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Game of Thrones – The House of Black and White Review

"An Excellently Paced and Action Packed Hour"
Well, so far this season, Game of Thrones is two for two. "The House of Black and White" was another excellent hour of television, avoiding the common Thrones pitfalls and delivering balanced storytelling that moved the season's various plots along at a swift pace. And, perhaps most interesting of all, this episode made it clear that book readers are going to be just as in the dark as those who haven't read George R.R. Martin's series, as a few stories officially moved beyond their book counterparts and another story diverged from its book version completely. As someone who has read the novels (but who only remembers the major plot points, really, at this point), it was lovely to see the show officially move beyond the novels for half of our major characters. It's freeing, from a review perspective, but it also lets me enjoy the show for what it is rather than constantly comparing the two (consciously or not). Will these new stories potentially "ruin" the novels for fans? Sure, they might. But I would much rather have book readers and non on the same page. That the new stories seem to being chugging along on all cylinders certainly helps things as well. Beyond showing us what may lie beyond the fifth book of A Song of Ice and Fire, "The House of Black and White" moved the different storylines forward beyond the expository moments we were given in the season premiere. Jaime is teaming up with Bronn to extricate Myrcella from Dorne, Brienne found Sansa and Littlefinger and is hot on their trail, Jon is the new Lord Commander, Dany is drowning in Meereen, and Arya is about to begin her new journey in Braavos. Everyone has started down their new season five paths and there is a definite sense of the calm before the storm in each.


Out of all the storylines, the one that struck me as the most interesting was, much to my surprise, Dany's. Unlike so many of the characters on the series, who are on solo quests or are concerned with their immediate desire for power at the expense of those around them, Dany's story is one of balance. The stakes are high in Meereen, as it balances on the head of pin only a swift breeze away from all out civil war. The Dany this season is already leaps and bounds more adept than the one we saw floundering at the end of season four. That being said, there's still so much more she needs to learn but precious little time left to learn it before she loses control (if she hasn't lost it already). Dany's struggle in Meereen is so very different than the battle for the throne in Westeros or Cersei's machinations in King's Landing. She's a foreign ruler who upset the status quo. She's been raised to the position of a god by those she freed from slavery and is derided as a demon by those whose livelihood she destroyed. Last season, Dany was the self-righteous ruler who didn't understand how her actions could have resulted in the chaos they wrought - or have any real understanding of her new subjects at all. While we, the audience, agreed with her decision to end slavery in Meereen, it was exhausting to see her portrayed as a benevolent ruler without much thought given for what her actions actually meant. She was an invading force who forced her will on the people she conquered, and boy, are there a whole slew of historical parallels out there that would give us a taste of what happens when one does that. Unlike last season, the show finally seems interested in exploring how Dany's inexperience as a leader will impact her hold on Meereen and her own confidence. Taking this route will allow the show to really dive deep into Dany's character (something the show has shied away from since way back in season one), and it will let us see more of Emilia Clarke's abilities as an actor. Assuming Varys and Tyrion make it to Meereen in one piece, it will be interesting to see if they Dany they meet is the same confident young woman we've seen over the years or if her new struggles as a leader have broken her in a more permanent way. And that is a story worth telling.


Final Thoughts: -- Oh Cersei. Making friends everywhere you go. -- I'm glad the show has found a way to keep Bronn around. Considering Jaime is extra interesting when he's on the road with another character, I'm excited for this road trip! -- Kudos to the casting department at Game of Thrones for their excellent work casting the show's children. Obviously, the Stark kids were major finds, but Kerry Ingram was wonderful this week as Shireen Baratheon. -- As great as it was to see Brienne find Sansa, I'm not sure this whole "chase after her and protect her" storyline will pay dividends. -- I'm thrilled the series found a way to bring back Tom Wlaschiha as Jaqen H'ghar. It was a great surprise.
  • Good forward movement on all storylines
  • Particularly interesting work with Dany's story
  • Jon Snow's story still lacks the oomph of others


Meet the Author

About / Bio
TV critic based in Chicago. When not watching and writing about awesome television shows, I can be found lamenting over the latest disappointing performance by any of the various Chicago sports teams or my beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Follow me @JeanHenegan on Twitter.

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