showrunners have made.

Next week, it’s safe to say we’ll be seeing more of the politicking in King’s Landing. From the sound of things, Cersei’s previously unchecked rule is about to hit its first major speed bump in High Sparrow.

Till then.

Pros:

-Changes to Jaime and Sansa’s storylines interesting new turns for them

-Show is doing a great job with getting the main idea of Dany’s story across without bogging it down

Cons:

-So…is there a reason it feels like the show’s just taunting Brienne now?

Rating: 4/5

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THE BLACK CELLS – SPOILERS ABOUND

So, it looks like this week may have made official two speculations that have been running since the end of last season. For starters, despite laying the groundwork for it in season 3, it looks as though the show won’t be presenting Lady Stoneheart. This is what I mean about those times when a change gets frustrating. I can’t claim she’s essential just yet, but if you’re not going to do it then what was the point in all the focus on Beric’s resurrections?

The other being the decision to make Jaime and Bronn the cast members in Dorne. I’m intrigued from a story perspective, but apprehensive as a book fan – again, less from purism, but more concerns that, based on what happened in the book, one of them may not be coming back from this trip. Hopefully that’s not the case, but we’ll see.

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This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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Guyinthe3rdrow

This is what happens when a man takes a degree in English and the excessive analytic skills therein and chooses to use them for... ...is this evil? I'm not sure. But there are monsters and potentially robots, so there's potential for evil. ...we'll get back to you on that.

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