Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 9 “The Dance of Dragons”

Intro: I’m watching Game of Thrones for the first time. I don’t know anything about it more recent than this episode.

The Wall: Jon leads the wildlings rescued from Hardhome back to The Wall. They approach from the North on foot. So, they must have left the ships berthed somewhere on the north side of The Wall. Earlier Stannis lent the ships to Jon on the condition that he get them back. But now they’re stuck in a harbour on the north side of The Wall somewhere. That could be tricky – Stannis would need to march his army back north of The Wall to pick the ships up.

Anyway, they approach The Wall. Ser Alliser is standing on top, looking down at the wildlings with contempt. I think for a minute that he’s going to defy Jon and isn’t going to let them through. It looks like Jon thinks this too. But then, after what seems an eternity, Alliser gives the order to open the gate. Jon looks relieved and leads Tormund and the wildlings through. For a second I think maybe Alliser has set a trap and will slaughter the wildlings inside the tunnel or something, but no such thing eventuates. They make it through and walk through Castle Black, including one huge giant, who looks around curiously.

Alliser and many of the guardsmen watch with obvious disapproval, but defer to Jon’s orders. The boy whose village was destroyed by the wildlings looks defiant and angry. Jon comments to Sam that he failed, thousands of wildlings were killed in the White Walker attack. But Sam points out that he saved thousands who’d be dead otherwise. Alliser comes over to Jon and says, “You’ve got a good heart, Jon Snow. I hope it doesn’t get us all killed.” And walks away.

Well. I thought Alliser would lead a mutiny, but he seems to have resigned himself to following Jon’s orders. The perfect opportunity has passed. If this were any other story, I’d say that Alliser will probably remain loyal from now on, but this is Game of Thrones, so all bets are off. The resentment is still there deep inside, and might surface some time in the future.

Winterfell: During the night, Ramsay’s guerrilla group of 20 men set fire to Stannis’s camp, burning supplies and killing horses. Stannis is livid. He says the guards were either asleep or let strangers into the camp, either way they’re to be rounded up and hanged. With their supplies gone, Ser Davos advises that they can’t press an attack and recommends falling back ot Castle Black. But Stannis is stubborn and orders Davos to return to Castle Black alone and request reinforcements and supplies from Jon. He says he’ll offer in exchange a promise that when he gains the Iron Throne, the Night’s Watch will receive all the men it needs and can man all of the castles along the Wall once again. Davos is unconvinced, but follows the order.

Now in dire straits, Stannis makes a tough decision. He talks to Melisandre. Later he is walking through the camp with his daughter Shireen, talking about various things. They round a corner and come across Melisandre standing by a pyre of wood with a stake in the middle. Shireen asks what’s going on. Stannis nods and gards grab Shireen and drag her to the stake, tying her up. Melisandre puts a torch to it and it goes up in flames as Shireen screams and pleads with Stannis to let her go. Stannis’s wife at first watches by his side, but then her resolve breaks and she goes to her daughter, but is held back by guards. Stannis’s men look on as Shireen burns, many of them obviously finding it distasteful. But this is happening because Melisandre promised Stannis that a sacrifice of royal blood to the Lord of Light would guarantee his victory in the battle. Some Lord of so-called Light.

This is a pretty dark turn. Previously we’ve seen that Stannis really loves his daughter, and I thought he’d do anything to protect her. But this shows that he loves the idea of victory more. It’s a bit of a change of character for him. No doubt he’ll become even more ruthless and obsessed over time now that he’s taken this terrible step. And will Melisandre’s promise even hold? What’ll happen if Stannis doesn’t win at Winterfell? A very short existence for Melisandre, I bet. But what if he does win? His appetite for more royal blood to sacrifice will just grow even more as he bludgeons his way towards King’s Landing.

Braavos: Arya goes back out as the oyster seller to poison the insurance salesman. But when she gets there, poison bottle in hand, she hesitates, as the man calls to buy some oysters. As she hesitates, she sees some men get off a ship, including Mace Tyrell (Margaery’s dad) and an escort of guards. Recall that Cersei sent Mace here back in episode 4 of this season, to negotiate with the Iron Bank about the Lannisters’ debt. Arya seems to recognise him, but I’m not sure if they ever met before. Maybe she recognises the uniforms of the guardsmen from King’s Landing.

Arya abandons her assassination mission and follows Mace and his guards. The guards head of to have some fun in a brothel, and Arya follows them in, using her guise as an oyster seller. The owner tells her to leave, but some of the girls say they are hungry, so Arya is allowed to stay. She spies on the head guard, who is selecting a girl from ones paraded in front of him. Each time he says he wants one younger. I think for a second he’s going to spot Arya and say he wants her. But the owner eventually brings out a girl young enough – about Arya’s age. He says good, and tomorrow he’ll be back and make sure there’s a fresh new girl for him then. Ewww, gross. This guy’s a disgusting sleazebag. Maybe Arya will use the poison on him. But I guess Arya is after news from King’s Landing. As far as she knows, Sansa is still in Joffrey’s clutches there.

Arya returns to the House of Black and White, where she reports to Jaqen that the insurance salesman – she calls him “the thin man” – wasn’t hungry today. Jaqen says maybe that’s why he’s so thin, and Arya can try again tomorrow. Now, Jaqen has been giving Arya lessons in lying convincingly, and hitting her with a stick every time he detects that she’s lying, but he accepts her false statement ehre. Has Arya learnt so well that she can lie to Jaqen without him knowing, or did he detect the lie but let it slide? Unclear. It’s also unclear why he’d let it slide. Maybe he wants to give Arya another chance, and knows that she has other things going on.

Dorne: Jaime shares a meal with Prince Doran of Dorne. I don’t think I’ve mentioned before that the ruling prince uses a wheelchair – his legs are obviously crippled somehow. Also present are Myrcella and the young prince (Doran’s son, I presume) who she wants to marry. Jaime comments that Myrcella should go put on some proper (i.e. less revealing) clothes. She states that she’s fine as she is, and the warmer climate of Dorne suits her. Doran wants to know what Jaime is up to, and he says he’s here to rescue Myrcella, after Cersei received a threatening letter that included Myrcella’s necklace and a snake. Snakes seem to be the symbol of House Martell, which is the ruling house of Dorne. Doran realises it must have been his sister-in-law, seeking revenge for the death of her husband (and his brother) Prince Oberyn.

Doran says he doesn’t want war. He’s seen war, and can do without it, all the people dying for no good reason. He says Jaime can take Myrcella back to King’s Landing, but his son must accompany her so they can be married to cement the alliance. And he is to be made a member of the Small Council, to replace Prince Oberyn. Jaime agrees, and they drink to the deal.

Later Prince Doran confronts his sister-in-law. He lashes her verbally and demands she drop her vengeance and swear allegiance to him. She glares and it’s not clear for a few long seconds what she will do. Doran is in a wheelchair, and she coud easily take him out with a dagger or something. But eventually she falls to her knees, tears in her eyes, and kisses his ring. Doran says coldly: “Good. I like to give people second chances. But never a third chance.” Sister-in-law then goes to Jaime and apologises to him.

She’s swallowed a good deal of pride here. It remains to be seen if it’ll stay down, or rise up like a bilious wave of revenge at some point. If she fails in a new plot to get even, it’s pretty clear that Doran will have her executed, so she better make it a good one if she goes that route. There’s a parallel here between the sister-in-law and Ser Alliser up at Castle Black. Both have a simmering resentment against their leader, but have swallowed their pride and anger and – for now – give the appearance of loyalty. Which one will crack first? Or will they both go at the same time, to maintain the storytelling symmetry?

Mereen: Daenerys attends the opening of the main fighting pit – more a Colosseum-like stadium than a pit. Flanking her seat are the noble she’s going to marry, Missandei, and Tyrion. The first fight pits “speed” against “strength” according to the announcer. The noble says Daenerys should put her money on the smaller, agile fighter. He’s seen many fights and speed usually wins. The gladiators battle and the big strong one decapitates the smaller fighter with his enormous sword. Daenerys is unimpressed, and obviously put off by the barbarism.

The next fighters come out, announced to be a team lead by a Mereen fighter versus one led by a “Westerosi knight”. Daenerys perks up and looks, and of course it’s Jorah. She watches with mouth agape as they fight, and Jorah eventually prevails, to the boos of the crowd who obviously support the local hero. Just as the fight ends, Jorah picks up a fallen spear and hurls it into the royal box!!

It kills an assassin lurking behind Daenerys, wearing a mask of the Sons of the Harpy. An all-out attack takes place with dozens of Harpy followers attempting to overrun the Unsullied guards and citizens and get to the royal box. Tyrion grabs a sword and joins the fighting, killing a Harpy. Daenerys retreats with Missandei and Tyrion and Jorah and a few Unsullied into the centre of the ring, where they are surrounded by Harpies, in a scene very reminiscent of the arena battle on Geonosis in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. That hopeless standoff was broken by aerial support in the form of Yoda and gunships full of clones. But here…

The aerial support appears in the form of Drogon. He lands and blasts a bunch of Harpies with fiery breath, eats a few, and generally sets the rest running for their lives. He takes a few spears in the side, but Daenerys approaches Drogon and pulls them out, before climbing on his back. She gives a command and Drogon takes flight, with Daenerys hanging on. Tyrion’s jaw drops as he watches this incredible scene.

All right! Some dragon action, finally! Now can we have Daenerys get over this “being a good Queen” schtick and start attacking cities again? Please?

3 Responses to “Game of Thrones, Season 5, Ep 9 “The Dance of Dragons””

  1. Glen says:

    > They approach from the North on foot. So, they must have left the ships berthed somewhere on the north side of The Wall. Earlier Stannis lent the ships to Jon on the condition that he get them back. But now they’re stuck in a harbour on the north side of The Wall somewhere.

    *This* was the part that made absolutely no sense to me that I deferred mention of last time. North of the wall is *dangerous*. The whole region immediately south of the wall is the Gift, controlled by the Night’s Watch of which Jon is Lord Commander. There appears to be *no good reason* to abandon the boats that they had already used to successfully sail to Hardhome, only risk death at every step north of the wall — running the boats around the wall by sea is the far safer choice and leaves them south of the wall where Stannis can recover them.

    And to top it all off, Jon then could have avoided any risk of being stranded north of the Wall if Ser Alliser had not let him through. The whole thing makes no sense to me (I actually posted a question to StackExchange about it). Once on the boats there seems to be simply no good reason to have taken any of these risks.

  2. Javier says:

    “Previously we’ve seen that Stannis really loves his daughter, and I thought he’d do anything to protect her. But this shows that he loves the
    idea of victory more. It’s a bit of a change of character for him”

    as a Stannis’ fan I can only regret how the showrunners did this. On the books you can witness how Stannis not only loves her daughter, he does everything to assure that she will be his heir on the throne and that even if he falls, his loyal soldiers will continue to fight for the throne, just to sit Shireen on it… Perhaps Shireen will die on the books too, but I REALLY doubt that it will come from Stannis. perhaps from her mother, but not from her father…

  3. Mikko Parviainen says:

    I had the same reaction to the approach to the Wall as Glen did. There is absolutely no reason for them to sail off from Hardhome, then land again North of the Wall and walk all the way back to Castle Black. It would’ve been much smarter to sail around the Wall, and then walk relatively easily to Castle Black.

    Of course the other strange thing here is that why don’t the other people and White Walkers on the North side sail or otherwise go over the water around the Wall?

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