Shireen! Shireen! My tiny lizard queen!
Has a show ever been as good as Game of Thrones is at instilling dread in its audience? And by season 5, shouldn’t viewers be smart enough to know that help rarely (if ever) comes to a character in need? Yeah, we probably should understand that by now, but if last night’s episode “The Dance of Dragons” taught us anything, it’s that people—even kings—rarely learn from past mistakes. History is doomed to repeat itself, just as we’re doomed to hope that maybe, just maybe, the Onion Knight will arrive in time to save Shireen Baratheon from being burned at the stake by the order of Stannis, her own father.
Stannis Baratheon has been characterized by his steadfastness and pragmatism throughout the series, but last night, his typically cold and calculated logic managed to fail him completely when Shireen, the one person he’s ever shown warmth and affection, presents him with The Dance of Dragons, the story of two Targaryen kings who tear the world [UPDATE: Whoops. Corrected version of the story here]—and everything they hold dear—apart in their desire for the throne. Stannis registers that this tale matches his own, yet ignores the moral lesson (that the cost of ruling is much too high) and has his own daughter burned to to death to appease the Lord of Light and gain divine favor for his troops. While we haven’t yet seen how this brutal move will affect Stannis’ standing in Westeros, we know that he’s virtually destroyed his relationship with both Davos Seaworth and the show’s audience.
With one sympathetic character already so violently dispatched of, the fighting pits of Meereen initially felt like pretty low stakes. Tyrion and Dany’s husband Hizdahr argue over violence as entertainment (not sure if this show can really has a leg to stand on there, but alright) and the ties that bind violence to successful rulers. Daario and Hizdahr argue over Dany, a conversation thats punchline is the literal decapitation of a fighter. Dany wears a great necklace. Ser Jorah enters the pit, stares sadly at her, and almost gets killed. All in all, it feels like a pretty good time, but then shit. gets. real.
Did you think that Hizdahr had control over the Sons of the Harpy? I sure did until they showed up to the fighting pits and all of the sudden started stabbing the FUCK out of him and all the other citizens of Meereen. It almost seems like curtains for Dany and co.—they’re surrounded, the Unsullied prove to be a shitty investment (aren’t they supposed to be such good fighters that they can take out 15 men at once?), hot Daario and sad Ser Jorah can only do so much, and Dany and Missandei resign themselves to death with a comforting squeeze to each other’s hands. As I said before, people on this show are rarely rescued in their times of need and—after what happened to Shireen—it looks like we’re about to say goodbye to the Meereen contingent of Game of Thrones. But then...
...ENTER DROGON. Turns out that you shouldn’t mess with the Mother of Dragons unless you’re ready to mess with the dragons themselves, something the Sons of the Harpy—being highly flammable—aren’t entirely prepared for. Dany’s attackers are laid to waste and Dany escapes on a dragon ride, leaving all her friends behind, to go “clear my head” or something. The CGI is terrible. The action and plot twist is cool. Maybe people occasionally get rescued after all.
This week in stats...
Shireen and half of Meereen.
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Image via HBO.