Oliver Davis reviews the ninth episode of Game of Thrones Season Five….
The Dance of Dragons.
Directed by David Nutter.
Written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss.
Game of Thrones’ history with episode nines is pretty gory. Ned getting beheaded, the Red Wedding and the Battles of Blackwater Bay and Castle Black all occurred in each of the four seasons’ penultimate instalments. But with last week’s epic White Walker-centric episode eight, perhaps they shot their blood-spilling load early. Maybe, instead of our favourite characters suffering horrible deaths, we’d get some Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) light banter, or Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Bronn (Jerome Flynn) continuing their lads’ holiday down in Dorne.
Nope. They set a child on fire.
usually, the Internet would react rather strongly – a kid being burnt at the stake and all that – but it seemed to have used up all its outrage on Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) rape scene back in episode five…
@neorohit – Stannis ordering his little daughter to burnt alive was very upsetting. But hey, its
#GameOfThrones. Don’t fall in love with any character.
@obisean23 – Worst bring your daughter to work day ever.
@kels_leveridge – So, I can bet Stannis is not going to get the Father Of The Year Award now. I mean, really? Burns his daughter at the stake?
These chuckling ‘oh Game of Thrones, you crazy!’ responses (which is by far the majority of reactions) largely reveals that anger towards the Sansa scene as misjudged and disproportionate. There’s no grand hierarchy, but those offended by rape should probably also get at least a tad heated about child burning. Pun intended.
As for explaining Stannis’s (Stephen Dillane) rather problematic approach to child-rearing, and the moral argument it’s wrapped up within, that deserves a separate article: The Case for Stannis.
Once the fire dies down a bit over Princess Shireen’s (Kelly Ingram) death, we can start looking forward to the season closer next week. For what, exactly, will this sacrifice be used? Another shadow assassin? A shadow army? The Lord of Light’s powers have been barely seen since Renly’s murder. Will they help break the Siege of Winterfell next week?
Another note on the whole fiasco: No, Princess Shireen isn’t sacrificed in the books. She’s still very much alive and Greyscale-surviving. There Melisandre (Carise van Houten) wanted to burn Mance Rayder’s baby, a character that doesn’t exist in the show, so Benioff and Weiss streamlined the dilemma to fit their continuity.
But that doesn’t mean George R. R. Martin won’t kill her eventually. Benioff and Weiss have said they were “shocked” when Martin told them Shireen Baratheon might burn in the saga’s next book, The Winds of Winter. And you thought George wasn’t to blame for once…
Daenerys and Tyrion
Yay, it’s the Quidditch Stadium!
Oh, wait, no…it’s Meereen.
The book version of Daenerys’ storyline is frustratingly slow. The Sons of the Harpy read like an inadequate threat, an annoying fly that should be easily swatted out of existence. The show has done a great job in making them a credible threat. The costume design of their masks, their killing of Barristan Selmy – the TV series has positioned the Sons of the Harpy as a significant challenge to Daenerys’ rule.
Daenerys’ section of the episode, all crammed in the last 15 minutes or so, starts off relatively pleasant. Sure, people are killing each other for sport in the newly re-opened fighting pits, but, generally, a lovely day out.
But the real, far more interesting fight takes place in the Queen’s booth, between Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) and everyone else. He proposes that cruelty and death are necessary to accomplish great things. Tyrion and Daenerys disagree, drawing their political union ever closer. Just as the verbal arguments reach their peak, Jorah Mormont’s (Iain Glen) emergence into the arena interrupts the Royal party.
Out of the Friend Zone and into the Friend Pit.
From then on, it’s all action and suspense – first with Mormont battling his competitors, then with half the spectators revealing themselves as Sons of the Harpy. A slaughterhouse ensues, with as many Unsullied falling (pretty much finishing off their ‘badass’ status from when they were first introduced) as Sons of the Harpy and civilians. Jorah leaps to his Queen’s rescue and the two, along with Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman), Tyrion and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) find themselves surrounded in the middle of the pit. They look done for. Who is left to save them? Oh, right…
Like an absolute boss, Drogon the Dragon swoops down, sets a whole bunch of people on fire, then seductively wink at Daenerys.“Wanna go for a ride?”
Accepting the invite, Daenerys climbs onto Drogon’s back and flies to safety. More important, though, is the final shot – not a triumphant soaring close up of Daenerys riding atop her scaly steed, but a slow pan back to the expressions of Tyrion, Missandei, Daario and Jorah. It’s that look on their faces – a mixture of hope, the confirmation that they’re following the right person, and just the sheer awe of seeing a fire-resistant Queen riding on top of a god damned black dragon.
SEXINESS TALLY (in lieu of the Hodor Count):
Two episode streak of zero sexiness.
Oliver Davis is one of Flickering Myth’s co-editors, curator of its Super Newsletter and Lead Producer of Flickering Myth TV. You can follow him on Twitter @OliDavis. Check back here every Monday for his episode-by-episode reviews of Game of Thrones Season 5.