Warning: major spoilers below! Do not read until you have watched the Game of Thrones season five episode 2, "The House of Black and White."
Now this is a Game of Thrones episode! While the season five premiere, "The Wars to Come," served as a proper opening for the game-changing season, setting up each character's journey over the next 10 episodes, it lacked a certain something that all fans love about the HBO series.
No, we're not talking about massive battle scenes or anything like that. We're talking a specific reason, or more accurately, a specific person...Arya!
Our favorite pint-sized killer finally made her season five debut, and with her arrival brought forth what is going to be one of our favorite storylines of the season as she begins her training at the House of Black and White in Braavos, mentored by a face-shifting Jaqen H'ghar whose name isn't actually Jaqen H'ghar...
The episode begins with Arya's storyline, and don't lie, you let out an audible "Yaaaassss!" when you saw the young Stark girl's face after her absence in the season five premiere. Her boat journey finally ends when she arrives in Braavos, and she gets dropped off at the House of Black and White, where she's told that's where she'll find the man she's seeking with her iron coin. She tries to use that coin to get in the black and white doors, but the old man who answers her knocks refuses to let her in. Frustrated and out of options, she simply sits on the steps, repeating her hit list over and over again, all through the night and the rain, until she finally gives up and throws her iron coin into the sea.
After their near-miss in the premiere, Brienne and Pod find themselves in the same inn as Sansa and Littlefinger, and THANK THE OLD GODS AND THE NEW because Pod notices her! Brienne approaches her and swears her loyalty to Sansa, but Littlefinger manipulates Sansa into not trusting her. She tells Brienne to leave, and come on, that is rough when you think about how dedicated Brienne has been in locating both Stark girls, only to get rejected by both. She and Pod free all the horses and make their escape, but Pod loses control of his horse and gets dumped in the river. Brienne saves him from their attackers, and tells him they are going to follow Sansa and Littlefinger to protect her even if she doesn't want help.
Back in King's Landing, Cersei receives a threat in the form of a gift from Dorne: a snake's head holding her daughter Myrcella's necklace in its mouth. She fears for Myrcella's life, rightfully so, since they just had Oberyn publically killed during a trial by combat. Jaime vows to go to Dorne and bring "their" daughter back, for the first time openly talking about she's his and not Robert's. When Cersei worries that asking for Myrcella back when she's betrothed to a Dorne prince won't work, he simply says he doesn't plan to "ask."
Out in the country, a bromance-less Bronn is clearly missing his BFF Tyrion settling into his new home, with his new, plain but enthusiastic betrothed. He seems happy and content with his new life except that it's missing a bromance. But then Jaime shows up, with a letter saying his new fiancé is now betrothed to someone else. Ouch? He tells Bronn that if he comes with Jaime, he'll be rewarded with a much better girl and castle. And thus, a new bromance is born!
And now the moment Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for: Dorne! South in the warm city, Oberyn's lover is pissed that his brother isn't doing anything to avenge Oberyn's death in King's Landing. She says the Sand Snakes agree with her and will get revenge for Oberyn if he won't. She even wants to kill Myrcella (so Cersei wasn't worried for nothing...), but he won't let her. Something tells us Myrcella still isn't safe in Dorne...
In Mereen, the hunt for the Sons of the Harpy heats up, as Daario takes Greyworm to a hideout his men learned about and they find a mask-wearing Son hiding in the wall. But surprisingly, it turns out they aren't rich families after all. They're poor, young men who are in turn paid by the rich families to fight to bring back slavery. Dany holds a council to figure out what to do with the captured Son. When it seemed as if she wasn't going to show mercy, her advisor stepped in to warn her not to become her father, the mad king...and he tells her all the rumors of his cruelty were true.
That alone motivates her to give the Son of the Harpy a fair trial. But before she can, one of her former slave subjects kills him, believing he did her a favor. Dany then has Daario execute him publicly for his crime of murder, and the act sets off a brutal mob between the freed slaves and their old masters since tensions had been building for a while. The unsullied safely whisk her away from the violence but it's clear that things are not well in Mereen. Later that night, she hears a noise on her balcony and goes outside...to see Drogon! He came back! As she tentatively reaches out in happiness to her full-grown dragon, her happiness turns to fear as he snaps at her and flies away over the city.
Unaware that their new champion to take over the iron throne is currently dealing with unrest among her people and dragons, Varys and Tyrion continue their journey to Valantis, and onward to Mereen. They need to keep hidden (and Tyrion is not happy about being back in a small wooden box for the trip) because Cersei is currently offering lordship to whoever brings her Tyrion's head. While Tyrion isn't worried about being recognized this far away from King's Landing, it's clear that he does indeed need to be careful, as dwarves everywhere are being hunted and slaughtered in a race to curry favor with the queen mother.
Back in King's Landing, Cersei appoints herself as Tommen's advisor (Does he know what she's doing in his name? Doubt it.) essentially serving as the Hand of the King until he comes of age and appoints one himself. As each man on the council objects and offers to be the Hand instead, she interrupts them and offers them each new titles and bribes. But they still don't recognize her authority in place of the king's...and we're pretty sure that's a good idea on their part. Cersei with unlimited power? That's what nightmares are made of.
Up north at Castle Black, Stannis' daughter is teaching Gilly how to read, and it's actually a sweet scene. But her mother scolds her, warning her to stay away from any Wildlings. Stannis tells Jon Snow he showed weakness when he killed Mance, essentially flouting Stannis' orders, and Jon tells him the Wildlings will never follow him. Stannis again tries to cut a deal, promising Jon that he'll be Jon Stark, Lord of Winterfell, if he follows him. Even though it's all Jon ever wanted, to no longer be a bastard Snow, he tells Sam he's going to refuse it because he swore his life and sword to the Night's Watch. Now this is a true Night's Watchman, virgin or not!
And it seems as if his men agree, because during the vote for the new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Sam nominates Jon and everyone claps. The vote ends in a tie and the maester casts the deciding vote in favor of Jon! Meet your new Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, Jon Snow. That smile on his face is everything.
And bringing the episode back full circle, we end in Braavos, as Arya almost kills some boys in the streets when they try to steal the dinner she had just hunted with Needle, but the old man who refused her entry into the House of Black and White shows up and they fled. When she wonders why the boys were afraid of one man, he simply gives her back her iron coin, aka the one she tossed into the sea, and he changes his face to show it's Jaqen! When she asks why he previously told her that there was no Jaqen H'ghar at the House of Black and White, he says that Jaqen H'ghar does not exist. "A man is no one, and that is who a girl must become."
Say it with us once again: "Yaaasssss!" We are totally here for Arya training to become a nameless, faceless assassin. Finally, a way for her to channel her badassness into something useful!
What did you think of "The House of Black and White," Game of Thrones fans? Hit the comments section below to weigh in!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.