All aboard the Hype Train! In preparation of Season 8 of Game of Thrones, Kelly is doing a rewatch for the greater good to refresh our memories, catch the things we might have forgotten, pick up the things we might have missed, and maybe make predictions! Hold onto your fur rugs from Ikea and AWAY WE GO.
Rules of this series: We’re deep diving into these episodes and I’m watching them on a per-episode base because I like digesting the episodes. Spoilers lie ahead. As much as I can, I am going to try and keep things episode/season specific. It’s out of respect to the narrative as well as the later seasons. Onwards!
5.9 The Dance of Dragons
Kind of play off the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons, which is one of my favorite books pretty much due to all the events that take place in the North. I’m a sucker for the North. It’s suggested/foreshadowed/interpreted that the majority of the Northern houses have begun to meet in secret to pledge loyalty to the Starks and to begin the undermining of House Bolton- namely House Manderly of White Harbor, one of the more powerful Northern Houses, gladly takes in the Freys as guests, and two go missing just as dinner is about to be served. Sound familiar? Anyway, it’s more than a glimmer of hope for those of us who are still hurting (horribly, might I add) about the Red Wedding, Ned, and the treatment of Sansa, as we’re still looking for some sort of retribution and avenging on behalf of House Stark.
For the sake of the show, The Dance of Dragons happens to be a book that Shireen is reading in this episode, which discusses the Targaryens and their fights with other houses as well as amongst themselves for the Iron Throne- conflicts that eventually contributed to the downfall of the entire house. It’s a warning against being power hungry, as well as in-family conflict, both of which Stannis is guilty of in more ways than one.
The episode kicks us off North of Winterfell in Camp Stannis, where Ramsay and his twenty good men have set fire to a few of the tents, some remaining provisions, and- hey, that’s a horse on fire! How does that even happen? Davos again advises Stannis to return to Castle Black and Stannis refuses. Davos sees that Stannis is piloting based solely off Melisandre’s visions, which he still doesn’t trust.
Speaking of Castle Black, Jon arrives with his new pals of Freefolk as Alliser glares down from the top of the wall. It looks like Edd and the other members of the Night’s Watch that went with Jon don’t mind the Freefolk so much anymore. After seething a little bit, Alliser commands the gates to be opened and the Freefolk silently pass through Castle Black towards the Gift as the remaining Night’s Watch looks on.
Across the courtyard, Jon sees Olly and grins at him. Olly gives him the cold shoulder. Alliser admits that Jon has a good heart, good intentions- but still believes that Jon is acting out of turn.
Back in Camp Stannis, Stannis AS JON’S KING sends Davos to order Jon Snow to send supplies and men. Davos, as Hand, believes his place is by Stannis’ side (correct), but Stannis insists. When Davos asks to take Shireen as the camp is no place for a child (also correct), Stannis refuses this as well. It’s all very suspicious, and Davos goes to follow through with his orders but not before bidding Shireen a farewell and dropping off a carving of a stag as a gift. Davos and Shireen have always had more of a father/daughter relationship than she’s had with Stannis and likewise, Davos is much more of a father in his moments with Shireen than any scenes he had with his son in Season 2.
Down in [ughhhh] Dorne, Jaime is escorted in to see Prince Doran, his son Trystane, Myrcella, and for whatever reason, Ellaria. Jaime notifies them of the lion necklace that was sent and Doran is immediately suspicious of Ellaria. Yup. So it wasn’t Cersei making shit up. Cool. Ellaria then pours out her wine during a toast to Tommen and- why is she even here? She wasn’t Oberyn’s wife and probably not his only lover- it’s one thing for Oberyn to bring her to Joffrey’s wedding, but Doran didn’t need to accommodate her for this meeting with Jaime. She doesn’t exactly have an official position and she’s not technically a part of the Martell family. And it’s not like there are other random bastards or paramours invited. Indira Varma does a fine job in being miffed at Doran’s lines and reacting to his decisions, but. There’s just no need for it. And this is mostly some bad dialogue.
Anyway, Jaime insists that Tommen has sent for Myrcella, but agrees that Trystane and Myrcella’s engagement will continue and that Trystane is also to take Oberyn’s promised seat on the small council. Totally makes sense from a diplomatic perspective. Ellaria claims Doran has no spine since he still won’t stand up for Oberyn’s death and I get it but this all comes off as awkward family tea time and not the negotiating of two power houses. Lackluster.
Then we get to the part everyone really wants to know- how is Bronn doing!? He’s sulking in his dungeon while the Sand Snakes are playing the hand-slap game to pass time. The flirty one, Tyene, taunts Nym into missing and they set about slapping at each other because I guess it’s supposed to be some sort of masochist-y hot playfulness and the actresses unfortunately can’t pull it off. I’ve had a hard time placing exactly why the Sand Snakes fail so horribly this season and I think after this rewatch, it was just poorly rushed character establishment. Their first scene, they are siding with Ellaria over Oberyn’s death and showing off their fighting skills, but other than that, we don’t necessarily get to know their characters, their motives, or history. And Ellaria herself is demoted to a heartbroken woman, not one that is getting increasingly frustrated with how her capital is being run. It’s not like Qyburn’s or even Oberyn’s slow and mysterious introduction that would have made their characters alluring. Just, here you are, you get three women that are basically the same character with very few differentiating features and they’re mostly just henchmen for Mommy Viper.
Anyway, Trystane sets Bronn free under the agreement that Ecko elbows Bronn squarely in the face. See, Trystane and his father do make pretty fair decisions!
Arya’s selling her oysters, clams and cockles, when a leering man asks her how much for her “little clam,” which is obviously sexual and Arya is indifferent. She doesn’t understand he reference and she’s not even engaging with it. It’s a really interesting reaction- at this age, maybe fourteen or so and even prior to this, Arya has never shown any sort of romantic interest in males or females. She got along with Gendry mostly because it was like having a brother around. And maybe she reacted this way because she’s not old enough to get the metaphor but other than maybe that, she’s a pretty asexual being and her focus is elsewhere.
Spying on Slender Man, she’s about to poison his four oysters with his usual vinegar request when her attention is taken elsewhere- she spots Meryn Trant. If we stretch back into Season 1 and a line from the Hound in Season 4, we’ll remember that Ser Meryn commanded his men to fetch Arya and to kill Syrio Forel. The death is offscreen but we can assume that Ser Meryn was the one who did the deed. I’d like to shout out to Mace Tyrell who is very hand-shakey and back patting with the representative from the Iron Bank (the same one that met with Stannis earlier), and the rep is really unhappy about being touched. Just makes Mace much more colorful and doofy in comparison with his mother.
Arya trails after Ser Meryn, who notices her but not because he recognizes her- it’s apparently because Ser Meryn prefers young girls and- in his eyes, the younger, the better. Arya dares to bring her tray of seafood into the brothel as she spies around- again, she’s not even the least bit curious about the activity that’s taking place around her. She finally finds Ser Meryn being presented with a bevy of young women, each of whom he claims as too old. Meryn’s men buy a few oysters and he notes Arya again, but is distracted by a girl that’s brought to him that is finally the age that he likes. The pedophile is off with his new purchase and demands to be brought a “fresh one” the next day. We never liked Ser Meryn due to the Syrio fiasco and now we have a bit more insight into his treatment of Sansa- he derived pleasure from tormenting young females. So many icks and this had been hinted at by the Hound, considering his affection for Sansa and Arya and how outspoken he was about Meryn.
Back at the HOBAW, Arya lies to Jaqan and tells him that Slender Man wasn’t hungry so she missed her chance to poison him. He accepts the lie and we move on.
In Dorne, Doran presents Ellaria with execution or her allegiance to him and she sinks to her knees and kisses his hand while the Sand Snakes look on, appalled that she is being forced to submit. She then goes to pay Jaime a visit, telling him he should move to Dorne because no one in Dorne cares about incest- she was allowed to love Oberyn openly and freely due to its culture. Saddened by the thought of Oberyn, she tells Jaime she doesn’t hold Myrcella responsible for what happened before she scurries off, which seems odd and strangely off-topic- Myrcella is clearly on Ellaria’s mind though we’re not sure why yet.
North of Winterfell, Shireen delves into another story out of her book- two Targaryens, half siblings, who each thought they belonged on the throne and tore the kingdom apart- and the event that started House Targaryen’s downfall. Stannis asks Shireen which Targaryen she would have chose, and Shireen wisely says no one as choosing sides is what led to the war and death in the first place. Stannis educates Shireen, by saying that sometimes men have to make difficult decisions in difficult places to make progress and Shireen loves her father so much that she offers to help without even asking what she needs to do.
Stanis leads his daughter outside, where his men have gone silent. She’s still clutching the stag that Davos carved out for her as the men part to reveal a pyre. Mel greets Shireen with a smile, two men grab Shireen to tie her to the stake, and Shireen begins crying out for Stannis. Seylse assures herself and Stannis that it’s what the Lord of Light wants and that the sacrifice will be worth it, while Stannis men look on- it’s clear that they are wondering if they should step in and speak out, while Mel’s parlor tricks have worked before, using Mance and others.
Seylse finally exclaims that they can’t go through with it, but Stannis is egged on by Mel’s confidence that Shireen’s death will lead to great victory over the Boltons and the storm. However, after this it’s impossible to imagine that this will pay off for Stannis or any of the bystanders as everything feels wrong- the music, the looks on his men’s faces, the obvious distrust, and how close it seems to someone wanting to speak out. Mel is the only person who refuses to look away as Shireen burns to death, and it’s a disgusting sight. Shireen was arguably the purest and most good-hearted person on the series without any ounce of bad will against others- and Mel’s willingness and self-assuredness when it comes to making this decision makes us dislike her and her blind faith even more. We want to see something wrong come out of this on behalf of Shireen.
Over in Meereen, the fighting pit celebrations begin and Hizdahr shows up late “making sure everything is in order” without any other explanation. It was mentioned earlier- like, really briefly, that the Sons of the Harpy started to lay low once Dany and Hizdahr were married, implying he was part of their leadership, so this only adds to the suspicions that he’s not completely aligned with Dany. It’s a cool theory and one that might have lent itself well to the season, if they had bothered to spend more time on it.
As the fighting begins, Daario unnecessarily inserts himself in between Hizdahr and Dany, offering betting advice that nobody wants to hear. He also points his dagger at Hizdahr in a completely threatening way- but then the guy he predicted to win gets his head chopped off so he huffs away. Dany and Tyrion aren’t completely on board with the tradition of the fighting pit and Hizdahr reminds them that it’s a part of the culture that existed longer than anyone currently living and will continue after they are long gone. Then Dany threatens to like… return he city to dust for Hizdahr and I’m confused- does she even like Meereen? If not, then can she just go away? Why does she want to rule it? Simple questions. Come on.
Hizdahr presents a few good questions- if the men in the fighting pit believe in what they are dying for, then why not? And what makes Dany so righteous in her morales and who decided Meereen’s were no good? Tyrion grows increasingly suspicious of Hizdahr’s, until Jorah poops the party because he just wants Dany to look at him. Jorah and what seems to be a Braavosi swordsman make quick work of the others before they turn on each other. Conflicted, Dany watches the man who betrayed her fight for his life to win back her affections and Emilia Clarke is pretty good at having her heart set aflutter, but it also registers as fucking corny afterwards. There’s no transition between her emotions. Steely, cut. Lovestricken, cut. Conflicted, cut. Angry, cut.
After Jorah wins, he chucks a spear straight at Dany- or rather the Sons of the Harpy that are sitting behind her. The Sons begin to stand up in the crowd and slaughtering… hrm. I can’t tell, but it looks like the folks who are better dressed, even though the Sons seem to be in just as quality clothing.
Hizdahr is also stabbed in the chest a few times, so there goes that great theory that he was in cahoots with the Sons of the Harpy. So long, Hizdahr! You made things almost interesting in Meereen!
Jorah escorts Dany away from the observation deck as Tyrion saves Missandei and the group begins to exit. As entrances are being blocked off, they take the long and over exposed way across the arena. The Unsullied begin to regroup around them but then Sons of the Harpy begin spilling out of every direction and the group is completely surrounded.
This is… a piss poor scene. Dany and Missandei stand in the middle as Jorah, Daario, and others defend them and she didn’t think to maybe raise her hands or tell her ment to stand down or to offer negotiations? They kind of let it happen. Then she joins hands with Missandei and seemingly accepts that she is going to get killed, so she closes her eyes. This is implied to summon Drogon, who hasn’t been seen in weeks and Dany is overcome with emotion at the mere sight of her favorite dragon barbecuing people left and right, Sons and common-folk alike.
She moves to pat him and suddenly, everyone else is also enamored by this sight because they all stop fighting when he shows up. People move to attack Drogon, but literally no one else is fighting. Jorah and a Son are standing shoulder to shoulder just observing. Drogon is immediately struck with a few spears because it turns out, the dude’s not bulletproof, and then Dany hops on his back and flies away. No one even tries to spear her or whatever. Just ups and leaves. Bye.
She doesn’t offer a hand to Missandei or Jorah or Tyrion or anyone else. Just leaves the rest of the group in the arena, all the Sons of the Harpy seem to have left and that’s it. End of episode. Bye.
This whole scene annoys me. Like, if Hizdahr hadn’t gotten killed and commanded the Sons of the Harpy to stop once Drogon started burning people and Dany hopped on and left and then Hizdhar and everyone else opted to go into negotiations, maybe? Why does everything just stop? Why do the Sons of the Harpy just abandon those who they know to serve in the small council and allow them to keep running the city? Why doesn’t Dany even think about saving supposedly her best friend and most trusted advisor?
It’s fine. It’s fine, it’s what we got, I’ll deal, I still have the North.
Up next, we are wrapping up Season 5: 5.10 Mother’s Mercy