Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9 “The Dance of Dragons” Review
**Full spoilers for all books and TV episodes.**
If we look back at the previous ninth episodes in any “Game of Thrones” season, they are usually big important turning points for the series. Ned’s beheading, the Battle of the Blackwater, the Red Wedding, Battle at the Wall, etc. You get the picture.
Sadly, “Dance of Dragons” falls short of nearly all of these, and is one of the worst penultimate episodes the show has had. We did get some sweet dragon action…just not much else.
The show’s struggles aren’t entirely its own fault: The titular book that it is based on has the same problem. There’s a billion and a half pages of building, and no peak or resolution. Many (myself included) expected this to mean we’d see some interesting show-only developments. Instead, we got this.
Starting up north, poor Stannis (Stephen Dillane) the Mannis has fallen on hard times. He just can’t seem to beat the blizzard, and stupid Ramsay (Iwan Rheon) just snuck in and set fire to all of his tents! That bastard!
It’s interesting, given that it was fire that destroyed the camp, that nobody stood up and said…well…Hey! Melisandre (Carice van Houten), can’t you just put the fires out? Or shouldn’t you be immune to fire? Or something? It seems weird that the thought never crept into anybody’s mind, or if it did, nobody was saying anything.
Stannis sent Davos (Liam Cunningham) away, because, of course, he’s going to kill Shireen (Kerry Ingram). The show has been building up to this with all the subtitle and grace of a bull in a china shop, so it’s a bit weird that people are finding the whole Kentucky Fried Greyscale thing either shocking or surprising.
(Side note: I have no clue where Davos goes from here. Also, where did EVERYONE in Westeros get those wooden, giant war chess pieces? Whoever sold those must be making a killing on all this war planning).
People also seem to be forgetting several key things here. This is the guy who killed his OWN BROTHER, (and other family members, in the books) because he wanted to be king.
Show runners Dan Weiss and David Benioff spoke out about this, and I do think they are right about the magic aspect. As viewers of the show, in our own reality where magic is not real, some people are having a hard time understanding how Stannis can make a decision in support of that magic. But in Westeros, that shit is real.
The only real argument I can get behind is this isn’t going to win Stannis any Friendship Points (TM) with most of the other noble families. This is a society that really looks down upon kinslaying, and well, he just did it. It was also weird that so many of his men were just chilling and watching the whole human pot roast thing.
Yup. He killed his daughter. He’s still the best fit to rule as king. Deal with it.
Also, to the segment of people saying that GRRM will somehow make this plot better, or have it make more sense, because he has magical abilities, give me a fucking break: D&D are trying to clean up the giant mess that is books 4 and 5. Martin isn’t a magician. He’s good at very many things, but not good at just as many. Moving on.
Down south, in Dorne, we had what I’m guessing is the resolution of the murder of everything that is interesting about Dorne and one of the worst plot adaptations the show has done yet.
I thought that sending Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) down to Dorne would bring necessity and a sense of importance to the Dorne quest. Instead it floundered around all season, until this episode, when Doran (Alexander Siddig) decides to just let everybody go back to King’s Landing, as long as Trystane (Toby Sebastian) is given Oberyn’s (Perdo Pascal) old spot on the council.
Even the scene with Ellaria (Indira Varma) and Jaime, which could have been interesting, given that Ellaria was somebody who could actually relate to — and understand — Jaime’s incestuous motivations, fell flat, when she just forgave him because she had to because somebody else told her to because plot.
Also, Myrcella’s (Neil Tiger Free) necklace was stolen, so it wasn’t just a scheme of Cersei’s(Lena Headey), which would have at least made all this a tad bit more interesting. SIGH.
Then again, there’s still room for some twist or turn if everybody doesn’t leave peacefully as planned, but there’s very little reason to hope for anything but that at this point. I’m guessing that’s the last we’ve seen of Dorne this season.
Arya (Maisie Williams) finally found some strand of her plot, with Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths), Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), and Mycroft (Mark Gatiss) finally crossing her path.
We got some weird singing stuff from Mace, but I did like how we saw the conversation through Arya, though we did lose out on the important parts. It felt thematic with how the POVs of the books change how we learn certain bits of information, so it works on that level, at least.
Also, Trant is one of those characters that the show seems to have realized people won’t remember or they never did enough to characterize before…so why not just make him a pedophile! Then people will hate him! I still can’t remember for the life of my why show-Arya doesn’t like Trant.
More likely though, Arya is going to sneak into that brothel and be his little whore, and then kill him, and I can already hear the internet whiplash coming now…
And finally, the actual dance with dragons. Dany (Emilia Clarke) and Mereen took center stage for the last chunk of the episode. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) has certainly gained favor awfully quickly,he already has a seat up on her high dais, right next to The Lorax (Joel Fry).
It was interesting seeing how Dany needed him to understand the Mereen customs (the clapping, it was a very Frodo needing Gandalf’s guidance moment), but of course, like a bad penny (but thankfully not THE bad Penney) Jorah (Iain Glen) turned back up, fighting again for his redemption arc.
The indecision was ripe on Dany’s face. If her people are blood thirsty, does she give them blood to drink? Does she save Jorah, who has saved her so many times before?
She didn’t have time to decide, and instead, it’s Jorah who saves Dany again, as a giant Harpy attack starts, which was totally orchestrated by Loraq who sneakily mentioned he was late because he was getting things in order.
(Note: all of the show’s twists this season have been VERY choreographed, so this doesn’t surprise me).
The attack is better than some silly poisoned locusts, but it’s also sloppy, given how, as others have complained as well, the show keeps having people or events happen at exactly the right time right as needed.
Drogon showing up was another such moment, swooping in just when Dany needed him. I didn’t expect Jorah to live out the pit, but he and the rest of camp Dany just sat there, fucked, as they watched the plot fly out of Mereen. Good bye plot! It was nice knowing you!
Usually, each season’s episode 9 is the big turning point, the focal point of a season, with the finales being the aftermath where everybody scrambles to deal with the previous atrocity.
But, if this was the high point of the season, that doesn’t leave much room for episode 10 to improve things, especially when there’s still so many plots left unresolved to jam into one hour next week. Maybe the show is breaking formula, and the finale will bring the thunder, but if not…
May the Mother’s Mercy be upon us all.
Notes & Quotes:
-Re: The preview. Does anybody really think Sansa is going to die?
-lol to the shared lover’s look that Daario (Michiel Huisman) and Jorah shared
-The hanging harpy theme was pretty awesome
-“My father would have liked you.”
-Tyrion’s whole killing speech at the pits
-“Choice is no choice at all.”
-lol to Ellaria pouring her wine out
-“You have a good heart Jon Snow, but it will get us all killed>’
-Oh yeah, there was a small scene with Jon at the wall, but all it did was further make it clear that Olly (Brenock O’Connor) is going to kill Jon, so much show that non-bookers are starting to pick it up. This show WAS great at subtly, once, wasn’t it?