Game of Thrones "S5E2 The House of Black and White" - Review: A new Dorne for the series

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Game of Thrones "S5E2 The House of Black and White" - Review: A new Dorne for the series

Honour thy father..... He didn’t have many leatherbound books and his apartment certainly didn’t smell rich mahogany but like it or not, he’s still kind of a big deal on your life. Your family influence can define you before even the idea of “you” takes shape or form. For any man this will lead to one major life decision: do I honour my father or do I honour myself? Whether consciously or not, this parental influence (or avoidance) is driving many actions in this week’s episode. It works out better for some than others...

The House of Black and White – A threat on Princess Myrcella’s life from Dorne sets Jamie Lanister and Brom on a mission to get her back. The Sons of The Harpy continue to trouble Danny in Meereen but responding to them with justice proves even more precarious. The Night’s Watch elect their 998th Lord Commander,; Ayra arrives in Braavos to a colder reception than expected; Brienne receives similar when attempting to fulfil her vow.

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After last week’s required re-establish, Game of Thrones really hits the ground running with an event-filled episode to get many a story in motion. For some, the motion is very literal due to the required travelling. For Tyrion and Varys, their long road to Meereen this has already begun. Despite Tyrion fulfilling his vow to drink himself to death along the way, the pair does manage a good exchange in reflection to their time in positions of power at Kings Landing. Varys’s praise of Tyrion’s time as The Hand reinforces their necessity at their destination, and their notion of still being servants at their higher levels, tries back nicely to the central Game of Thrones idea (that’s why everybody plays; because otherwise you will always be a servant). This is something that the new look Small Council is learning all too well as Cersei attempts to take hold of the royal strings once more in her father’s mortal absence. Seeing her verbally knocked on her pampered arse by her own family member is both wonderful to behold and efficiently enhances both the ideas of troubled times in King's Landing (when Sparrows start spreading their wings) and Cersei’s own isolation as her time of ruling the kingdom from behind the Iron Throne has an imminent expiry date.

This week, we finally get our first looks at Dorne, and the Spanish-filmed water gardens setting looks nothing short of gorgeous. It re-acquaints us with the widowed Ellaria, who’s immediately justifying the greater story she’s been given by savouring this new bitter material she has to work with, demanding vengeance for Oberyn (The Sand Snakes get their first mention). Yet the real standout is Alexander “Doctor Bashir” Siddig as Prince Doran. His control and reserve in the face of Ellaria’s accusations is great to watch as he dismisses her demands with very logical and rational arguments. Although he doesn’t say much, we get a mouth moistening tease of Areo Hotah as the elaborate spear-wielding captain of Doran’s guards. If we can get Areo and Brom in single combat, that could easily be the fight of the season. Brom himself makes a welcome feature return accompanied by his previously mentioned betrothed Lollys Stokewoth. Hats off to Elizabeth Cadwallader, who very quickly makes a suicidal rescue mission to Dorne seem a better fate than a lifetime in her annoying company. Brom’s hints to his plans of “an unfortunate accident” for Lollys’s older sister raise a nice snigger. You can’t help feel he’d do a Littlefinger on Lollys too long after the wedding. Pairing Jamie and Brom together again for their own story looks set to be a highlight of the series. Jamie’s decision to leave nicely introduces the ideas of fathers and honour as Cersei accuses her brother-lover of never being a real father to their secret offspring.

In Meereen, Daenerys gets the biggest case of parental influence, or rather caution, laid on her when deciding the fate of a captured Harpy. Ser Barristan’s warnings of her father’s example killings only fuel the rebellion of his defeat and reflects well to Danny’s ongoing theme of struggling between the ruler she wants to be and the ruler she needs to be. Yet at the same time, neither are her councillors arguments for rasher actions misplaced as Danny discovers to her misfortune. Despite a rousing speech about the necessity for justice in the pursuit of freedom, such concepts mean nothing to people that do not understand them. Like beauty, power, and justice are always in the eye of the beholder and a mob can see blood much clearer than reason. If she is to quell the looming civil uprising,, she may need to channel more of her father’s strength than she’d like to.

Jon Snow faces a very direct choice of family lineage as Stannis offers his the chance to join Ramsey in the ex-bastards club but his decline makes for a very poignant moment with Sam. He remembers that no Tulley blood flows through his veins as he places duty and honour before the offer of family, “If I don’t take my own words seriously, what sort of Lord of Winterfell would I be?”. The Night’s Watch election makes for some enjoyable viewing even if the result has been obvious since Season 1. Despite the predictability, there are some good laughs thrown in as Janos gets speech owned by Sam the Slayer. Brienne takes a very different approach to the family honouring theme by staying true to Catlin Stark’s wishes despite her daughters. She’s really become such an endearing character over the seasons She's the most loyal and honourable soul on the show but gets her face continually shoved in the dirt because of it. Her story satisfies the episode’s action quota nicely with the horseback chase and some good brutal fighting as Oathkeeper vows to kill.

Despite donning the episode title, Ayra’s scenes in Braavos are the only inconsistent area this week. While the expanded city visuals are quite beautiful, the episode struggles to convey Ayra’s feelings about the surprise dead end in her journey without having anyone to talk to. While her moment against the three bigger is awesome, “nothing’s worth anything to dead men” for most of the time, Maisie Williams actually feels rather wooden and constrained (which is as unnatural for her wonderfully mad self as it gets). While it achieves the required setup, the scenes can’t help feeling they could have been done better.

A great progressive episode that sets plenty of pieces in motion; now, the board has been reset. It incorporates a vast array of characters in a rewarding and enjoyable fashion with one hell of a closing money shot. Honour thy father in the only way that really matters: watching Game of Thrones together.