Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Game of Thrones, Season 5, Episode 9: A Dance of Dragons

Stannis’s Camp

Everything looks very cold because Stannis has abandoned tactical sense. To make things worse, half the camp catches fire in the night

Melisandre, you’re supposed to be the priestess of the god of fire and shadows. Things catching fire in the darkness are kind of your remit – get to woo-wooing right now!

She just stress so next day we hear Davros describe how Ramsay and his 20 men caused utter devastation because Stannis not only has the tactical ability of a carrot but his men don’t properly guard or set up their camp well. Davros protests that the men got in the camp unseen because the northerners know their land so well (so?! You’re in a wide open snowy plain! Knowledge of the terrain does not excuse crappy sentries who either let invades have free reign of the entire camp OR you were damn fool enough to put several vital targets in one place).

Davos again points out how terrible their situation is – they can’t reach Winterfell in the snow, nor can they get back to Castle Black. A shame they didn’t have a fleet of boats to take them to any part of the 7 Kingdoms other than the one colder than Canada (yes, Renee, I went there).

Stannis sends Davos to Castle Black to beg for supplies though Davos thinks it’s odd that he is being chosen since he is Stannis’s hand and too important. When Stannis insists he begs to take the Queen and his daughter with him to keep them safe. Stannis refuses again

Davos has a sweet little goodbye scene with Shireen who is far too good for this show (so is definitely going to die). Stannis has another sweet moment with Shireen who shows a lot of wisdom and not-subtle commentary referring to a civil war in the past that broke the Targaryens and shattered the kingdoms. He also has lots of ominous excuses about doing what he must – even as Shireen is so very eager to help. And he is eager for her forgiveness.

Aaaaaaargh. Shireen is lead to a pyre where Mellisandre waits. When she realises what is happening she panics and struggles. Stannis watches but she doesn’t see him as she panics – and Queen Selyse says how good it is they’re going to burn their daughter to death to save the whole army. But, at the end, when Shireen screams for Selyse it is she who cracks and says she can’t do this – and Stannis who stays resolute. She tries to run to her daughter and is held back by the men.

Shireen burns.

The Wall

John and the mass of Wildlings approaches the gates – an unhappy Ser Alliser sees them and grudgingly opens the gates.

Inside John laments how much he’s failed because so many died in the attack while Sam points to the men alive, so John finds something else to be dour about – all the Night’s Watch looking grim. And slightly awed by the giant. Even Jon’s young steward gives him a sharp look and Alliser drops in his own words of disapproval.


A nice tense little meeting with Prince Doran, Jaime, Ellaria, Mycella and Tristane and the air so thick you could cut it with a knife (Jaime disapproves of his daughter/niece’s clothes she points out they’re in a damn roasting hot desert with a tone that makes it clear how little she cares about his opinion). Lots of tension over Jaime’s entrance into Dorne and whether Jaime should be beheaded – and Doran remains the only noble in the world who would rather not go to war. He sounds very sensible so I’m assuming he is going to die soon. He drinks to King Tommen. I think Ellaria would rather be poisoned and pours her drink on the floor rather than drink to such a toast.

Since Tomen is apparently demanding Mycella returns, Doran agrees (Ellaria still not pleased) but want to send Trystane as well (you don’t want to go to Kings Landing, ‘tis a very silly place) insisting on the betrothal remaining and Trystane being added to the king’s council as Oberyn was. Ellaria storms out spinning at Doran’s spinelessness (an extra dig at his infirmity) and Ellaria rather gently draws a line.

Of course Bronn hit Trystane so he needs judging too – and Trystane agrees to spare him. In exchange for Bronn getting a smack in the face. Hey turnabout and all that

Doran finally demands Ellaria’s allegiance and she kisses his ring – sobbing while doing so. She then goes to visit Jaime to talk openly about his incest and how she doesn’t really care, citing the open morals of Dorne and also how the Targaryens made a habit of incest. She also seems to offer an olive branch – accepting that Jaime and Mycella were not part of the death of Oberyn


Arya has her assassination mission but is distracted in the middle of it by the arrival of Westerosi nobles – Lord Mace Tyrell arriving to negotiate with the Iron Bank. She follows them as Mace meets Iron Bank officials. Mace is something of a buffoon. But it’s Meryn she follows – head of Mace’s guards and on Arya’s death list

Later we hear Meryn and the guards are definitely not a fan of Mace (and throws in homophobia because of course it does on this show). Arya follows them to… a brothel. The Iron Bank and Arya’s little shellfish cart represent the only businesses on this entire planet that are not brothels. There she finds Meryn rejecting repeated sex workers for being too old. Until he sees Arya selling oysters (oyster sellers are quite popular in the brothel) and his interest is peaked. Yes he’s a paedophile. The brothel madam brings in another young girl for Meryn.

Back at the Faceless man den and tells them she will kill her target tomorrow. Jaquen seems to accept that.


It’s time for the totally-not-slave-fights-honest. Daenerys is not only not really happy with the games and just enduring them, but also very out of place, not knowing the customs that Hizdahr has to guide her through. There’s lots of discussion from Daario over who will win – and he turns out to be wrong. Hizdahr also tries to justify the brutality of the games and the necessity of killing and cruelty while Tyrion nicely pokes holes in it all “it’s easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is benefits you.” He adds the worst insult of all “my father would have liked you.”

Hizdahr actually has some awesome come back – while Daenerys decides the people she kills or who die for her die for a good reason, he points out the fighters thing the same; only Daenerys assumes she knows what is best for them.

Fascinating philosophical discussion ends because Jorah then joins the fighting pits for much emotion and drama. He is nearly killed by a Braavosi waterdancer – and Daenerys is unable to stop it – before finally turning the tide and being the last man standing. He also manages to kill an assassin who managed to sneak up behind Daenerys

A whole host of masked Sons of the Harpy rise in the crowd and begin slaughtering people. Including the Unsullied who have brought spears to fight in densely packed crowds. Hizdahr is also killed – and Tyrion manages to save Missendei.

They end up stranded in the middle of the arena, surrounded by a huge number of Sons of the Harpy. Daario, the Unsullied and Jorah kill several but it is clearly hopeless. Until Drogon arrives

A dragon is excellent reinforcements. And probably cheating. He slaughters several people but gets stabbed with spears, to Daenerys’s horror. She goes to him and removes a spear. For a brief second it looks like he may eat her before they have a nice reunion until he is stabbed by more spears. Daenerys climbs on his back and they fly out of the arena (abandoning their friends or leaving the Sons of the Harpy no reason to attack?)

This episode is brought to you by terrible sentries. Whether Westerosi soldiers letting 20 armed men do a happy tour of their camp, or the Unsullied failing to notice several hundred huge glittery masks. Seriously, some of these Sons of the Harpies aren’t even wearing shirts, there’s no way they could have hidden them.

Daenerys, Tyrion et al continue to have excellent and very pointed conversations that I am increasingly loving. We continue to see that Daenerys doesn’t know enough about the city she is ruling and is very out of touch with them. I loved to see her reunite with Drogon – but for more than re-establishing the whole Mother of Dragons. She ran – sure Drogon killed several, but even he with all of the deaths he left in his wake was in trouble against the numbers around him. It brings back the dragons but also tells us clearly that dragons are not nearly enough

I also think it's a return to self. Ultimately, chaining her dragons, marrying Hizdahr, allowing the games to happen are all signs of Daenerys compromising, giving ground and generally losing her core principles. In some ways it's a good metaphor for the corruption of leadership and the terrible bargains they pay for power - to rule Mereen she has had to make compromise after compromise until she is standing over an arena watching slaves kill each other. And then it all gets burned and she rides off on a dragon's back - the Queen of Meeren remembers she's the Mother of Dragons

Shireen – no surprises here. Good people die in Westeros, it is known. What I still find odd is that Stannis decided to march from Castle Black in the first place, the situation he is in was entirely predictable. I am intrigued by Stannis and Selyse’s reaction – it shows, in some ways, where the lines are drawn. Selyse always hated her daughter but this she cannot abide, while Stannis always loved her, but his grim, unforgiving sense of duty and purpose drive him far more. At the same time, we see how his grim, unforgiving sense of duty has changed. Once he was the grim man who would cut the fingers off a loyal supporter because crimes had to be punished and that was his duty - now he burns his own daughter for the sake of winning the throne.

Of course, this show also has an established record of mothers being driven to desperation and even unreason for the sake of their children so I wonder if the writers just couldn’t imagine a mother who didn’t care?

Arya and Meryn – while I’m glad she’s going to kill him (which I suspect) I also am leery of the method. Arya is one of the few women who has managed to escape the sexualisation and sexual abuse of this show – and now she’s facing off against a paedophile. I wish I could say I trust Game of Thrones not to do terrible things with this.