I don’t normally post two Game of Thrones episode reviews in a row, because I like to break them up with some other posts about films or other fun things. But this may be the episode that actually makes me lose all faith in the writers of this godforsaken series. This episode’s title is slightly borrowed from the fifth book in the series, which is 100% ironic because this episode contained some things that are so different from the book that it makes me want to vomit. I wonder what I’m talking about? Read on! Please note: Huge spoilers!
Firstly, the pre-title recap sequence reminded me of Gendry, whatever happened to him? Is he still rowing to King’s Landing? I liked what happened to him in the book and I do hope we see him again.
The episode begins at Stannis’ camp in the snow. Melisandre is consulting her fires and she knows something is suss as she goes outside to look and sees many of the Baratheon army’s tents burning. This must be Ramsay Bolton’s army of “twenty good men” wreaking havoc. The next morning, Davos says to Stannis that the food stores have been burned, and the weapons, and the horses. He says to Stannis that they surely cannot press forward to Winterfell, and given this situation, that they can’t march backward to Castle Black either. They’re pretty much stuck and Stannis looks towards Melisandre and his wife Selyse, who look like they’ve been plotting. This is where, whilst watching this episode for the first time, I started to feel a real sense of pure existential anxiety.
Then, Lord Commander Jon Snow and friends (including wildlings and giant Wun Wun) return to the Wall. Alliser Thorne looks down at the band of Night’s Watchmen and wildlings with pure anger. He and Jon share a look and the gates to Castle Black are opened. The wildlings walk through Castle Black with the Night’s Watchmen looking pretty pissed. Jon describes the mission to Sam as a failure, but ever positive, Sam says it wasn’t because at least some of the wildlings are alive. Wun Wun appears and my partner notes that he looks like Liam Neeson. Do you guys reckon he does? I think he kind of does. Meanwhile little Olly looks at Jon and runs away, he’s presumably super angry at the wildlings being there, given that wildlings killed his whole family. Alliser then appears and tells Jon that he has a good heart and that this will get them all killed. Jon then looks super depressed. Which is how I looked after this episode finished.
Back to Stannis on the road to Winterfell, he looks at the placement of armies on his map and sees that he is in a pretty difficult position. Davos enters, and Stannis says that he’s sending Davos back to Castle Black to ask the Night’s Watch for troops and resources. Davos says that he’s the Hand of the King and shouldn’t leave Stannis’ side. Davos tries to get Shireen and Selyse to come with him for their own safety, but Stannis says no. This is where my alarm bells really started to ring.
Then, Davos goes to see Shireen. Shireen is reading a story called ‘The Dance Of Dragons’. Shireen reminds the audience why she is so clever and awesome and should definitely stick around for a couple more seasons. Davos has made Shireen a stag toy out of wood, saying that she deserves it for teaching him to read, and teaching him “how to be a grown up”. This is where I actually typed, “ugghghghghghghgh she is going to die”. It was like the typical America’s Next Top Model character edit where they remind the audience how awesome someone is or how tragic their story is, before eliminating them from the competition. At this point I was already about to flip a table.
Next up, in the most pointless story this side of Missandei and Grey Worm’s stupid romance, we go to Jaime in Dorne who attends a meeting with Doran Martell, Princess Myrcella, Prince Trystane, and Ellaria Sand. They are all relaxing around and acting like Ellaria wasn’t actually trying to murder Myrcella a couple of episodes ago. There’s some gorgeous architecture here though. The necklace mystery from a couple of episodes ago is resolved as we learn that Ellaria Sand sent the necklace and creepy snake to Cersei as a threat to Myrcella’s life. Doran states that he doesn’t want a war and wants to resolve the situation peacefully, and he gives a nice speech about togetherness and peace. Doran wants to consult with the Lannisters rather than fight with them, and he proposes a toast to the Lannisters which Ellaria pours on the ground like a boss. Jaime states that King Tommen wants Myrcella home, and Doran agrees that he can’t disobey his King. He says that Myrcella will go to King’s Landing, and Trystane will go with her and serve on the Small Council in the role that the now deceased Oberyn Martell occupied. Ellaria states the best ‘oh snap!’ moment of the episode as she tells Doran, “No wonder you can’t stand, you have no spine”. Jaime asks after Bron and Trystane agrees that Bronn will be released on one condition.
We then go to Bronn and the Sand Snakes, still incarcerated. Two of the Sand Snakes play a hand slapping game in an even greater waste of time than I ever could have anticipated. I suppose this little scene was supposed to set up some more dynamics between the sisters, but who cares, we’ll soon be out of Dorne and will probably never see them again. Bronn is then freed by Areo Hotah, but the Sand Snakes stay locked up, hopefully forever.
Bronn arrives to meet with Jaime and friends, and he apologies to Trystane for slapping him around the other episode. We find out that Trystane has set Bronn free on the condition that Areo Hotah smacks him in the face. Hilarious! Now, presumably Jaime, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane are off on the way back to King’s Landing so that this dumb storyline is over and done with.
Back to a story I actually care about, we then see Arya in Braavos, calling out “oysters, clams and cockles”, with her poison at the ready to kill the gambling man who was her first assignment as an assassin. She gets out the poison, but looks past the gambling man to see Ser Meryn Trant arriving in Braavos with Mace Tyrell. Is it that Trant is the person Arya was really meant to see after all, not the gambling man? Mace Tyrell is jolly as always as he sets foot on dry land. We know Mace Tyrell and Trant are in Braavos to suss out the money situation, to meet with the Iron Bank of Braavos and beg for money so that they get out of their dire financial straits. Arya follows Tyrell and Trant, and there’s an awkward moment where Trant kind of sees her. Arya waits until the two are done in the bank and leave, whilst Mace Tyrell sings like the jolly fool he is. They may have gotten what they went in there for. Arya keeps following them.
Arya follows Trant into a brothel, and she still has her oyster cart with her. Isn’t that a great idea, the scent of an intense shellfish aroma in a brothel. Yuck. Arya sells her oysters to her sex worker friend and sees Trant wandering into another room. This scene is too dark much like all of this season’s moments with Arya, leading me to believe that the people of Braavos don’t know how to light their rooms properly. Trant is picking a sex worker but they are all “too old”. He asks the madam, “Do you have what I want or not?”, referring to a child. Trant sees Arya again and may recognise her, but Arya is told to leave. A very young girl is then led in and Trant chooses her. I must note that this scene is not in the book, but I am guessing that this scene is included to make us really want Arya to kill Trant, because he is a blatant pedophile. We should remember that Arya wants to kill Trant for killing Syrio Forel, the First Sword of Braavos, back in season one. Anyway, Trant goes off with the young girl and all we know is that this guy is truly a monster. Arya is told to leave again, but she now knows what Trant’s vice is – female children within the context of a brothel.
I swear to GRRM that if they make Arya into a sex worker in order to lure and kill Trant, I will be so amazingly upset that I will literally flip six tables. Especially given the rest of the things that have occurred to female characters specifically this season. It’s like they don’t realise how much of a coincidence this is.
Anyway, Arya returns to the House of Black and White, which is lit far too darkly again. She tells Jaqen that she couldn’t kill the gambling man but she’ll get him tomorrow. She doesn’t tell Jaqen that she’s focusing on Meryn Trant for now. Arya appears to be going off her own kill list, rather than the tasks that Jaqen and the Many Faced God have given her. But maybe this is a part of her training, maybe this is what she was meant to do all along. In any case I’m looking forward to seeing more of her adventures in the next episode, the last of the season.
Back to dumb Dorne, Ellaria swears allegiance to Doran but the Sand Snakes look pissed. Then Jaime is visited by Ellaria and she makes some comments about Jaime’s love for Cersei being wrong at the moment, but if it were one hundred years ago and if they were Targaryen siblings, it would be fine. Another nice moment but not nice enough for me to forgive this fabricated ridiculousness of a storyline.
Next, my worst nightmares are realised as we see Shireen playing with her stag toy in front of a fire – foreshadowing. Stannis goes to see her and Shireen tells him about ‘The Dance Of Dragons’ book, which kind of parallels the story of Game of Thrones. Stannis looks drunk and/or clinically depressed, with flat affect and monotone voice. Stannis has a discussion around choice and destiny, stating that he must become who he is meant to be, no matter how much he might hate doing things that lead him to become that person. Anxiety brewing. Stannis says that sometimes a person chooses, and sometimes “the world forces his hand”, and he has to become who he is meant to be no matter the cost. Anxiety increasing. Shireen states that she wants to help Stannis in any way she can. Anxiety reaching high levels. Stannis says that Shireen can help him, and she says that she will, as she is Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon and Stannis’ daughter. She hugs him and he looks like a walking nightmare. As he hugs his daughter, he says, “forgive me”. Anxiety exploding!
In the next scene, Shireen is led away from her camp between the Baratheon soldiers towards a stake. Melisandre tells Shireen that “it will be over soon”. Shireen asks where her father is and Stannis looks on with the dead eyes of someone who is making a huge mistake. Shireen is tied to the stake and her mother Selyse says that this is what the Lord of Light wants, but it looks like she’s convincing herself more than she’s convincing Stannis. Melisandre offers Shireen to the Lord of Light as a sacrifice. Shireen calls out for her mother, and Selyse then says that she can’t go through with this, but Stannis is the one to say that Shireen must be burned in order to ensure their victory against the Boltons in Winterfell. Stannis is the one who convinces Selyse? Are you freaking kidding me? Melisandre lights the stake, and Selyse goes to help Shireen but the army hold her back. Shireen burns and screams as Melisandre watches. Stannis watches but Selyse moans on the ground.
Can I just say, pardon my French, that this is bullshit? Kerry Ingram was amazing this episode, and her screams were actually chilling. But I will never not be completely angry at this, and in the dumbass show writers’ insistence on painting Stannis Baratheon like some moustache-twirling villain, as opposed to a genuinely cool dude who is the only real King who gives a shit about Westeros. Fuck this. Stannis is a badass and I will forever love his coolness in the books. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss (the showrunners) have always said that they think Stannis is a selfish guy who’s in the it for the crown and his birthright and nothing else. But they are completely missing the point of the books, where Stannis is the only one to listen to the cry for help from the Night’s Watch and the only one who actually goes to save Westeros from the threat of the White Walkers. It’s like they haven’t read any of the books past the second one. Between this and their insistence upon having a whole bunch of strong female characters be victims of sexual abuse – what is their problem?
Also, this episode makes everyone who likes Stannis (me included), look like a total heartless monster. And for that, I will never forgive them.
Anyway, in Meereen, Daenerys is attending the slave fight at the Great Pit of Daznak, to her great displeasure as she never wanted slaves to fight in the first place. Daenerys, Hizdahr, Missandei, Daario and Tyrion are sitting on a nice platform watching the people of Meereen cheer as fighters emerge. As always, the costume design is great here. Daenerys claps, although she doesn’t want to, and the fight begins. The people of Meereen are loving it, and Daario wants to bet on the fighters, but Daenerys won’t. Daario is showing off in front of Hizdahr, who Daenerys finds has never fought a day in his life, unlike manly Daario. I think at this point in the book, Daenerys and Hizdahr were married already, but they haven’t yet married in the show. Also my partner thinks Hizdahr looks like Lionel Richie. One of the fighters then cuts the other fighter’s head off. Hizdahr smiles and Tyrion looks sick. Hizdahr asks, “What great thing has ever been accomplished without killing or cruelty?”. Daenerys and Hizdahr discuss men having to die for nothing. I think at this point Tyrion and Hizdahr had some nice banter too.
Jorah then arrives to fight, and Daenerys looks shocked and angry and upset. She nevertheless claps to begin the fight. Jorah initially gets dominated but then he stabs his opponent in the fight. He then fights another man. Daario looked pretty handsome in this scene. The fight continues, and the noble people of Meereen and freed slaves alike are enjoying the fight. Jorah is about to be killed but then he’s saved by another opponent stabbing the one that’s about to kill him. Jorah then gets him, and Jorah is the victor. But as he looks up at Daenerys, he sees something behind her, and throws a spear – which lands on one of the Sons of the Harpy, who was about to attack Daenerys. A massive amount of Sons of the Harpy emerge from the crowd and begin killing everyone, with some amazing creepy music in the background.
The Sons of the Harpy butcher the people of Meereen and it looks like they’re killing both freed slaves and noble people of Meereen. Daenerys’ army of Unsullied warriors begin to fight as well but they get dominated by the Sons of the Harpy too, which completely annoys me because these Unsullied are meant to be the best warriors and all we’ve seen of them is them getting beaten. Hizdahr is stabbed and left to die on the platform. Jorah and Daenerys meet one another and hold hands, a show of friendship, he’s still stuck in that damned friendzone. A Son of the Harpy is about to kill Missandei but Tyrion saves her. Meanwhile the Unsullied are still getting systematically killed and I just don’t understand it. Daenerys and friends attempt to escape but they’re blocked. They then run into the centre of the pit which seems like a great idea (not).
Sons of the Harpy pour into the pit, but the Unsullied warriors protect Daenerys, Daario, Tyrion and Missandei who are stuck in the middle. This scene suffers from the trope you can see in some action/kung fu movies, where a group attacks another group and only one fighter attacks at a time. Pretty poor choreography of this fight scene. Missandei and Daenerys hold hands, in a pretty tense moment. Daenerys closes her eyes, presumably facing death with a brave face. We hear a roar from the distance, and who else is it but Daenerys’ huge dragon Drogon, here to save the day.
Drogon flies in, killing the Sons of the Harpy, biting one and thrashing it around. He burns a whole bunch of Daenerys’ enemies and seems to know exactly which ones to get. The Sons of the Harpy throw spears at him and it looks like he’s in trouble, but Daenerys goes to him and takes one of the spears out. He roars at her directly into the face, and standing in front of him she is silent and unafraid, knowing that her baby dragon could never hurt her. She reaches out to him and climbs up on him, a Targaryen instinct. She tells him to fly and he does, flying up and away out of the Great Pit of Daznak. In the book I think she gets pretty badly burned in this part, but I suppose they decided to miss out on that. Daenerys and Drogon fly away, leaving Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei in the middle of the Pit and contentious Meereen to fend for themselves.
There was some pretty bad CGI when Daenerys was flying on Drogon but other than that, I really enjoyed the last scene. It’s a shame that it was preceded by the most ridiculously dumb and anger-inducing scene since Ramsay and Sansa’s wedding night. This season has been full of dumb choices. As far as ninth episodes go, this was sufficiently shocking but for some very wrong reasons.
In the next episode, the last of the season, according to the trailer we will see Daenerys’ friends in Meereen stranded without her, Jon Snow looking depressed, Cersei locked away and hoping to leave jail, Melisandre and Stannis hopefully feeling really bad as a result of this episode’s monstrosity, Stannis looking successful but still hopefully feeling really bad, Arya being a cool assassin, finally we see Brienne again, and Sansa who will hopefully finally get the vengeance he seeks.
This episode gets a 2/5 as a direct result of the writers being idiots who make bad choices.