Crumbs: Reviews » Dramas » Game of Thrones » Season 5 » The House of Black and White
Critical reviews of U.S. TV shows
and analysis of what makes them
good, bad, irritating and enlightening.

Game of Thrones



Episode 2 - The House of Black and White

23 April 2015

Credit HBO

Synopsis: Jon is elected Commander of the Nights Watch and turns down a chance to become a Stark. Brienne offers her protection to Sansa but she refuses. Jaime heads off to Dorne with Bronn in tow. Cersei appoints Qyburn to be the new Master of Whispers. Arya makes it to the House of Black and White. Tyrion and Varys are on the road to Volantis. Dany prepares to try the Harpy murderer. But he is in turn killed by a former slave. Drogon returns temporarily.

The Good: I didn’t expect to be affected by Jon’s election victory. However the combination of Stannis’ offer to make him a Stark with Sam’s moving speech got to me. In a show with so much grey and so many monsters, Jon’s decency has become something to cling to. The jokes at Janos’ expense were well played and the result should lead to more interesting scenarios at the wall as Jon is now in a position to deal even more directly with Stannis.

I also found emotion in Dany’s situation in Meereen. I found the presentation of the simmering hatred between slaves and masters to be entirely convincing. The slaves make a passionate and sympathetic case for giving the masters no quarter. But by keeping Hizdahr zo Loraq around we are reminded of the people who would suffer in such a scenario. And Dany knows that if she killed all the masters new powerful men would spring up the next day to fill the vacuum created. So instead she tries to preach a justice that neither side wants and finds herself totally isolated without even Drogon for company.

Even in brief I liked the new steel in Arya’s spine. Unafraid of bullies or giant statues she is prepared to face the world alone. But it was good to see that she quickly found the Man (Jaquen) so she can begin her new career.

The interaction between Brienne, Baelish and Sansa was solid. It was unexpected and therefore felt initially tense even if the horse chase rapidly became a bit easy. With no idea where Little Finger is headed or why Sansa would trust Brienne it creates an intriguing caravan.

Tyrion and Varys have a loooong journey ahead of them if my map of Westeros is correct. Even though it seems obvious in retrospect, I appreciate the insight into their friendship. Of course Varys would relate to Tyrion upon meeting him because they both rose to power despite being despised and mocked for their physical appearance.

The Bad: Nothing specific.

The Unknown: Jaime offering to “rescue” Myrcella is an interesting idea. On the one hand his team up with Bronn has obvious comedy and action opportunities and casts him firmly in the role of a hero. But on the other, is this a wise decision? Didn’t he just warn Cersei that their family was incredibly vulnerable at this moment? Yet he volunteers to leave her in charge while he goes and destroys the fragile diplomatic relationship with Dorne. I understand that his love for Cersei is probably his motivation. But surely he can see the danger in leaving her to alienate the Tyrells and make rash decisions while he’s gone?

Why does Cersei trust Qyburn so much? I know his medical skills are impressive and he has a dignified manner but it seems like a hell of a promotion. It’s not clear quite how the Master of Whispers operates. But perhaps Varys’ network will make themselves known now that a new man is willing to pay for their information.

Best Moment: Jon’s election. The performances from all concerned were strong and it was a straightforward happy conclusion. For now.

Conclusion: A very good episode moving everything forward and keeping emotion at the centre of proceedings.



Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.

Post your comment


  • Why didn't Cersei make Little Finger the Master of Whispers?

    Posted by Fluids, 24/04/2015 4:04pm (4 years ago)

  • Cersei has had to much milk of the Poppy.

    I can see why Kevan Lannister just threw up his arms and went back to Casterly Rock.

    What's with making Qyburn Master of Whispers?

    That's like making Ser Ilyn Payne the dentist of the Crown lands.

    I agree Robin about Qyburn's skill as a Master of Whispers.
    Varys spent years developing his network of spiders and songbirds.
    There's no evidence that's been given to us that Qyburn has a network of
    ears out in the world (especially as extensive as Varys).

    Varys could very easily (IMO) keep his network (no matter who he works for).
    He knows who his eyes and ears are and perhaps someone like Little Finger
    is smart enough to know Vary's songbirds, however Qyburn hasn't demonstrated
    any social networking skills yet for me on the program other than being a Maester with unorthodox and questionable practices.
    BTW: What will he do with that severed head? Perhaps he will use that to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations? :)

    And Mace Tyrell the Master of Coin?

    The Tyrells may be the richest house in Westeros, however what if he's as good as Little Finger and finances?
    The Tyrells will be even richer and King's Landing even poorer.
    The Tyrells I believe aren't wealthy because Mace is such a great financier. I believe it's because a lot of the
    food people eat come from there.

    Posted by Fluids, 22/04/2015 9:00pm (4 years ago)

  • I thought this episode was fine. I really liked Daenerys' surprisingly intimate moment with Drogon outside the pyramid at the end.

    I thought the Brienne confronts Littlefinger & Sansa and then flees sequence was fine, but I'm getting even more sick of Podrick being portrayed as a bufoonish liability. During a life-and-death chase scene, they even had him do a comedy pratfall off his horse into a lake, and then throw a rock at his attacker (and miss!!!). It's detracting from the drama for me, what should has been a tense struggle for escape and survival became slapstick with swords.

    I got my wish this week and got a Small Council scene! Hooray. It provided good context for the new, post-Tywin regime. More of these please. I love Master of Whisperers Qyburn. He's so damn sinister and gothic! Team Qyburn all the way.

    I wish they'd spent a tiny bit more time fleshing out the election contest at the Wall. It felt a bit rushed. Maybe it could have done with more candidates, or more distinctions. Although I grant maybe the point is meant to be that the contest is tired, stale and reactionary, with only Jon (with his 'Wildling sympathiser' policies) offering possible real change.

    I'm a massive Star Trek DS9 fan, so great to see Alexander Siddig as Doran Martell. I though the scene of Ellaria Sand looking out over the water gardens was haunting, because the young male Martell walking with Myrcella seemed to have been dressed up specifically to remind us (and presumably her) of the murdered Oberyn. Very chilling, without over-emphasis.

    I agree that the expedition to Dorne seems like a rash decision for Jamie to take. And yes, why would Cersei send him away, now? I suppose it is her daughter's safety potentially at stake. I'll give that one a pass, because at least it gets us Bronn back.

    Viewer score: 63 / 100

    Posted by David F, 22/04/2015 5:46pm (4 years ago)

  • I agree Robin about Qyburn's skill as a Master of Whispers. Varys spent years developing his network of spiders and songbirds. There's no evidence that's been given to us that Qyburn has a network of ears out in the world (especially as extensive as Varys). Varys could very easily (IMO) keep his network (no matter who he works for). He knows who his eyes and ears are and perhaps someone like Little Finger is smart enough to know Vary's songbirds, however Qyburn hasn't demonstrated any social networking skills yet for me on the program other than being a Maester with unorthodox and questionable practices. BTW: What will he do with that severed head? Perhaps he will use that to eavesdrop on other peoples conversations? :)

    Posted by Fluids, 22/04/2015 5:28pm (4 years ago)

  • That still doesn't fully answer my question. Because she could have made him Maester based on trusting him. But to make him Master of Whispers is a huge promotion which assumes his skills and his loyalty are far greater than anything we've seen on screen.

    Posted by The TV Critic, 22/04/2015 11:46am (4 years ago)

  • @Robin: I think Cersei trusts Qyburn because he is loyal and that's the only basis she promotes people on, which Kevan finds irritating because surrounding yourself with a bunch of spneless yes-men is not good governance. Sometimes you need people who can tell you 'no' nd Cersei does not want that at all and so an unassuming, quiet and dignified man like Qyburn is just what she's looking for because he won't question her choices at all. We also hve to remember that he did her a favour in season 4 when she said 'thank you for your help in the other matter' at which point he sked whether 'the symptoms have abated'....I think since Cersei slept with Lancel it might be possible that he helped her abort any child that could come from this? It was at that moment that Jaime said he was an 'odd little man' and Cersei said she had grown rather fond of him. So she finds him useful and this is a big promotion for sure. We'll have to see if he's up to the challenge but I'm more predisposed to listening to Pycelle concerning this guy, even if noone else will.

    As for the spy system, are we sure the Master of Whiserers does not inherit Varys' little birds?

    Posted by Beric, 22/04/2015 7:10am (4 years ago)

  • So far I'm really enjoying season five and it's the most excited I've been about the show in a long time. Since I have to narrow it down to one thing here it is: Jon Snow. I'm just as shocked as anyone particular because he has much personality as a dishrag. Well if a dishrag could have washboard abs. However I'm really enjoying Jon this season and my question is this: is Jon becoming more interesting or is it just the situation surrounding him? Or has been this decent and likable all along and he's just the only one remaining.

    Viewer score: 67 / 100

    Posted by Derek, 21/04/2015 4:14am (4 years ago)

  • Hello!

    I have just finished watching the second episode of season five and after a somewhat meh first episode I'm feel much better about this one.

    Just gonna ramble my initial thoughts...
    Dorne- the world keeps expanding and I love it. The different accents for different locations make it so immersive and lifelike. I love the way the Dornish speak I could listen to them for hours. Do you think they do books on tape?
    Bravvos- another new location. Felt very much like I wanted more of this. Missed Arya so much last week and now I've seen her I don't feel sated!!! I want more of her and her badassness. I love how she still looks so young and naive but has that wonderfully hard centre.
    Jon snow as Lord Commander!! I got tingles during this scene and I loved the look he gave Sam when he stood up. Gotta love Sam, he's so eloquent and honest. I thought Jon's reaction to the final vote was great he was initially over the moon but then composed himself noticeably. Props to Kit a great actor.
    The Brienne stuff is boring me. I liked her in the book but I think she comes across as wooden in the series. I want to know something about her as a person. I'm bored of her samey "all honour" dialogue.
    Watching Dany kill the freed slave was tough. I was right with her the whole time. I felt what she was feeling and hated what was happening but felt it needed to be done. Did occur to me that she was living what Stanis said earlier about not being too kind or they won't follow you.

    Great episode but as usual I WANT MORE!

    Love the podcast

    Karla xxx

    Download my FREE ebook from Ether books now!



    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Karla Mouncey-Jaggers, 20/04/2015 8:51pm (4 years ago)

  • ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    I would like to preface these thoughts by stating, I am only a book reader of the first book and mostly a show watcher.
    I do think in this episode (and last) we have been given some strong clues about Little Finger’s plans.

    The Inn scene had Little Finger’s line: ‘My marriage proposal has been accepted.’

    Then Sansa says:

    ‘I thought you still mourned the death of my beloved Aunt Lysa?’

    They cut to Podrick and Brienne spotting Sansa before we got his response to her.

    He did tell Sansa in the Season opener: ‘We are (heading west)... To a land so far from here, even Cersei Lannister can't get her hands on you.’ Before that line he told Lord Royce that on ‘(his) return (he) had no doubt Robin’s skills will have improved immeasurably’, which implies he will be returning without Sansa.

    I think there are two possibilities here with all those lines:

    1. Little Finger intends to marry off Sansa Stark in exchange for the cost of hiding her.

    I am half expecting in episode 3 to have the writer’s finishing that scene at the Inn and with him saying to Sansa ‘Who said anything about the marriage proposal being mine?
    So I am speculating that in exchange for Sansa’s safety he has married her off to someone.
    Let us have that sink in for a second... A bunch of questions then flood my mind:

    • Who would benefit the most from marrying Sansa Stark that is in the West (far from Cersei’s eyes)?

    • Does this person know she’s Sansa Stark or is her identity also a secret to them?

    • Can Sansa get out of that arranged marriage if that is what Little Finger has done?
    Technically she’s still married to Tyrion, so the new marriage wouldn’t be legal. However, Little Finger could blackmail her into the marriage with fear of turning her over to Cersei. Then again, she could turn around and try to black mail him with his involvement in Joffrey’s death. I think Sansa knows though it would be her words versus Baelish and Lady Olenna.

    • If this person knows she is Sansa Stark they would have to keep that secret right? What would they stand to gain from knowing she was Sansa Stark ? I guess technically Jon Snow isn’t the rightful heir to Winterfell and Arya, Bran and Rickon are assumed dead, so as far as they are concerned she is the heir Winterfell. However, that doesn’t matter as long as she is still being implicated in Joffrey’s killing. Wouldn’t this person be risking death by harboring a possible assassin to King Joffrey so they would be branded a traitor for doing such a thing?

    • The two men who would fit plot line would be: Balon Greyjoy or maybe even Ramsay Bolton.

    2. Baelish is marrying himself off to gain another kingdom or more land. Let that sink in…More questions come up:

    • What is the kingdom or lands furthest to the west that isn’t doing so well that has female heirs where he can gain more power and land? The Iron Islands…or maybe Bear Island?

    • Perhaps Baelish has sealed a deal to marry Yara in exchange for the Greyjoy’s hiding Sansa? Or could it be to Maege Mormont or perhaps she has other daughters than Lyssa? (Maege I believe was at the gathering in the first Season where Rob was plotting in the North during the War of Five Kings)

    The Good:

    • Samwell’s speech for electing Jon Snow. Wow! I loved how he also beat down of Janos Slynt.

    The Bad:

    • When Baelish’s guards split up pursuing Brienne and Podrick, Pod had a least four horseman chasing him and only two managed to reach him. Am I to assume Brienne dealt with all those guards on her own before reaching him and killing the last two?

    • I didn’t understand the student/teacher lesson between the Faceless Man and Arya. Was it to have faith and not believe everything you see? Why let her get despondent; run off and find food and then save her?

    • I am finding it hard to believe titles mean anything to a man who has already taken the black and is a member of the Night’s Watch. The show has never sighted any instance where a member had left the order (once given a title) and became a Lord of his lands. Usually titles mean nothing (except Lord Commander) and desertion is death. I suppose a king’s pardon would allow it, however this idea brought into the story didn’t sound right to me. Stannis however has used all kinds of methods to gain power.


    • Will Kevan Lannister lose his head for being so disrespectful to the Queen Regent?

    • Will Maester Pycelle end up being a set of ears for Varys (because he’s so upset with Qyburn’s promotion?)

    • What the heck is Qyburn doing with decapitated heads?

    • Will Jaime and Bronn reach Myrcella before something happens to her in Dorne? How the heck are they going to get her out of there? They will have to sneak her out right? Wouldn’t it be obvious who took her and there will be retaliation?

    • How much power does a Master of War yield? What will bring him back to King’s Landing?

    Viewer score: 69 / 100

    Posted by Fluids, 20/04/2015 7:55pm (4 years ago)

  • Another classy episode that plays on oppositional forces and hiding behind names and statements, etc. and one that applies the title to the numerous truths and interactions within the episode, as there are always two sides to each story and there are parallels and oppositions, even though they are not within the same scene.

    While Arya did not occupy a huge part in the episode, we get a definite sense of her character: she says she is not fraid and yet Daario, hundreds of miles away identifies that as a weakness. She then gets rejected at the House of Black and White and then stys there for what appears to be at least 2 days and mutters her revenge anthem over nd over again...are we sure that is normal behaviour? Should we be concerned for Arya's mental wellbeaing at this point and wht does it sy about us if we do not? She then proceeds to throw the coin into the river and it clearly shows that she, unlike us, does not care whether or not she gets to be a face-whanging assassin because she always lands on her feet in sight of a cat. She also kils pigeons in lleys, like a cat....I'm just going to throw this out there for reflection. Then she casually threatens alley thieves with death (which should be disturbing to us coming from young child like her, no?) and then the old man shows up and gives her the cin back so are we meant to take away from this that getting rid of the coin was part of some ritual of initiation? She is then shown that it is no he is 'noone' and Arya must become noone too. Here's where the identity stuff from the books comes in: lot of characters in the Stark family household have adopted new identities (Theon = Reek, Bran can literally throw his identity into another physical body, and Snsa has adopted a pseudonym to disguise her true identity). These sorts of things might go unnoticed but from this point we know tht the stakes are going to be very high for Arya because likely Arya's thirst for revenge is tied to her own history and life exoeriences. So what would becoming 'noone' entail for her? Very interesting debates to have for sure.

    We are then treated to another encounter at the Inn t the Crossroads where Brienne fails to convince Sansa to accep her services. It is here that LF manages to paint the most noble female chracter in the drkest of lights, even though we know that Brienne was neither responsible for Stannis' death, nor was she around to save Catelyn and interestingly we get confirmation that Valyrain steel can literally shatter other swords in two as well. Sansa is right not to trust Brienne and whether that will be to her detriment remins to be seen. It is funny how once again Brienne's Valyrian steel sword, a gift of friendship meant to accomplish noble deeds, casts her in a very ambiguous light to people who do not share her knowledge of jaime Lannister's character. Since Sans and LF are on the Kingsroad we might assume they are going North because going South brings Sans closer to Cersei who is not in the best of moods for sure. I enjoy also Podrick's eternal optimism and perceptiveness. And despite Brienne's words to the contrary, she has so far behaved like a true knight, which might also indicate two different truths: she is a knight but technically she is lso not a knight.

    We then get what I call Cersei messing up and she's definitely getting angrier and angrier, especially with Jaime and we also get once more treated to her hypocrisy 'our dughter is in danger' 'people shouldn't know she's our daughter' 'then don't cll her your daughter'....but Cersei you said it...never mind. Cersei gets to care for his family and decides to go to Dorne to sve Myrcella from the revenge-driven Ellaria Sand and in the same swoop Bronn s conscripted into helping Jaime. Whether or not this will help Jaime improve his awful fighting is still as uncler to him s it is to us but it's a good thing to bring Bronn back and his own words came true: karme truly does bite mean people in the @$$. Cersei meanwhile manages to alienate the brilliant Kevan Lannister, Tywin's younger brother nd now lord of Csterly Rock who does not care about her machinations and seems to stand for more legitimate and serious rulership than Cersei who does all she can to get as much power as she possibly can whilst trying to preserve the illusion of continuity...mental note Qyburn is getting incresingly creepy and influential...maybe we should listen to Pycelle for once? We definitely know the Mountain ws left in Qyburn's care so I do not know what will come of this...we shall see.

    We also get our first look at the beautiful Dornish landscape and the watergardens in which Doran Martell upholds justice and righteousness nd in the same moment makes a compellig case for monarchy: when your subjects want war and the prince does not isn't the prince in the beter moral position? We might also get hints of Cersei's prophecy coming true - t least with Myrcell in danger but we should rejoyce that another place has managed to move into the Renaissnce as it were as opposed to the bleak Dark Ages we, and especially you Robin, have been subjected to for 4 seasons. That does not mean it's a perfect place though, nothing ever is on the show.

    The Wall also held a few surprises, with Stannis seemingly impressed with Jon's actions at the end of the last episode and here is where Stannis' nuance as a character gets revealed: yes he is a hard and unbending man, yes he burns people at the stake but he also saved the NW when there ws no need to do so other than doing his duty and saving his kingdom. He also chopped off Davos' fingers as punishment and gave him a lordship at the same time: he gives and takes because he recognizes the goodness of certain actions but he is definitely someone one needs to convince of one's opinion. Jon's altruism nd selflessness was also great moment and another reversal of Ramsay's legitimization. Ramsy jumped on the occasion, Jon did not because he recognizes the value of his oath and of sticking to his word once it has been given. Samwell making fun of Slynt was definitely stisfying and even Thorne had to acknowledge Jon's bravery but once again; two truths battling in the same moment here: Jon definitely fought bravely but he is also closer to the wildlings than any other Brother of the Night's Watch and the vote nearly ended in a tie, showing that while many support Jon, there re still just s many who do not. Stannis wanting the North to fight against the Boltons makes sense insofar s the North as united under him can better prepare for the White Walkers and currently the Boltons are a definite thorne in that paw. It is also interesting that Snow (snow being white) should be representing the NW (who wear black cloaks) as Lord Commander and we shal see how well he does in his new office but he cnnot mess up more than...

    ...Daenerys. Oh dear, first capturing a Son of the Harpy, then arguing for a long time about the righteousness of executing him without trial, only for the poor slaves to take matters into their own hands and Barristan's speech about the Mad King gave us tw things: 1) it put Dany's decsion into perspective and 2) it reminded us of her father's mental this hereditary because that might be a point of concern and while Dany does not want to admit that she is like her father she has done some ruthless things in the past as well and we even get a thowback to the riots in King's Landing but now we find that it's a character who we are supposed to like who finds herself in that situation as the most lothesome idiot king the show has ever had and it once again prompts the question: why fight over power in the first place when you have to make decisions you do not want to make anyway? The problem is that Dany treated this whole slavery thing as a black and white issue, not realizing that Slaver's Bay economy is tied to slavery and without any idea on how to reform the system effectively she is going to become an increasingly controversial figure. One can only hope that Tyrion and Varys get there fast enough....The law is the law and making an exception in this situation would definitely open the gate to many more likely exceptions in the future. Maybe doing the good thing here was not the rght thing to do or ws it? It should also make us question Varys' support of Dany because she clearly is no different than any other person in this world: all of them struggle with opposing truths that both appear to have some validity and make decisions that have real weight and consequences. The grievance of the slaves is real, and yet the man who was murdered is also objectively a victim of their vengeful violence. By publicly executing him she aims to show everyone her justice but in the end it satisfies noone and everyone gets angry at her. Public executions of this kind are also a likely throwback to the feelings we have about beheadings in Saudi Arabia and otehr places where such things are also allowed under the law. While this could be an easy Iraq metaphor it also has elements of the American Reconstruction period. This is also the point where Dany is totally isolated from everyone and even Drogon, who should have nothing against her since she has not mistreted him, turns his back on her in a lovely visual metaphor for her situation: the dragon that was Daenerys has left and it is unclear if it will ever return. We know that Daenerys is desperately reaching out but she cannot find herself or the dragons.

    The Tyrion/Varys banter was funny and Varys and Tyrion re going to project whether Dany is going to be the ruler they think she is as Dany is trying to discover what kind of ruler she wants to be...and then we get severed heads and a classic example of what a bad ruler looks like.

    Kevan also lays down the law quite nicely in this episode and seems to be another man of principle and it gives us insight into how Cersei makes appointments: based on loyalty to her alone. Having a bunch of yes-men can't be good so fingers crossed Cersei.

    Finally we have been introduced to a new element on the show: illness in the form of greyscale. Highly contagious, it makes the skin fester and calcify, turning people into grey-looking abominations before they die, blind and mindless. Plagues have not yet been part of the show but that element was a definite factor in the Middle Ages and learning how Crster treated his daughters when they caught Greyscale is an indication as to what the wildlings might think of Shireeen, who is just the sweetest girl we've met on the show.

    Viewer score: 85 / 100

    Posted by Beric, 20/04/2015 5:55pm (4 years ago)

RSS feed for comments on this page | RSS feed for all comments