Whilst nothing shocking happened in The House of Black and White, we still got several awesome things happening in a pretty solid week for Game of Thrones, which has so far been handling the fifth season very well. This episode was packed with plenty of developments, and we also got to see Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) return after spending the end of last season leaving Westeros for good.
Let’s start with Arya, whose storyline has taken a very dramatic turn over the course of the series and she’s now, much like everybody else, in a very different place from Season 1. However, her storyline has provided us with some of the strongest material for the series. It’s going to be very interesting to follow her course of action going forward if this episode is anything to go by, as her quest for the House of Black and White led her to a reunion with Jaqen H’ghar (Tom Wlaschiha). Those of you who are book readers may recall that Arya was initially granted entrance to the House of Black and White when she revealed the coin at the door, but obviously, the show decided to go a different route, and it certainly wasn’t the only divergence from the books this time out. We got to see Arya making adjustments to her list, which no longer includes Joffrey after his death in the fourth season, but does have Walder Frey there after his actions at the Red Wedding. It’s certainly an interesting start and it’s great to have one of my favourite characters in the series back after her absence last week.
There was a lot of other stuff happening in this episode that didn’t just limit it to Arya, as we got Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) being unexpectedly elected Night’s Watch Commander. This took an interesting turn thanks to the final vote from Aemon (and again, was something else where the series drifted from its source material), and it’s already giving this character an interesting storyline as we found out that he rejected something that he’d always wanted, and that’s to become Jon Stark. However, Jon turned the honour down because he had sworn an oath to the Night’s Watch, and didn’t want to break his vows. This was interesting to watch unfold because the Jon/Stannis dynamic this season so far has been really good, and the scenes that these two have had together has been among my favourite. We’re laying the groundwork here for Jon’s story to follow in the rest of the season, and with this episode largely being focused on the set-up, there are some promising signs ahead here as well.
We got our first look at Dorne this week as we added to the already growing list of locations that the show has paid a visit to thus so far. It certainly was a welcome addition to the sets that we’ve seen, with some interesting characters. Ellaria Sand is still annoyed over Oberyn’s death, and blaming the Lannisters, wanting Myrcella dead. However, the older brother of Oberyn, Prince Doran, stepped in, advising that this would be a declaration of war with the Lannisters that they can’t afford, with vengeance for Oberyn expected on a level that doesn’t involve the open battlefield. In what could have easily been something that would have further overcrowded the show, A House of Black and White manages to handle it well so that the addition of Dorne feels welcome and a breath of fresh air, and another very interesting development story-wise.
You’re probably starting to get the idea of just how many things happened in this episode when we haven’t even got to discussing Dany and Sansa’s involvement yet. This set-up episode was incredibly packed, but the writers managed to handle it effectively well. Whilst Dany and Sansa’s parts were not as large as they were last week, they did allow us to get a look at what both characters were up to. Dany’s public execution once again continued the theme of how hard it was to rule in a freshly liberated city that we’ve been experiencing for multiple seasons now. It was a huge call that she made here though to have the Council Member executed, and it didn’t really work out for her. This again, is something that will have further ramifications later down the line.
And finally, we get to Sansa. Pod recognised her allowing a confrontation between Littlefinger and Sansa to happen which was great to see because characters’ storylines haven’t been crossing that much lately outside of King’s Landing. Of course, Sansa promptly rejected Brienne and before Brienne could be killed by Littlefinger, she left the building. So there’s been plenty of things happening with everybody this week, and it’s easy to see why this episode was longer than the premiere.
Was The House of Black and White as good as the premiere? Maybe not, but as largely a set-up episode, it worked, with lots of important areas to cover. It was great to see Arya back this week and now that we’ve got all the characters in play, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens next. I can’t wait to see the further developments that the series has from the books now, based on what we’ve seen here.