Before we begin – Yes, there are TV spoilers ahead. I will not celebrate every twist and turn, but if we are going to talk about what we like, we have to discuss the great scenes. Stop reading if you do not like spoilers. You have been warned!
Last week’s episode was all about ice and, staying true to the source material, this week’s was all about fire. We’ve got a lot to cover from “A Dance of Dragons,” from the far north at the wall, the far south in Dorne, and across the Narrow Sea with the Queen of Dragons. Two hugely stressful scenes made this episode another poignant reminder that no one is safe on Game of Thrones and that there are no true “good guys” or “bad guys,” just many shades of grey. Once again, let’s start from the beginning…
As we said, this episode was filled with fire. We learned quickly what Ramsay’s plan was with the “twenty men” he asked for. It originally seemed like the fires springing up in the Baratheon camp might be caused by Melisandre, or just a crazy vision of hers, but it turned out that it was Ramsay’s plan. And it worked very well. He may be a brutal psychopath, but he is a clever and strategic one. By torching supplies and food tents, he essentially made a Stannis-led siege of Winterfell impossible. Stannis again showed his rigidness and practicality by insisting the dead horses be butchered as meat and the on duty guards be tortured and hanged. This rigidness will return later in the episode.
We also got a touching scene between Davos and Shireen. The relationship that has sparked between these two over the last season or so has been remarkable. Davos found a surrogate child in the oft-ignored Baratheon princess. And, even though Shireen obviously cares deeply for her father, she found a tenderness in Davos that is seemingly missing from her own life. Watching the two laugh about the stories Shireen was reading and seeing her obvious joy with the carved wooden stag made for some tender, touching moments. It really demonstrated exactly what Game of Thrones does so well – even though it seems like an over the top, blood and boobs testosterone adventure, Game of Thrones is only as good as it is because of the characters. Almost every character in a huge cast demands you to care about them, both in the writing and acting. It makes it mean so much more when the blood and boobs come out.
A little further north, we were treated to the wonderful “will he won’t he” of Jon’s return to the Wall. Specifically, his stare down with Alliser Thorne and whether or not he would be allowed to lead the Wildlings south of the wall. Even though he was a insufferable prick for a long time, and still is, Alliser seems to have developed a grudging respect for his Lord Commander. Although he also told him that he was going to get everyone killed. So there’s still that.
It is clear that even though Jon knows this is the right decision, not many agree with him. Only Sam seems to believe that Jon is doing the right thing, but he is getting a lot of evil stares from his “brothers.” Castle Black is going through some tremendous transition right now, and a fractured alliance will only make the White Walker threat even greater. Jon needs to make sure everyone on the Wall is on his side, or at least explain to them about the cold nastiness that is bearing down on them. Even his personal steward had nothing but contempt on his face as Jon sought out a friendly visage. Essentially, Jon is surrounded by surly criminals who hate him. Surely that will work out.
The business down in Dorne worked a little better this week, in my opinion. Dorne has been the Achilles Heel of this season, and it was nice to actually spend time with some of the more interesting personalities down there. Doran and Trystane Martell, Myrcella Bartheon, Areo Hotah – all of these characters got a chance to do something this week. I wish that would have happened way back when, so we actually cared about this storyline. It does appear that Dorne is a casualty of this season, as everything is moving away from there. Maybe they can do better with it next season. Or maybe episode ten will have some Doran/Areo badassness in the finale that will bring me back around. Maybe?
All was not lost in the sandy kingdom. Doran could use a lot more screen time. But the little he has brings a quiet, sinister power to his character. He is obviously not as aggressive as Tywin Lannister was, but he reminds me a lot of Tyrion’s dear departed father. The conversation between Ellaria and Jaime was also a lot of fun to watch. It is amazing how quickly Jaime has accepted being called out as Myrcella’s father. And Ellaria’s comments about how she neither blames Jaime or his daughter for the death, and how in Dorne, no one cares that he is sleeping with his sister. Jaime’s redemption arc soldiers on. When he returns to King’s Landing, we will see how he deals with the High Sparrow imprisoning his sister.
Arya’s storyline will most likely be a highlight of next week’s finale, but this week raised a few interesting questions. First, Jaqen knows she is lying, right? He has this knowing look on his face when she lied to him. This has to be some kind of test for “No one,” who is formerly Arya Stark. If she lets this business with Meryn Trant screw up her badass assassin contract, Arya may be in trouble. Or maybe that’s exactly what the Many-Faced God wants. The other big question is: Does Meryn Trant recognize her? He is not the greatest knight in the world, but he has proven himself capable multiple times. Were they looks of knowing or lust (since he does have an appetite for girls who are not “too old”)? Arya’s quest in the House of Black and White has been an extremely compelling storyline this season; hopefully it is not the relatively uncared about Meryn Trant who crashes everything down.
By the end of the episode, we return to all-purifying fire with the two emotional final scenes. First was a return to the north. This season really got everyone on Team Stannis, right? We can’t wait for him to avenge Sansa and retake the north, right?
Something was obviously rotten in the state of Westeros when Stannis sent Davos away. He clearly did not want logic and love to prevail. And seeing his conversation with his daughter was further evidence that something was awry. And of course it was. We have spent all season believing that Stannis might be the hero, nay,”the Mannis” that we were searching for. He callously stood by as the sweet daughter (that they have been making us like all season!) ironically called his name. Screamed for him. Game of Thrones again pulled some wool over our eyes as it made me believe that someone, anyone, would stop the burning of Shireen. Stannis, Davos… maybe even Selyse. She was the only person who showed outward emotion towards stopping the burning of her only child, made even more strange in that she never cared for the child when she was actually alive. It was an absolutely heart-wrenching moment to hear Shireen shriek for someone to save her. It honestly brought tears to my eyes. Not full on sobbing, but this was the first moment in Game of Thrones that choked me up. Probably because I understood why Stannis did it, and I still hated him for it. Powerful business. From the looks of “Next week on Game of Thrones,” this awful magic appears to have worked. We are left with wondering, still, if Melisandre is really behind all this. What is her end game?
Letting the fire burn itself out was the final scene with Deanerys in the fighting pits. Great buildup and tension in one of the most impressive SFX scenes Game of Thrones has ever brought us. The playful but aggressive banter between Daario and Hizdahr lit the fuse. The victory by Hizdahr poured gas on the fire. The shared disgust of the bloodshed by Tyrion and Dani added a sense of discontent. And then Deanerys recognized that voice. Third time is the charm. Jorah has been exiled twice, and returned once again. He didn’t look quite as invincible as he did the last time he fought, and the “saved by the bell” kill that saved his life was a little cheesy, but it was still great to see the bear get back in the good graces of his queen. And I totally thought he threw his spear and killed Hizdahr with it.
The attack by the Sons of the Harpy is hopefully what Dani needs to start making her move. Daario’s pillow talk advice echoes as the slaughter unfolds; it sounded brutal at the time, but Deanerys should have murdered the Masters immediately. Although no one has claimed ownership over the Sons of the Harpy yet, and many of the Masters were murdered. so perhaps it is a different enemy Dani faces. Maybe those creepy warlocks are getting revenge?
Whoever is responsible, things looked fairly hopeless for the Queen of Dragons. But then: a shriek of Drogon. Dani’s one free dragon either sensed her distress or was drawn by blood and screaming. Either way, Drogon came to protect his mom. While the Unsullied again proved that they apparently aren’t that impressive (but at least you can cut their nipples off. That’s something), Drogon crushed the Sons of the Harpy with nasty teeth and flame. And Deanerys finally got her Neverending Story moment.
Hopefully, this attack and retreat will convince Dani that getting out of Mereen and moving forward with her original plan is the correct path. Although we have no idea what will happen now with that city. Are the Sons of the Harpy finished? Is Dani’s rule finished? Is Tyrion in charge now?
This was another great episode nine of Game of Thrones. Probably not as good as last week’s episode, but “Hardhome” may have been the best episode this show has ever seen. Even still, “The Dance with Dragons” was still in a top ten of all time episodes (which is saying something, considering there has literally never been a bad episode of this show). Heart-wrenching, heart-pounding, but still containing plenty of that small character development that is so good on this show. Let’s see who dies next week.
– Dorne was actually not terrible this week!
– Jon Snow’s tremulous control at the Wall
– Davos and Shireen
– Heart-wrenching moment in Camp Baratheon
– The attack at the fighting pits followed by the appearance of Drogon
– Great character moments
-A bit of cheese with Jorah’s save and Dani’s flight
What did you think of tonight’s episode? Equally important, what is going to happen in the finale? Let us know!