TV Review: "Game of Thrones" 05x09: "The Dance of Dragons"

I like the Pavlovian response we have when we see the words "Episode 9" with Game of Thrones. I don't think we really picked up on the pattern until the third season and the Red Wedding. I knew something big was coming not only because of the number, but also the title. Of course this title was only pertaining to the lengthy final scene in the episode. I never expected that other thing.

Let's talk about that other thing.

So many people making a big deal about how the books never tell you the twists are coming, and how obvious this one was (I'm talking about the Stannis scene, if you haven't picked up on this). I beg your fucking pardon, but though it was suggested and foreshadowed, I can fucking guarantee right fucking now that no one thought they would actually go ahead and do it. This scene was calculated cruelty that makes Oberyn Martell's embarrassing death seem heroic and just. Our idea of "anyone can die" keeps changing, because at first we believed it referred to a character's importance. I really didn't think the show would have the gall to go ahead and do what it did, but it did.

I was left with such an ugly feeling of disgust in my stomach I could barely keep up with everything that followed. It was the first time I've thought "Woah they went too far." (not in a political sense, social warriors, relax). But the thing that bothered me the most is that it was an unbelievably powerful strike to Stannis' character. I've heard rumors that this is a "book six" development and not just D & D's attempts at more shock and I'll give it the benefit of a doubt and believe that it maybe makes sense (especially considering a theory my sister cooked up that makes a lot of sense); either way, that was harsh as bear balls. Just when I thought I was getting over Oberyn's screams, I get this new nightmare soundtrack.

I'm trying to remember what even went on in the episode beside the Stannis and Daenerys stories. I know Jon Snow made it back to Castle Black after the chilling battle in Hardhome. I was bothered by the half a second of tension felt when Jon reached the gates to face Thorne because it was for nothing, and the previews made it look like a big deal. I've made fun of shit like Grey's Anatomy for these bait and switch tactics; Game of Thrones is better than this.

I kinda wish there was more tension going on at the Wall. I mean, don't get me wrong: I've said enough about how "Hardhome" was one of the more tense scenes in the entire show, but I have a feeling that things are a bit too chill at Castle Black, even considering that suspect-as-fuck Olly is creeping about. My hope is that when things look to be stable means that someone is gonna get his shit fucked up, so maybe that comes next week (they can't let all the big developments happen in 9, can they?).

On to the biggest disappointment in the episode and season and series: Dorne. So Jaime gets escorted to talk to Prince Doran. They chill and talk and everything is resolved in five seconds, leaving me with a feeling that Jaime should've sent a fucking raven. I don't remember many shows that resolve major plotlines in such an anti-climactic way. Every moment of possible tension was resolved immediately and unsatisfactorily. Even poor Ellaria Sand got herself pimp-slapped. The Sand Snakes acted like little girls. Aero Hotah did absolutely fucking nothing. Everything was sorted out (unless that last scene between Ellaria and Jaime meant something) and this turns otu to be the worst part in the entire series. Both Jaime and Bronn deserved better than this. Either they get something to do in the finale (doubtful) or they got the short straw this season. Too bad.

Arya put a halt to her training to chase an old foe, and one of the few remaining names on her psycho list: Meryn Trant. This was another scene I didn't like but it was mercifully short. They spent too much time on Arya overlooking Trant's apparent perviness (which is also pretty meh; we know he's a dick, does he also have to be a pedobear?) to not do anything about it. Most of it felt like filler leading up to the finale. They've left too many plotlines on the edge of climax (I heard that can damage your parts) for one final episode to be enough.

The Dany scene though. Like I said, I knew from the preview that the famous Mereen fighting pits Drogon bout would happen this episode. What I didn't expect was the incredible bits of tension, unexpected deaths, touching moments between the characters, and of course the triumphant finale. I almost want to deconstruct this scene beat by beat because it was so beautifully made. From the initial tension of Jorah facing a couple of much younger guys at the pits (and more than once getting overpowered), this scene didn't stop.

It really kicked it up a notch when Jorah "won" the fight and for a couple of seconds appeared to have earned Dany's affection back. Everything that happened next was just an onslaught. My favorite scene (you know, before the dragon) was without a doubt Dany being escorted through the pit by her posse. I'd go as far as saying it was touching to see Daario and Missandei's devotion to the Queen. Not as touching as her and Missandei holding hands, waiting for death to take them as friends, and equals (because that was genuinely moving; I love show Missandei).

I think that the trade-off here is that in the book, Dany doesn't come off as such a selfish bitch as she does here, but I gotta tell you this was even more tense than it was in A Dance with Dragons, and that's saying a lot because it was one of the highlights in that book.

I gotta say that this was probably the least best "episode 9" in the series, but mainly because of somee of its shortcomings. The two big scenes were incredible in both ends of the awesome <--> horrifying spectrum. I just wish there's enough time in episode 10 to close things satisfactorily and avoid the book's mistakes.

Reader Observations:

  • Are we getting "For the watch" next episode? I don't feel there's enough tension yet, but I feel like Olly's creepiness is building up to it.
  • My sister thinks that Stannis burning Shireen is a pretty good sign that he's Azor Ahai reborn (as the hero of legend had to kill something he truly loved to become himself).
  • No one cares about Hizdar; I was surprised none of the others died. I was sure either Jorah, Daario, or god forbid Missandei were about to get killed.
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About The Damn Beast

Pre-op trans-minotaur, sci-fi/fantasy/horror author, metal singer, videogame journalist, pop culture blogger. I also lift heavy things and put them down again repeatedly to occupy more space.
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