Game of Thrones 5.09, “The Dance of Dragons” Review
WHEN YOU SPOIL THE GAME OF THRONES, YOU DIE!
Episode 9s are always heavy.
Jon Snow returns to the north side of the Wall with his Free Folk refugees. And who does he find sitting atop the Wall but Alliser Thorne. Thorne looks as though he sees another attacking army at the base of the Wall. But, pretty much inexplicably, he opens the gates and lets the Free Folk march through.
Jon is still coping with the horror of the massacre at Hardhome. Sam tries to bolster his spirits by reminding him that he did save all the people proceeding in front of him. Though of course, Alliser can’t let even a small victory go by without grouching on Jon.
“You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.”
Most of the brothers of the Watch are grimacing too as the Free Folk pass quietly through their castle. Including Olly. They probably weren’t expecting a giant either.
Jaime finally gets a formal audience with Doran in Dorne. Princess Myrcella, Prince Trystane and Ellaria Sand are helping themselves to food and wine as well. It’s pretty tense. Doran wants to know why Jaime entered Dorne in secret and tried to abduct Myrcella. When Jaime reveals that an ornamental serpent was sent to King’s Landing with Myrcella’s necklace hanging from its fangs, and Myrcella confirms it was stolen, Doran goes into full diplomacy mode.
He toasts King Tommen. Every one follows suit, except Ellaria. She pours her wine on the floor. Doran says if it’s the King’s wish that Myrcella should return to King’s Landing, she will go. But Trystane will go as well, his and Myrcella’s engagement will continue and Trystane will assume Oberyn’s former seat on the small council. All fine by Jaime.
Ellaria is having none of this boot-kissing. She storms out, calling Doran a spineless coward. Doran catches her hand. He makes it perfectly clear that she’s family, but if she speaks that way to him again, she will die.
Bronn’s still locked up though.
“Tell me Ser Jaime. In King’s Landing, how do they punish a commoner who strikes a Prince?”
Touché. Still, Doran is feeling diplomatic and wants to let Trystane decide what to do with Bronn.
“I have learned the value of mercy from my father.” Trystane agrees to free Bronn on one condition, but we don’t get to see what that is yet. Aero springs Bronn, who joins the gathering and gets the good news. Along with a powerful elbow to the face from Aero. Bronn had been eying the pie, but Doran suspects he might prefer the soup now. So can we call it even?
Even slaps is serious business for the Sand Snakes. Nymeria bats Tyene’s hands without let-up. But then Tyene turns the mind games on her, dodges Nymeria’s swipe and then smacks her big sister across the face instead of the hands. Geez. I guess that’s what you’d do for fun in a cell if you were the martially raised bastard daughters of Oberyn Martell, too. Tyene also gets another declaration of paramount beauty from Bronn before he’s led away.
Doran offers Ellaria and explicit choice. She can end her treachery and renew her loyalty to him, or she can die. With her daughter and the other Sand Snakes watching with their hands bound, submitting to Doran must have been extra disheartening. So much for Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.
Very next scene we see her visiting Jaime, saying she knows about him and Cersei. She and Oberyn and Cersei and Jaime are two frowned-upon relationships, but in Dorne, no one cares. Besides, as Jaime has mused himself, the Targaryens wed among their blood for generations.
You know Jaime and Myrcella had nothing to do with what happened to Oberyn? That’s mature from you, Ellaria. Almost too mature to be believed.
Lana continues pushing oysters on the docks of Braavos, doing her best to ignore verbal harassment from the street rats. She passes by the insurance man’s corner again and readies her gift from the Many Faced God, but someone has come to King’s Landing. Someone that makes her Arya Stark again.
Ser Meryn Trant, who murdered her dancing master Syrio Forel all the way back in season 1. He’s accompanying Mace Tyrell as he entreats with the Iron Bank to settle the Lannisters’ debt. Arya has murder in her eyes, and is barely able to focus on keeping inconspicuous as a fishmonger while keeping Ser Meryn in her sights.
Mace Tyrell is quite the schmoozer, I’ll give him that much.
Of course Ser Meryn hits up a brothel during his down time in Braavos. Arya manages to get in on the generosity of the whores and the greed of the patrons, respectively. She sneaks into Meryn’s room and sees him turn down several young women offered, until the procurer brings out a girl, who looks even younger than Arya.
Meryn Trant. What a sad, sadistic, perverted shit stain he is. Arya better get the chance to kill that scumbag. She’s unfortunately caught and shooed away. Arya seems to be getting better at lying. Or more likely, Jaqen is testing Arya’s behavior.
It’s getting pretty nippy at Stannis’s camp. Melisandre broods in her tent when some preoccupation makes her look around outside. All of a sudden, as her gaze passes over the camp, tents burst into flame. Ramsay sewed the chaos he wanted.
By morning, the camp is smoking. Food stores and siege weapons were ruined and hundreds of horses were torched. Stannis will not accept this failure. He orders last night’s guards chained and hanged, after they confess whether they fell asleep at their post or conspired with the enemy. Right, because you’re not short enough on men.
Davos tries to give Stannis some practical counsel, but Stannis remains resolute on his campaign as ever. Davos is perplexed. Without enough food to march back to Castle Black and with the snows too thick to march to Winterfell, what does Stannis expect to do? Selyse and Melisandre stand ominous in the entrance to the King’s tent.
Stannis is dispatching Davos back to Castle Black to order Jon to supply him fresh food and Horses. Davos doesn’t want to leave, saying a boy could deliver this message in a scroll. Stannis insists that Davos go as his Hand to make sure Jon obeys. Davos suggests taking Stannis’s family back to Castle Black with him, Shireen at least. Stannis refuses.
Both Stannis and Davos know that they both know what Stannis is considering, both don’t want to confront the other about it. Davos’s loyalty to Stannis and his sense of morality and affection for Shireen are warring in him as he visit her one last time before departing. Shireen is doing what she does best, reading and being wise beyond her years. Davos gives her a carved-wooden stag as thanks for her teaching, acknowledging his son’s efforts towards the same. And an extra-long kiss on the forehead before leaving.
I, just, WHY? Game of Thrones, WHY?
Stannis enters Shireen’s tent and uses Shireen’s reading, the Dance of Dragons, to play off his own thoughts on the sacrifice he’s about to make. Who would Shireen have chosen in the Targaryen civil war? Neither, terrible choices only have terrible consequences, she says. But sometimes terrible choices are necessary choices, Stannis says.
Shireen offers to help her father any way she can. “I’m the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And I’m your daughter.”
Stannis’s whole host observes as Shireen is lead to a pyre. She puts two and two together.
“Where’s my father?”
“It will all be over soon, my Princess.”
Fuck you Melisandre. Stannis should have choked the life out of you back in season 2.
Shireen’s protests and screams aren’t enough to make Stannis stop what he’s allowed, much as his face goes gaunt with horror. Surprise, surprise, Selyse actually tries to stop her supposed cursed and willful daughter from burning at the stake.
What was the point of this? Did we really have a season’s worth of sympathy-building Shireen scenes and the proud-father Stannis scene just so we could have tormented Stannis on an even deeper level? We get it, Game of Thrones, Stannis is willing to murder his own family to claim the Iron Throne. Did he have to preside over the burning of his own daughter? Whom we were being led to believe might be the one person in the world that Stannis wouldn’t sacrifice for his duty/ambition?
This was the one aspect of Stannis that gave his character any redeeming, sympathetic qualities and now it’s gone. Stannis is now firmly in the territory of uninteresting/unentertaining, one-dimensional characters, that I want to do die, whose death wouldn’t even be cathartic. Unlike Ser Meryn, whose death could be big for Arya.
And in case you’ve never experienced that feeling about shows or characters before, that’s territory that turns people off of shows.
The only way I see Stannis’s death being worthwhile now is if Brienne gets her revenge for Renly at long last. Game of Thrones should have done what I feared in my review of the previous episode and had Ramsay kidnap Shireen. That would have actually been an interesting family vs ambition internal conflict for Stannis.
I mean, who the fuck are we supposed to root for in the battle for Winterfell now? The only sympathetic factor in Stannis’s favor is that his victory carries a chance that Sansa will be liberated from the Boltons. And that’s a longshot.
The Great Games of Meereen are underway, much to Daenerys’s horror. She, Tyrion, Missandei and Daario have the Queen’s seat along with Hizdahr, who’s inexplicably late. Keeping things in order apparently. Daznak’s Pit is packed with spectators, as rowdy and bloodthirsty as any audience for the Roman Coliseum.
The scene in the front box is quite the philosophical and political debate. It’s Daenerys and Tyrion against Hizdahr mostly. Hizdahr insists on the necessity of violence in some form or another as part of politics and governance, while Tyrion makes quips about the convenience of being on the presiding sidelines of violence. Daenerys still finds murder for sport repugnant. Though murder to prevent more murder and suffering, she seems quite comfortable with.
Two fighter kick off the games. Hizdahr cues Daenerys to commence the games with a clap. Right away Daario is betting on the smaller quicker man, laying on the sexual undertones pretty thick in Daenerys’s ear. Hizdahr allows himself a smug smile when the larger fighter takes his opponents head with an easy swing of his fan-sword.
Daenerys has a dog, or a bear, in the second fight. Jorah Mormont. Against quite a varied cast of fighters.
“Shut your mouth.” You tell’em Daario.
Daenerys can barely bring her hands together to commence Jorah’s fight. He takes quite a few hits and is too preoccupied with Daenerys’s approval but he’s ultimately the last fighter standing. Then he seizes the spear of his last opponent and throws it right at the front box!
It skewers a random bystander, wearing a winged, golden mask. All of a sudden the Sons of the Harpy are everywhere, taking knives to the crowd and the Unsullied. They must have come in with their masks hidden along with the other spectators. They’re so numerous and spread out throughout the stands that they prevent a lot of the Unsullied from rallying to the Queen’s side.
Hizdahr offers Daenerys a means of escape, but much to Daario’s surprise, the Sons of the Harpy cut him down like anyone else. Sad to see him die, but glad that he was honestly on Daenerys’s side.
Jorah runs to Daenerys’s side and she finally accepts his help again. They try to make their way across the pit but the Sons of the Harpy pour in and surround them, at least 3 to one.
Each side jabs and skirts the other. Daenerys’s best fighters are beside her but it’s only a matter of time before a Harpy finds and opening or they all overwhelm her. With no hope of escape, Daenerys takes Missandei’s hand and closes her eyes, praying for salvation.
Not a moment too soon, Drogon!
The dragon’s screeches are music to Daenerys’s ears. Many Sons of the Harpy flee to the edge of the pit before Drogon even lands. Fire, claws and teeth rip these worms to pieces. But there are many of them. Several spears land in Drogon’s side.
Daenerys rushes to her child’s side and stands tall and Drogon roars into her face. She seems to fall back on instinct as she slowly climbs onto Drogon’s back and takes flight from the carnage of Daznak’s Pit.
Now that is an exit.
What are Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei supposed to do now? Hopefully, get a chance to catch their breath.
Another pivotal moment from the books done justice in a season’s penultimate episode? Aye Aye! Another season finale brimming with exciting arcs to resolve? Check!
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