UK VOD TV review: Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 2
Ivan Radford | On 20, Apr 2015
Already seen Episode 2? Keep reading at the end for some additional, spoiler-filled analysis.
“Do you think she’s safe with Littlefinger?”
That’s Brienne to Pod, as they continue their quest to pursue and protect Sansa Stark from all and sundry – no matter how big or little their finger is. With all of this far from the pages of George R.R. Martin’s books, it only reminds us just how far Season 5 could venture from its source material: this is unchartered territory.
But Episode 2 begins with a welcome bit of screen time for everyone’s favourite Stark (bar Ned): Arya, who sails into Bravos. This is one person, we’re swiftly reminded, who isn’t scared of unknown waters: “Don’t be afraid,” says her boatman, as he points out a giant statue overlooking the entrance to the city. “I’m not afraid,” replies Maisie Williams’ feisty young warrior.
The evolution of Arya over the past four seasons has been one of the highlights of Game of Thrones, gradually moving from a likeable tom-boy to an increasingly violent soldier – as she recites her list of people to kill, just how short it’s become speaks volumes of the influence The Hound had upon her in Season 4.
As she knocks on the door of the titular house and says “please”, though, we’re also reminded how young and naive she still is; a balance that Williams consistently nails. Arya’s trip, of course, marks the start of her quest to become a no-name under the tutelage of Jaqen H’ghar – a thread that, judging by past exchanges between the two, could easily be the highlight of Season 5 too.
Arya’s lack of fear stands out from most characters in the show, who are afraid of something.
Cersei, after last week’s flashback, increasingly fears for Myrcella’s safety in Dorne. In between hiring killers to bump off dwarves – a superb bit of editing brings some welcome dark humour – she argues with Jaime over what to do. The brief appearance of Star Trek’s Dr. Bashir as Oberyn’s brother, and a mention of the revenge-hungry Sand Snakes, suggests her fear is well-founded. (Hopefully, it won’t be many more episodes until we’re treated to some whip-tastic action.)
“Our daughter’s in danger and you’re worried I’m speaking too loud?!” she cries at the eager-to-please Jaime. Once again, the pair’s chemistry is what makes you give a damn about their brotherly/sisterly bond – but really, the highlight of this story line is the return of one of the show’s greatest characters, who has long been missed from our screens.
Speaking of awesome people, Tyrion and Varys: The Sitcom continues in fine form this week, with a wonderful blend of bromance, bitterness and humour. To the surprise of no one, Peter Dinklage’s imp more than lives up to his promise to drink himself to death on the road to Meereen.
“You were quite good you know, at ruling,” comments Varys, picking up on the episode’s central theme of power and who is good at wielding it. The world of Game of Thrones is divided into those who are in charge and those who are not: whether that’s Jon Snow on the Wall, where the new head of the Night’s Watch is being elected, or Stannis, who is trying to appear like a ruler despite his silly name.
The relationship between these leaders and their subjects is always in flux, something that becomes even more apparent her, as we see Daenerys trying to deliver justice to her harpy killer from Episode 1. “Justice and freedom – one cannot live without the other,” she declares, while standing in a public arena that leaves her exposed to attacks from anyone.
Emilia Clarke is wonderful at sounding justified in her ideology yet painfully incompetent at executing it: from her unruly dragons to her insistence that her people are not slaves, despite her sitting in gigantic gold pyramid, she might be the worst queen ever. Which is a problem if she’s Varys’ hope for a fair and peace-bringing ruler.
She’s not alone, though: Cersei’s attempt to puppet-master Tommen is hardly convincing anyone, while Ser Alliser’s grip on the Night’s Watch certainly looks frail. Playing out in contrast to all the shaky leaders, Brienne and Podrick’s subplot only becomes more interesting: a knight without a patron, she’s at the other end of the power chain with an equally uncertain direction.
“Maybe you’re released from your vows,” suggests Pod, gently. “Do you think she’s safe with Littlefinger?” Brienne replies, with a recklessness that only makes her more dangerous. This is unchartered territory. And whether you’re at the top of the bottom of the ladder, nobody’s safe.
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Additional notes (contains spoilers)
– It was no surprise, perhaps, that the Black man who answered the door should turn out to be Jaqen H’ghar – although it’s worth spending a moment just to appreciate how brilliant his grimace was. Which only adds to the mystery of the whole thing: How did he get that coin out of the water? And, more to the point, who painted their door in such stylish colours?
– Good old Jaime Lannister. If anyone’s going to volunteer to lead a one-man suicide mission, it’s going to be him. Does he really expect to succeed? Is he hoping to prove his love to Cersei by bringing back their daughter, or by dying like a heroic martyr?
– If you want a real hero, though, look no further than Bronn. Anyone who’s read our Ripper Street reviews will be familiar with our love for Jerome Flynn – and in his short couple of minutes here, he practically steals the whole episode just by frowning while his betrothed chatters away. Of course he says yes to Jaime’s request to go with him to Dorne: their bromance is the only thing that can rival Tyrion and Varys: The Sitcom.
– “You are the queen mother. Nothing more.” It’s testament to the show’s writers that they keep drumming up sympathy for Cersei, even as she tries to create her own puppet council, by appointing Lord Tyrell as Master of Coin and Qyburn as Master of Whisperers. Uncle Kevan’s rebuke as she tries to appoint him Master of War is both entirely accurate and horribly sexist.
– “I would have it, if you don’t mind,” says Qyburn of the severed dwarf head. That freaky necromancer is fast becoming our favourite character.
– “You wanted the harpy dead,” says Daenerys’ servant, arguing that he’s set his queen free from being able to commit justice. You know that she’s going to kill him in the end, just to prove a point, but you wonder why she couldn’t have done it in a much more convincing and intimidating way.
– It’s great to see Drogon back again – and blimey, he’s gotten big like the others. He seems to be more willing to listen to his mummy, though, even possibly enjoying their brief balcony reunion. It’s a fantastic final shot when he flies off: does it mean he’s going to stick around now? Will that strike enough fear into Dany’s subjects to make them take her seriously?
– “You just sit in a chair and do nothing.” It’s nice to see Bashir from Star Trek as Oberyn’s brother, but you hope that those Sand Snakes turn up soon. “Let me send her to Cersei one finger at a time,” says Ellaria. *shudder*
– “Every pile of shit by the side of every road has a banner hanging from it.” You could just write out all of the things said by Tyrion and Varys and it would be solid gold. It’s interesting to hear Varys’ perspective on rulers and power. Combined with Tyrion, one of the few who are quite good are ruling, you wonder what they’ll make of Daenerys. Will they try to puppeteer her like the rest?
– Did Brienne really have to kill all those people? Honestly. She’s not in Star Wars just yet.
– Oh, Samwell Tarly and your lovely tribute to Jon Snow as they elect the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. It’s only right that they choose him over Ser Alliser – and it’s fair payment for turning down Stannis’ offer of re-christening him Jon Stark and making him Lord of Winterfell so that he can command an army for Stannis in the North. “If I don’t take my word seriously, what kind of lord of Winterfell would I be?” the sworn brother of the Night’s Watch tells Sam. Yes, Jon, you’ve got our vote.
Photo: HBO/ Helen Sloan