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.
Murder! But who dun it?
Ok, the ending of “The Lion and the Rose” was arguably the most climatic scene in the episode, so we’ll pop on to that last. Firstly, let’s look at some new characters and concepts introduced.
Mace Tyrell, the Lord “Oaf” of Highgarden. Mace is Margery and Loras’ father, and Olenna’s (the Queen of Thorns) son. We don’t see too much of him in this episode, but what we do is fantastic. Mace is supposed to be a bumbling fool – on paper, he may be the head of the family, but everyone knows that really it’s his mother ruling the roost. Roger Ashton-Griffiths does a fantastic job of perfecting Mace’s ridiculous facial expressions, mannerisms and characteristics; the epitome being the scene where he’s plodding down the stairs, looking so chuffed with himself, to acknowledge his other… who completely disregards him. Also, that facial hair.
Meanwhile, in the north (not the NORTH north, just the north) we get to spend some loving time with Ramsay, Reek and a girl called Myranda. Myranda is a character created solely for the show, though as of yet I’m not entirely sure why. She was one of the minxs that tantalised Theon before Ramsay cut off his todger. In the books, Ramsay has a band of merry men called “The Bastards Boys” who do his bidding. Myranda seems to have replaced them in the show. I’m still not sure how I feel about this, as having a female counterpart arguably humanises Ramsay, and shows that he does hold compassion towards some people. But we shall see, eh?
Briefly we also saw Roose Bolton’s new wife, Fat Walda. If you cast your minds back to episode 3.09 (prior to the Red Wedding), Roose explains to Catelyn that Walder Frey said that if Roose would marry one of his daughters or granddaughters, he could have her weight in gold. So, Roose, the sneaky devil, chose the fattest one he could find. Oh Fat Walda, you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself in to…
M’kay, scene and themes breakdown. Firstly, Alfie Allen’s portrayal of Reek was…incredible. Every tiny movement was thought out – the way he hobbled along during the forest, the way he barely looks Roose or Ramsay in the eye, and the sheer heartbreak you see on his face when he learns of Robb’s fate. There has been some criticism that his transition from Theon to Reek was too rapid, but I don’t think there was really any other way they could show the ‘brainwashing’ without it getting boring and tedious. I mean, judging from the state that Theon was in at the end of the last season, you can imagine how much torture he must have gone through up to this point.
Staying with the Boltons (sounds like a sitcom), it was great seeing some interactions between Roose and Ramsay. Ramsay seems to have major daddy issues, and is constantly reminded that he is a Snow, not a Bolton. Parallels can be drawn here with Oberyn and Ellaria Sand discussing bastards with Cersei and Tywin in King’s Landing: “bastards are born of passion”. Dorne has a completely different way of looking at bastards compared to the rest of Westeros. Just look at Jon, for example. He joined the Night’s Watch because he knew that, as a bastard, he would inherit nothing, and become nothing. Ramsey probably feels the same way. Bastards are frowned upon in the majority of Westeros, whereas in Dorne they are accepted for who they are, not what they are.
Over on Dragonstone, we were reintroduced to Stannis’ lovely wife Selyse, and get a deeper look into his belief in Melisandre’s god. The scene opened with some sacrificial burnings. No biggie. One of the lucky chosen was Selyse’s brother, Axell Florent. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Stannis is becoming obsessed with obtaining the Iron Throne through any means. He seems Melisandre as his key, and doesn’t seem to mind if he has to use black magic to obtain his goal. I mean, we’ve already seen Melisandre birth Shadow Baby, so what else is she capable of?
In the north north north north, Bran is becoming a moody teenager who just wants to be a wolf. The three that he caresses is a weirwood tree (also known as a heart tree). These trees have been mentioned a few times (one appears prominently in Winterfell) as they are remnants of the Old Gods. The trees all have faces carved into them, which, combined with the blood-red sap, makes them look like they are crying. Upon touching the tree, Bran is presented with a strange and interesting vision that hasn’t been getting enough internet attention!! This is Game of Thrones, so one can assume that all the visions had some significance somehow: Ned in the black cells, Ned honing Ice, Bran falling, the three-eyed raven, the crowstorm from when Sam killed the White Walker, the undead horse, and, perhaps most prominent, King’s Landing: once covered by the shadow of a dragon, and again in the throne room. This one, if you remember, is exactly the same as Daenerys’ vision at the end of season 2 – the Red Keep, destroyed, coated in snow (or perhaps ash?), in ruins. Is Bran seeing what is to come, what may come, or what has come? Either way, a voice spoke out to him, and now he must continue north north north north…north.
Alright, King’s Landing. It’s wedding day. And OH MY GOD SO MUCH FORESHADOWING. Let’s firstly pay quick homage to the scene between Jaime and Bronn sparring. In the books, Jaime enlists the help of mute Ilyn Payne (the King’s Justice), but tragically, Payne’s actor, musician Wilko Johnson, has terminal cancer and will not be reprising his role. The choice to have Bronn step up to the mark, however, was a great one by the show’s writers. At this point in the books, Bronn kind of drifts off into the background, for the most part. But Jerome Flynn’s portrayal of the sellsword has been brilliant, and it makes sense for him to remain in King’s Landing as a semi-prominent role: Jaime needs someone who will be discreet – if word got out that he could no longer fight, he would lose his dignity and what little remains of his honour. That, or if his king died whilst he was supposed to be protecting him. Oops. Plus, we get to see some awesome banter between him and Jaime.
Ok, right, the Purple Wedding. I think that a lot of respect needs to be paid to everyone that made this scene possible. It’s shot in real time, and features (I think) the most members of cast in one place at a time. It managed to jump from character to character, without feeling disjointed or erred. It would have been nice to see more of the actual wedding, but the afterparty was where it’s at. So, Joffrey’s dead, eh? That makeup was outstanding. In fact, that whole scene in general was just…ahh. I imagine his death was met with screams of both joy and regret – joy because he is an evil bastard (heh) and regret because he’s such a good character, and Jack Gleeson played him brilliantly. It’s a shame to see such a talented actor go: it’s something really special to make an entire fan base absolutely loath and despise you! Jaime and Brienne’s inclusion at the wedding was interesting too, as in the books they’re not near King’s Landing at this point. Though one thing that did bug me was Brienne’s lack of interaction with Sansa – you’d think that she would at least acknowledge her, maybe mention her mother or something, instead of just walking straight past her. But Jaime’s presence added a new level of emotion: as mentioned, all he can do now is protect the king. I think that he is aware that Joffrey is his son, but his sprint to the dying king’s side wasn’t out of love for a child – it was because he knew that this was his one task, his one duty, his one chance to redeem himself. And he failed. That’s just my opinion anyway. Having a ‘villain’ die can often feel a bit clichéd, but this scene was written and shot in such a way that, in the end, we’re looking at a scared child, looking to his mother to help, and she watches her firstborn die in her arms. It really humanised both Cersei and Joffrey, even if for only a second. Sidenote, on recasting, that blond boy sat next to Cersei was Tommen, the youngest of Cersei and
Robert’s Jaime’s children. He was played by a different actor in previous seasons, but has recently been replaced. The actor playing him now actually played Martyn Lannister – one of the children that Robb captured before Rickard Karstark murdered them.
So, who did it, and how was it done? Was it Tyrion? What about Sansa, escaping with Dontos at the end? Could it have been Oberyn, with his hatred for Lannisters and knowledge of poison? Or the Tyrells, perhaps? Tywin, wanting to be rid of a useless king? Maybe Melisandre and her leeches – remember them? If you would like to find out, there have been a few explanations as to how it was brilliantly done and filmed online, such as this one nyah – http://imgur.com/a/2DtPH (click at your own risk!).
So that’s it for “The Lion and the Rose”. Next week’s episode, entitled “Breaker of Chains”, will have Westeros realling in the aftermath of the Purple Wedding. Who sits on the Iron Throne now? Dun dun duuuuun.
Also, don’t go to a wedding in Westeros.