‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 5, Episode 9: The Dance Of Dragons

Every Monday, our resident Game of Thrones fanatic E. Spencer Kyte will recap the previous night’s episode. Here’s his take on Season 5, Episode 9 — The Dance of Dragons

Warning: what follows is a review and analysis of what happened on Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones. If you haven’t watched it and don’t want to encounter spoilers, we suggest you go read something else on this site. Consider yourself warned.

As excellent as Sunday’s episode was – and it was pretty good – it was also bittersweet because it served as a reminder that next week marks the end of Season 5 and the start of another long wait until the next season begins and we pick up the escalting stories that have been building and reaching a crescendo this year.

Obviously, all shows have dormant periods where they’re off the air, but the rough thing about Game of Thrones (and all the high quality work being done on premium cable these days) is that we only get between 8-12 episodes and then have to endure a wait that is thrice as long before they’re back in our lives again. With things really starting to get good, holding out until next March when the trailers for Season 6 start arriving is going to be difficult.

Here’s a look at what happened last night.

Oh Stannis, What Have You Done?

We knew at the end of last week’s episode that business was going to pick up in Stannis’ camp between Castle Black and Winterfell, as Ramsey Bolton said he wanted to take a group of no more than 20 to raise hell out in the winter and that’s just what he did. Sunday’s episode opened with Melisandre walking out of her tent to see parts of Camp Stannis being set aflame.

After waking and surveying the carnage, Stannis decides to send Ser Davos back to Castle Black to collect more supplies. It’s a move that foreshadows the grim actions ahead because Stannis knows Ser Davos won’t agree to what he believes needs to be done in order to win his battle against the Boltons in the mounting snow. Following a brief visit between Ser Davos and Princess Shireen, who is reading “The Dance of Dragons,” Stannis enters his daughter’s tent and she pledges to help him in any way she can. After all, she’s Princess Shireen of the House Baratheon and his daughter – that’s what he told her earlier in the year, remember?

Little did she know that the way she could help was to be set ablaze and sacrificed to the Lord of Light.

Yeah. That happened.

All that good will Stannis built up earlier in the year by showing care for his daughter? Gone. While it wasn’t as harsh to endure as Sansa’s wedding night, watching the looks on the faces of the gathered men and Lady Selyse as Princess Shireen’s screams filled the air was pretty rough. Even the previously heartless Selyse couldn’t stand to watch and tried to rush to her daughter’s aid, but it was too late. Stannis had done what he felt he had to do in order to win this battle and Lady Melisandre’s Lord of Light got his sacrifice.

Meanwhile, in Dorne…

Jaime Lannister has a sit down with Prince Doran, Ellaria Sand, Trystane Martell and his niece/daughter Myrcella, to whom he offers a “you must be cold” when he sees her draped in nothing more than a slight dress upon entering the room. It’s a fatherly remark from a man who isn’t supposed to be her father, which makes it all the more fun.

The release of Myrcella is negotiated. Since King Tommen has declare she has to return to King’s Landing, Prince Doran will following the edict, but Trystane will go with her and replace Oberyn on the Small Council. Bronn is allowed to live as well, though he gets smashed in the face for having clocked Trystane a couple weeks back; what’s fair is fair. Ellaria is not very pleased with the decision and lips off to Prince Doran, who cautions her about speaking to him in that manner.

With the Sand Snakes released from their cell and brought before Prince Doran, he gives Ellaria a choice: pledge your allegiance to me or die, here and now. Tearfully, Ellaria takes a knee and kisses Prince Doran’s ring, much to the chagrin of the Sand Snakes, who still seem to want vengenace for Oberyn’s death.

Following her second meeting with Prince Doran, Ellaria heads to talk to Jaime and shares a “Back in the day, no one would have cared that you loved your sister in the way you do” conversation with “The King Slayer.” She draws the analogy to no one in Dorne caring about her relationship with Prince Oberyn, but it also feels like a set-up, a chance to get Jaime to slip up, confess he’s in love with his sister and the father of Tommen, Myrcella and the late King Joffrey and use it against him.

We’ll see if anything comes of it in the future.

Selling Oysters and Stalking Targets

Arya continues her life as Lana on the streets of Braavos, selling oysters and assorted items from the sea. On her way to follow through with her mission to posion “The Thin Man,” she witnesses the envoy from King’s Landing arrive, complete with Meryn Trant, one of the men on her “People I Have to Kill” list. She forsakes her mission to deal with “The Thin Man” and spends the rest of the day stalking Ser Meryn.

After following him to a whore house, Arya watches as he turns away girl after girl, declaring them “too old” until the lady of the house brings him what is clearly a non-working girl to his liking. As he’s heading into the back room to do what men do in whore houses, Ser Meryn tells the lady of the house that she’ll “have a fresh one for him tomorrow night,” to which she begrudgingly agrees.

Arya returns to the House of Black and White and informs Jaqen H’ghar that “The Thin Man” wasn’t hungry today, an obvious lie that seems to slip through. Chances are we’re going to see young Arya offer her services as the next “young girl” in the whore house in an attempt to exact her revenge on Meryn Trant next week.

Back at Castle Black

After the massacre at Hardhome last episode, Jon Snow and the legion of Free Folk that survived and followed him arrive at The Wall. There is a brief moment where Aliser Thorne looks down on the hoard and ponders not opening the gate, but he gives the order and the masses pile through, including Wun Wun, the giant, who gets a ton of amazed looks as he saunters through Castle Black.

Jon has a quick chat with Sam about his mission, which he declares a failure while the ever-positive Mr. Tarly tells him everyone that is walking through Castle Black is alive because of him. The men of the Night’s Watch don’t look too impressed with all the Free Folk flooding through their domain, including young Olly, whom Jon gives a smile and gets a stone face in return.

Aliser Thorne slides up next to the Lord Commander and tells him he’s got a good heart… and that said good heart is going to get them all killed.

Drogon’s Return

One of the things Game of Thrones has always done well is cover off a bunch of stories and then leave the final third of episodes to the big moments. We saw it last week with the Hardhome sequence and we saw it again this week when the action shifted to Meereen, where Dany had re-opened the fighting pits and the games got underway.

After the first match, which played in the background as Hizdahr Zo Loraq and Daario Naharis bickered about who would win, the strong man or the quick man. Hizdahr’s quick man got the victory. In the second match, a familiar voice pledges his life to the Queen – it’s Jorah and Dany is clearly taken aback by his participation. As you would expect, her former right hand man survives the battle and as he stands before the Queen and her royal court, he hurls a spear into her seating area… and right into the chest of an attacking Son of the Harpy assassin.

Suddenly, the stadium is filled with masked assailants and we’ve got a battle on our hands. Hizdahr zo Loraq gets got, Tyrion saved Missandei from getting killed and Daario and Jorah team up to protect Dany. Just when they are surrounded in the center of the fighting pit and seriously outnumbered, a screech pierces the air.

DROGON!

Dany’s runaway dragon comes back and starts protecting his mama, tearing would-be killers in half and scorching dozens of others. Dany approaches and removes a spear from its side and Drogon screams at her, but steadies. It recognizes its mother, which leads to one of the coolest moments yet on Game of Thrones:

Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, the Unburnt, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals and the Rhoynar and the First Men, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons climbs on Drogon’s back, commands him to fly and rides off into the sky.

Fade to black.

Roll credits.

# # # # #

Stannis’ sacrificing Shireen was tough to endure but another excellent double-cross by the Game of Thrones showrunners. All season, they set us up to back Stannis more and dislike Queen Selyse (and Lady Melisandre too of course) and led us to believe that he wouldn’t harm Princess Shireen. Then they hit us with a nasty gut-punch, pulling the old switcheroo and having haggard Stannis stand there acceptingly while it was Selyse who wavered and ran to their daughter.

The time spend in Dorne this season hasn’t been as fruitful and entralling as I would have hoped, but it has to be leading somewhere. There is no way we’re getting introduced to the Sand Snakes and Ellaria Sand for them to just disappear once Jaime & Co. head back to King’s Landing. My guess is they follow the group back to the capitol and we get more from them next year, unless things pop off next week.

Arya seems destined to play Ser Meryn’s next prostitute in an attempt to seek revenge, but that makes me think we might get a swerve there too. Jaqen H’ghar has picked up on all of Arya’s previous lies, so him foiling her plan and talking to her about the long game might be a way around that next week.

As for Dany and Drogon and all things Meereen, it was awesome and firmly establishes Queen Dany as the clubhouse leader to eventually sit on the Iron Throne. She has three dragons, the brilliant mind of Tyrion Lannister by her side and a couple of dedicated, talented hired swords protecting her at all times. Now we now she can command and ride Drogon too, which is even better than just having a couple ornery, angry dragons chained up in the catacombs somewhere.

E. Spencer Kyte

E. Spencer Kyte is a freelance journalist based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, where he lives with his wife and dog. In addition to his work here, he writes about sports for Complex Canada and covers the UFC for various outlets. His mom also still tells him what to do on a regular basis, even though he’s nearly 40. He tweets from @spencerkyte.

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