Game of Thrones szn 5, ep 9: Stannis Baratheon, not Father of the Year

Note: Full spoilers for last nights episode ahead

I’m not entirely sure what Shireen Baratheon did to her father (Stannis, in case you haven’t been paying attention) to make him so willing to sacrifice her to the Lord of Light. I don’t buy that Ramsay’s recon team burning a chunk of the Baratheon camp made Stannis, a very strong leader, so distraught and grey-haired that he all of a sudden was content with killing his daughter for king’s blood and yadda yadda yadda. Perhaps the sweet and intelligent Shireen made an honest gaffe and bought Stannis an Applebee’s gift card for Father’s Day when he’s really more of a Chili’s guy. An unforgivable mistake, sure, but not one that should be met with death, in my opinion.

The sequence with Shireen actually being burned was the most harrowing from “The Dance of Dragons” and possibly season five as a whole; her screams and the rippling sounds of the flames were just met with a cold stare from her father. It was such a slow-burning scene, no pun intended, and the director really wanted to force you deal with the brutality of it. There’s really no turning back for Stannis at this point, and I’m saying this having been a big fan of him since day one. He’s either the smartest guy in the room and the Lord of Light really is the true God to help guide the people through the winter, or he’s sacrificed multiple people, including his own daughter, for nothing. While I’m not generally in favor of the burning of children, I respect the strategy behind how Stannis did it, seeing as he sent Ser Davos back to The Wall so he didn’t have to hear a lecture.

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Now matter how much Ser Alliser and the rest of the Night’s Watch may disagree with Jon Snow, they certainly respect him as a leader. I chuckled a bit at all the weird looks the giant got as the Wildings passed through. There wasn’t all that much to see here, as the climax to this storyline took place last week.

It appears as if Jaime and Bronn will be leaving Dorne alive, with Princess Myrcella no less, though she’s taking her groom-to-be Trystane Martell back to King’s Landing with her. It was quite wasteful when Ellaria, leader of the Sand Snakes, poured her fine Dornish wine out mockingly as Jaime was given a pass. The coincidence here is that she was also given a pass for her disloyalty, and eventually had to kneel before Doran. Towards the end of the episode, when Ellaria reconciled with Jaime and said Oberyn’s death was not his fault, was she being honest???? I don’t think so. It seems like to immediate of a 180 for her character to take.

Arya is still slingin’ oysters in Braavos but her plans to poison the Gambler were interrupted by the arrival of a few folks from King’s Landing to discuss the large debt owed to the Iron Bank. Amongst them, the master of coin Mace Tyrell and resident douchebag/pedophile Meryn Trant, whom you may remember Arya has serious beef with after he killed her “dancing” instructor Syrio back in season one. To be honest, I thought the entire scene at the brothel was frivolous. We already hate Meryn Trant, why waste five minutes of screen time telling us he likes little girls? What I did find interesting was Jaqen’s face when Arya lied to him about why she hadn’t killed the Gambler yet. Something tells me he’s well aware of this lie, but, as always with Jaqen, it was hard to read.

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Alright, let’s get to Meereen and the whole Sons of the Harpy vs a damn Dragon thing. This entire sequence pissed me off, despite the fact that it’s always fun to watch dragons kill people. Let me run through why this entire sequence failed to land with me, personally, both in terms of story-telling and sheer plausibility:

  • We haven’t heard anything from the Sons of the Harpy for a few weeks and, now, out of nowhere, they seem to consist of half the population????
  • Once the fighting breaks out, I’m supposed to believe that Jorah and Daario are capable of defending Dany against hundreds?
  • Speaking of Jorah, he was welcomed back into Dany’s good graces a little too quickly and basically wiped clean an entire season of misery with a “flicka da wrist”.
  • So then the dragon comes, and the Sons throw multiple spears into it. They couldn’t throw spears into Dany, but they could get up close and do so to a FUCKING DRAGON????????? (Obviously in a fantasy world you have to suspend your disbelief a bit, but this whole sequence asked too much of me).
  • Then, all of the fighting pauses while Dany slowly climbs onto the dragon and flies away across a green screen that gave off the look of a video game??? What about Tyrion and Daario and Jorah, did the hundreds of religious nuts just happen to decide to stop trying to kill them right there???
  • And like half of the shots were a direct rip-off from Attack of the Clones.

So yeah, I really hated the last twenty minutes of this episode. It felt too easy all around. Also, as a pure action sequence, it pails in comparison to some of GOT’s finer moments, such as the battle at Hardhome last week. Again, I get that we all love the dragons, but I just can’t get over how cheated I feel right now after the Meereen storyline finally got a little life with the arrival of Tyrion last week.

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Episode 9 of GOT is always the big climactic one, with the finale usually just neatly wrapping things up. The showrunners seem to have strayed a bit from that course, as not only was last week a “bigger” episode, but the finale figures to be a big one as well given how many storylines still need a “holy shit” moment this season (Cersei, Arya, Sansa/Theon, Jaime/Bronn/Dorne). I’m cool with them changing up their episodic structure. It keeps things fresh.

So I expect fireworks next week, certainly more of them than we’re used to in season finales. I still believe Season 5 has been probably the best all-around for the show, but I can honestly say I lost a little enthusiasm after this one.

Final Verdict: Though a bit all over the place at times, “The Dance of Dragons” contained many spectacular moments and helped set-up what should be the best GOT finale yet.

5 Quick Tidbits:

  1. Dany’s husband, Hizdahr, was stabbed to death during the skirmish with the Sons of the Harpy in what was probably the least meaningful death in the history of the show.
  2. While the CGI of the actual dragon was phenomenal, it was the dragon in flight over the backdrop of the city that looked like crap to me. I understand that GOT is a TV show on a budget, but I’ve come to expect Hollywood blockbuster-level effects from the show at this point.
  3. Maybe I need to watch the episode again and I’ll warm up to it. I didn’t watch it until about 12:30 due to another outstanding NBA Finals game.
  4. Episode 9 power rankings: the battle of the Blackwater (szn 2), Red Wedding (szn 3), battle at the Wall (szn 4), death of Ned Stark (szn 1), this one.
  5. They missed an opportunity to have Tyrion riding a dragon which would’ve been the greatest thing ever btw.

Until next week.

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