Back to IndieWire

Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 9 ‘The Dance of Dragons’: Fire Reigns

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Season 5 Episode 9 'The Dance of Dragons': Fire Reigns

PREVIOUSLY: Review: ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 8: The Dead Rise in ‘Hardhome’

Post-“Game” Analysis

Since last week’s episode was shrouded in ice, it was only appropriate that this week’s was rich with fire. Jon Snow and the Wildlings he managed to save last week made it back to The Wall, though for a minute there it looked like Alliser Thorne wasn’t going to open the gate for them. Thankfully it seems like Thorne is at risk of becoming a good person, and let them through. A few miles south, Ramsay Bolton’s “20 very good men” managed to sneak into Stannis’ camp and set many of the tents on fire, but that blaze was nothing compared to what Drogon would inflict at the end of the episode. Meanwhile, there was no stop in King’s Landing this week, so the imprisonment of Cersei and Margaery will most likely be addressed and maybe resolved during next week’s season finale.

Most Poised to Take the Throne

Well, that’s one way to take all of the growing empathy for and fondness of Stannis Baratheon and flush it down the toilet. It had been previously suggested that the increased air time for Shireen Baratheon (as compared to her presence in the books) was because of her eventual death at the hands of Melisandre’s magic, and that assumption turned out to be correct. Of course Stannis sent Davos back to Castle Black, because not for a million years would Davos had let Stannis sacrifice his daughter to R’hllor; imagining how heartbroken Davos is going to be when he returns is heartbreaking in itself. His gift of the wooden stag and thanking Shireen for teaching him to read was so sweet that the tragedy to come was inevitable, but it’s pretty shocking that the show actually went through with burning a child alive. This is another departure from the novels — another character still alive in the books is now dead on the show, and this one was was particularly awful to watch. Shireen’s screams were unbearable to hear, and once Selyse finally realized what they hell they had just done and tried to stop it, the entire scene reeked of despair. Stannis, this might put you one step closer to the Iron Throne, but you just murdered your own child. You no longer deserve it.

Who’s the God of Tits and Wine?

Doran Martell is winning this title for the second time this season, and rightly so. Alexander Siddig has been playing this fan favorite with just enough strength, combined with the right amount of merciful leadership. Through the meeting with Jaime, Ellaria, Myrcella and Trystane, Doran has proven himself a compelling change of pace from the other rulers of Westeros. But while his tendency to forgive is admirable, is Doran really just pulling a long con here? Much like Littlefinger, Doran seems to have a plan going at all times. Is he really this noble and righteous, or does he have something else up his sleeve?

Wit of the Week

It was decided that Princess Myrcella would return to King’s Landing with Jaime, and that Trystane would not only accompany them, but would be given a spot on King Tommen’s small council. That decision was made with one caveat: Since Bronn hit a prince in the face, he’d have to get a bit of it back in return. They brought Bronn up from the dungeons and he remarked on how good the food looked. Areo Hotah’s elbow to Bronn’s face would have been enough of a comeback, but combined with Doran’s snarky “Perhaps some soup instead?” remark, the Dornish were put on par with the most witty characters of the series.

Great Moments in Feminism

The scene with Nymeria and Tyene playing a game of quickness felt like the first genuine portrayal of the Sand Snakes this season. Instead of being overly presentational in their fighting abilities, or inserted into a ridiculous invented scene with unnecessary nudity, this tiny little scene of sisters dealing with their own rivalry felt like a more truthful representation of these characters.

Meanwhile, over in Braavos, Arya spotted Mace Tyrell getting off an incoming ship with Meryn Trant, one of the remaining names on her kill list. She abandoned her assignment with the “Thin Man” and followed him to a brothel, where she discovered his interest in young girls. She’ll no doubt use this information to her advantage next week.

Most Magical Moment

In Meereen, Daenerys and her fiance Hizdahr, along with new advisor Tyrion, began the reopening of the fighting pits. There are moments when Emilia Clarke is able to add great nuance to her performance, and the look of utter disgust combined with heartbreak when she clapped to begin the first fight was a great one. Daario didn’t seem threatened by Dany’s new intended, though that didn’t stop the two from having a battle of words during the fighting, as Tyrion looked on in exasperation. “There’s always been more than enough death in the world for my taste,” he said. “I can do without it in my leisure time.”

The second fight came as more of a shock, when Jorah emerged as one of the fighters. Though it looked pretty dire for the older fighter, he persevered with some swift moves in a battle reminiscent of “Gladiator” and what we know of the games once held at the Coliseum of ancient Rome. One of his opponents even did a flying leap spear throw much like the dearly departed Oberyn Martell. But Jorah had only a moment to celebrate his victory before he plunged his own spear right towards Dany’s head, but not at her, as it turned out. A member of the Sons of the Harpy was moments away from attacking. Then, one by one the Sons revealed themselves in the crowd, leading to total chaos as they battled the Unsullied and Dany attempted escape. Hizdahr was killed in the fray, and at one point Dany, Missandei, Daario, Jorah and Tyrion found themselves encircled by approaching Sons.

The pause here was odd. The Sons greatly outnumbered the Unsulied at that point, so it was strange that they didn’t simply charge and overpower them. The stall may have been unrealistic, but it provided a moment for the Deus Ex Machina …or should we say Deus Ex Drogon, to arrive.

Drogon’s vengeance against those who would harm his mother was swift and great: He soaked the Sons with fire, and had a tender moment with Daenerys. (It’s a good bet that she’s regretting having the other two locked up for so long.) It also seemed like Dany had had just about enough of her role in the game at this point. Conquering these various cities, the bloodshed that came with it, having to marry in order to stamp out an uprising, the eventual move to Westeros — it seems as if it had all become too much for her. She climbed aboard Drogon’s back to not only remove some of the spears that had been rammed into his scales, but in that moment decided that Drogon’s back was the place she felt the most at home. “Fly” she told him, and Drogon took to the skies, with Tyrion and the others looking on at the stunning site in absolute awe combined with their own fear.

It Is Known

As always, it’s as if the season finale has come up out of nowhere. Season 5 has had its ups and downs, which we will no doubt address next week, but on the list of things we’re looking forward to: Where will Dany land? And what will she encounter when she gets there? Where does her departure leave Tyrion, Jorah and Daario? What will be the result of Shireen’s sacrifice? Will Arya take out both Meryn Trant and the “Thin Man”? What’s Jon Snow’s plan, now that he’s encountered the abominable snowmen? And how will Cersei get out of her cell situation? We’ll hopefully find out next week.

Grade: A

READ MORE: Kit Harington on His ‘Naughty’ ‘Game of Thrones’ Cast and Going Full-Blown Romantic for ‘Testament of Youth’

This Article is related to: Television and tagged , ,