*BOOK SPOILERS AHEAD*
George R.R. Martin’s epic-fantasy ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ is a heady mix of contradictions. If last week’s episode ‘Hardhome’ had us terrified of the long winter that was to come, the ‘Ice’ then, this week’s episode ‘Dance of Dragons’ gave screen time to the other element that binds this fantasy together, ‘Fire.’ However, what these two elements share in common is the reflection that it offers to its characters. Whereas last week, ‘Ice’ offered Jon a first-hand account of the rising, and continuously replenishing army of the dead, ‘Fire’ forced Stannis to make a difficult (Read: Wrong) decision and Dany to finally embrace her calling on the back of Drogon. And with it, Game of Thrones soars and stumbles in the weakest 9th installment yet, even though it remains thrilling, and above all, tragic.
‘You have a good heart, Jon Snow. But, you’ll get us all killed.’
It is only natural that Jon sees his mission to Hardhome as a failure. Not only did he fail to bring back all the wildings south of the wall, but the ones he failed now serve the army of the dead. But, after tonight’s brief stop at the Wall, it is clear that the immediate danger to Jon lies not in the Long Night or the Wildings, but in his sworn brothers of the Night’s Watch. Their silence is understandable, and their anger justified which makes Jon’s work to help make peace with the band that killed 50 of his brothers more difficult. And for a brief moment, I thought that this anger would culminate in Thorne not opening the gates to Jon and his band of wildlings. He did, and oddly enough, I found no grudge in his warning to Jon. Olly though, it’s clear what he wants. The only question remains, whether he’ll be Cassius, or Brutus.
What is an assassination mission without any excitement? And what is such mission, without a purpose? Arya just found one, and not one in the thin man she was supposed to kill but, in Ser Meryn Trant who I had guessed (*Self-five*) she’d be running into in Braavos. And it would seem that she’s getting better in the Game of Faces too, but was that straight-faced lie enough to fool Jaqen? I highly doubt it. But, I’m pretty sure that she will soon strike that one name off her list.
The problem with the storyline down South is oddly complementary to the minor quibbles the arc in Braavos have had. Whereas Braavos sometimes struggles with the singularity of attention to that one character, Dorne fails due to the lack of characters altogether (Oh! Whence art thou, Arianne?). And it fails again this week. Apart from some good Jaime-Bronn bromance and considering that the custody of Myrcella was surprisingly easily resolved, I’d say Dorne has been an unnecessary and unsatisfying diversion. The acting and the characters here remain weak and underdeveloped, from Doran Martell to the Sand Snakes to Ellaria, who changes her accent with every threat. Even the younger ones do no better, with Trystane and Myrcella acting like sullen teenagers who had their phones snatched away from them.
That said however, I doubt we’re done with Dorne or its people. Doran Martell (at least in the books) is a smart man, and Trystane being asked to take Oberyn’s place in the Small Council might be the beginning of the larger Dornish conspiracy the internet always raves about.
Of all the events in Martin’s fourth and fifth books, the Great Games in Daznak’s Pit was the most I was thrilled about to see on screen. And after last week’s fantastic episode, my expectation certainly hit the roof for this week. On that count well, I do not blame the producers for underwhelming me and perhaps, other book readers with the scene today. But otherwise, it was handsomely staged. It was great to see Hizdahr (R.I.P) and Daario sparring vocally and the assault by the Sons of the Harpy was handsomely staged. Dany climbing on to Drogon’s back and soaring into the sky was thrilling to watch too (Even though unlike in the books, we never see her dancing in the flames of Drogon’s fury).
What puzzled, and honestly, disturbed me greatly was how easily the insurgents seemed to mount an attack on the Queen’s person. With the world’s best infantry at her command, it’s surprising and humiliating for the Unsullied to be felled by knife-wielding fanatics, even when the numbers are against them. Time to dump the spears and fight with short-swords, perhaps? Secondly, even though Drogon himself was a gorgeous creation, I could distinctly see the digital seams behind him. Surely they did not run out of green screens (Maybe they did. Maybe they overshot their budget last week)?
Random thought: Ser Jorah was at his vulnerable, fighting best this week. And even though Dany owes him her life this week, I can’t see why he must touch the Queen. Surely he knows that Greyscale spreads by touch?
Another Random thought: It was great to see Drogon loom large over the Harpies, and still be vulnerable to a quiver of spears. Infallibility certainly is not a strong suit for this dragon, not until he grows as big as Balerion or Vhagar anyways.
Another, another Random thought: With Hizdahr dead and Dany on dragonback, does that make Tyrion the de-facto ruler of Meereen? *fist-bumps everyone*
SOMEWHERE OUTSIDE WINTERFELL
I am still to comprehend the sheer horror of what unfolded in the Baratheon camp outside Winterfell this week. Or perhaps, my shock stems from the fact that despite my strong belief in my own guesses, Stannis did eventually condemn his own daughter to die on the altar of the Lord of Light (Much like Agamemnon’s sacrifice of his daughter, Iphigenia to appease Artemis). If the Red Wedding was a shock that took many of us by surprise, Shireen’s death was an event that I had come to dread since the day Melisandre suggested it. And unlike the Red Wedding or even Mance Rayder’s death, we never saw it actually happening. But, the distress was all the same, punctuated by the shrill screams of that sweet, little child in the cold silence of the North. That being said, full points to Stephen Dillane and Kerry Ingram for their work this week. They made a scene so replete with horrors, sing with forlorn intensity and tragedy.
As upset as I am however, I should have expected HBO to do something the viewers did not expect. But, the writer’s decision to have Stannis sacrifice his own daughter makes absolutely no narrative sense. This, especially after the weeks spent professing the love between Shireen and her father sorely undercuts his character and makes him a contradiction in himself. Not to mention, for a man so possessed by entitlement and his blood right, I cannot see how he could end his own lineage. In the battle for the North, it would seem that we now have two public enemies squaring off against each other. And I’m officially off the Stannis bandwagon. For all I know and guess, I hope Brienne puts a sword through his and Melisandre’s backs (And going by Agamemnon’s adventures after his sacrifice that may just be true).
That was all the action, and the tragedy this week on Game of Thrones. A perfectly fine episode (With the exception of Dorne but, what else is new?), punctuated by the ever-imploding ambition of Stannis Baratheon and the sight of Dany finally finding the reins to be a dragon-rider.
Next week is the finale for what has been an inconsistent, yet always arresting season of Game of Thrones. Going by the preview, I’m sure we’ll see Stannis next week (Although I’m unsure of whether they’ll go through the actual siege this season). King’s landing will return and so will Cersei, the Queen of Madness. With her atonement and trial reckoning, the episode certainly promises a lot to look forward too. I also look forward to the probable re-appearance of a certain someone *Scented Talc and Perfumes*. But, that’s just me, clinging on to the hope that there still remain a few stories book readers will cherish coming to life on screen. For everyone else, beware of the daggers in the dark.
Until next week, Hodor!