GAME OF THRONES Recap: “The Dance of Dragons”

     June 7, 2015

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Stannis’ Camp

Making good on his claims in last week’s episode, Ramsay and his force of 20 men wreak havoc at Stannis’ camp by setting fire to the soldiers’ tents (…and horses) while they sleep. Though we never actually see the Bolton force, it’s not the most horrendous thing that happens off-camera at this location.

The attack has rattled the Red Lady, especially since it was done by setting fires that weren’t under her control. In order to set things right and reaffirm Stannis’ power before his march on Winterfell, Melisandre convinces her king that the Lord of Light needs another sacrifice. And while you can see it coming a mile away – Davos sharing a sweet scene with Shireen before being sent off to Castle Black, Shireen playing with Davos’ gift of a carved stag in front of a roaring fire, her retelling of “The Dance of Dragons” tale to her father who is talking of hard choices – it’s still incredibly shocking that Stannis offered up his much-beloved daughter to the fires of R’hllor.

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Image via HBO

I brought up this possibility last week in our discussion but it didn’t make the reality of it any easier to stomach. This season has spent a lot of time sweetening the relationship between Stannis and Shireen, and in hindsight it appears that this bond was only strengthened narratively so that it was all the more potent when severed. Stannis, it’s safe to say, has gone off the deep end in his quest for the Iron Throne, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his soldiers and allies soon lose heart and respect for their commander. What say you? Would you still follow Stannis and the Red Lady, even after his inhumane sacrifice?

The Wall

Compared to “Hardhome,” this trip back to The Wall is a cake walk. Though Lord Commander Jon Snow has a brief moment of uncertainty before Aliser Thorne opens the gate for him and his Wildling cohorts, and though some hard looks are exchanged, everyone seems to be peaceful for the moment. I’m sure Snow’s troubles are over, right?


Dorne

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Image via HBO

Our time in Dorne has been more about politics than anything else and that continues this week. Jaime is granted leave to take Myrcella back to King’s Landing, as long as Prince Trystane escorts them, retains his engagement to Myrcella, and takes Oberyn’s position on the Small Council. And don’t worry, Bronn is freed, too. The only condition is that Doran Martell’s guard gets to punch the mercenary in the mouth. Hard.

Meanwhile, D&D have no clue what to do with the Sand Snakes. When they’re not taking their clothes off or playing pat-a-cake, they’re acting like schoolgirls. They’ll have to grow up soon since their mother, Obara, is on thin ice with Prince Doran, having exhausted his patience. I don’t expect much more from Dorne in the season’s final episode since there’s plenty to tidy up elsewhere. What’s your reaction to our time spent here this season?

Braavos

And the award for “Second Most-Disturbing Moment” in this week’s episode goes to Ser Meryn Trant. One would think an episode with an incident of filicide would be enough, but no, we have to establish Trant as the worst sort of pedophile as well. We get it. He’s a bad guy, and Arya should most definitely kill him.

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Image via HBO

The problem is that Arya isn’t supposed to exist anymore. As she ignores her assassination target – the Thin Man – in order to follow Trant to a local brothel, we know that Arya is not quite ready to forgo her former life and turn to a path serving the Many-Faced God. So when she tells Jaqen that the Thin Man wasn’t hungry, we know that either her ability to lie has improved, or Jaqen is testing her once more. So where will this plot line end up? With Trant dead and Arya exposed? Or with Trant returning alive to King’s Landing, evidence that Arya has become No One? We’ll have to wait and see.


Mereen

Just another day at the Fighting Pits of Mereen, even if it’s to be the first Great Games since Daenerys took over. Though proud warriors of every race pay tribute to the royals before shedding their blood and giving their lives, the ruling elite pay them little attention, choosing instead to philosophize amongst themselves about the costs and benefits of death. Tyron, to his credit, at least attempts to keep one eye on the fights he so detests out of respect to the men who color the sand with their blood. It’s not until Jorah speaks to the Queen that she finally offers up her undivided attention.

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Image via HBO

The gladiator fight was entertaining even if it wasn’t the best choreographed thing ever seen on TV. The real moment that stood out – before the dragon showed up, that is – is when a victorious Jorah launched a spear at the royal box, presumably aiming for Daenerys but actually saving her life by impaling a Sons of the Harpy assassin. In an unexpected bit of chaos, the Harpy assassins pour out of the stands and assault commoners, Unsullied, and royals alike. Things are looking grim for Daeny and her cohorts … until Drogon arrives.

While I understand the intention of saving this scene of gladiatorial combat and dragon flight for the end of the episode, after Shireen’s sacrifice it was hard to feel joyous or even excited for Daeny’s reunion with Drogon. It didn’t help that the CG in this scene was sub-par (probably blew a fair chunk of change on the excellent “Hardhome” massacre, and whatever else is coming up next week). And was it me or did Drogon seem rather small and underpowered? (It doesn’t help matters that I just finished Christopher Paolini’s “Inheritance Cycle” this weekend, so my bar for epic dragon battle was already set pretty high.)

It almost seems as if the final moments of “The Dance of Dragons” were orchestrated to help audiences get past Shireen’s sacrifice, but if that was the aim then it failed dramatically. Every moment after the off-screen burning alive of Stannis’ greyscale-afflicted, sweet young daughter rang hollow for me. I get that we’re meant to see Stannis as an unyielding force, but his nearly emotionless sacrifice of the daughter he’d spent great expense to care for all her life just fell wrong. Not morally wrong in the world of Game of Thrones, but narratively wrong given everything we’ve seen so far. To put this moment in perspective, even George R.R. Martin has yet to be so callous in his own writing. This may be the decision that proves “too far” for Benioff and Weiss.


Rating: ★★★ Good

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Image via HBO

Miscellanea:

Davos: “If we can’t march forward than we won’t march back.” Stannis: “Have the dead horses butchered for meat.”

Aliser Thorne: “You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.”

Bronn: “Am I going to be happy at the end of this walk?”

Trant: “Too old.”

Arya: “The Thin Man wasn’t hungry today.” Jane: “Perhaps that is why a man is thin.”

Tyrion: “There’s always been enough death in the world for my taste. I could do without it in my leisure time.”


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