Game of Thrones: Book of the Stranger Recap

Strangers and familiar faces meet in an episode that pours more gasoline onto the fire.

Last episode, Jon Snow told everyone he’s done with the watch, and just as he’s about to leave Castle Black, visitors appear that will definitely give him pause.

Finally! Jon and Sansa Stark are reunited, throwing another — and welcome — wrench into Jon’s plans. The former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch was due for some good news — not counting the whole coming back to life thing. And where Dolorous Edd failed to convince him to reconsider leaving the Watch completely, Sansa’s presence and future plans for Winterfell will likely keep Jon, the Night’s Watch, and the many wildlings working together for the foreseeable future.

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Game of Thrones: Home Review

Well, that was fast.

Instead of going the route of some shows which spend an entire season building up to something, only to end with a brief scene and a disappointing cliffhanger, Game of Thrones isn’t wasting any time.

So let’s just get it out of the way — Jon Snow is alive! He’s alive!~!

Of course it was predictable. Of course it was expected. For the past several days, I’ve been reading reviews about the episode after having seen it twice, and while most have been ecstatic about the show’s current direction, it seems hip to be sour as some reviewers have taken to putting the episode down because they weren’t surprised enough.

I mean, come on. Are you serious?

So, let’s get to it. The second episode, titled Home, brings us back to Bran Stark and the Three-Eyed Crow who have been hard at work learning how to save the world. Vision-walking through historic Winterfell where a young Eddard and Benjen Stark spar, Bran looks on with a smile on his face. He’s going to be the happiest person this entire episode, so it is literally all downhill from here. Take in the happy feels while you can, because this is one heavy episode.

The scene should give audiences a bright flash of deja vu. In case you missed it, rewind back to the very first scene in season one which opened with Bran learning how to shoot a bow as he’s flanked by his family.

The brothers’ sparring session is interrupted when Lyanna rides in masterfully on a horse. Lyanna has only made appearances in statue form, so it’s good to finally put a face to the legendary name. Her appearance is evidence enough that a huge amount of lore is about to be explored tracing back from Bran to his namesake — Brandon, the eldest of the Stark boys — who was executed with he and his father Rickard failed to rescue Lyanna from Rhaegar. The kidnapping was the spark that led to the war that would place Robert Baratheon on the Iron Throne and Eddard Stark as heir to Winterfell.

The rest is known history.

We also get our first glimpse of Hodor as a young boy. Curiously, he’s named Wylis, and he can also talk. No reason has been given yet for why Wylis changes his name to Hodor or why he’s unable to say anything besides “hodor,” but it’s a compelling mystery that thickens the plot.

The three-eyed crow brings Bran out of the vision, and the ward laments it’s the first awesome thing he’s been able to experience so far. It’s proof he still has a long way to go in his training as further evidenced by the following exchange when the three-eyed crow tells Bran: “It’s beautiful beneath the sea, but if you stay too long, you drown.”

“I wasn’t drowning. I was home,” Bran says, missing the point entirely.

You were drowning Bran, and you were sucking in water like a fish. 

At Castle Black, Alliser Thorne and his men get ready to storm the room where Davos and Jon Snow’s friends wait for Dolorous Edd and his rescue force. As the door is breached, the main gate bursts open with wildlings flooding into the courtyard. Instead of killing off the traitors, Dolorous Edd sends them all — even the little jerk Ollie — into the cells. I’m curious as to how Jon will handle the traitors.

Will he forgive and forget? Or will he hold them accountable? The choice will determine the status of his return and set the tone for his ongoing character development.

In King’s Landing, the Lannisters continue dealing with the fallout from Cersei’s shaming. Franken-Mountain has been patrolling the streets, hulk-smashing people who dare throw shade at the Queen-Mother, while King Tommen the Overwhelmed summons the courage to ask his mother for help and forgiveness, leaving father-uncle Jaime to threaten the High Sparrow with violence during Myrcella’s funeral. The High Sparrow has the upperhand for now, and we have the makings of an epic showdown.

But who will win?

Will Tommen cause his own downfall by putting his future in his mother’s hands? Is he another thread to be removed from the story the way Cersei fixes her dress at the beginning of this scene? I’m starting to wonder more about the endgame of the series — especially in challenging my own assumptions. It really shouldn’t be a given that the Lannisters will be around at the end of the show — or even after this season — because, surprise-surprise, anything can happen. The High Sparrow and his crudely-armed followers could wipe out all of King’s Landing in one brutal sweep, and that would be the end of that chapter.

Speaking of chapters, the political situation in Meereen continues without Danaerys anywhere close to coming home. Tyrion works at maintaining peace in the city, and the liquid courage has given him a crazy idea — free Danaerys’ chained-up dragons.

Tyrion knows enough about dragons — he’s wanted one ever since he was a child — to know that a captive dragon is a weak one. The Queen of Dragons will need all the help she can get with everything else burning down around her, so it would be wise to make sure her symbols of power don’t wither away like her clout.

The return of Jon Snow might get the bigger headlines, but Peter Dinklage’s performance is the real highlight of the episode. Tyrion braves the presence of two fire-breathing dragons by telling them a story — one about his childhood wish to have his own dragon. Tyrion finally gets to lay his hand on one, and it’s a beautiful moment that contains a bevy of emotions — fear, loneliness, and newfound hope. Considering that Dinklage was probably working this scene with props, I appreciate his ability to create a nuanced and expression-filled performance.

Back home in the tumultuous North, Ramsay Snow gets news of a rival heir when the maester announces Roose Bolton’s baby boy. Assume the worst, then multiply the awful factor by ten.

The Karstarks are working with Snow now, but I have a feeling — based partly on the “Last week in Game of Thrones” intro — that there’s more to it than we’re seeing. The North remembers, and I think the Karstarks would rather have one of their own sitting as warden rather than some sociopath who’s basically cut down the roots, the trunk, and the branches of his own family tree.

I think Ramsay will find himself attracting a lot more subjects before getting the ending he’s due. That or he’ll win the Game. We shall sees.

Theon leaves Sansa for the Iron Islands which are also in a newfound state of flux after Balon Greyjoy’s murder at the hands of his brother Euron who’s returned from being missing at sea. Euron is no hero — it’s said he cut the tongues from sailors because he wanted quiet. Yara won’t automatically ascend to the Iron Islands throne due to her father’s death, and Euron’s presence could be an enormous obstacle.

And that brings us to the big elephant in a Castle Black room — Jon Snow. Rising from the dead like I do when I forget to set my alarm, Jon has a bit of catching up to do now that Castle Black is in disarray.

But more important at the moment is Melisandre’s motivation. While she still has faith in the Lord of Light, she doubts whether her steps have fallen within his plans. It’s a tough place to be — we know what she did to Stannis and his family, but that could just be tip of the iceberg. How many other kings has she put her powers behind only to fail repeatedly?

With Snow alive, what will she do — and will Ser Davos let her off the hook when he finds out how poor little Shireen was sacrificed?

More awaits next week on Game of Thrones.

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Game of Thrones — The Red Woman Review

After months of tense waiting, Game of Thrones has finally returned for its sixth season. We’re about three — counting this one — seasons away from the show finale, so every episode is going to count. Hopefully!

Last season for me was a bit of a letdown. Episodes seemed a bit flat as the show spent a considerable amount building up momentum. Sure, we had a major, major death at the end of season five, but Stannis’ failed invasion of the North, which came to a sudden halt with not so much as a squeal, felt more like an aside or bridge to the other plot points that took a backseat. The writing also seemed a little blunted — where past seasons felt like juggernauts firmly en route, season five felt listless and reaching.

But even when not at full strength, GoT is still one of the most captivating shows on any channel and still capable of winning a crazy amount of Emmys. As fans counted down the days until the season six premiere, articles about potential spoilers and speculation filled the Interwebs. With bated breath, we waited to see whether season six would be a return to form.

The premiere began right where the last episode ended — Jon Snow’s corpse lies frozen in the snow at Castle Black next to the traitor sign his Nightwatch brothers made for him. When your kids ask you what the world was like before texting and emotes, show them this scene.

“And that is how we used to throw shade, son.”

Ghost’s howling calls Ser Davos outside, and Melisandre appears to view the lifeless body. News spreads quickly about the fallen commander. While Alliser Thorne holds a meeting to discuss the assassination and defend his actions, Davos and Snow’s closest friends barricade themselves in a room to plan their exit.

I was a little disappointed that Alliser’s speech won over the crowd — it was my impression that killing a brother of the Night’s Watch constituted a punishment in kind. But if Edd gets his way, we might get another battle between the wildlings and the less-than-honorable-Watch members. It’s worth noting that no matter who wins, someone is going to lose a considerable amount. Death to the Night’s Watch only opens the path for the White Walkers, and crushing Davos and Snow’s friends will remove the underdogs fighting for truth, justice, and the Westeros way.

Further south in the Westeros North, Sansa Stark and Theon Greyjoy run for their lives, having escaped from Ramsay’s fortress. Ramsay is not happy, having come home from a victory to find Myranda dead and his wife and plaything gone.  Without Sansa, the Boltons have no leverage to shore up forces against a Lannister army come to bring the North back in line after Roose’s treason.

The hounds eventually catch up to Sansa and Theon after a freezing trip across a river, but Brienne of Tarth along with her trusted squire Podrick come to the rescue. Theon performs the killing blow on the last of Ramsay Snow’s men, and it’s a bit of relief — we’ve spent season after season waiting for Theon’s redemption, and it looks like he’ll just about it reach it before getting brutally killed off. Don’t forget: Good guys finish last in the game of thrones.

Vows are made, and Brienne becomes Sansa’s protector. I can’t help but feel each of these vows will be tested to a breaking point, and I can’t wait to see what happens. I desperately want a huge win for Sansa, but I also know the very thing that brings me back to the show is the unpredictable nature of it — and how it rarely gives us what we want.

Back in Westeros, Cersei Lannister rushes excitedly to the port to receive her daughter Myrcella. As the rowboat comes to shore, Cersei becomes distraught when she sees Jaime’s expression and a shrouded body. Lena Headey’s performance is amazing — the subtle facial changes relay a quick succession of emotions that don’t need words because they’d just get in the way. Headey moves from excited to crushed and then to anger before she ends the scene with a bitter scornful smile.

Vengeance is coming for you, Dorne. Best be ready.

You might be thinking — Prince Doran is a diplomat who’d rather talk it out than get into it with King’s Landing. He didn’t act when his sister was raped and killed, and Oberyn’s death wasn’t avenged in the slightest. He’ll probably try to explain how it was all the act of one angry and bitter woman who overstepped her bounds. Trust that she’ll be put to death as a traitor.

Fear not. Fans know good guys seem to consistently finish last in GoT, and Doran is no exception. If you’re not going to play the game, your game piece gets taken off the board. When news of Myrcella’s death reaches him, Ellaria Sand and her Sand Snakes move unimpeded to change the government. Doran dies as his guard stand watch, and his son is easily dispatched when he fails to understand the treacherous situation of the coup.

Danaerys would know. She’s spent every season fighting for independence with the hopes of building up an army to storm Westeros and get her crown. Drogon left her in a field last season, and she’s been taken prisoner by a Dothraki horde who has no idea who the white-haired woman is. If only they knew they were in — you’d expect their language to show a little bit of tact, at least by Dothraki standards.

It’s up to Khal Moro to investigate, and we’re treated to a scene that’s basically High Fidelity in an ancient time within a different dimension.

“Top five favorite awesome things for Dothraki. Go!”

It’s a good bit of levity for an incredibly bleak premiere, and just in time. The episode takes an even darker turn as Daenarys finds out all Khal widows must live in seclusion with the other widows in the Dothraki capital. Just when the young queen’s about to make headway into conquering Westeros, she’s forced to fight her way back into the game.

To make matters even worse, the entire shipyard has been set ablaze back in Meereen.

The episode saves its last two scenes for its most compelling characters. We begin with Arya Stark who’s been left to beg in the streets.

Sent away and left destitute, Arya must feel helpless with no recourse. Fortunately — and I have to mention that’s it’s also, in a way, unfortunate — the Waif makes an appearance, but it’s no simple visit or charity. After throwing Arya a bo-staff, the Waif makes quick work of the young Stark girl before parting with the words, “See you tomorrow.” So begins the next chapter of Arya’s training, and it’s not going to be easy. Such is the price for vengeance.

The last scene gets us to the episode’s titular character. Alliser gives Davos and his men amnesty until nightfall and puts the fate of the Red Woman in his hands.

“What’s one redhead gonna do against 40 armed men?” one of Jon’s friends asks.

“You haven’t seen her do what I’ve seen her do,” Davos replies.

As nightfall nears, Melisandre sits alone in her room, contemplating another failure. I say another because it’s obvious after the premiere’s final reveal that the Red Woman has been around for a very, very long time. Staring wistfully at her image in a dull mirror, Melisandre removes her clothing and jewelry to be replaced by an ancient crone with sad eyes who must endure another day, who must search for another champion.

Despite the episode’s title, we don’t see much of the Red Woman besides the last scene. But looking back at the one other time she’s mentioned, a line from Ser Alliser to Davos about taking the Red Woman or leaving her at Castle Black which rings ominously now, it’s possible the season or a huge plot point will hinge on her character. Whoever she chooses or is forced to follow may hold her as the key — or become embroiled in desperate tragedy.

I have to say the premiere is everything I wanted — The crisp writing has more than its fair share of quotable lines, and the scenes have been trimmed with precision. The premiere episode picks up right where it needs to and sets the stage for things to come with lots of crackling energy, and the way forward is filled with compelling plot points. Credit director Jeremy Podeswa for the episode’s strong start, middle, and finish. It’s a great jumping-off point for the rest of the episodes this season, and if it’s any indication of where things are headed, fans may be treated to the best season yet.

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[Recap] The Dance of Dragons — Game of Throne S05E09

The second to last episode of every Game of Thrones season has brought with it something massive.

Previous seasons gave us the death of Ned Stark, the Battle of Blackwater Bay, the Red Wedding, and the duel between the Red Viper and the Mountain.

This year’s episode nine, The Dance of Dragons, kicks off with Ramsay Bolton’s special forces torching the tents and horses of Stannis Baratheon’s invading army. It’s a gigantic setback for Stannis — his men have endured starvation, freezing, and low morale — and casualties keep piling up before the fight has even begun. Seeing it as another reason to retreat to Castle Black, Ser Davos implores his King to change his mind, but Stannis — as always — is resolute in moving forward.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow escorts his new allies to the Wall where they wait in anticipation for the gate to lift. First Ranger Alliser Thorne watches them for an uncomfortable moment before sounding the order. Thousands of Wildlings pour into the camp, and Jon watches the reactions of his men, particularly Olly’s. Thorne, ever the curmudgeon, walks by and whispers into Jon’s ear, “You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.”

Jon sees the potential for a giant powder keg to go off now that the Wildlings are south of the wall and in their enemy’s base, no less. And with Stannis trying to compensate for last night’s losses, Jon will soon have to accommodate a request for supplies, food, and horses. Don’t forget it was Stannis that lent Jon the boats that brought the Wildlings south, and though Jon has decided to stay with his brothers at the Night’s Watch, he may find himself in the middle of everything here in Westeros if Stannis has his way.

Back at Stannis’ camp, Ser Davos is ordered to deliver the request for supplies. Davos tells Stannis he would rather stay or, at the least, take the royal family with him, but the stubborn Baratheon denies both requests. “My family stays with me.” Davos pays Princess Shireen a visit before leaving, and he brings her a gift — a wood sculpture of a stag. Shireen tells him of the book she’s reading, The Dance of Dragons: A True Telling. In one story, a knight polishes his shield until it becomes like a mirror. The knight uses the shield to fight a dragon, hoping the sheen would show the dragon its own reflection. The plan is a total failure — the dragon simply sees a man with a shiny shield and burns him to a crisp.

Davos gives Shireen the present and leaves, while in Dorne, Jaime Lannister enters Prince Doran Martell’s court where Princess Myrcella sits next to her intended, Prince Trystane Martell. Prince Doran questions why the Lannisters resorted to infiltration and kidnapping instead of diplomacy, and Jaime tells them the princess’ necklace was sent home with a threatening message. Doran eyes Ellaria suspiciously, and she becomes infuriated when Doran spares Jaime and invites him to share in the Prince’s hospitality.

The scene is rife with political drama — Doran makes a show of his allegiance to King Tommen while Ellaria reacts with conspicious disgust and surprise at placating the Lannisters. Doran commands Myrcella to return to King’s Landing along with Trystane on the agreement that the engagement will stand. Jaime accepts the terms, and Doran also requests that Trystane take his uncle Oberyn’s place on the small council, to which Jaime gives his word. With all that’s happening back home, Jaime might find it very hard to keep his promises upon return.

Disgusted at what’s happening, Ellaria leaves the room with a few bitter words for Doran, “No wonder you can’t stand. You have no spine.”

In a rare occasion, the stoic Doran finally snaps and grabs her arm, threatening to take her life if she ever speaks that way to him again. Jaime turns the conversation to Bronn, and Doran gives Trystane the decision.

In the prison, the Sand Snakes keep themselves occupied with a game, and Tyene Sand gets the better of her sister Nymeria. Guards come to take Bronn away, and Bronn once again declares Tyene the most beautiful woman in the world. Bronn is relieved to discover he’s been released, but there’s a condition — a brutal elbow to the face that catches him by surprise. With Trystane satisfied, Prince Doran offers Bronn soup instead of pie.


For the thin man in Braavos, it’s oysters as Arya Stark moves to assassinate him. Fortunately for him, Arya comes across a target on her person to-do list — Meryn Trant, a knight of the Kingsguard who’s accompanying Mace Tyrell. Mace was sent to Braavos by Cersei in order to secure more funds from the Iron Bank, and Arya spends the entire day following Trant who ends his first night in Braavos with a trip to a brothel. Arya gains entry as a peddler, and she listens as Trant rejects each of the prostitues displayed before him.

“Too old,” he tells the madam after several girls are presented to him, each one younger than the last.

Getting impatient, he asks, “Do you have what I want or not?”

“Of course,” the madame tells him, leaving the room. One of Trant’s men finds Arya and brings her in to sell her food wares. Trant almost recognizes her, but the madame shoos Arya away and brings in a young girl that suits Trant’s desires.

“Good,” Trant says, leaving with the young girl. “You’ll have a fresh one for me tomorrow?”

Back at the House of Black and White, Arya lies to Jaqen “H’ghar, telling him the thin man wasn’t hungry.

“Perhaps that is why a man is thin,” he replies.

It isn’t clear whether Jaqen’s been taken by Arya’s lie. There are a lot of mysteries here — perhaps Trent was Arya’s mission all along. Perhaps it’s a test. The full extent of Jaqen’s powers haven’t been revealed, and the scene is another set of breadcrumbs leading somewhere forward.

While Arya’s story is more open-ended at this point, Ellaria’s boils down to two choices — declare allegiance to Prince Doran or die. Tearfully, Ellaria kisses his ring as her Sand Snakes stand by in restraints. “I believe in second chances,” he warns, pulling his hand away from her, “I don’t believe in third chances.”

Ellaria has to be careful now, and what does she do? She pays Jaime a visit and asks him about his love for Cersei. Ellaria knows about the incestuous relationship, and she surprises Jaime by asking him, “You think I disapprove?” She goes on with a discourse about loving people despite judgment. “The only thing that stays the same is that we want who we want,” she tells him before she acknowledges Myrcella had nothing to do with Oberyn’s death. “Perhaps even you are innocent of that,” she offers before leaving him.

Back in the North, Stannis pays his daughter a visit and asks her what she’s reading. When she tells him about the fight between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother Aegon, the story mirrors Stannis’ own battle with his brother Renly over the Iron Throne.

“Brothers fought brothers. Dragons fought dragons,” she tells him. “By the time it was over, thousands were dead. And it was a disaster for the Targaryens as well. They never recovered.”

After this episode, I wonder if Stannis will ever recover in the eyes of his fans. The entire scene — from Shireen playing with the stag in front of an open flame to the storyline parallels — moves to an inevitable finish.

Father and daughter discuss the meaning of the title and the story, and Shireen shows a deep appreciation and understanding of it while the poetry is lost on Stannis. When Stannis asks her who she would have chosen, Rhaenyra or Aegon, she says neither.

“Sometimes a person has to choose,” he tells her, “Sometimes the world forces his hand.”

It’s obvious now that Stannis has been thinking of sacrificing his daughter despite his previous actions. All that talk about saving his daughter from grayscale and ordering Melisandre out of his tent when she first suggested the idea has given way to Stannis’ beliefs in his own destiny. For Stannis, the way forward is a fork in the road. He can’t have his cake and eat it too — if he is to become King of Westeros, he will have to sacrifice one for the many.

“He must fulfill his destiny and become who he is meant to be. However much he may hate it.”

Shireen, ever the faithful daughter, offers her help. “I’m the Princess Shireen of House Baratheon. And I’m your daughter.” If only she knew what she had to do.

Stannis embraces his daughter one last time and says, “Forgive me.”

It’s a death unlike the others that have made the episode nines of Game of Thrones so famous in that Shireen herself is a minor character, however well-liked. But her death is no less impactful because the circumstances are unusual and bitter with ramifications for Stannis who is a major character. Some may feel the characterization contrary to his past developments, but it’s clear that Stannis is defining himself once and for all and cementing his position.

As Shireen is escorted by her father’s soldiers, she clutches the stag given to her by Ser Davos. Snow falls, and a crowd of soldiers part as she’s led to a stake where Melisandre tells her, “It will all be over soon, Princess.”

Shireen realizes what’s about to happen, and she screams for her father as she’s carried tied to the stake and tied up. Melisandre prays while Selyse tells Stannis, “It’s a good thing. A great thing. If we don’t act, we’ll all starve here. All of us.”

Selyse has always been distant to her daughter for as long as this story has been told, so it’s no surprise she’s accepted this path. Stannis, on the other hand, is painfully torn, grimacing as his daughter calls for him. When Shireen calls out for her mother as well, Selyse suddenly breaks.

“We can’t,” she tells Stannis, grabbing his arm.

“There’s no other way. She has king’s blood,” he argues, shaking her off.

Melisandre lights the pyre, and the flames begin to engulf Shireen as some of the soldiers watch woefully. Selyse runs to her daughter, but the soldiers keep her from getting close. Screams pierce the air as her parents turn their eyes away. When Selyse looks up to see her dead daughter, she lets out a regretful and guttural moan as a mother would. The scene is powerful and will be scrutinized long after this episode has run.

Stannis turns away from his daughter to contemplate his decision as applause can be heard. The scene shifts to the tens of thousands who are in attendance at the Great Games. Two warriors enter the stadium and introduce themselves to Queen Danaerys Targaryen. A terse silence fills the stadium as the crowd waits for the action to begin.

“They’re waiting for you,” Hizdahr zo Loraq tells Danaerys, “Clap your hands.”

The crowd roars, and the fight begins. Daario argues the quicker fighter will win based on his own experience as a pit-fighter, and the argument turns personal as Loraq and Daario exchange words. Tyrion listens, looking uncomfortable with the games and the point of the discussion as Loraq’s words hit a little close to home, “And in my experience, large men do triumph over smaller men far more often than not.”

The larger warrior chops off his foe’s head, and Daario walks away. Loraq and Tyrion begin to talk about the necessary conditions for greatness, and Tyrion tells Loraq, “My father would have liked you.” Danaerys hears a familiar voice speaking to her from within the ring, and she sees Jorah Mormont, appearing before his queen as a pit-fighter. Looking conflicted, Danaerys claps her hand, and the six warriors in the ring hack away.

Jorah dispatches his first foe, and he makes it a point to stare Danaerys down as if to say, Is this what you want? Another warrior battles with Jorah and moves in for the killing blow — Tyrion tells Danaerys to stop the fight, but Loraq rebuts him. Jorah’s saved by another pit-fighter, a spear-wielding warrior that ends up on Jorah’s sword. Jorah looks up at Danaerys while the crowd boos, and his expression changes to anger. He picks up the spear and launches it at the royal seats.

This is no betrayal — the spear hits a member of the Sons of the Harpy sneaking in to assassinate Danaerys.

The stadium erupts in chaos as harpies begin to kill and surround the royal couple. Daario rallies the Unsullied, and Loraq tries to get Danaerys out before he’s killed. Jorah comes to the Queen’s aid and takes her to the stadium floor. The Sons of the Harpy block off the exits, and more come flooding into the stadium, outnumbering Danaerys’ entourage by a large margin. Tentative, several try to charge in and kill her, but her soldiers keep them at bay for a moment.

It’s only a matter of time before her troops will break. The Queen grasps Missandei’s hand and closes her eyes, accepting her fate.

And then a dragon roars.

The prodigal son Drogon appears in a cloud of fire and circles the stadium before he lands on a couple of harpies. Blowing fire and taking a few spears in the neck, the dragon goes to work barbecuing the attackers. Danaerys calls out to her adopted dragon and removes one of the spears in his neck. Drogon turns and gives her an earful, but after he recognizes her, they get a quick moment before another spear strikes.

Knowing she and her dragon have to get to safety, she climbs on Drogon’s back, and they make a dramatic getaway.

It’s a crowning moment that solidifies Danaerys as a conquering Targaryen — her ancestors rode dragons into battle as they claimed dominion over the seven kingdoms. In one act, Danaerys leaves a lasting impression on her allies and foes by forcing them to recall past legends while they come to terms with what they’ve just seen. My gripe is that the camerawork left something to be desired — I would rather have seen the flight from the view on the ground rather than closeup where the bad special effects sucked the epicness away.

The Dance of Dragons overall seems a bit underwhelming when compared to the other second-to-last episodes of seasons past, but it’s an episode with a lot of development and some interesting thematic elements. Take away Jon Snow’s scenes and you’ll see that the various plots points this episode are centered on the women — the episode’s biggest movers and shakers. The various scenes also play up potential consequences for the decisions made — for Snow, it’s the possibility of a battle between the Wildlings and Night’s Watch. For Ellaria, the knowledge that vengeance and betrayal could destroy herself and her family. The attack on Danaerys could very well lead to a more ruthless Queen who puts her citizens in order through sword and flame.

I expect the last episode to be this season’s most important episode because the show is due for some payoffs. We’ve seen storylines gain momentum, and after next week, it will be months before we hit the sixth season followed by a potentially final seventh season. Speculation aside, the series has begun to forge a path not present in the books, and where we go from here will be a surprise to both readers and television viewers.

Game of Thrones
S05E09: The Dance of Dragons
[usr 4]
Directed by: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Starring: Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Emilia Clarke

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