Show: Game of Thrones
Watched: Episode 49 – June 7, 2015
Title: The Dance of Dragons
Summary: Wow: sad and exhilarating
NOTE: SERIOUS SPOILER WARNING. This review/discussion contains tons of spoilers about the episode and even ones crossing over from the books. It’s really my free-for-all musing given all the information at my disposal.
Jon – crunches southward toward the Black Gate, a ragtag group of Wildlings (and the giant) in tow. When he reaches the wall, he looks on, worried that Thorne won’t even open. And Ser Glower looks down from above and considers it. Not really that large a group considering the masses we saw last week — all of whom are now doing the zombie shuffle. Anyway, Throne relents and orders the gate opened. As the crew marches through into castle black, Olly gives Jon that total stink eye look and privately considers sneaking off to sharpen his dagger. Thorne just issues some dry comment, “You have a good heart Jon Snow, but someday it will get us all killed.” Sam for his part is happy to see Jon, but Jon unloads on him with a weight heavier than his hair: feeling depressed that he failed to save all of them. Sam points out the bright side. Oh, and watching the giant climb out of the tunnel and tower over everyone is awesome.
Jaime – visits with Prince Doran in some Moorish palace. As dull as the Dorne thread is, it does have good sets. The whole noble crew is there: Ellariah Sand, Trystane, and Myrcella. Hotah looms over them. Doran, ever reasonable, asks why he “invaded” and didn’t just come and visit. He explains about the threatening message and Doran gives Ellariah a dark-eyed look. But he doesn’t want war so he drinks to Tommen, but Ellariah pours hers on the floor. Doran ignores it and suggests that Trystane and Myrcella go back to King’s Landing, but that young Trystane take Oberyn’s spot on the Small Council — essentially backing out of Dorne fast. Ellariah trades insults and Doran warns her that she walks on thin ice. Jaime is very thankful and asks about Bronn. Trystane says the sellsword can go free, but with one condition.
So speaking of our amusing mercenary, he’s watching the Sand Snakes play some kind of ridiculous slapping version of patty cake that devolves into a cat fight. Then Hotah comes to drag him upstairs and he gets one final chance to tell Tyrene she is the hottest babe in the world. Upstairs in the throne room he is set free, but discovers that “the condition” is that Hotah elbows him across the jaw hard (paying back Trystane). Well, Bronn’s probably had worse.
Later, Doran tells Ellariah that her rebellion is over and that she must swear allegiance or die. She wrestles with it, then kneels and swears. You have to wonder if she is sincere, and so perhaps does Doran because he tells her that he believes in second chances, but not thirds. Next, she goes and visits Jaime in a rather odd scene in which she is quiet cordial, although there is a line of hardness under it. She tells him she knows all about the incest, but emphasizes that “we don’t chose whom we love” thread that resonates with Jaime. He of course neither confirms nor denies the charges. Ellariah goes on to say that Myrcella, and perhaps he, had nothing to do with Oberyn’s death. I’m not thinking she’s let that one go entirely.
Arya – The most deadly Stark cruises the harbor with her oyster cart gunning for the thin man. As luck would have it, he orders up some oysters, but before Arya can slip him the special vinegar he gaze is distracted by a Lannister sail in the harbor and by Mac Tyrell and more importantly, Meryn Trant disembarking. Mace continues his brand of broad comedy as he is met by a representative of the Iron Bank. Which leads me to wonder why they do meet him instead of treating him to a few hours in the lobby like Stannis. Anyway, Arya totally ignores the thin man and sucks after Meryn (and Mace). They go visit the bank. She watches and waits. When they come out, Mace continues his comedy routine with a silly song. Arya follows Meryn into the evening as he seeks out a brothel. She follows him inside, hawking her wares. GOT sure loves a brothel scene, although this one has no nudity. Meryn is set up not only as the Sansa-beating thug from earlier seasons, but as a pedophile and all around ass. he bags on the Tyrells, he won’t treat his men. He keeps demanding younger and younger girls until the nervous madame drags one in from the kitchen or wherever. He even asks for a new one for the next night, setting up Arya with both motive and means to take him out. Alas, that waits for next week as she retreats to the House of Black & White where she lies to Jaqen about the status of her thin man assignment. He presumably sees through this, as he is the guy who always knows when a girl is lying, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens.
Stannis – The Red Lady Melisandre looks over the snowy camp as tents burst into flame. Burning men and horses run from the conflagration. Ramsay of course, which is confirmed in the morning as Davos reports the damage. 20 men (sound familiar) have snuck in, torched the food and horses. Now they are in a really serious pickle.
Later, Stannis examines his game board. The king orders Davos back to castle black to secure more supplies. Total setup to leave him alone with his “difficult decision” visa via Shireen. Davos might know something is up, but it’s hard to tell. he protests (as usual) but is overruled. He walks past the men (in bad shape) to visit Shireen, in what is a touching little scene. They discuss the book she is reading, A Dance of Dragons! He gives her a carved wooden stag (the one he was working on an episode or two ago) and promises her to make it a pair. They have nice chemistry as usual.
Next Stannis visits her too. She is reading the same book and they have an oblique exchange (at least for her). Essentially, he is seeking her permission for serving her up to his destiny and she provides it, without knowing what it is she is supporting. Kind of sad really. He even apologizes, of course she has no idea what for until guards grab her outside and drag her to the handy dandy stake and Melisandre’s not so tender mercies. She screams and swerves. Wisely the camera leaves her at this point focusing on Stannis and his wife. At first lady Stannis is all gung ho burn the girl, but once the screaming starts she breaks and runs for Shireen only to be stopped in the snow. The screams amplify and it’s really tough to watch as they go on and on and the camera focuses on Stannis’ grim and determined face. Yeah, we had almost started to like him, but alas, there is no coming back from this bit of nastiness.
GRRM seems to have confirmed that Shireen’s terrible death happens (or will happen) in the books too, but there as there is only Davos’ point of view, and I can’t even remember if he was there, it likely doesn’t hold the same emotional impact, particularly given how much the show has invested in making her a likely character.
Dany – Straight into the giant fighting pit, which is a serious upgrade from the “baby pit” of two weeks ago. In fact, it looks pretty much like a giant bull fighting ring in Seville. I wonder why. Oh, and crossed with the Colosseum in Rome as it has the big awnings (seen in Gladiator). But for TV this looks great. Arguably better than the aforementioned Russel Crowe movie. Lots of CGI and real crowds. Dany has a big box with Tyrion, Dario, and Missandei. Hizdahr (her annoying betrothed) is late, which is suspicious. Hiss for Hizdahr.
The MC comes out, announces the first pair, a big man and a quick man, and Dany is forced to clap them into action after the traditional salute. She clearly isn’t a fan and neither is Tyrion. Anyway, this first fight is background color to the conversation. Dario and Hizdahr take the pro side of the argument, but they use it to measure up their manhoods. But like every line of dialog in this show (which is carefully written and edited) they all have their purposes. In this case putting Tyrion and Dany on the side that moderns identify as “good” and showing that Hizdahr is an old fashioned ass. But the truth is there is also a complex and morally ambiguous point here in historical context. When is violence necessary? Do means justify the ends?
Someone die. 5-6 more gladiators come out and swear. One is Jorah.
We knew this was coming, but it’s a morally complex issue for Dany, personal this time and not so abstract. She could stop the fight. And she cares for Jorah, but she has exiled him twice and he keeps coming back. Anyway, he takes a beating but keeps winning. Then at the end, he chucks a spear apparently right at Dany, but no, it’s a Son of the Harpy. And there are more, dozens, maybe hundreds all over the arena. They start slaughtering the populace (not sure why) and gunning for Dany. Dario tries to protect her, and grey worm, and Jorah climbs up and helps save her, winning a hand grasp and redemption (is he contagious?). Tyrion is nearly killed. Mis and Dany escape with the men and he follows. Hizdahr takes a knife in the gut. They set him up as maybe a Harpy. They set him up as a jerk. No wonder he gets stabbed (and maybe killed).
The Dany group tries to run one way, but more Harpies pour in, then are encircled in the center of the arena. This part looks great and is well done. The Harpies are a bit timid, and while they outnumber the royalists they are poorly armed. Dario, Jorah, Grey Worm, and various Unsullied killed lots of them as they press in, and it’s a slow thing, but the outcome is clear, certainly to Dnay and Tyrion. She takes Missandei’s hand and closes her eyes. Then with a reptilian screen and a burst of flame Drogon appears out of nowhere (summoned by her stress?). He looks awesome as he circles the arena and lands. He then bites, shreds, and fireballs Harpies. Drogon himself looks great, but his flaming is a little staid and he only hits a few at once. This scene, like last week’s zombie attack, is as good as any ever shot for TV, but it still doesn’t have the budget per minute of a big feature film. It would have been cooler if Drogon circled again and fricasseed hige swathes of Harpies. Bit it’s still great. They start pelting him with spears and piss him off. Dany yanks one out and he howls at her, but then recognizes her and turns soft. She climbs up his back (which looks a little) fake and yells “fly” in Valayrian. He builds up speed and the two of them take to the air, leaving slack jawed Tyrion, Jorah, Dario, etc starring.
A few effects flaws aside this scene brought geeky tears to my eyes, even on the second watch. It was both epic and had the proper emotional effect. Check it out yourself if you haven’t:
All in all, a solidly awesome episode. We have Arya. We have emotional awfulness in the north. The Dorne bit was as good as the Dorne bits have been (which isn’t so great). And most importantly we had pure combat and dragon awesomeness at the end.
Hard to say if this was even better than Hard Home!
HBO’s official inside the episode videos: