Tonight’s Game of Thrones episode was equal parts heartbreaking and uplifting, in the most literal senses. Was “The Dance of Dragons” everything you expected?
Spoiler Note: This post is for those who have read the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The post and the comments section will contain spoilers! If you haven’t read the books yet, please check out our non-book-reader recap. Thanks!
Ramsay’s hinted-at plans for Stannis and his snowed-in camp take effect quickly in this week’s opening scene. His army’s food stores go up in flames, along with weapons and a horse while Melisandre stares dumbly. (Any reason you didn’t see this coming, Red?)
Stannis is still determined to press forward, not back but onward. These conversations are starting to remind me of Kodos in disguise as Bill Clinton on The Simpsons– “We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!”
Stannis has the horses butchered because he’s thrifty and we know that historically he has no problem eating just about dead anything.
Jon and the wildlings arrive back at the Wall. Alliser Thorne psychs them out for a minute with his glowering but of course he opens the gate for them. Jon is bummed out that so many died at Hardhome but Sam reminds him of the many people he’s saved. The Night’s Watch aren’t grateful though- especially Olly with another pointed dirty look.
Surprisingly, Alliser Thorne does tell Jon he has a good heart- only to add, “It’ll get us all killed.”
Stannis is mulling over his predicament. He summons Davos and sends him off a mission to deliver a message to Night’s Watch, asking for help. It’s a little fishy, because as Davos points out, anyone could deliver this, but Stannis insists he needs his Hand to do it. Davos tries to bring Shireen with him, but Stannis isn’t having it.
I…don’t like the way this is going.
Before departing, the Onion Knight visits the princess and she shares with him the book she’s reading, The Dance of the Dragons. He gives her a gift, a toy stag. He promises to make a doe to match it, and he says he wants to hear the story of the dance of dragons when he gets back. (Well shit- we know how these “When I get back” things always work out on Game of Thrones.)
Jaime is invited to a tense tea with his future in-laws at the Water Gardens. Doran makes it clear he doesn’t want war; Ellaria conveys her feelings concisely by dumping her drink on the ground rather than toast Tommen. Doran agrees to send Myrcella back to King’s Landing, and Prince Trystane will go with her- as long as they agree to let Trystane take Oberyn’s seat on the Small Council. Ellaria flounces out of the meeting.
Bronn is permitted out of his jail cell (while the Sand Snakes play slapping games to amuse themselves) on Trystane’s decision. They have Hotah clock him one as his punishment. (Come on, Trys, you could’ve at least done it yourself. Lame.)
In Braavos, Lanna the oyster-seller (aka Arya aka No-One) sees her opportunity to assassinate the Thin Man with poison, but is distracted by the arrival of a diplomat- Mace Tyrell of Westeros, welcomed by the Iron Banker Tycho Nestoris. Right behind them is the guard, Ser Meryn Trant.
Arya’s inner Kill Bill sirens immediately start blaring, and she follows them through the streets. Eventually Trant separates from the foolish Tyrell and visits a brothel, with Arya following close behind. Inside Trant is looking for a woman for the night- actually a girl as it turns out, as he likes them very, very young. (As if we needed more reasons to want him dead.) Arya sees him go off with the young girl before they kick her out of the brothel.
Back at the House of Black and White, Arya tells Jaqen she was unable to kill the Thin Man that day because he wasn’t hungry, neglecting to tell him any of the other details. It’s not clear if Jaqen buys it or not.
In Dorne, Doran demands Ellaria’s allegiance or she will die. Tearfully she kisses his ring as the Sand Snakes look on. Later, she visits Jaime as he writes a letter to Cersei. Ellaria indicates she’s aware of his feelings for Cersei, though not in so many words. She also says that she knows Myrcella and maybe him too had no part in Oberyn’s death.
In her tent, Shireen plays with her new toy, the stag dancing against the flames. Stannis visits her, looking troubled. She tells him about the story she’s reading, the war of the Targaryens in the Dance of Dragons.
Stannis talks about fulfilling his destiny and becoming who he is meant to be, and GOD STANNIS DON’T DO THIS. Shireen in her innocence offers to help him, and her father accepts her offer.
Shireen walks through the snow now, led by guards, still holding her stag. She sees the stake on a bed of logs, and panics. Melisandre greets her and reassures it’ll be over soon, as the guards bind the princess to the stake. Stannis and Selyse appear, with Shireen’s mother trying to telling herself it’s what the Lord wants, her daughter’s death.
The girl cries out for help, shouting for her mother, and finally Selyse breaks as the torch lights the logs. She runs for the stake, trying to save Shireen for a moment, but the guards hold her back. She collapses on the ground, weeping as her daughter screams. Stannis watches and then can’t look anymore. Selyse wails as Shireen dies. Melisandre is calm throughout.
At the great pit of Daznak, Daenerys and her crew have gathered to watch the gladiators fight. Tyrion, Daario and Missandei sit with her, and Hizdahr joins them after being suspiciously late. The games begin with a bloody match that does nothing to decrease Dany’s discomfort with the brutal games. Hizdahr, Dany and Tyrion debate the merits of these traditional games, and Tyrion observes that Tywin would’ve liked Hizdahr.
A melee of a match comes up next- six men in the ring, and one of them is revealed to be a Westerosi knight- yes, it’s that pirate-shirted dreamboat Ser Jorah Mormont. He dispatches his first opponent efficiently but his second one, a skilled swordsman, is much tougher. Daenerys hesitates to intervene even when Tyrion suggests she do so to save Jorah.
Another opponent saves Jorah from being taken out by the swordsman, and these two engage. They spar for a bit but ultimately Jorah emerges the victor. Peering up at the dais when Dany sits, he rips the spear from his fallen opponent and hurls it at the dais- killing someone behind her.
It’s a Son of the Harpy. They’ve chosen the chaotic Daznak’s Pit to make their next big attack. Suddenly the Sons of the Harpy are everywhere, slashing at people. Daario orders the soldiers to guard Daenerys. Shockingly, Hizdahr is stabbed and killed by the Sons. (Yes, he really is dead.)
Jorah jumps onto the platform, and offers his hand to Daenerys. She takes his arm, and he leads her away. Tyrion saves Missandei from another Son. They jump down into the ring and try to make their way to the other side with a handful of Unsulllied, but they’re surrounded by a huge number of Sons of the Harpy.
There’s no way out. They can take out some of the Sons but there’s just too many of them. Daenerys sees the writing on the wall, and takes Missandei’s hand. The women look at each other, and then Dany closes her eyes, preparing to die.
And then there’s a cry. In the sky over the pit, Drogon has returned.
He swoops into the pit, ripping apart and scorching Sons of the Harpy. They scatter and die. Spears pierce the dragon and he cries in pain. Drogon knocks away the people who try to get near him, everyone except for Daenerys. She approaches him carefully, and climbs atop him.
And Drogon takes flight.
Tyrion and the others watch in awe as Daenerys flies away on the back of her dragon.
Daznak’s Pit– WOW! Just wow. It’s tough to adapt such a huge moment from the novels, so people may nitpick it, but I felt this scene captured the right feel, the impact of Dany taking flight for the first time. The other moments- the fights, her seeming to forgive Jorah, Hizdahr’s death, all contributed to an exciting finish.
Speaking of Hizdahr: Let’s give it up for Joel Fry. He was never used quite enough as Hizdahr but I always loved him in the role. He’s got a nice spark of humor that was unexpected.
Stephen Dillane & Kerry Ingram: A terrible moment for Stannis but a great one for an actor. These two were both great.
Speaking of Stannis: People may think it’s not in character of Stannis to do this, but I disagree. It’s ugly to see, but Stannis has rarely been a very likable person. It’s one of the reasons why he’s a great character. The scenes are so sad but very well done. Additionally: TWOW Spoilers
Vengeance is Coming: God, I just really want Arya to kill Trant a LOT. But a little build-up is good.
Little moments: Dorky singing Mace bugging Tycho, Daario tell Hizdahr to shut up, Doran getting fierce with Ellaria for a minute. And shout-out to the Daznak’s pit announcer- one of those 2-minute roles where I still noticed how good he was in all the stuff going on.
So about Dorne?: I did like the scene we had there tonight. I’m just wondering where the climax is. We’re in episode 9 and we still haven’t had a real peak in that storyline. I feel like we’re at about midseason down in Dorne which is a little puzzling, because this certainly isn’t midseason. The pacing’s been off. I love Alexander Siddig though. More of him, please.