The ninth episode of Game of Thrones season five goes there. It goes there so hard that it eclipses almost every other atrocity thus far. This show might just be about how brutal Weiss and Benioff can be to the HBO audience, but rumor has it that it was actually G.R.R. Martin himself that sealed the fate of this latest victim in a long line of screaming-at-your-TV-moments. There is nothing but spoilers after the jump, so please unless you have seen the episode, and for a more in depth discussion have read the books, click wisely.
Hi, my name is James and I’ll be writing this week’s review in the first-person narrative. I’m a contributor here at Nerd Bastards. Please allow me to apologize for last week’s book spoiler than seeped through my review of “Hardhome.” I got so excited about that episode that I didn’t comb the book spoiler elements of my review. I’ll do my best moving forward to be more mindful of folks who have seen the show, but not read the books (and intend to). Having said that, everyone dies at the end of book five. The dragons morph into Azor Ahai and the white walkers into Night’s King and then they duke it out a ‘la Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The end. Just kidding, but omg what if right? That wouldn’t be Game of Thrones accurate unless a little kid watching Power Rangers was some how struck by a bullet and died tragically off-screen because that’s what happens to innocent people on HBO. Don’t deny it, I’ve seen True Detective!
This week’s episode was super complicated, as per the notes I took on graph paper whilst using my Vampire The Masquerade player’s-handbook as a writing surface would tell you – total graph of thrones moment. I drew diagram that was labeled “Snow – Sand – Sea – Pits” to try and get a stronger sense of where everything was happening. I’m totally one of those viewers that make all his roommates watch the opening credit scene so I can figure out where this show is taking place by the actors who receive billing. This approach was useful given it was the penultimate story and shit always goes down in episode nine. I also drank a bottle of Pinot Noir because I felt the need to self-medicate in anticipation for any possible heinousness I was about to experience – thank you Robert Mondavi vineyards!
You see this episode was directed by David Nutter, who previously directed the season three episode “The Rains of Castamere” with that lovely mother-son scene at the Twins with Rob and Caitlyn. I knew what I was getting into the moment I saw his name across the credits. Side bar he’s also very famous for directing pilot episodes of TV shows, including Millennium, Roswell, Dark Angel, Smallville, Supernatural, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Flash, Supergirl, etc.
The episode opens in the snow. We see Stannis’ camps set ablaze, with much of his food stores and horses burned presumably by Ramsay Bolton’s raiding party mentioned last week. This puts the Baratheon armies in grave peril since they’re kind of stuck in the snow, only now they’re without food or transportation. Strategically this is a solid move for the Bolton forces, but I’m still not convinced it wasn’t somehow Melinsandre’s doing. I mean really she’s supposedly a psychic, well why didn’t she see that coming? My guess is she started the fires herself to force Stannis’ hand about that father-daughter barbeque. Oh yeah, spoiler alert Princess Shireen got burned at the stake as an offering to The Lord of Light in one of the most fucked up scenes this show has ever filmed.
Perhaps the most messed up thing about this scene is that Stannis didn’t break, it was her cold-as-hell jerkface mom who actually mustered some parental emotions to try and save the Princess only to be stopped by soldiers. Stannis also, quite knowingly, sent Davos to the Wall to request supplies no doubt so he wouldn’t try and sway the decision to roast Shireen (not the Comedy Central kind of roast). Apparently this is a major spoiler for book readers since G.R.R.M. wrote this particular scene, meaning it’ll likely be in The Winds of Winter. What kind of magics will Melinsandre be able to summon now that she’s torched that much kings blood? We hope it’s enough to rent a snowplow from Home Depot, otherwise that’ll all have been in vain. Rest in peace, Shireen – maybe we’ll see you on Downton Abbey, or Doctor Who or something.
Further north in the snow Jon and Tormund arrive at Castle Black with resident party machine Wun Wun and their band of freefolk Hardhome survivors. Honestly, I wasn’t sure if Alliser was going to open the gates. There was a part of me that was like “oh shit, he’s going to start spilling oil from the Wall and shooting fire arrows” but then he let them in. This scene was surprisingly short and really just served as a placeholder for the audience – you know, that thing when you get that sense that a scene was shot just so it could be used in the set-up clips for next episode? Jon knows that the Night’s Watch is not happy with his decision to ally with the freefolk. I’d share my Pinot with you if I could Lord Commander.
The sea is a busy place. Braavos is bustling with activity, and Arya is a girl who knows how to capitalize on heavy traffic. She’s running a seafood cart, which is sort of like a taco truck across the narrow sea. Her oysters provide her cover to watch the Thin Man, who she’s been ordered to poison by Jaqen. Things change when she see’s Mace Tyrell arrive with none other than Meryn Trant (played by the super creepy Ian Beattie). Suddenly her mission goes out the door, and she begins trailing Ser Meryn who she learns is a pedophile and into young girls. When she reports back to Jaqen, she lies and says the Thin Man wasn’t hungry today, “perhaps that’s why a man is thin,” says Jaqen. Has the student become the master, or did Jaqen let that one slide? Clearly we want Arya to kill Ser Meryn, but will this jeopardize her chances of becoming a Faceless Man? Yes, her time at the House of the Black and White has been awesome, but if she guts Meryn and then bounces somewhere else with Needle I wouldn’t be mad.
Things finally heat up in the sand. Jamie attends court with Prince Doran and his son, Tristane. He shares with the Martell’s that they received a threat on Princess Marcella’s life in King’s Landing, which is why they came to Dorne in secret. Doran negotiates with Jamie to allow for Marcella to return to King’s Landing with Tristane where they will be wed, and he will join the small council. Later on Doran lays down the law with Ellaria, saying she has to pledge her loyalty or die. She acquiesces, after which he says he believes in second chances, but not third chances. Now, by this point I finished my bottle of wine but I’m pretty sure this line had double meaning. Fool me once, shame on you (Elia Martell), fool me twice, shame on me (Oberyn Martell). I’m going to guess Dorne isn’t giving the Lannisters a third chance, and that somehow this is all a scheme from Doran to do some revenge shit. Totally behind this plan, lets do it.
Meereen is kind of sandy right? Well there’s definitely pits there, particularly the Daznak Pit. Daenarys, Tyrion, Missandei, Daario and Hizdahr are on the dais of the fighting pits where they are overseeing the melee. Ser Jorah emerges the victor, only to toss a spear towards the dais killing a would-be Harpy assassin attempting to take Dany’s life. Shit then hits the fan. The entire coliseum if overrun by Sons of the Harpy who kill everywhere in their path. They bum rush the dais, and Dany’s small council tries to defend her.
With no escape they are trapped in the center of the pits when they hear Drogon flying towards them roaring out fire and setting ablaze many harpies. Drogon lands and begins defending Dany, taking spears to the back and burning everyone is his path. Dany mounts Drogon in an attempt to control him, and whispers “Vir” and they fly into the skies away from Meereen. Good luck Tyrion, Daario and Missandei!
A Dance of Dragons was mentioned a few times throughout the episode. Shireen shares that she’s been reading it to Ser Davos, and even goes on to talk about it with her father as he’s plumping her up for the kill. It’s not the first time we’ve heard reference to this book within a book, and in some ways it was a primer for both the episode’s dragon content and the famillicide/filicide. It was of course also a nod to the fifth book in A Song of Ice and Fire, where much of this season drew its source material. There are still a few key scenes from that book that haven’t made appearances in the show, so next week’s episode should be very interesting. Of course so much has changed that we’re not sure how things will unfold. We know the episode is titled “Mother’s Mercy“ and will feature Cersei, Jon Snow, Sansa and Brienne heavily. To be honest they’re going to have to wrap up quite a few plots if they want a clean break into season six.
Game of Thrones airs Sunday’s on HBO. The finale is next week. Order your takeout now. Go Warriors!