Game of Thrones 509 recap/ review
The Dance of Dragons
Recaps have spoilers concerning “Game of Thrones” as well as “A Song of Ice and Fire.”
After winter came down hard on Jon Snow last week for a thrilling battle sequence in “Hardhome,” “The Reins of Castamere” director David Nutter returns to direct the penultimate and finale episodes for the fifth season of “Game of Thrones.” Despite a slow beginning and middle, the current season has only upped last year’s stakes in the third act and continues in “The Dance of Dragons” this week. Nutter opens on King Stannis’ camp in the North and focuses on Melisandre in her tent. She gazes into her fire for visions and one suddenly arrives, but it’s too late. The “twenty, good men” Ramsay asked for last week obviously set fires around the Baratheon camp. By the time the sun rises as Davos and Stannis walk the camp, the army looks haggard and decimated. When Stannis orders the previous night’s guards to execution for missing the raiding party, Davos asks him one more time this year whether or not they will return to Castle Black. Stannis says they won’t, nor will they march for Winterfell. As Davos computes this, Stannis looks at his wife and Melisandre before telling Davos to butcher the horses for meat.
We stay in the North for the next scene as Jon returns to the Wall with the wildlings he managed to save at Hardhome. Thorne eventually lets them pass after momentarily staring down at Jon to build suspense. “Every one of them is alive because of you,” Sam tells his best friend as the wildlings file through Castle Black. “…and no one else. I don’t think that fact is lost on them,” Jon replies as the camera shows us all the hateful glares the brothers of the Night’s Watch throw in the direction of their Lord Commander. Sam leaves when Thorne descends and stands by Jon to tell him that his good heart will get him killed. Nutter jumps back to the Baratheon camp when Davos walks into Stannis’ tent and receives orders to return to Castle Black and gather supplies. The Hand doesn’t want to leave the King, but agrees to do it if he can take Princess Shireen with him to keep her away from a siege. Stannis refuses, saying that his family stays with him and that Davos must not return with empty hands. Davos leaves to bid farewell to his little friend Shireen before he leaves. She reads about the Dance of the Dragons—an old Targaryen family feud that divided Westeros where dragons fought dragons. He gives her a wooden stag that he carved as a gift and she kisses his cheek. As he bids farewell, he also thanks her for teaching him how to read and how to be a grown-up. He wants to hear all about the Dance of Dragons upon returning, but she points out that now he can read it for himself.
The camera then jumps to the opposite, southern end of Westeros—Dorne, for the finest scene in this setting so far on the program. Areo Hotah leads Jaime Lannister into a luxurious room with plush furniture and large spread where Prince Doran Martell waits for him with Ellaria Sand, Myrcella Baratheon, and Trystane Martell. Jaime explains that he only broke in the castle in the first place because of the threat Cersei received earlier in the year. Doran wisely, privately surmises Ellaria’s involvement and dismisses any charges against Jaime to avoid war, toasting King Tommen to seal the deal. However, Ellaria dumps her wine in disgust before Jaime expresses that the King insists his sister return to King’s Landing. Doran agrees to this arrangement on the grounds that Trystane be allowed to join his betrothed in King’s Landing and that Trystane keep Oberyn’s seat on the small council to strengthen the alliance between the Iron Throne and Dorne. Ellaria insults Doran at this idea and storms away, but not before the Prince threatens her if she should ever try it again. Jaime asks about Bronn’s fate, which Doran explains is in Trystane’s hands. After all, Bronn struck Trystane and it gives Doran an excuse to let his son learn how to wield a little bit of power. Trystane assures Jaime that his friend will go free…on one condition. Alexander Siddig’s performance as Doran commanded the entire scene, out-acting each performer on screen as the wise, peacekeeping leader of Dorne with war-weary experience.
We’re as privy to Trystane’s ruling as Bronn when the camera turns to the dungeon cells of Sunspear. A couple of the Sand Snakes competitively play a slap game when a fight nearly breaks out between them as Areo Hotah enters to escort Bronn upstairs for Dornish justice (not to be confused with the popular courtroom drama set in the desert region). Bronn arrives at the room where Jaime, Doran, and Trystane wait for him. As his companion eyes the pie, Jaime tells him there’s one condition which prompts Areo to give Bronn an elbow to the chops. “Perhaps some soup instead?” Doran suggests. Nutter then jumps to Braavos where we hear the familiar call of “Oysters, clams, and cockles!” coming from Arya. She notices her mark from last week and needlessly checks to see that she still has the poison. However, Mace Tyrell and (more importantly) Meryn Trant arrive in Braavos. Fans recall Trant’s name at the top of Arya’s s**t list of death. Arya ignores her mark as the focus shifts to Tycho Nestoris greeting Mace at the dock. She follows them all the way to the Iron Bank as Mace perpetually makes an ass of himself the entire trip.
Later that evening, Trant complains to a few of his men about Mace and House Tyrell on the way to a brothel. Arya follows them there with her cart and starts slinging seafood to any prostitute or john who will buy one. She eventually spies Trant judging each and every woman presented to him as “too old.” One of Trant’s men invites her into Trant’s room to treat the men to oysters until the madame of the place shoos Arya out of the room. This madame then presents Trant with a nervous, unsuspecting girl who is certainly not of the brothel’s staff. “Good…You’ll have a fresh one for me tomorrow,” he says without remorse or guilt. Arya has zero time to react to such an abhorrent statement before the madame shoos her out to close the scene. At the House of Black and White, Arya updates Jaqen on her target and lies, saying “the thin man wasn’t hungry today…tomorrow.” This Faceless Man probably knows the truth all-too-well, however. Will we finally see Arya kill one of the names on her list? “Game of Thrones” has expedited her training so anything is possible next week. Maybe she’ll kill ‘em both?
In a private gathering, the wheelchair-bound leader of Dorne offers Ellaria a second chance (because he doesn’t believe in third chances) to swear allegiance to Dorne. The other three Sand Snakes look on with their wrists tied as Areo guards them. Ellaria kneels, sobbing, and kisses the prince’s ring. We stay with her for the next scene as she interrupts Jaime, who writes a letter to the Red Keep. This scene eventually becomes a forgiveness scene where Ellaria finally gets to express some things about the Lannisters which she’s felt for a while. She knows about his relationship with Cersei, his sister, and assures her that there is no judgment or disapproval in Dorne. “A hundred years ago, nobody would have blinked an eye at you—if you’d been named Targaryen,” she relates. In spite of the family history, Ellaria also recognizes that Myrcella and Jaime, too, were not part of Oberyn’s death. Finally, Dorne matters in “Game of Thrones.” Nutter takes back to the Baratheon camp in the North where Stannis visits Shireen in her tent. She also tells him about the Dance of Dragons and he asks her which side she’d choose. She explains that choosing a side in the first place is terrible. Stannis explains that some men must choose, they “must fulfill their destiny,” and he clearly means to do so. Shireen recognizes her father looking visibly upset and heartbreakingly begs to help him in any way she can. He tells her that she doesn’t even know what he’s talking about, but she couldn’t care less—she just wants to help her father. He hugs her close and says, “Forgive me.”
Nutter stays with Shireen for the next scene as the camera lingers on the stag Davos made for her, clutched in her hands. Her father’s men lead her to a pyre where Melisandre waits and the entire picture becomes clear to the young princess—the priestess intends to use the child as a burning sacrifice to R’hllor. As men tie her to the pyre, Stannis emerges and takes his stance next to Selyse, who assures him they’re doing the right thing. Shireen screams, shrieking over Melisandre as she begins the despicable, murderous ritual. As the girl screams for help, her mother finally snaps out of her creepy state and rushes the pyre to save her daughter. It’s too late, however, as Melisandre sets the pyre alight and knights restrain Queen Selyse over the shrieking. Instead of watching a child burn, the camera chooses to show the sorrowful, pitiful facial expressions of Stannis, Selyse, and the Baratheon army as well as Melisandre’s delusional, zealous smile. “Game of Thrones” may lose several viewers over this; however, one must always remember that author Martin drew from history to present his story for all of its horrifying details at times. Ritual sacrifice unfortunately happened in human history and less-advanced civilizations of the past often refused the light of reason when making rulings.
Like Sapochnik did with Jon Snow last week, so, too, does Nutter follow Daenerys for an extended, exciting sequence to conclude the episode as the fighting pits open to celebrate her marriage to Hizdahr. All of the gladiators swear allegiance to the queen before she claps her hands to begin the spectacle. As Tyrion drinks and watches the gruesome fights, Daario interrupts the conversation between the newlyweds. Daario talks about fighting, killing men. Hizdahr, who has never fought or killed, speaks out of his ass. Daenerys’ new husband hardly enjoys the bullying he gets from his wife and Daario. After the first fight, Jorah walks out for the next one. The queen can’t watch, but Tyrion can’t look away as his former captor manages to kill his way to the final showdown against another gladiator. Despite nearly losing his head, Jorah emerges victorious and kills his opponent to the cacophony of the crowd booing before he sends a spear just past the Khaleesi, killing a would-be Son of the Harpy assassin standing behind her. After this, the Sons of the Harpy appear to populate half of the arena and unleash death. The murderous faction kills everybody they can: Unsullied, Second Sons, other soldiers, innocent bystanders, and especially Hizdahr, who most suspected to serve as the secret leader of the Sons of the Harpy. If he was, he isn’t now. The queen is whisked the center of the pit as the Unsullied, Daario, Jorah, and Tyrion circle around her for protection. When all hope seems lost, Daenerys seems to accept her fate and holds the hand of her long-time friend Missandei. Except all is not lost when Drogon the delinquent dragon appears as a Deus ex machina for the queen’s survival and escape. He breathes fire, scaring attackers away before landing and allowing the Targaryen queen to mount his back and fly away together.
I know many don’t consider Drogon as a Deus ex machina because the show already had one completely unnecessary scene earlier in the year which featured him popping in on Dany and nothing more. Honestly, it makes this week’s sequence that much more contrived as the writers felt the need to plug a pointless scene in the beginning of the season to make her escape feel earned or warranted by the narrative. The quick glimpse by Tyrion and Jorah was plenty. Also, does this mean Tyrion will assume control of Meereen? Arya continued her assassin training, but life threw her a curveball when Meryn Trant stepped foot in her neighborhood. Next week perhaps? Maybe she’ll get the thin man, as well. Despite an exciting sequence that ended in dragon rescue, most will remember “The Dance of Dragons” for its line-crossing scene where Stannis allows Melisandre to burn his daughter. Season five is wrought with controversial scenes between Sansa’s wedding night, burning Shireen, and the impending penance walk next week in “Mother’s Mercy.” Will Cersei break? Will Margaery or Loras? Will Lady Stoneheart reveal herself next week? All I have left to say is Stannis best beat the Boltons after burning his child in front of his wife and army or he will have zero supporters at the end of it. Is he a villain now?