Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9: The Dance of Dragons
Awesome Triumph, Terrible Tragedy
The most common complaint about this season from book readers has been (well, other than how awful Dorne has been) how much the show is changing the source material. Up until last week’s awesome White Walker route of the living, all deviations from the book were viewed by many “Song of Ice and Fire” fans as sacrilege and reasons to “swear I will never watch this show again for many” (though when the same book readers say this every single week, I start the process of not taking them seriously). But tonight, I for once am in league with book purists over tonight’s brutal change or spoiler of the source material (we’re not sure which one yet).
Book readers and show readers all had the chance to rejoice together during tonight’s final scene. For those of us that knew Daenarys was going to take a ride on Drogon, it was much anticipated. And for TV viewers, knowing the struggles the mother of dragons was having controlling them, it is always encouraging to see favorite characters succeed in a world where being one of the beloved protagonists carries extreme risks. But not only was Dany flying a great ending to the episode. The pit fight provided a second straight week with an intensely fought and well-executed battle scene preceding that final moment.
But tampering my enthusiasm this week (though you might not be able to tell from last paragraph) is what I consider to be the most deplorable act of the show so far. While the rape of Sansa created an uproar after episode 6, the burning of Shireen tonight was, in my opinion, far worse. I had a feeling it was coming (I didn’t know for sure because, once again, it is not in the books at this point) and it is in line with something Melisandre and Stannis would do (because Stannis at this point is committed to being king more than anything else). But that did not make it any easier to stomach. And what reason do we have to support Stannis’s claim to the throne now? Do we really want a guy who would burn his own daughter alive to sit the Iron Throne? The last Targaryen king was removed from the throne for burning people, and none of them were his beloved children.
Now I do not plan on making any public proclamations declaring my intentions to stop watching the show. I’m in for the long haul. And the producers of the show have made clear this is a brutal show in a brutal world. But I do not care for the reasons why the show went this direction and fear for what direction this “sacrifice” will have on future episodes.
I usually start with the location where the show began. And tonight, I’m glad it’s the North because I really want to get this over with. With the snow falling, Melisandre steps out of her tent and senses fire (she’s like a drug-sniffing dog when it comes to that). Several patches of the camp catch fire and the damage is significant. Davos says it was done by about 20 men (You mean the same number of men Ramsey said he needed last week? Nice strategic move there you sick freak).
Supplies are running out and the situation seems dire for Stannis, who as I’ve mentioned in these reviews before, is all in with being king. But he is actually considering now, with his men freezing, starving, and supplies running out, the horrible act Melisandre proposed to him a few episodes back.
Stannis sends Davos to the Wall to request supplies from Jon Snow. But before Davos goes, he tries (because I still think Davos is cool despite his support of the “one true king”) to take Shireen with him knowing what’s about to happen. Stannis refuses, so Davos says goodbye to the young girl that taught him how to read before heading off to the Wall. Looking back, this was done very well the performers and is absolutely heartbreaking.
Stannis has one final conversation with his daughter. So much time this season has been spent building up how much he loves and cares for her. But all that was used to emphasize how hard this decision was for him. Shireen walks out of her tent and sees a pyre with Melisandre standing in front of it. Selyse finally realizes how much she loves her and as the flames start to burn, pleads for her daughter to be saved. Now the show is in an impossible to rectify situation. All the positive character development this season was undone by this one act. I know and expect changes to the source material to make a good TV show. But there had to be other directions to take Stannis’s story that didn’t involve the senseless sacrificing of his own daughter.
I’m glad that’s over with. I will step off the soapbox now and discuss the Wildlings (well the ones that survived anyway) as Jon Snow brought them to the Wall. I love the scene with the “former” enemies of the Nights Watch walking through the middle of Castle Black with disgusted members of the Nights Watch looking on (I especially love their reaction when Wun Wun walks in). Ollie walks out as well, still disgusted by the scene of the men who raided his village, killing all his family walking freely to the other side of the wall. I did find it interesting that not one discussion came up about the massacre Jon Snow and all these Wildlings survived last episode. I mean, wouldn’t you need to process that. I also enjoyed the brief blast from the past, with Alister Thorne walking by Jon Snow, informing him he’s going to “get them all killed.” Yes, Sir Allister insulting Lord Snow; just how things should be at Castle Black.
In other news, Dorne is still horrible. I keep waiting for the events with the Martells to really hit their stride. But all my waiting remains in vain to this point. Jamie is brought out of his “cell” to meet with Doran Martell, who wants to know his purpose in Dorne. Jamie informs Doran of the snake with Myrcella’s necklace that was shipped to King’s Landing earlier in the season, and he came because he believed she was at risk. And it turns out, Jamie was right. It just wasn’t Doran who was the threat. Doran is hearing about this for the first time, but he seems to know it was Ellaria who sent it. Doran makes very clear he didn’t send it and is still loyal to the throne. He wants nothing to do with war and means to show this to Jamie by agreeing to send Myrcella back to King’s Landing with Trystane as long as Trystane can take Oberyn’s spot on the king’s council.
Jamie wants to also address the issue of Bronn, who is still in a cell with the Sand Snakes (cue collective groan). And this week, the Sand Snakes are playing slaps. That’s right; slaps (placing face in palm). I can’t wait for next week’s really brutal game of pencil break. Bronn is released. But he must receive a very painful elbow to the face from Areo Hotah!!! My proposal for season six: scrap everything else in Dorne and put Areo and Bronn on a tour of Westeros together. Bronn makes snide and sarcastic remarks while Areo elbows him every time he gets annoyed with those remarks.
We did see Ellaria end her rebellious ways, bowing down and kissing the hand of Doran after he threatened to kill her if she didn’t get in line. I found it interesting that a man who pushes for peace with Jamie, a man who just invaded his land, can produce immediate allegiance when he threatens to kill someone. We must see more of the complexities of Doran Martell in the future, for this season has not done him justice.
Arya is back on the dock (or should I say “Lana?”) selling her shellfish and spying on “the Thin Man.” But when “Lana” was Arya, she still had four names left on her kill list, and one of them just pulled up on a boat and arrived in Braavos. Meryn Trant (the man who killed Arya’s “dancing” instructor back in Season One) is here with Mace Tyrell. Cersei sent the two men to deal with the Iron Bank and the debt the Iron Throne owes them. We get nothing but random ramblings between Mace and Tycho Nestoris (the head of the Iron Bank, who got a somewhat hilarious serenading from Lord Oaf). I expect far more significant discussions between them next week.
But the rest of the time in Braavos is spent with Arya following Trant. And the show makes sure we know just how despicable a guy Trant is. He goes to a brothel and requests a “young girl.” The pedophile is not satisfied with any of the choices put before him, continually asking for “younger.” Finally, a frightened young serving girl is brought in and she is to Trant’s liking. He also expects a different girl tomorrow night. This was all reminiscent of a heel wrestler doing deplorable things to get the crowd to hate him, making the face wrestler’s victory over him all the more satisfying.
I also have to say I’m disappointed with the lack of stealth skills Arya’s picked up from the House of Black and White. I would think a cult whose job it is to be secret, stealthy killers would have mentioned the part about girls selling shellfish not walking into brothels. Arya follows Trant into the brothel and he sure does seem to recognize Arya, though I’m not sure if he thinks it could possibly be her.
I think my biggest disappointment with the burning of Shireen is that it completely stole the spotlight from the moment we should all be talking about, which is everything that happened in the fighting pits of Meereen. For the second straight week, the show ended with a signatrue fight scene leading up to the game changer that concluded tonight’s episode.
Daenarys and her entourage of Tyrion, Hizdahr, Daario, and Melisandei take their places for the reopening of the fighting pits. Everyone who fights say they are doing it in honor of the queen, though the Dany seems anything but honored by it. She finds the fighting pits disgusting and Tyrion (who is now and has always been the voice of show viewers) finds them unnecessary as well (his eye rolling while Daario and Hizdahr “show off” with words before the scene is just fantastic!!!)
Breaking up this discussion on the merits and necessity of the pits is Ser Jorah, whose voice the Mother of Dragons instantly recognizes, declaring he is fighting for queen. After Dany and the crowd stand up, a gladiator style battle ensues with Jorah emerging as the last man standing. The crowd does not approve, but Jorah seems to pick up on something else, throwing a spear in the direction of the queen. His spear flies into the chest of a Harpy (they’re baaaaack….) who was attempting to kill Daenarys.
Men in golden masks emerge from the crowd and slaughter anyone they see that is not in those creepy masks, including Hizdahr (so I guess in the TV show, he’s not the leader of the Harpys?) The cameras makes sure to get Daario’s reaction to this, as he is the one who proposed this theory to Dany.
Jorah fights to protect to queen and, in a nice moment, Dany takes his hand as he tries to lead her to safety. But the doors of the fighting pit are locked up, so Dany and her entourage are stuck. The Unsullied circle around them and it looks like another Red Wedding style massacre might occur.
But here comes Drogon!!!! A dragon roar and flame appears in the distance!!! (the only thing this scene needed was commentary from Wrestling announcer Jim Ross, sort of like this).
Drogon returns and is absolutely brutalizing the Harpies (oh my god, he’s burning them alive!!!!) He eats a few of them as well (oh my god he’s broken in half!!!) Drogon’s presence emboldens Dany and she walks over to him and removes a spear from Drogon’s body. He greets her with a loud roar (which using my fluent understanding of dragon speak, meant “Owwwww!!!!!) right in her face. But that roar is followed by smile and Dany carefully getting on Drogon’s back. The mother of dragons says “fly” and Drogon obeys, flying away from the carnage of the fighting pit as Dany’s supporters stare up in the sky in amazement.
-Very good use of foreshadowing by the show tonight having Shireen discuss the Dance of the Dragons, a battle two hundred years ago pitting Targaryen vs. Targaryen that effectively eliminated dragons from Westeros. I discussed that battle and some other tidbits about dragons in the Game of Thrones universe in this article I wrote before the season started, linked here: http://www.fourletternerd.com/the-road-to-game-of-thrones-season-5-dragons-in-westeros/
-Another link you might find relates to tonight’s episode is by fellow 4LN writer Cam Clark, discussing next summer’s “Captain America: Civil War” and Iron Man’s view of Utilitarianism, which is the identical world view Stannis takes in making his brutal decision tonight. I’ve linked that article here: http://www.fourletternerd.com/the-philosophy-of-civil-war-part-1-tony-stark-and-utilitarianism/
-Who do we hope is victorious in the North, with a battle between the Boltons, who flay living men, or Stannis, who now must take Winterfell or the death of Shireen will have been for nothing?
-With Dany flying off on her dragon, how will those she left behind maintain order in a city already struggling to maintain order?
-Jamie was writing a letter in his room in Dorne. I wonder if that letter has any meeting to the future plot lines of the show?
-Will Dorne’s purpose in the overall scheme of the show be established any more in the finale?
-Will Arya stay the course the faceless men have set for her, or will she seek out revenge and go after Trant?
-And what of the three trials in King’s Landing? Are we getting all three next week, or will some of the defendants find there way out of their situation?
-Is anymore fallout from the “alliance” with the Wildlings forthcoming for Jon Snow?
-Will Brienne make her move to rescue Lady Sansa?
I want to finish with a couple of quotes for the end of the season:
-Liam Cunningham, the actor who plays Davos, says a scene was coming that was “more shocking than the Red Wedding.” That had to be Shireen’s death.
-Emilia Clark said that Season 5 would have lots of “youtube reaction moments.” This could have been her riding the dragon, but is more coming in Meereen?
-The last quote comes from Daniel Portman, the man who plays Brienne’s travel companion, Pod. He says the finale this season will “break the internet.” Obviously, this hasn’t happened yet. But will Portman’s words prove true? We will see next week.