So….Meryn Trant likes…kids?
First, let’s take a moment to appreciate Doran’s awesomeness. Finally. After nine episodes, he is finally given his due. Doran is very smart man, and not at all rash like his brother: he bides his time. We see in this episode, though, that despite being in a wheel chair (from severe gout, if you remember) he still holds great power and is well-respected. It is unfortunate that these Dorne scenes have been pretty filler…and pretty awful filler at that, but it least it has nearly concluded without any serious causalities, and has provided us an insight (albeit small) into how Doran rules, and his motives. And Trystane’s weirdly hairy chest.
In all honesty, most of episode 9 was largely self-explanatory, so I’ll just focus on the two ‘big’ scenes of the week: Stannis and Daenerys. Let’s begin in the north. With winter closing in around them, Stannis and his army are truly struggling. Especially when scoundrels like Ramsay come and set stuff on fire. I can’t help but laugh at the irony as Melisandre steps out of her tent to a sea of flames and a Ponyta. How brilliant would it have been if the downfall of Stannis’ conquest was fire? I mean, after this week’s episode, but proxy it just may be! So, yes, Stannis sacrificed his daughter to the Lord of Light. Now I feel it’s important to add here that this has not (yet) happened in the books – book Stannis is currently trudging along in the snows with his army still, whilst Shireen and her mother stay at Castle Black. The main things that afflict book Stannis’ army is the lack of food and endless marching. This whole section of the book is also told from the point of view of a character that hasn’t even encountered Stannis once in this entire series, though whether or not they pop up in episode 10 remains to be seen. Despite not appearing in the books, Shireen’s sacrifice was apparently headed up from the evil mind of George R. R. Martin himself, and not from Benioff and Weiss – which is who most people will turn to blame when something happens in the show they do not like! So, why did Stannis do it? Well, this is my quarrel with the whole thing. We saw that lovely scene earlier in the season between Stannis and his daughter. Then, last episode, he shooed Melisandre out from his tent when she merely hinted at the notion of sacrificing Shireen. I feel that his decision would have been more believable if we had seen one more episode – one more scene even – of Stannis pondering it over, as opposed to this apparent sudden choice. My personal opinion on Stannis hasn’t really changed because of it – he did it because he thinks that it is the only way he can save the realm, essentially, and you could see the pain in his eyes as the execution is carried out. I’m not saying it was right, or even justified, but in his mind it was the only option. The sacrifice itself, I feel, was almost inevitable, what with the amount of time dedicated to building Shireen’s sweet, innocent character this season, as well as the ominously foreshadowing conversation between her and Davos earlier in the episode. Also, Davos said something about hearing about her story “when he gets back”…and from past experience we know that in Game of Thrones, if someone says that, they (or the recipient of the conversation) are going to die… My personal prediction was that Selyse, at Mel’s bidding, was going to go behind Stannis’ back and do it, to which Stannis responds with a firm backhand, but in fact it was her mother’s crying, along with Shireen’s screams, that really made this whole scene very haunting. Stannis is truly desperate. He has made a number of speeches about the needs of the many over the few, and that sacrifices aren’t easy, “that’s why they are sacrifices”, but one cannot help but pause and wonder if the Stannis hype train is really going in the right direction… But then again, he sneakily murdered his brother and has sacrificed countless people in the past, so what’s so different about a daughter…?
Say what you will on the episode as a whole (though I quite enjoyed it), but you cannot deny that once again we were treated to an epic ending. What began with some well-choreographed fighting and a bit of Daario suave ended in what can only be described as slightly-bad-CGI-dragon-epicenes. Meereen, as we know, is plagued by the gang known as the Sons of the Harpy (RIP Barristan). These ex-slaves and Masters loath Daenerys for what she has done to their city, and won’t rest until her head is on the edge of a rusty blade. Apart from that, we still know very little about them, such as whether they have any ulterior motives, or even who their leader is. One of my guesses was Hizdahr, so I was extremely shocked and surprised to see him viciously stabbed to death (and felt a pang of sympathy). Now, there are those on t’internet who believe that Hizdahr’s death was staged, and that he is in fact still alive, and it was all a ruse…but I think it looked pretty convincing. I think he is pretty dead. This scene is somewhat similar to its book counterpart, the key difference being that book-Jorah is somewhere else (and Tyrion, too). Still, Drogon is drawn in by the scent of blood and lands in the pit, singeing all who come near, until Daenerys mounts him and soars into the skies, leaving behind the chaos to her bemused followers. Despite the questionable CGI, I thought this scene provided another brilliant end to a decent episode. Even Jorah’s Dark Souls inspired forward roll kill was pretty epic…though not as epic as the Spartan inspired spear throw. Well done Jorah.
Before we conclude, the word “Graces” was uttered by a character during this final scene – I forget who. Anyway, the Graces are a group of healers or priestesses in the area surrounding Meereen, led by the Green Grace, who acts as an advisor of sorts to Dany in the books. So far, they have been omitted from the series, so it’s interesting to hear their name dropped, even if it was for a second. Will we be delving more into the political side of Meereen next season? I’m also curious about the Unsullied, and how, for lack of a better word, shit they have been this season. The argument here is that they are not trained for this kind of combat, and lack proper field training, but nevertheless they got pretty much butchered by…well, civilians. I hope someone has an answer for this! I assume Grey Worm was resting in bed as this whole shabang went on…
As mentioned last week, The Dance of Dragons’ episode title is taken from the fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Obviously, the title prominently refers to the climactic Meereen scene and Drogon, but it was also referred earlier in the episode via the book that Shireen was reading. The final episode of the season is titled Mother’s Mercy, so put your speculation hats on now and start guessing what that’s about!
This article is to be read after the episode has been seen, as and as a result may contain spoilers up to the episode that it’s covering, but no further. So if you haven’t seen the episode yet, go and watch it. Then come back and read this. Then watch the episode again. Then read this again.
Pyp….Grenn…..THAT WASN’T IN THE BOOKS 😥
There isn’t really that much to say about this week’s episode; it was pretty self-explanatory. What I found interesting is that with all the goings on in King’s Landing and the rest of Westeros, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the imminent peril that the Night’s Watch were about to face. Jon’s story in this season so far has been mostly filler, but it has all been leading up to this moment. You may even have forgotten who the hell Mance Rayder is (in my opinion they should have shown him in this episode, even briefly, to remind watchers what his biz is), but his threat is ever looming, and, like the rest of Westeros, we may well have thought not much of it. Mance wants the Freefolk to destroy the Night’s Watch, and then Westeros. It all comes crashing down, seemingly quite suddenly. To the north of the Wall, Mance Rayder sits with his massive army of Wildlings, giants and mammoths, ready to attack. To the south of the Wall, on the Westeros side, Tormund, Ygritte and Styr await the King-Beyond-the-Wall’s signal. The signal is given, and both armies pincer-attack Castle Black. The story that Tormund was telling, by the way, was about him having sex with a bear. Tormund’s…member…is a subject that he likes to discuss often – we saw a glimpse of how raunchy he can be in season 3, but yeah, pretty much he allegedly has a huge Johnson, and engaged in coital activities with a bear (not realising it was a bear at the time…apparently).
For obvious reasons, this episode shares many similarities with “Blackwater”, so it’s hard not to compare the two. Whilst “Blackwater” have the awe-inspiring wildfire sequence, “The Watchers on the Wall” was not without its merits. For starters, how great was that awesome Wall-scythe-anchor-thing? That may or may not have been a nod to “Blackwater” – in the books, Tyrion has a massive chain built around the bay to trap Stannis’ ships in before igniting them. Some fans were a little peeved that the chain didn’t make it into the show, so maybe this is a little tribute to it. And we finally got to see some giants and mammoths in action, squishing and squashing all in their paths. Whilst their arrows did look a bit like a weapon from a JRPG, it was a good way to show just how fierce and powerful they are. Additionally, I think that a lot of the battle choreography was better than “Blackwater” – it looked sloppy and unpredictable, which makes sense when this episode focused on fights with Wildings, who essentially trained themselves and are undisciplined, whereas the soldiers featured in “Blackwater” were castle trained military men. Plus, dat panoramic shot.
Ygritte’s death was mega sad and very well done. The build-up, with Jon, seeing her alive and safe, smiling, was heart-wrenching. I’m not sure if, given the chance, she would have opened fire – if she wanted to kill him, she would have done last season when she shot him. But it’s ok, because Olly the kid gets there first. In retrospect, there was a lot of foreshadowing indicating that he would be the one to kill her – firstly, she very obviously arrow’d his parents, and the two exchanges a look before he runs to the Wall. A few episodes later, he claims that he is a great shot with a bow. During the battle, he finds one on the floor, and off he goes. Foreshadowing…this show is full of it! The scene ends with a beautifully heartbreaking shot of Jon cradling Ygritte in his arms as the battle rages around him. On the subject of sad things, although Pyp and Grenn’s deaths were pretty upsetting, I also found myself sympathising with the giants: there is a moment when Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg, (or Mag the Mighty for short) the giant that opened the gate in the tunnel, sees his fellow giant get killed. He pauses for a second, before letting out a cry and anguish. Mag is witnessing the extinction of the giants – in the books, there is a song called “The Last of the Giants” that explains this – right before his eyes. It’s only natural that he is a bit peeved.
This episode also saw quite a lot of character development – not just from Jon, who became stone-cold following Ygritte’s death, but also Sam and Alliser Thorne. Sam, who is usually the source of a bit of comic relief, really came into his own in this episode (and said a swear!) and it is apparent that he is no longer the snivelling craven that first arrived at Castle Black in season 1. And Ser Alliser, who has, quite frankly, been a total knob up until this point, was actually rather likable in this episode! During his 1 on 1 with Tormund, I didn’t know who to root(?) for. Not Janos Slynt though – the slimey coward! Although he will earn no XP from the fight, so that’s ok. Also, I love that Jon spat blood in Styr’s (the bald cannibal guy) face – something dishonourable that he must have picked up from Karl “Fookin’ Legend” Tanner earlier this season. It’s nice to see, as highlighted in the Jon v Karl fight, that Jon Snow isn’t invincible; I mean, Styr very nearly kills him before Jon decides to fight dirty. Though he does survive an anvil to the face, so kudos on that, Jon.
At the end of the episode, Lord Snow heads off to try and assassinate Mance – he believes that without leadership, the Wildlings will fall into disarray. A similar thing happens in the books, although in this instance Janos Slynt and Alliser Thorne coerce Jon into going. I don’t think that there is really anything else to say about this episode. I am gutted about Pyp and Grenn – who are both very much alive in the books – but they both died honourably and in service to the Watch, and to be honest, it would have looked a bit silly if all of Jon’s comrades had survived. Still, unexpected and sad. Oh, also, Ygritte was probably pregnant with Jon’s child (I can’t really see them having a spare pigs intestine contraceptive in the sex-cave) so there’s that….
Anyway, next week is the final episode of the season, which is extremely upsetting. We have a lot of loose ends to tie up, and I for one can’t wait. Also, I am very curious to see when this scene comes into play –