Game of Thrones has been so good for so long now that I routinely forget how poorly made this series could have easily been or could be in the hands of lesser showrunners or in the face of greater network opposition to structuring the narrative of the series as closely to the style of the books as they do. The fearlessness with which Benioff, Weiss, and the other writers continually expand the universe on screen is really astounding. The narrative of the series moves constantly and consistently; they may stay in one place for a time, so to speak, as in “Blackwater” or “The Watchers On The Wall,” but it’s only because that’s where they need to stay at that point in time to move the narrative forward. The narrative always moves forward unceasingly, leaving the viewer no time to mourn the deceased but somehow just enough time to reflect on what’s happened.
It’s easy to think of this episode as part two of the premiere, especially since there was no Arya in “The Wars To Come.” I’ve always thought Arya was one of the strongest characters in A Song of Ice and Fire, but Maisie Williams’ exceptional work on Game of Thrones has made Arya my outright favorite. Watching Williams progress as an actor on this series is like observing a building under construction; every time you see it there’s a new element added to it as it appears more and more like what it’s eventually going to become. As with the other breakthrough talent on Game of Thrones who’s work I admire but don’t know outside of the show, including Sophie Turner and Emilia Clarke, I find it incredibly interesting to consider what their future work will be and in what ways they can use their growing talent.
I think the design for the House of Black and White itself is really incredible. For whatever reason, I didn’t have a vision of this location from the books that was anywhere near as interesting as what was presented. The building is so striking in its austerity that it looks ornate in wide shots and slightly drab when close up. The monochromatic exterior is interrupted starkly by the black and white doors which pop against the grey stone in just the right way on screen. The house being on its own little island in the harbor is a great choice as well, making it look forbodingly remote but accessible at the same time, giving the appearance that it just emerged out of the water organically, somehow.
Speaking of impressive locations, I’m ecstatic that we’ve finally reached Dorne. I’m completely fascinated by everything Dornish and I’m eager to see this storyline play out, especially in light of the changes they’ve made from the book vis a vis Jaime and Bronn venturing down there. I’m always ready to watch Indira Varma and having admired his work for a long time, I think that Alexander Siddig is is a great casting choice for Doran. I’m looking impatiently forward to finally meeting The Sand Snakes.
Dany’s dragons (most especially Drogon) stand as a great symbol for her other “children,” those that she’s liberated from slavery. As Jorah said in the beginning of last season, dragons cannot be tamed, just as the masses be placated by fiat. Liberation and governance are two very different propositions and Dany may not be suited for either in a land that is not her own. I’m a fan of Dany but I think she made a massive tactical error by choosing to stay in Mereen and attempt to rule. Just as Drogon is just within reach but elusive and fleeting in the episode’s final scene, so too are Dany’s ultimate objective and the true loyalty of her new “subjects.”
The series is at a point now where every departure made from the books in past seasons, however minor some of them may have seemed at the time, are beginning to affect the narrative in major ways. Having read the books, it’s been easy at times throughout the run of the series thus far to get lulled into a false sense of security as it concerns the fate of characters and the progression of the narrative. It’s an exhilarating feeling not knowing exactly what’s going to happen despite knowing a narrative world so well otherwise. The feeling of exhilaration, however, is usually chased by a distinct feeling of dread one feels when certain characters are in danger. I thought for sure that my beloved Pod faced certain death at the hands of Littlefinger’s men and was therefore relieved when Brianne came through in the clutch.
Benioff and Weiss have presumably had the power all along to significantly shift the story and reconfigure the board, so to speak, but I think that Game of Thrones is now entering a time where it truly comes into it’s own as a series and ventures into territory unexplored or otherwise approached differently in the books. I look forward to seeing how the rest of Season 5 unfolds.