[Review] - Game Of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 2, "The House Of Black And White"

Courtesy of HBO
For a bunch of years now, going back to the beginning of season 3, I've advocated the TV series diverging form the books that inspired it. Personally, it is because I'm not a fan of direct adaptation. There have been very few instances where I've read a passage in a book and wanted to see what that would look like on screen. I've already just imagined it. What I look forward to in adaptation, as in sequels and cross overs, is how the established characters deal with new situations. We all know Tyrion, and know how he thinks, and acts, and reacts. So is it more interesting to see him think and act and react according to events as they already happened, or to events previously unknown. As an audience member, you're treated to a new story, while getting to spend more time with beloved characters.

So, it was with some satisfaction that this episode featured only one completely adapted plot line from the books. The rest were new, were fresh, were exactly what I was asking for. And suddenly I'm wondering if all my wishes have turned to ashes in my mouth, because this was an unusually boring episode. I sat through it, watched all the characters go about their merry, but realized at the end that it was just so much more water in the pale. Yes, there were important, character and plot defining events that transpired, but none of it was impressive, in the literal sense. And that sets me on edge, somewhat.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that were once known as the "smirking whore of Ipswitch" for reasons that don't need elaborating on.

I would list Oberyn's introduction scene last year as one of the better examples of how to establish a character. Everything that he was about was on full display as he rated whores, rhapsodized about love, then calmly drove a dagger through a guy's wrist. Everything that it was, was the opposite of the introduction to his brother Doran, played by Alexander Siddig. It was about here that I began to realize there was something off about this episode. It seemed inflated, but lifeless. There was little joy to be rung out of this hour of television.

The reveal that Ellaria has replaced the novel character Arianne, the prince's daughter, makes sense. At the time of casting, I suggested that loosing the Arianne character was a fatal misstep. However, with plots going off in their own direction, better to stick with established characters with more of a connection to Oberyn and the Sand Snakes then introduce yet another new character with a slightly more distant connection. I reverse my previous condemnation, with apologizes. I should have recognized that Benioff and Weiss are better at making this show then I am.

The only plot line carried over from the books to this episode was the election of Jon Snow to the role of Lord Commander of the Nights Watch, which I expected to be an event with a little more ceremony. Or at least, stretched over a couple scenes. For such an elevation of character, it was a passive and almost dismissive scene. Like it was tacked on as an after thought. By the way, this also happened. Likewise was the previous scene's promise of elevating Jon to Stark status, and proclaiming him Lord of Winterfell. Perhaps, had the audience had more time to digest this information, had Jon more time to labour over it, had Sam had more time to plot, it would haven't felt so small and incidental. It wasn't. Jon says it was literally the first thing he remembered wanting, but he isn't given a chance to be tempted by the offer. And Jon is a man who, while loyal, weighs his temptations.

The rest was brand new. Dany continued to understand the gravity of rule, as she refused to execute one man and then was forced to do the same to another. This season, I expect, will focus Dany's plight on the notion of 'heavy sits the crown" and that for all the dragons you have and all the salves you free, actually ruling is harder and less appealing then the brochure makes it sound. Everyone in Westereos is so damned intent on being King, but never give any thought to what that actually means. In series, it should be known as Robert's Shortcoming - becoming king and being king are different beasts. In what direction this will drag her is yet to be seen (because: new plot lines) but Barristan has already given her the "don't become a crazy person like your father" speech.

Brienne continues to have the worst life ever, as she actually and accidentally catches up with Sansa in a pub. After last week's near miss, I half expected this to become a running joke for this season, with the two characters missing each other my feet over and over. Instead, they walked into one another, and Brienne had it pointed out to her that she sucks at her job. Which, on paper, yes she does. But she makes up for it with conviction. Either way, Sansa tells her to bugger off, and we're treated to a full speed horse chase, which I believe is the series' first. It was brief, and the most exciting thing to happen in the episode, as well as gave Pod some nice comedic moments. But now that both the Stark girls has spurred the Maid of Tarth, she gets to go off and have her own original plot now. Except, on the surface, it isn't immediately evident what that would entail. She can't go back to Jaime, she's got no other Starks to go running after unless she gets put on Rickon's trail. She just gets to chop people in half with her nice new sword sand be a miserable failure at her life's work.

Jaime has about the most promising original storyline, heading off to Dorne to bring back his daughter for Cersei, to prove that he's still worth something. And he's taking Bronn along with him. This story promises to be fun if nothing else, and it looks like the writers are attempting to find new magical comedy pairs. In the past, they've have Arya and Tywin, Jamie and Brienne, Arya and the Hound, Bronn and Tryion and Pod and Brienna. Contenders for the prize this year are Jaime and Bronn and Tryion and Varys. And who knows what other unexpected duos might merge together before the season is over. Daario and Grey Worm are shaping up nicely in that regard. Really, anything to breathe life into a clunker like this wouldn't go amiss.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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