It’s ok guys, it’s ok; there are THEORIES!
So the winner of the War of the Five Kings is….Balon Greyjoy!!! Ah, so another season of Game of Thrones comes to a climactic end. Whilst this season has arguably been the worst (of the best) so far, you cannot deny that the finale had some wonderful moments. Well, depending on your definition of wonderful. As it stands now, essentially every story has caught up or even overtaken the books – save for an entire side plot featuring the Greyjoy family which fans are hoping will make an appearance in season 6. This episode popped in to say hi with pretty much every ‘main’ character, so let’s start in the east and do a little banana shaped trip across Westeros and Essos.
The climactic scene of episode 9 was, of course, Daenerys flying off on Drogon. Now, Drogon is still a young’un and not fully grown, so it is understandable why he was hurt so badly from a few blades. We aren’t exactly sure where Daenerys has landed, but due to the arrival of the Dothraki, you can assume it’s somewhere within the Dothraki Sea, which is north of Meereen. It wasn’t revealed who the Khal of this particular khalasar is, but we know that what remains of Dany’s ties with the Dothraki is limited; will she be greeted with welcome arms, or a sword to the face? In the books, Drogon makes himself a home in a cave, which Daenerys calls Dragonstone after her old home. She also gets very ill and has the poos before she seen by a lone Dothraki scout, who then sends for the rest of the khalasar.
Further east, in Braavos, we saw the concluding chapter for Arya this season. After a bit more overkill with Meryn Trant’s evilness (yes, we get it, he’s a dick) Arya is able to finally act out her revenge, wearing the face of the girl that she helped mercy kill a few episodes ago, which was a pleasant scene to watch! What was interesting here was that we saw, in some form, how the faces actually work. They appear to literally be masks that the Faceless Men can chop and change as they please. Additionally, the show also implied truth behind a theory that many fans already speculated – that Jaqen H’ghar is just a face, not a person. Seemingly as punishment for going against the Many Faced God, Arya is now blind, and even that does happen in the books, but under slightly different circumstances.
Over the Westeros now. The slightly seemingly irrelevant Dorne scene concluded with the unexpected death (we assume, anyway) of Myrcella. It was kind of obvious as soon as Ellaria kissed her on the lips what would happen, but my mind was briefly taken away from thinking about it too much as soon as Tyene Sand said “bad pussy” and I cringed. I mean, really? As if the Sand Snakes couldn’t get any worse…. As mentioned prior, this whole side story differs quite dramatically from the books. To avoid mild book spoilers (for scenes that I am 95% sure will not appear in the show), skip ahead to the next paragraphs. Ok? Ok. Well, for starters, Jaime is off in the Riverlands, and nowhere near Dorne. Mycrella is still there, and is guarded by a member of the Kingsguard named Arys Oakheart. Doran Martell’s daughter, Arianne (who sadly does not appear in the show) seduces Arys and convinces him to make Myrcella queen, seeing as in Dorne, age matters in succession, not gender. The reason for this is to largely defy the Lannisters. Without going into too much detail, someone snitches, and Arianne’s little rebellion fails, with Myrcella losing an ear in the process and Areo Hotah (the big guy with the glaive that protects Doran) killing poor Arys. What do the Sand Snakes have to do with this? Well, not much…they kind of just bang on about revenge until Doran imprisons some of them, whilst Ellaria…also doesn’t do much, and is a lot nicer! So, anyway, the question that arises now is 1) how will Jaime react? And 2) how will Doran react? I’ve said before about how much I like House Martell in the books, and unfortunately they haven’t really shone in the series, but there is still in in season 6!
Right, King’s Landing. It was a shame that we didn’t get to hear of Margaery’s fate; so at this stage we have no idea what the High Sparrow has in store for her. In the books, Loras is off fighting on Dragonstone, and so the whole trial surrounding his sexuality doesn’t happen. Instead, Margaery’s own virginity is taken into question (bear in mind that book Tommen is about 8 or so, so they didn’t seal the deal). Nevertheless, I’m sure light will be shed on her early next season. No, instead, the focus was on Cersei and her brilliantly done walk of punishment. It was horrible to watch, in a good way…and it was just about long enough that you felt uncomfortable and, despite what you may think of the Queen-mother, sorry for her. The question that now of course is how will Cersei respond to this? Will she get revenge, or is she truly broken? As an interesting side note: lads, this was just a body double with Lena Headey’s head CGI’d on. Some people are complaining that it looked a bit rubbish, but honestly I don’t think you would know. We very briefly saw the return of Kevan Lannister, standing with Pycelle, in the Red Keep. Kevan has been acting ruler since Cersei’s imprisonment, whilst Tommen pouts in his room. We were also introduced to a new member of the Kingsguard….who looks somewhat familiar…but I can’t quite put my finger on it….
Everything that surrounded Winterfell was show-only stuff. In the books, we last we see of Stannis is that he is marching…forever marching. He does not engage the Bolton force. Sansa is still in the Vale with Littlefinger – in the series, she has taken the role of a character called Jeyne Poole, who marries Ramsay as a fake Arya. Nevertheless, Theon still steps up and leaps from the walls of Winterfell with her to freedom…only to run into Stannis’ army. Right…let’s talk about Stannis. Despite being a Stannis fan, I don’t feel as upset about his death as I thought I would. It was almost inevitable. He became such a tragic figure, and as I mentioned last week, truly desperate. But, like the man he is, he went down a trooper, in the most stoic, Stannis way possible. So, yes, whilst I am a bit gutted that the One True King is dead (in the series, anyway….), it’s almost a relief. Now, all the legit Baratheons are dead… On the plus side, Brienne finally got her revenge…at the expense of forgetting all about Sansa. Shame we didn’t actually get to see the fight, but I guess a lot of the budget was spent on Drogon and Lena’s head. Now, Melisandre…what is your game? You got the impression that her confidence in Stannis was waning as this season went on, especially after her interactions with Jon. Which brings us on to…
The Wall. Firstly, Sam. Now this conversation is carried out a little differently in the books, and it’s actually Jon who insists that Sam go to Oldtown to become a maester, pretty much as soon as he is elected Lord Commander. Sam also takes Gilly, the baby, and Aemon with him, the latter of whom still passes away, but during the journey. Melisandre never actually goes with Stannis, and stays at the Wall. As do Shireen and Selyse, who are still very much alive. The climactic events happen in a slightly different albeit somewhat similar way too. In the books, the Night’s Watch are annoyed at Jon not just due to his empathy with the Wildlings, but because he wants to attach Winterfell to remove the Boltons from power (and existence). The attack on Jon happens through the teary eyes of the Watch brothers, and is not led by Alliser Thorne. Jon is also not tricked about Benjen either – no, no one has heard from Benjen since A Game of Thrones. Also, Olly isn’t there, because that little bastard is a show only character. Nevertheless, Jon is assassinated “for the Watch”. This is where book readers are; “[h]e never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold.” BUT DON’T WORRY!!! Since this happened in A Dance With Dragons back in 2011, fans have been scrambling together any theories they can on how Jon might have somehow survived this assassination. Now, show Jon looked pretty darn dead to me, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he will stay dead. One theory is Melisandre. She returns to the Wall, but for what purpose? We know she has a bit of an interest in Jon, and know that Red Priests have some sort of power that allows them to bring back the dead – think back to season 3 with Thoros and Beric. I believe that she will use her power to resurrect Jon. This may well change the Stark bastard, but changed Jon is better than no Jon, isn’t it? Kit Harington has said in a very recent interview that Jon is dead…but my argument is that he wouldn’t really turn about and go “nah he comes back”, right? RIGHT?! It also seems kind of weird that they would kill off our only real link to the Wall. Sure, Melisandre and Davos are now there too, but they are more supporting characters. There are also dozens of other theories surrounding Jon, such as his parentage, or whether he is some kind of ‘chosen one’, and whether the title A Song of Ice and Fire alludes to him partially. Also, he had his stare down with big baddie White Walker, the Night’s King in episode 8…surely that was not for nothing….right?! Well, until either The Winds of Winter or season 6 are released (the latter, I’m sure), I guess we can keep on speculating.
Well, now you have just under a year to kill. My advice? The same as last year: read the books. They are phenomenal, and further expand on this world that we know and love. As for me, I need to find some games to review…
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.
It’s taken three and a half seasons, but there it was: arguably the biggest reveal in the series so far. The mystery that started it all: Jon Arryn’s death. A quick recap: Jon Arryn was the Lord of the Vale (the area where Sansa is now), and Warden of the West. He was Ned Stark and Robert Baratheon’s foster father, and was the spark behind Robert’s Rebellion – after Aerys Targaryen, the Mad King, murdered Ned’s brother and father, he demanded that young Eddard be turned over too…because, you know, justice and all that. Jon Arryn declined, and thus the rebellion began. When it ended, as we all know, Robert Baratheon sat on the Iron Throne, and Jon Arryn was his Hand.
Fast forward a good few years, and Jon dies suddenly and mysteriously. Robert rides to Winterfell, and Game of Throne s begins. Cast your minds back to the very first episode. Ned was originally going to decline Robert’s offer, until Catelyn receives a coded letter from her sister, Lysa (Jon’s widow) stating that the Lannister’s murdered Jon. This changes detective Ned’s mind – he wants to find out the truth, and protect Robert. His investigation is the basis for most of the King’s Landing scenes in season one, which ends with his execution after discovering truth about Cersei and Jaime. But the mystery behind Jon’s death was never solved, and although many fans may have forgotten about it, just remember that it was the catalyst that started everything!
So here we are. In case you missed it, Lysa Tully/Arryn/Baelish poisoned Jon under the instructions of Littlefinger. There was probably very little love in the marriage – Jon Arryn was quite a bit older – but would anyone have expected the grieving wife? To cover her back (again, under Littlefinger’s instructions) she wrote the letter to Cat blaming the Lannister’s, who due to their past and nature seemed like the obvious suspects. So, if you needed any more reason to dislike Lysa and her sickly child, just remember that that whole thing with Tyrion’s trial is season one was a farce and she knew it. So this leads us into some new territory – what is Petyr Baelish’s game (of Thrones) plan? He has been the mastermind behind it all: Jon Arryn’s death, eliminating Ned (“I did warn you not to trust me), possibly Joffrey’s death, the alliance with the Tyrells. But why? “He would see this country burn if he could be king of the ashes.” He’s an ambitious so-and-so, and wants the world. This is the first time we have really seen one of the key players, apart from maybe Tywin, of the Game revealed. Eeek! Also, Sansa is now going by the name of Alayne Stone, so that no one knows who she is. Stone is the Vale’s equivalent to Snow or Sand as a surname: it is a bastard’s name. Lysa revealed her inner insanity, and proposed a marriage between Sansa and Robin, her little putrid cousin. Pretty normal stuff, all in all.
Ok, enough of that. What else did we see… Well, there has been some debate as to what the whole Cersei/Margery scene was about, as they seemed very civil with each other. But I think they both know what the other is playing at. But did you notice that Cersei also spoke with Oberyn (was nice to see him in a quieter, less sexy environment) and her father? With regards to the former, she discussed her daughter, Myrcella – a topic that she has hardly touched on. Showing some humanity perhaps? And with her father, she discussed her marriage to Loras – a subject which usually has her all up in flames. And what do Margery, Oberyn and Tywin have in common? They’re all linked to Tyrion’s trial. Oberyn and Tywin are judges, and the third is Margery’s bumbling father, Mace. In my opinion, Cersei is trying to score sympathy, empathy and friend requests from those who hold Tyrion’s fate. You sneaky mummy! We also learnt that the Lannister’s seemingly infinite supply of money is running out, with more references to how scary and powerful the Iron Bank of Braavos is. The Lannister’s running out of money epitomises one of the most consistent themes: power resides where people think it resides. So you can bet your hat that Tywin will do his upmost to keep this little dry spell a secret!
As mentioned before, all of the Wall and beyond scenes in these last couple of episodes have been original show-only stuff, and as a result have some book fans a tad irate. But in my opinion these scenes have been great to further flesh out certain characters: we see how devoted Bran is to his quest when he decides not to inform Jon of his presence. We see Jon’s devotion to the Watch, eliminating his former Brothers out of both vengeance and caution. And we see gentle Hodor (involuntarily) kill Locke, who if you remember wanted to kill Bran on Roose Bolton’s orders, therefore strengthening the Bolton domain over the North. Whilst overall I enjoyed this final scene, I did have some issues. In fact, it was all a very large case of deus ex machina. Firstly, the only indication Locke had of Bran’s whereabouts was that he may have gone to the Wall to see his brother. Locke arrives, and Bran isn’t there…but it just so happens that he has been captured by the very ex-Brothers that Jon now wants to go and eliminate. Bran could have literally been anywhere in the world, and whilst I understand that this is a plot device, it seems a bit lazy how easy Locke’s little hunt was. In the same figurative paint stroke, Karl’s (Burn Gorman) death also seemed very happenstance – it just so happened that one of Craster’s wives was in the hut…and it just so happened that Karl then turned his attention to her, for some reason, forgetting about his armed opponent. Maybe he thought that Jon would fight with honour and not stab him through the back, but I don’t know. Just seemed a little bit lazy on the writing side of things. Well, that wraps up that little sub-plot, ending with Jon lighting what is probably the biggest fire the north has ever seen! Wait, didn’t someone else want to do that? Oh raspberries! That’s exactly what Mance was going to do to signal to Tormund et al to attack Castle Black! Has Jon made a big faux pas, or is this all part of his plan? Or maybe this was just an oversight and I’m looking too much into it…? Tune in next time!
On a side note, this episode also slightly reinforced a certain ‘tinfoil’ theory concocted by the A Song of Ice and Fire fans. In the show so far, only a few Kingsguard members have been referred to by name. Excluding Jaime, others you may have heard are Mandon Moore and Meryn Trant. Ser Mandon was the scallywag whom Pod impaled on the Blackwater after he tried to kill Tyrion. Ser
Meryn is the one that fought Syrio Forel (Arya’s
‘dance’ teacher) and frequently beat Sansa. Why is this relevant? Well, this particular theory states that Meryn Trant didn’t actually kill Syrio – Syrio managed to escape (or killed Ser Meryn and is ‘wearing’ his face). The idea behind this stems from the fact that Syrio was supposedly the First Sword of Braavos…you would think that cruel, boastful Ser Meryn would gloat about defeating this great warrior, wouldn’t you? Additionally, in “First of His Name”, the Hound states that a child could beat Meryn Trant. This may just be Sandor Clegane having a jolly jape, but perhaps there is truth it in. Who knows? Perhaps Syrio did indeed escape and he is still
alive? One extension of this theory is that Syrio was a Faceless Man – the same Faceless Man that was Jaqen H’ghar, the super cool assassin that helped Arya out in Harrenhal in season two. This is all crazy speculation…the kind that happens when readers are left for years between book releases, but it’s pretty cool, no?
Also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s name was like…first in the opening credits, but Jaime only appeared in the background of one scene. That was weird.