Thursday, June 11, 2015

Game of Thrones 5.09: The Dance of Dragons

And welcome to the penultimate week of our season five Game of Thrones recaps. I don't know how the season got away from us so quickly, but it always seems to move so fast. We had what is probably the most upsetting death on the show so far, followed by one of the most remarkable moments yet. As always, I'm joined by Christopher Lockett, and this week I'll let him begin. 

Christopher: The past two episodes have really ratcheted up the stakes, haven’t they? It feels like a payoff moment—after almost five seasons of hearing that “winter is coming” and the promise of the “mother of dragons,” finally we’re starting to see the significance of those coinages. Last week, speculating on what if anything could realistically defeat the implacable force of the Night King and his vast undead army, I said—with my tongue only slightly in my cheek—that it would probably involve dragons. Now that Daenerys has fulfilled a crucial element of being a Targaryen and ridden Drogon into the clouds, that does not seem like such a distant possibility.

Or to put it another way, let’s remember that GRRM’s series is called “A Song of Ice and Fire.” Last week we got the ice. This week we got the fire.

Unfortunately, we got fire in a number of different ways. First, Ramsay’s guerrilla attack on Stannis’ camp was terribly effective, burning tents, supplies, and horses (the image of a panicked horse entirely aflame was particularly affecting). Secondly …

In my notes for a specific scene in this episode, I’ve written “it’s like the showrunners are trying to turn off viewers.” Several episodes ago, Nikki, we saved discussion of a controversial scene until the end. I think this time we should address it at the beginning. I’m speaking, of course, of the horrific death of Shireen Baratheon, sacrificed by her father at Melisandre’s behest.

Predictably, a lot of reviews and commentaries on this episode have asked the same question they did with Sansa’s rape: Why? Why include this awful, deeply distressing plot twist, especially considering it doesn’t appear in the novels? Why, especially after we were treated to a scene several episodes ago in which Stannis expressed his love for Shireen in terms that humanized him far more than he ever is in the novels?

As my comments on the Sansa scene might indicate, I tend to find this particular line of questioning wrong-headed. The “what ifs” of storytelling can make for interesting speculations on how it all might have fallen out otherwise, or considerations of the authors’ intentions, but it doesn’t make for good criticism. Like it or loathe it (and based on my casual perusal of reactions to this episode, there are many in the latter camp), Stannis has sacrificed a crucial element of his humanity on the altar of his ambition, in the belief that being king is his destiny. And once again we see that the show is playing the long game, that in fact his touching scene with his daughter a few episodes back was not a matter of humanizing Stannis, but humanizing him enough that we are even more shocked and horrified than we would have been otherwise. We really ought to know by now to be on our guard when Game of Thrones gives us moments of sentiment and warmth.

And as with Sansa’s wedding night, the show layers on the dread by signaling what is to come. As soon as Stannis refuses the very possibility of returning to Castle Black, we know something is off. “Forgive me, Your Grace,” says Davos, “I never claimed to be an expert in military matters, but if we can’t march forward and we won’t march back—” He cuts himself off to follow Stannis gaze behind him and sees Melisandre and Queen Selyse standing there. A look then passes between him and his king, who curtly orders him to butcher the dead horses for meat and walks away, followed by the two women. Later, he orders Davos to return to Castle Black for supplies over Davos’ objections, and further refuses to send Shireen with him. We begin to discern Stannis’ design here: remove the one man with conscience and standing enough to protect Shireen.

What is doubly heartbreaking is the sense that Davos knows this—that he has an inkling of the king’s mind, but is perhaps in denial about it. His scene with Shireen, in which he gives her the carved stag and thanks her for helping him grow up, has a certain finality to it. Is he in denial about Stannis’ intentions? Are his feelings too vague for him to act on them? Or is he that steadfast in his loyalty that he willingly absents himself from camp?

Whatever the case, he is now complicit. Stannis’ crime thus compromises more than just his own soul, but those of every one of his followers.

Sansa’s rape was devastating for many viewers because she was perceived as the last innocent. That may be true, but at least Sansa agreed to her marriage pact with her eyes open. She might not have known the abject depths of Ramsay’s depravity, but she knew the Boltons well enough to know she was agreeing to something humiliating and unpleasant. Shireen is genuinely the last innocent of the show, and she has no idea what her father plans when she tells him she’ll do anything to help.

Stephen Dillane is one of the unsung heroes of this show, playing one of the more thankless roles—Stannis is rigid and uncompromising, with an iron sense of right and wrong. His rationale is simple and straightforward: his older brother was king, Robert’s children are illegitimate, and therefore he is the true king. He cannot step away from that fact any more than he could cut off his own limb. “If a man knows what he is and remains true to himself, the choice is no choice at all,” he tells Shireen. “He must fulfill his destiny and become who he is meant to be … however much he may hate it.”

Fantasy has traditionally had a deep investment in the power of prophecy and destiny; unsurprisingly then, GRRM undercuts its logic. Melisandre, in proclaiming Stannis a prophesied hero—Azor Ahai the Lightbringer reborn—marries her religious fervor to Stannis’ sense of his own destiny. But having come so far only to court defeat in the Northern winter, Stannis does not see any other choice. Not even when his fanatical wife breaks down and tries to save Shireen does he waver, though her breakdown goes a long way to expose the hollowness of his reasoning. It was Selyse who brought Stannis to the worship of the Lord of Light, and if anyone would cheerfully sacrifice Shireen to him, we’d expect it to be her. From a simple, eminently logical starting point of his drive to be king, he has arrived at a place of profound irrationality and indeed madness.

What did you think, Nikki?

Worst. Parents. EVER.

Nikki: The television shows I watch always seem to be rife with shitty parents: Lost was a show about a bunch of people on an island with serious mommy and daddy issues. On Buffy one of the greatest characters on the show was Giles, who for all intents and purposes was a father to Buffy after her own father abandoned her and her mother for his secretary. Fairytales are filled with absentee or dead parents and evil, horrid, stepmothers.

And then there’s Game of Thrones. Where one son kills his father while Dad’s taking a crap; where the best mother on the show is the mother of dragons and slaves, not children; where the strong and determined Catelyn Stark still can’t find it in her heart to love an innocent baby who’s her husband’s bastard; where Craster kills his sons and lets his daughters reach an age where they’re old enough to rape for more daughters and sons;... and where Stannis Baratheon, who gave the most moving speech about the lengths a father will go to save his only child, just had her burned alive at the stake to feed his own ambition.

I hope he and Selyse are haunted by those screams for the rest of their days.

I’ve always seen Selyse as a cold, heartless woman, and at first, when she steps out, she has that same callous face that she’s always had. Interestingly, she seems to be completely on board with everything that’s happening until Stannis says that she has the blood of a king in her, and therefore this must be done. Only then does this look of horror cross her face, and she rushes at the stake. And I couldn’t help but think... is it possible Shireen does not have king’s blood in her? Has Selyse been keeping some secret from her husband all these years and only now does she realize her daughter’s about to be sacrificed for no reason?

The thought was only a fleeting one, however, as Selyse rushes forward and begs for mercy for her daughter. It was a shocking moment — Stannis is the one who’s always treated his daughter like she was worth more than others did, while his wife had nothing but cold words for her, and now he stares at her burning to death and screaming in abject pain and does nothing, while his wife begs for it to stop. Melisandre, on the other hand, is a cold-hearted bitch who doesn’t seem to have an ounce of humanity in her whatsoever, and she stands nearby with that same smug look on her face that she wore when Mance Rayder was being burned alive. But at least someone showed Mance some mercy by shooting him with an arrow. No one was there to save this little girl from the feeling of flames burning her flesh as her heart fell to pieces within her, knowing what her parents were allowing to happen to her.

We can’t forget that Stannis has gone along with hiding this child away all these years; in a dungeon, in an old library in the basement. And even in that scene where he proclaims what he did to save her life, she throws her arms around him with unbridled love, and he stands there, stiff, like he can’t embrace her back. And when he does, he looks like he means it.

But his love for her is no match for his ambition.

Before her horrifying death — the thought of which fills me with so much grief as a mother that I wanted to push my way through the flames just to embrace her as she burned to death, just so she wouldn’t have to die alone — she was reading the Dance of the Dragons, the story of the Targaryen wars, which not only is the second time in as many weeks that the title of a George RR Martin book has been referenced — last week Ramsay said Stannis’s army would become a feast for the crows — but it’s a line that came full circle by the end of the episode. But let’s hold off on talking about THAT moment for a bit.

I wanted to add that when the tents in Stannis’s camp catch fire — fulfilling the “Fire” half of the saga that this episode represents as you demonstrated so well in your commentary, Chris — it’s carrying out the plan that Ramsay Bolton had in the previous episode. Roose Bolton is a formidable military man, and he saw that Stannis’s army had no way of winning with it being so cold, so he figured he could just starve them out. Ramsay, on the other hand, requested 20 men, and with those men he somehow found a way to sneak into their camp with ninja-like precision and light several tents — and people and horses — on fire. It’s a brilliant strategy on so many levels: Roose’s plan would have taken ages, and Ramsay would rather end this now so they don’t have to waste precious time looking over their shoulder in the direction of the Baratheon sigil any longer than they have to. But it also seems to take the very thing that Stannis bows to — the Lord of Light — and throws it back in his face. The night is dark and full of terrors indeed, dude. Ramsay Bolton is a loathsome character in so many ways, but in this moment, he showed that he’s a cunning strategist, which should raise his profile in his dad’s eyes several notches.

Now let’s move over to Braavos, where Arya is playing the oyster girl and about to fulfill the task asked of her by Jaqen when she spots none other than Mace Tyrell... or the Mayor of Munchkinland, as I like to think of him. Oh wait, no, she’s not looking at Mace... she’s looking at Meryn Trant standing behind him. If you’re like my husband, who went, “Who he?” when she started focusing on him and following him through the square, Meryn is one of the people on Arya’s Kill List, and was the man who killed her “dance instructor” all the way back in season 1.

I can’t believe that when Cersei assigned Meryn to follow Mace to Braavos to meet with Mycroft that I didn’t figure out he’d cross paths with Arya. Duh. What did you think of this scene, Chris?

Christopher: I think it confirms what we pretty much knew all along, namely that Arya has a long way to go before she can put aside her identity as Arya Stark and honestly say she is “no one.” One of the things we can surmise from her training thus far is that a girl cannot truly be a Faceless Man if a girl still clings to her own loves and hates, and especially not if a girl still nurses vengeance in her heart. The Many-Faced God dispenses death with equanimity, and his servants must have the same even-handedness.

This is presumably why they seem to hate pronouns so much.

It is something of a relief, however, to know Arya’s still there: the thought of losing her rather distinct personality is distressing, even though it probably means she’s in for some punishment from Jaqen—it’s obvious from his expression he knows she’s lying when she says the thin man wasn’t hungry.

They’ve telegraphed where this is going pretty clearly: Meryn Trant likes his girls young, so I’m guessing Arya will pose as a prostitute in order to kill him. This storyline actually follows one of the sample chapters from The Winds of Winter that GRRM has posted on his website. Unfortunately it has been replaced by another sample chapter, so I can’t link to it, but here is the synopsis on the Song of Ice and Fire Wiki. In it Arya is posing as a girl named Mercy in a theatre troupe, which is about to stage a play loosely modeled on the events of King’s Landing. They have a special guest: an envoy from the Iron Throne in Braavos to negotiate with the Iron Bank (not Mace Tyrell), and Arya sees that one of his guards is a man on her kill list (not Meryn Trant, but a fellow named Raff the Sweetling, who doesn’t appear in the TV show). She tempts him into a secluded alcove with the promise of sex and kills him.

Again, this was pretty clearly telegraphed in the show. The question will be: what will be her punishment? I have a pretty clear idea, as she transgresses in a similar way in A Feast for Crows, so it will be interesting to see if her story continues to hew more or less closely to the novel.

Also, it’s a delight to see Mycroft Tycho Nestoris again, especially in contrast to the buffoonish Mace Tyrell.

Meanwhile, things all seem very civilized in Dorne, compared to the rest of Westeros. I quite enjoyed these scenes, as we’re finally getting a more nuanced sense of the characters involved here. I do still think they’ve done it back-asswards: a fuller understanding of the personalities at work, and the underlying tensions and enmities and loyalties would have improved the Sand Snakes’ story immeasurably and invested us in the fate of their plot more deeply. Instead, we’re getting after-the-fact exposition—still engrossing, but it makes me wonder where they’re going with the Dorne narrative. I’ve read a few commentaries on the episode opining that the Dorne storyline has been pointless, simply a side-journey to give Jaime Lannister something to do, far away from his sister’s plight.

I’m not so sure. With Trystane returning to King’s Landing with Myrcella, their engagement intact, It may be that Benioff and Weiss have some ideas for how to use their Dornish characters in ways that will now necessarily deviate dramatically from the novels.

I particularly liked Prince Doran in these scenes. As I’ve said before, I think Alexander Siddig is a great actor, and it doesn’t hurt that he has ST:DS9 geek cred. But I love the way he plays this character, in such stark contrast to Ellaria and the hot-headed Sand Snakes. He is calm and measured, thoughtful, but radiates command. Not someone I’d want to face across a poker table. His brief moment of ire as Ellaria attempts to storm from the room is more dangerous than all of Cersei’s threats to her captors, as is his later comment that “I believe in second chances; I don’t believe in third chances.” I think we can add him to the running list of characters whose actors endow them with extraordinary gravitas, alongside Tywin, Mance, Olenna, and the High Sparrow.

Perhaps most interesting in this Dorne sequence is Ellaria’s apparent rapprochement with Jaime, in which she tells him she knows the truth of his relationship with Cersei, and the fact that in Dorne “no one blinked an eye.” Social mores about who we’re allowed to love, she says, are constantly changing, but “the only thing that stays the same is we want who we want.”

It’s an odd and interesting moment, considering her previously implacable hatred for all things Lannister. Is she signaling a détente? Or is she reminding Jaime that the man she wants is now dead, at least in part due to Lannister scheming?

What do you think, Nikki?

Nikki: I found it a strange scene indeed; she seems to be almost setting up an alliance with Jaime in a sense of, “Hey, bro, don’t fret. You had sex with your sister, gave her a bunch of kids; I’m a bastard daughter of a nobleman and had five bastard daughters of my own with Oberyn, whom I loved to watch have sex with other people. It’s like we were made to work together.” Back in season four, Ellaria and Oberyn were a breath of fresh air, I thought; these people who sweep in from Dorne and seek pleasure where they can get it, who don’t judge others for any sexual proclivities because they’ve tried it all — let’s just say in Dorne, the High Sparrow would have been beheaded by now and Loras upheld as a hero. What is normal to Ellaria and her people is loathed and judged in King’s Landing, a place where Jaime and Cersei have to lie about their children, and where Loras and Margaery are in a jail because one is a homosexual and the other one knew about it.

Jaime is the brother/lover of Cersei, the woman who got Oberyn killed by the Mountain. Ellaria loathes her. What better way to come at Cersei than to bed the man she loves? Things haven’t exactly been hunky dory in Lannister land lately, as we know. The last time Jaime was intimate with Cersei was when he raped her on the floor next to their son’s corpse — not exactly candlelight and roses — and Cersei has shown him nothing but disdain ever since he arrived with one hand fewer than before. But we know that despite Cersei pushing him away, she’s not going to let anyone else come near him. If she found out that Jaime had been intimate with Ellaria, she would fly into a rage of epic proportions.

I’m starting to think Ellaria’s simply moved on to a Plan B.

I agree with you that the Sand Snakes had a spectacular entrance when we first saw them on the beach, and then in their next scene, when they’re summarily beaten by Doran’s guards, I pretty much just heard this:

But since then, as you say, we’ve been watching them develop almost backwards, and perhaps that’s a sneaky way of making them explode onto the scene enveloped by their own legend, only to break down that legend and build them back up again. One thing that I must say I actually like about them — but I know a lot of fans might be up in arms about it — is that they use their bodies and physical attractiveness for their own means. I suspect Ellaria is trying to lure Jaime into a sexual tryst. I could be completely wrong, and, as you say, she’s just telling him this as a frame story to send the real message: I know about you and your sister, and that your children are illegitimate, and by the way your lover killed mine, and I WILL have my revenge.” But it seemed more intimate than that, especially the way she was slinking around the room as she talked to him.

Similarly, Tyene believes she’s conquered Bronn by forcing him to tell her that she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, again using her body and sexual wiles to dominate him. In the slapping fight we see in the jail cell, the girls have a lot of sibling rivalry, whether it’s physical, where Tyene smacks Nymeria in the face right after Nymeria brags that Tyene’s reaction time is too short, or verbal, where Obara — the one who seems to have no time for either one of them — simply rolls over to face the wall, muttering “slut” under her breath at her younger sibling. These women will stand together to fight, despite their infighting, because they all believe in a common cause. And, interestingly, when they watch Ellaria groveling before Doran, kissing his hand and begging his forgiveness, they’re united in their repulsion at watching her do so. The question is, watching their reaction to her in this scene, will they continue to follow her commands?

But now it’s time to talk about the scene we’ve both been waiting to discuss: DRAGONS!! I, for one, had no idea that dragon-riding was going to enter into this show, and jokingly said to my husband near the end, “She should just climb on Drogon’s back and get the hell out of there.” And then OH MY GOD SHE DID.

But you must have known this scene was coming, and once again the readers haven’t spoiled dragon-riding for the rest of us! Tell me about your thoughts of the final scenes in Meereen.

Christopher: I don’t think you needed to be a reader of the books to suspect, once the odds looked hopeless, that there was about to be a deus ex draconis. As our heroes grew increasingly outnumbered and pressed back into the defensive circle, I was muttering under my breath “Any time now, Drogon …” And when Daenerys closes her eyes, waiting for the end, and we suddenly hear the dragon’s distinctive squawk in the distance … and as he makes his spectacular entrance in a ball of flame … well, let’s just say there was some fist-pumping happening on my end. I may or may not have shouted “Boom!”

Ahem. Before I get too excited about the final sequence to lose the capacity for speech, I suppose I should outline the differences and similarities with the novel. Toward the end of A Dance With Dragons, Daenerys has married the unctuous Hizdahr zo Loraq and agreed to re-open the fighting pits. There is a great celebration on the first day—much as we see in this episode—with much food and drink in the royal box. Daenerys is unimpressed with the displays in the pit, and after a fight between a female gladiator and a huge boar—which the fighter loses—decides she’s had enough. As she attempts to leave, Hizdahr protests. Meanwhile, one of her men (a former pit fighter named Strong Belwas, who does not make it onto the show) has eaten too many honeyed locusts and is noisily sick on the floor. As it turns out, the locusts were poisoned, likely intended for Daenerys. While Daenerys argues with Hizdahr, Drogon makes his appearance, descending on the dead pit fighter and live boar, and proceeds to eat them both. Spearmen converge on the dragon, with Hizdahr exhorting them to kill the beast. Daenerys leaps into the pit without thinking, and for a moment it is touch and go—she does not know whether he’ll immolate her as well. But of course he doesn’t, and she rides him out of the city.

So … some similarities, but the show has played up Drogon as her rescuer rather than uninvited guest.

There’s a lot going on in the final sequence, which I want to unpack in a moment. But first, a few random points and observations:

  • I love how Daario just doesn’t give a fuck. He’s the honey badger of third wheels, gleefully insinuating himself between his lover and her new fiancée.

  • The next time I find myself talking about ideology and privilege in one of my classes, I am totally going to quote Tyrion’s brilliant line “It’s easy to confuse ‘what is’ with ‘what ought to be,’ especially when ‘what is’ has worked out in your favour.”
  • The Unsullied don’t really seem to be living up to their reputation, do they? The last time the Harpies attacked them in force, they were hardly indomitable, and once again they’re dying in large numbers here. Lestways, this is a complaint I have read in a bunch of other reviews … which I don’t think is entirely fair. The Unsullied were billed as a formidable fighting force, as soldiers who subsume everything to standing in an unbreakable shield wall. Certainly in the novels their prowess has far more to do with standing firm on the battlefield than in individual combat. In both this sequence and the one where we lost Ser Barristan (sob!), the Unsullied are outnumbered and outflanked. They do pretty well, considering.
  • My first thought on watching this scene was “Holy crap, how many Harpies are there?” It seems like half the city owns sinister gold masks, but on rewatching, it occurred to me that this is an illusion created by the relatively small numbers of people present (compared to the city at large). I suppose it’s possible that this is all of them, thinking that if they come out in force at this one event they can overwhelm the queen’s bodyguard. Well played, Harpies … too bad about the dragon.
  • Did you notice that the lineup of fighters with Jorah looked like a model U.N.? There was a Mereenese champion, a Braavosi water dancer (who nearly defeated Jorah), a Dothraki, a bare-chested barbarian type whose origin I can’t guess; and the first person Jorah fights is a black man wielding a weapon very similar to that of Prince Doran’s bodyguard Areo Hotah—which, based on Areo’s heritage in the novel, would indicate that this fellow comes from the Free City of Norvos.

But on to the most interesting stuff: what I liked best about this sequence, aside from DragonRescue 911, was Hizdahr’s rhetorical question, “What great thing has ever been accomplished without killing or cruelty?” It is a question that underwrites this series, and the books on which it is based. Hizdahr’s question made me think immediately of Orson Welles’ iconic performance as the amoral Harry Lime in The Third Man, in which he famously makes a similar claim:

You asked the question a few posts ago, Nikki, about why Daenerys seemed so queasy about men killing each other in gladiatorial combat when she’d witnessed—and caused—so much death herself. I think Tyrion’s observation that “There’s always been more than enough death in the world for my taste. I can do without it during my leisure time,” serves as at least a partial answer to that. The question of what is unavoidable or necessary violence versus what is cruelty is one of the things that animates this show, not least because we start to become queasy when characters we love, like Arya, start to take pleasure in killing; in contrast, we grow more sympathetic to a character like Jaime Lannister as he sheds his killer’s glee and appears to develop (or reveal) a conscience. And as we see in this episode, what is right may not be the smartest course. “You have a good heart, Jon Snow,” Ser Alliser says as they watch the wildlings pass through the gate. “It will get us all killed.”

Stannis also does what he believes is right, or at the very least necessary in order to attain what he believes is his right. Daenerys negotiates the same fraught landscape. But this show does not reward those who hew to an abstract sense of right or justified, more often than not rewarding the opportunists and schemers like Littlefinger or the Boltons. Whatever good intentions Daenerys has had, she still finds herself surrounded by enemies in the middle of a fighting pit, dead but for the timely intervention of Drogon.

What did you think of this episode’s final scene, Nikki?

Nikki: After this episode was finished, it’s the first time in a long time my husband immediately said, “Back that up; let’s watch that scene again.” We were both freaking out and cheering when she climbed onto Drogon’s back.

Although my favourite Twitter comment was this one:

But let’s back up. My notes, not surprisingly, stop just as the Harpy ambush begins, because even though I’ve watched this scene several times now, I just can’t take my eyes off the screen. I think Hizdahr is — oh no wait, was, heh — a condescending prick. Until now he’s always been a groveller who tries to maintain reason in every scene by explaining to Daenerys the way things were (mostly because he wants things to return to the way things were) but now that she’s betrothed to him, he turns into a holier-than-thou asshat. He scoffs at Tyrion, who he may have recognized is a far more reasonable advisor than he’ll ever be, making comments about how large men will always triumph over smaller men (camera zoom on Tyrion’s unamused face), and pushing his own Machiavellian agenda so much throughout the conversation that Tyrion finally wearies of him and simply says, “My father would have liked you.”

I found it strange that Hizdahr just happened to show up late, then made no move to protect Daenerys, and seemed completely unsurprised when the Sons of the Harpy showed up. But then he got killed in the attack. Did he set it up? Perhaps. And then they realized, “Yeah, Hizdahr may have set up this whole thing and helped us get rid of that silver-haired bitch, but he’s a d-bag, so let’s kill him while we’re at it.”

(That right there is Reason #741 why I’ll never be allowed to write dialogue for Game of Thrones.)

I agree with you on Daario, Chris — you are right on the money by calling him the honey badger of Meereen, haha!! I loved the way he just kept sticking his face between Daenerys and Hizdahr and making his snide remarks, even if he did turn out to be wrong in the moment. But we know that in the long run, comments like where he says large people tend to have nothing but muscle in their heads, and the smaller man has intelligence, will prove to be true.

And I also agree on the Unsullied. As I said in that post for episode 4, the Unsullied are trained to fight in perfect lines in battle, much like the British were. That’s why, when the British were fighting in the American Revolution, they were so outweighed by a bunch of people hiding in the woods with muskets — they were not trained for an ambush. The Sons of the Harpy fight like they’re in a gladiator ring, and perhaps some of them were (though that would suggest they were slaves, and why would slaves want a return to slavery?) It’s not exactly clear how these noblemen became such admirable street fighters, but let’s just suspend our disbelief on that one for a bit, and say there’s a reason the Unsullied always seem to be outnumbered in these instances: it’s because they are.

But now on to Drogon. The last time Daenerys saw him was when he perched above her on her balcony. She reached out a hand to him tentatively, and there was a moment where he seemed to acknowledge her with his eyes before suddenly taking to the air and leaving again. Then Tyrion saw him sailing over Valyria, and it’s the first time he actually sees a dragon. Drogon is the largest of the three, and has always been Dany’s favourite. In the terrible moment where they are surrounded by the Harpies and it appears there’s no way out, Daenerys suddenly closes her eyes, using that telepathic messaging service she used when the dragons were babies, and to her shock — and ours — it actually works. As you said, Chris, that faraway screech is SO exciting that I was literally — and that, kids, is the correct use of that word — sitting on the edge of my seat, gasping and screaming throughout the rest of it. My husband was cheering... it was a glorious moment. From immolating dozens of Sons of the Harpy in one go, to grabbing a man and shaking him the way a dog shakes a stuffy just to get the squeaker out (and, similarly, Drogon makes the man’s stuffing come out), to simply crawling around menacingly and hissing at them the way my cats do when they’re around each other, he was fantastic. When the spears began flying through the air I was worried — if the Sons of the Harpy all began throwing spears at once, could that kill a dragon? My husband was confident that Drogon would be OK. He kept saying there was no way spears could kill a dragon, that their hides are probably like rocks and they are probably nearly indestructible. But Daenerys is still devastated when it happens, because she knows there must be some pain. As he slinks around the ring in a fury, barbequing some of the people while eating others, she walks up to him and pulls the spear out of his side. The looks on the faces of Daario, Tyrion, and Jorah at that point are priceless. They’ve all seen the dragons, but they’ve seen just how wild they’ve become.

In his rage, Drogon could have just as easily turned to her and accidentally set her on fire (though it wouldn’t have actually hurt her at all) but instead he simply screams in her face, turning the fire off momentarily. And then he stops. He tilts his head, and like a wild horse being tamed, sits quietly as an idea suddenly comes to her, and she walks around and mounts his back. The CGI as he lifts her off the ground isn’t so hot — you can instantly tell that was all green-screened and done so badly — but once he gets into the air it’s spectacular.

Though, just like the dude on Twitter, I couldn’t help but think, “Uh, Dany? You, um, forgot three people back there. The Sons of the Harpy aren’t all dead, you know...”

But something tells me they’ll be fine.

Thanks once again for reading all of this! Next week we shall return with the finale! Wherein Sansa lops off Ramsay’s penis and feeds it to Arya’s direwolf, which she happens to find in the woods behind Winterfell; where Daenerys takes Drogon to see Viserion and Rhaegal and the three dragons are reunited and forgive Mama and head off to burn some White Walkers; where Jon Snow rises up to rule the North after the giant stomps on Ser Alliser’s head and Sam and Gilly kill Stannis and Melisandre; and where the Starks are all reunited and rule King’s Landing when Cersei is pecked to death by a crow.*

(*Nik at Nite cannot guarantee any of the above will happen.)


Anonymous said...

LOVE: ..."to grabbing a man and shaking him the way a dog shakes a stuffy just to get the squeaker out (and, similarly, Drogon makes the man’s stuffing come out)"! You have inspired me to train my dog in strictly High Valyrian commands. "Dēmagon, Ubu, dēmagon. Good dog." Oh yeahh!


Marebabe said...

Wonderful discussion, as always! I have one thing to add to the delightful predictions in your final paragraph. I’ve pretty much given up on ever trying to predict what we will see in any episode of Game of Thrones. My default setting is Wait and See. BUT… I am EXPECTING great things from Brienne in the season finale. She has been waiting and watching for so long, and doing nothing but waiting and watching… She absolutely MUST spring into action in the most awesome and formidible way! Perhaps Podrick will as well. And I fervently hope they will both survive it. Heads will roll in this final installment, that’s a given. We all have our favorites to root for. In these final days of Wait and Seeness, my thoughts keep returning to Brienne and Pod.

Marebabe said...

@Elle: There is wisdom in your suggestion to train a dog using High Valyrian. Friends of mine (Americans) always train their dogs with German words. It makes sense. I guess there are clever burglars who will try a “Sit Stay” command if they encounter a dog in the house. That wouldn’t work if the dog doesn’t recognize those words. Now I’m suddenly wondering how many dogs there are who understand commands in, say, Elvish or Klingon. I hope they are legion, because how awesome!

JS said...

Great analysis as always. I am intrigued by the idea that Selyse may be keeping a secret from Stannis and perhaps Shireen does NOT have royal blood. That would have some serious implications for how things turn out at Winterfell, with the convergence of Brienne & Pod, Stannis, and the awesomeness I am awaiting from Sansa, however far-fetched.

Marebabe said...

@JS: I was also intrigued by the possibility that Shireen was not actually Stannis’ child. Remember when we first met Selyse and were grossed out by her illuminated jars of miscarried fetuses? (Ick.) Perhaps a woman devastated over and over by pregnancy loss would do something desperate to become a mother, like, say, try a different sperm donor? All of a sudden, that doesn’t seem like such a stretch. And IF that’s true, and IF Selyse confesses it to Stannis... well, I’m not optimistic about her chances for survival.

Joan Crawford said...

Nikki. I know I haven't commented in forever and I've no right to come in and stomp around but, I need you to talk me through what happened last night. I don't understand my feelings! It's an ever changing mix of angry-excited-sad-confident-apathetic... it's how I imagine serial killers must feel.