Sunday, June 14, 2015

Game of Thrones (S5E09): "The Dance of Dragons"

Episode 9 of Season 5 (S5E09) of HBO's Game Of Thrones is titled "The Dance of Dragons." The penultimate entry in Game of Thrones 10-episode seasons is often where the most dramatic events of the show have occurred in the past. For example in Season 1 "Baelor" (S1E09) is where Lord Eddard Stark lost his head, signaling that this show would be unafraid to kill off what appeared to be the main protagonist. In Season 2 (S2E09) "Blackwater" contained the Battle of Blackwater; Season 3 (S3E09) "The Rains of Castamere" is the most famous episode of the entire series, and includes the events of the Red Wedding. Season 4's 9th episode (S4E09) was "The Watcher on the Wall" which included the battle between the Wildlings  and the Night's Watch. (One could argue that actually S4E08 "The Mountain and the Viper" is the more significant episode of Season 4.) In Season 5 Episode 8 "Hardhome" was the pre-eminent episode which contains one of the most dramatic battles of the entire show. So, Episode 9 of Season 5 tries to be significant in other ways.

This episode contains one of the most horrifying scenes of the entire show. We had been primed that something bad might happen because we know that Melissandre has said that the Lord of Light R'hllor needs King's Blood and that the only person with King's Blood running through their veins is Shireen, Stannis Barratheon's daughter (and probably Jon Snow depending on his parentage, which the show has hinted at but not confirmed). Shireen is one of the nicest, gentlest characters on the show and it was hard to believe that Stannis, who earlier in the season had a lovely scene with his daughter where he explained how he refused to abandon her to the scourge of greyscale, would actually acquiesce to the Red Witch's call that he sacrifice his beloved daughter on the altar of his ambition to sit on the Iron Throne. Even my Unsullied husband knew something was up when Stannis sent his Hand, Davos Seaworth back to Castle Black purportedly to ask the Night's Watch for food and supplies, but clearly to get him out of sight before Stannis would violate his own principles and human dignity and actually burn his only child at the stake in order to curry favor with a god that he has previously indicated that he doesn't really believe in.

Back in Braavos Arya Stark catches sight of Ser Meryn Trant and Lord Mace Tyrell, who are in town to visit the Iron Bank and re-negotiate the royal debt on behalf of the Lannisters. Arya deviates from her assigned murderous task and clearly intends to take advantage of the providential opportunity that someone from her oft-repeated list of people she wants to kill as revenge for the decimation of House Stark has appeared before her. This indicates that both has Arya not forgotten that she is a Stark, but that she is perfectly willing to kill.

The other main event that happened in this episode occurred in Mereen where Dany and her husband, along with Tyrion Lannister and Daario Naharis are center stage as the famous fighting pits are finally opened. However the carnage is not limited to the pit when the Sons of the Harpy (the guerrilla movement which has been actively opposed to Dany's rule and its upending of their social norms which included slavery) show up. Dany is saved from immediate assassination by the victorious Ser Jorah throwing a well-aimed spear directly at her from the Pit and killing the attempted murderer creeping up behind her. All hell breaks loose as the Sons of the Harpy start hacking dozens of people to death in the audience (including Dany's husband) in their rush to get to Dany. Dany joins hands with Missandei and they stand in a circle of calm in the middle of a killing storm as Daario, Jorah and the Unsullied fight against what appears to be overwhelming odds. Suddenly a dragon's shriek is heard and Drogon appears and starts burning Sons of the Harpy to death and this causes very many of them to run away in fear. Drogon lands and even though he looks like he wants to much Dany also, she approaches him without fear and jumps on his back and the two fly away!

There's only one episode left of the season! One of they key events of A Feast For Crows is yet to be depicted in Season 5, but suffice it to say that it involves Cersei's comeuppance and it may "break the internet" when it happens. That's all I'll say for now but there may be even more shocking events that as a book reader I may not even be ready for.

The highlights of this episode were:
  • Drogon! His appearance at just the right time to save Dany when things were looking grim as the Sons of the Harpy had surrounded our favorites (Dany, Tyrion, Daario, Missandei, Ser Jorah) in Daznak's Pit was thrilling.
  • Seeing Dany flying away on Drogon was another highlight of the episode.
  • The sheer scale of Daznak's Pit, the auditorium in Mereen where the fights to the death occur was clearly mostly CGI but it was still very impressive.
  • I had a hard time thinking of the "best" lines of the episode but the most memorable are Meryn Trant's repeated "Too old" in response to the younger and younger girls being offered to him in the Braavos brothel, indicating to us that he is clearly a pedophile.
  • Another memorable line is Shireen's innocent "I want to help" to Stannis, unaware that her father is considering her death as a means to achieving his goal of royal glory.
The parts of the episode I could have done without:
  •  Did we really need to have another female character abused (to the death!) in such a horrendous way? Shireen's immolation was simply heart-rending and really felt like it has taken the show over the top in the category of horrible events.
Grade: 9/10.

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