“Boy, that escalated quickly.”
I have now watched this episode three times and I am still flabbergasted at the rollercoaster ride on which “The Dance of Dragons” took me. I can’t remember the last time I moved from table-flipping angry to nail-biting to jumping and cheering so quickly – well, I can: it was during this year’s Final Four. So, there you have it: this episode was Final Four-level intense – and coming from a kid who grew up where basketball is practically a religion, that’s kind of a big deal.
The episode started off a little slow, mostly bouncing between the Wall, Stannis’ camp, and Dorne – plus a trip to Braavos – largely continuing to set up dominoes for the show to knock down later. Then it turns it all the way up to eleven with a quickness!
Lord Commander Snow and the Free Folk who managed to escape Hardhome make their way to the Wall and are finally let through the tunnel to Castle Black after an uncomfortably long, long-distance staring contest between Jon and Ser Alliser Thorne – apparently, it’s not just Targaryens who are really good at staring: Thorne’s got game. Once he’s on the Castle Black side of the Wall, Jon struggles with not only feeling that he failed the Free Folk after having lost so many at Hardhome, but with the animosity that rolling off the vast majority of his sworn brothers.
In Dorne, Prince Doran gathers Elaria Sand, Princess Myrcella, Prince Trystane, and Jaime – a meeting that Elaria makes difficult as she insults King Tommen, Jaime, and Doran before she storms out of the room. Doran, wishing to keep the peace, decides that Jaime will not be punished and he will send Myrcella back to King’s Landing, but only if accompanied by Trystane: Doran insists that Myrcella and Trystane’s betrothal stand and that Trystane occupy the seat on the Small Council that was given to Oberyn before his death. Later, Doran tells Elaria that her rebellion is over and she has a choice: swear allegiance to him or die. She opts to swear her allegiance to him. She then visits Jaime and, during the encounter, seems downright pleasant compared to the earlier meeting; still, the turn around is entirely too quick and her parting statements seemed …suspect. So, I doubt we’ve seen the last of her desire for vengeance.
Under the watchful eye of the Titan of Braavos, Arya continues making her rounds as Lana, preparing to assassinate the insurance broker we know as “the thin man.” That is, until she spies none other than Ser Meryn Trant as he lands in Braavos in Lord Mace Tyrell’s party. She abandons her mission in favor of following Trant around the city, eventually finding him in a brothel. It’s here that we discover that Trant isn’t just a sadistic jerk – he’s a sadistic jerk who likes to rape and brutalize little girls. It’s also in this brothel that Trant sees “Lana” and a flash of recognition cross his face. Arya is kicked out before any interaction can take place. When she returns to the House of Black and White that night, she lies to Jaqen H’gar, telling him that the thin man was not hungry and that she will try to complete her mission the next day.
Stannis’ camp somewhere between the Wall and Winterfell is in pretty dire straits: the snow storm’s disrupted supply lines, sellswords have abandoned ship, men are freezing to death, horses are freezing to death… and now Ramsay Bolton and his “twenty good men” have burnt all their food stores and destroyed all their siege weapons, killing more men and horses in the process. Ser Davos, though he knows they do not have enough food to get all of them back to Castle Black, still seems to be advocating a retreat back to the Wall, a prospect that Stannis flatly refuses. Instead, Stannis heads over to meet with his wife and Melisandre, which obviously bothers Davos, as it should: historically, this is how shadow murder babies get made and people end up being burned to death. And let’s not forget that last week, Melisandre encouraged Stannis to sacrifice his daughter.
Stannis later orders Davos to ride back to Castle Black to requisition food and supplies. Davos tries to argue that someone else should go or that, if must go, he should take Shireen with him; Stannis is having none of that. Before he rides to Castle Black, Davos visits Shireen and gives her a gift – a stag he’d carved for her –, to thank her for teaching him to read and to be a grown-up. Then Stannis visits Shireen. During their visit she tells him about the book she’s reading – The Dance of Dragons – and how it recounts the horrors of an old war in the Seven Kingdoms… a point that seems pretty lost on him. He talks about choices and destiny; Shireen, being the good-hearted child she is, tells him she really wants to help him. Clutching the stag Davos made her, Shireen is marched through the camp to a stake to which she is lashed and burned as a sacrifice to R’hllor. *flips table* *cries* SCREW YOU, STANNIS!
The episode ends in Meereen, where Daenerys is very reluctantly presiding over the Great Games. Hizdahr zo Loraq garners some suspicion and some serious stink-eye from Dani; Hizdahr and Daario engage in a bizarre and somewhat comedic pissing contest; and there’s some pretty entertaining snark coming from Tyrion. Then Jorah shows up in the pit, throwing Dani into even more emotional turmoil about the whole affair. Conflicted though she is, she bids the fight begin. Jorah, nearly defeated twice in the six-person melee, ultimately wins the fight after defeating a Meereenese spear fighter.
He and Dani exchange meaningful looks until Jorah reaches for the defeated fighter’s spear and launches it up onto the dais. The spear finds its target: a Son of the Harpy. Suddenly, the arena erupts as the Sons of the Harpy reveal themselves and begin slaughtering their way toward Daenerys. Daario, Jorah, and the Unsullied go on defense. Hizdahr is stabbed in the chaos. Daenerys and her party try to escape by jumping into the arena and fleeing through the fighters’ tunnels, but to no avail: they are surrounded in the pit. Just as Dani makes peace with the fact that she is about to die, DROGON!
Drogon swoops into the pit and makes quick work of killing quite a few of Dani’s attackers. Some of the Sons of the Harpy manage to land some spears on Drogon’s neck and wing. Even as Drogon is being attacked, Daenerys climbs on his back and they make the most badass exit ever, leaving everyone positively awestruck.
What Could Have Been Better
Did Shireen really have to die, let alone that horrifically?! REALLY?! *rage*
What I Loved
- Shireen and Davos – I wish she could have had Davos for her father
- Tyrion’s responses to Hizdahr zo Loraq
- Tyrion saving Missandei
- DANI AND DROGON
What I am Looking Forward to
I’m really curious about whether or not – and, if so, how – Elaria will try to avenge Oberyn. I really want to see if Arya manages to scratch Trant’s name off of her kill list. I really want Stannis’ horrifying, unconscionable, inhumane decision to come back to bite him. And I’m both curious and nervous to see what’s going to happen in Meereen now.
“You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.” – Alliser Thorne
“This is my own poor way of saying thank you. For teaching me to be a grown-up.” – Ser Davos
“I believe in second chances. I don’t believe in third chances.” – Prince Doran
“It’s always changing, who we’re supposed to love and who we’re not. The only thing that stays the same is that we want who we want.” – Elaria Sand
“I wouldn’t have chosen either. It’s all the choosing sides that made everything so horrible.” – Princess Shireen
“It is easy to confuse what is with what ought to be, especially when what is has worked out in your favor.” – Tyrion
“In my experience, eloquent men are right every bit as often as imbeciles.” – Tyrion
“Valahd.” – Daenerys