AT THE END OF THE WORLDS
The episode titled House of Black and White begins with the shot of Arya’s determined face, seemingly devoid of any sentimentality. Upon his promise, the captain of the ship brings her to a monumental structure with black and white doors, telling her that she will find the man she seeks, Jaqen H’ghar, here. After an initial refusal by the hooded man to let her enter this building, resolute and unwavering Arya stays here for days in a hope that somehow she will manage to enter, repeating now well known mantra of the people she one day plans to kill: Cersei, Walder Frey, The Mountain, Meryn Trent. The list grows shorter and shorter. Soon after, Arya leaves the House of Black and White in search for food. While wandering through the city she is attacked by the group of boys who want to take her Needle away from her. In the nick of time she is rescued by that same hooded man who refused to let her in to House of Black and White, who, as it happens turns into Jaqen H’ghar right in front of our eyes. But is this the same Jaqen H’ghar we’ve come to love during the second season? Or does it really matter? Impressed with her determination, he finally lets her in, telling her that here she will become no one, just like him.
On the far side of the world, Sansa Stark, still in the company of Lord Baelish, by accident comes into contact with Brienne of Tarth. Briene, being Brienne, offers Sansa her loyalty and services without any hesitation (as a promise given to Lady Cat Stark). But, just like Arya, Sansa refuses her. This comes as no surprise given all the horror she went through in the last few years and considering a fact that for her Brienne is, unlike Baelish, a stranger. The importance of this scene lays in the fact that first and foremost it demonstrates just how far has Sansa, as a character, come. If we add the recently acquired ability of observing (especially with the upcoming wedding) we could argue that Sansa is indeed becoming one of the crucial players in the game of thrones.
If you have read my previous review Game of Thrones: Freedom to make your own mistake then you know that I have dedicated considerable amount of time to talk about the prolog of episode one and its lack of the second part of the prophecy that is oriented towards the death of both Cersei (at the hands of valonqar) and her children. Although the lack of this part of the prophecy did not seem like a big issue last week, now it certainly does. The reason for that is the erasure of the necessary context in which the threat from Dorne, southern part of Westeros ruled by the House Martell, of killing Myrcella Baratheon/Lannister takes on a whole new meaning. The awareness of prophecy furthers the unrest into already restless Cersei who so far lost her eldest child, Joffrey, and is now close to losing another. The thought of that is unbearable but not only that; it also brings her one step closer to her own demise.
Feeling guilty, Jaime, illogically decides to venture into Dorne, unarmed, one-handed, in the company of his master-at-arms Ser Bronn, hoping that somehow he will bring his daughter back to King’s Landing, safe and unharmed. I say illogically because I am not sure how can Jaime achieve this without being recognized (he is after all the poster boy of Westeros) and more importantly without starting a new war, that the Lannisters now, upon the death of Tywin Lannister, simply cannot afford. We all know what happened during the similar rescue mission that happened about two decades earlier – it ended the greatest dynasty the world has ever seen. Jaime should know this, because he was the integral part of it. But memory doesn’t serve Jaime well, just like it apparently doesn’t serve the Game of Thrones‘ television audience.
IN THE MEANTIME… DORNE
And finally, the Dorne is here!
But…and with Game of Thrones apparently there is always a but regardless of how determined I am to stay positive about all the illogical changes. Anyways, I won’t jump into any conclusions yet but if we are to rate Dorne on the basis of a single episode, we could say that Oberyn “Red Viper” Martell is, by far, its most interesting resident. My disappointment primarily rests with the cardinal change in the motivations and character of Elaria Sand, Oberyn’s wife/lover, who with the loss of her hair lost a considerable amount of her charm as well. Apparently, out of yet unknown reasons, she was merged with the character of Arriane Martell, daughter of Doran Martell, ruler of Dorne. This is of course odd considering that Arriane plays a significant role in the books but due to the budget and other television issues we know nothing about, Arriane was, like so many other, cut from the show. Her characteristics, like for example the insatiable thirst for revenge, are now merged with Elaria’s. How much will this gamble cost them is yet to be seen.
On the other hand we have the character of Doran Martell, man who dominates this scene and by simply sitting in his chair, doing nothing. This stands to demonstrate just how important choice of actor is for this show. I just hope that Alexander Siddig won’t share the fate of Ciaran Hinds, who appeared as Mance during only couple of brief moments and who, after approximately three seasons and three minutes on our television screens, vanished in the same theatrical manner as he appeared.
JON STARK, LORD COMMANDER OF THE NIGHT’S WATCH
Central character of this episode is Jon Snow, who finally gets an opportunity to fulfill his biggest dream – to legitimately, through royal decree, earn the last name Stark which will enable him not only the opportunity to rule Winterfell and thus earn the place in Westeros history but to also finally exact the revenge against his family’s horrific demise.
Stannis does not do this out of goodness of his heart. No, he is guided by self-interest, fully aware that none other but a Stark can bring him the victory in the North. And as fate would have it, all Eddard’s sons are dead (to his best knowledge) which gives Stannis only one option, to legitimize Jon. The letter Stannis receives from Lyanna Mormont – Bear Island knows no king but the King in the North whose name is Stark – a little girl and Lord Commander Mormont’s niece, a part from being a single best moment of this episode, is just another evidence, which confirms the existence of true Northern loyalty directed at the Stark family. Stannis knows this and so does Jon, who is visibly content and extremely proud of the fact that Northerners, just like the Free Folk (dubbed Wildlings), stick to each other. However, a part from the aforesaid content and pride, Jon Snow, one of the last honorable men standing in Westeros, decides to refuse the king, denounce his dreams, and continue his service in the Night’s Watch. He does this primarily out of respect for the vows and life he pledged to the Night’s Watch in front of the Weriwood tree, his family’s Gods. Little did he know, that just few moments later, with the great help of Sam and Maester Aemon, he will be elected new Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, which will change his life forever still earning him the place in Westeros history.
I want to say: In Mereen, nothing new. But I can’t because something finally happened. In the infinite and relentless repetition of same events and same dilemmas – opening the fighting pits or not, killing the masters or not, following the law or not, listening to the advisers or not, freeing the dragons or not, chaining the dragons or not, punishing the guilty or not – Ser Barristan Selmy, the legend of Westeros, finally got the opportunity to say what he had been trying to say for the past 2 seasons. He tells her about what kind of a monster her father actually was, what are the horrors he committed, and what has lead to the rebellion she so often speaks about but knows nothing of. However, even though he told her plenty, he did not use any names. And of course I find myself reading this, as I should, as the detraction of Selmy’s voice, which was deliberately taken away from him by the writers and producers of the show. Yes, Selmy speaks, but he does it selectively. His words are filtered. And as a result the characters of his stories (Lord Rickard Stark, Brandon Stark, Elia Martell, Jaime Lannister and so on) are reduced to abstract concepts (of nameless and faceless people) with whom we can’t connect. This is of course evident in the sentence: “Aerys killed fathers and sons” where in fact he should’ve said: “Aerys burned Lord Rickard Stark alive. His son, Brandond Stark chocked to death in the futile attempt to save his father.” This is yet another example of painting the context blank. Without it, everything is changed. Perhaps this lack of context is a mistake. But perhaps it is not. I am undecided because of course I don’t know what their end goal is. Sure, they want to paint Daenerys as a victim capable of rising above the ordeals life has given her but to what end? Do they want to emphasize that she is not like the other members of her Targaryen family, unscrupulous, incestuous, brutal mad men who on top of everything have a God complex and a tendency for conquering other people and nations? That in her difference she is in fact the savior material Westeros yearns for. Or do they want to give her the characteristics of the aforesaid savior; just so they would trick the audience into loving her thus making her potential madness even more shocking once it happens.
We all know the saying – Every time a Targaryen is born the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land. This means that every Targaryen carries a potential for madness and that with them we can never tell. But what we can tell comes towards the end of this episode, in the scene that depicts the execution of a boy responsible for the death of Sons of the Harpy member and a former slave, now reformed free man and a child of Meeren’s Mhysa (mother, a noun, not a title). Hordes of her children plead for mercy in disbelief. However, Daenerys is just, as she should be. Law is law and as such, it must be obeyed. I would not have a problem with any of this if the honorable Daenerys Targaryen is in deed honorable like Ned Stark and Robb Stark were. I am mentioning Ned and Robb in the context of the rule previously tied to Winterfell and North, which says: The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword.
Daenerys is not that man. She is a woman (a queen and not a politician as she reminded us last week), whose every bad decision is left for a member of her loyal entourage of friendzoned men to carry it out for her. In this particular case, due to Jorah’s forced and untimely absence, Daario is the lucky winner. As he was getting his hands dirty by taking the life of a boy, who was accused of murdering those who rose and rebelled against her occupation, Daenerys Targaryen just stood there, looking the other way.
Best Quote: Bear Island knows no King but the King in the North, whose name is Stark
Text Written by: Monika Ponjavic