After a highly politically-fueled season premiere, Game of Thrones went back to its mysterious, frustrating, and darkly violent roots in this season’s second episode. “The House of Black and White” is not only the name of the location to which Arya (Thank the old gods and the new, she’s back!) is traveling to in Braavos, but also the title of the episode which runs as a metaphorical theme throughout the events that occur. These representations become clear as the episode kicks off with Arya.
As many will recall, season 4 ended with Arya sailing to Bravvos in search of Jaqen H’ghar. After having sailed the Narrow Sea, she finally arrives there and is taken to The House of Black and White, where she is told she will find him. Arya appears much more dark and mature and has an expression of relentlessness that is even more electrifying than before. She knocks at the black-and-white entrance and is hastily turned away by a hooded man, claiming no one named Jaqen H’ghar resides in the building. She sits outside the doors till dawn and hauntingly recites the names of all those she has vowed to kill: “Cersei. Walder Frey. The Mountain. Meryn Trant.” As she wanders aimlessly around Bravvos, practicing killing by beheading pigeons, she is harassed by a group of men before the hooded man from the House of Black and White approaches, leaving the men scrambling away in fear. Arya follows him back to the House and discovers, as he removes a layer of skin off his face, that it’s Jaquen H’ghar! A fan favorite from seasons 1 and 2, it’s fantastic seeing him reintroduced into Arya’s storyline. Arya and Jaquen hunting throughout Bravvos would be an intriguing and enigmatic journey, particularly with Arya’s razor-sharp wit and gorgeously threatening demeanor.
In addition to the fan favorite list, Brienne and Podrick made a thrillingly violent return after spotting Sansa with Littlefinger at a pub. Brienne is still as dedicated to defending the Starks as ever, and she approaches them to declare her loyalty to Sansa. Sansa, understandably, declines Brienne’s pledge with a sense of hostility, particularly after Littlefinger recites Brienne’s ineptitude in protecting the Stark family such as Sansa’s brother and mother. Brienne explodes after this, as expected of her, and the brutal outcome becomes the season’s first artistically fast-paced gory battle. No one messes with Brienne, making her possibly the most empowering woman in the show.
As we re-enter the Cersei’s incestuous relationship with Jaime, she expresser her disdain about their daughter residing in Dorne after she receives a warning of her safety. Jaime agrees to travel to Dorne to rescue their daughter, because he’ll always do anything for Cersei, and meets with Bronn there to construct a plan for his daughter’s escape from Dorne. Cersei’s throne-hunger is finally being fed as she now serves as the Hand of the King, but of course, “only until he becomes of age.” She’s achieved what she’s always wanted, though her tyranny breaking apart is inevitable.
I found Dany’s storyline to be the most powerful and shocking part of her development thus far. Daario discovers a Son of the Harpy hiding in a hut, discussing the Unsullied’s lack of fear as a disadvantage for finding intruders. The Son is granted a fair trial by Dany but is soon murdered by a Yunkish man. She rules in favor of a public execution of the Yunkish man in front of all the people of Yunkai as a statement for going against her word. It is quite disconcerting watching Dany look so malevolent as she patiently waits for Daario to sever the head of the Yunkish man, particularly after being praised by her people with shouts of “Mhysa!” There is a sharp and painful pause after the Yunkish man is decapitated, and the freed begin hissing at Dany, throwing rocks at her and her counsel as they flee, cloaked in fear as the shields held above them rattle. Dany has always existed as the character on Game of Thrones that truly attempts to understand others, and her political standpoints can equate to that of democratic humanism. (Cersei’s clearly enacted dictatorship. Jon Snow is King of the Wall, so probably… Independent diplomacy? But I digress.) Dany’s coldness in empathizing with Yunkish culture is selfish and merciless. She has served as the show’s positive influence and depicted the meaning of noble altruism. This perspective quickly changes in her rash and disregarding decision to chop off a Yunish guy’s head.
After season 3’s “Mhysa!” moment in the final episode, many viewers claimed Daenerys was the “white savior” of the series, validating the racial stereotype of white supremacy. This has always seemed like a bit of an over-step to me, considering Game of Thrones’ racially expansive cast and each one’s analogy as depicted by their races and the laws they follow. Dany, however, shows no respect for the practices of the Yunkish through this act and will undoubtedly suffer the consequences for it. In many ways, she’s broken the stereotype of being the “white savior,” now depicting her personal beliefs as they will continue to haunt her through her downfall as a ruler—at least for now. Her decisions are not as “black and white” as she has come to see them, perhaps due to her fear of being anything like her father. But to give her credit, all governing systems screw up—no matter how many dragons you have—so Dany’s s rough patch is bound to blow over. And speaking of dragons, all hail the return of Drogon! In the episode’s majestic final segment, Drogon lands above Dany and keeps her a few second’s company, and his presence is heartwarming as he turns to her with almost comical flamboyance. There is an electrifying connection between the two as she reaches for him, and as Drogon flies into the distance, it is clear that Dany will always be his “Mhysa.”
Check out the preview here for next weeks episode. And if you’re interest, our review for Season 5, Episode 1 is here.