Monday, June 8, 2015

Game of Thrones: Season 5, Episode 9

Game of Thrones
Episode Title: “The Dance of Dragons”
Channel: HBO
Director: David Nutter
Writers: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Runtime: 55 min
Rated: TV-MA
Original Air Date: June 7, 2015

After last week's superb episode I had high hopes going in to the ninth episode of this season. The ninth episode is typically where the really big stuff happens in a season of Game of Thrones, and if the thrill that was “Hardhome” was too be any indication, “The Dance of Dragons” was going to be a huge episode. Maybe I had placed expectations that were too high on this episode, or maybe it just failed to live up following “Hardhome.” Either way it just wasn't quite what I was looking for.

Let's begin with Jon's return to Castle Black. After the battle with the White Walkers, Jon had managed to bring a few thousand wildlings to the Wall. The audience was teased for a moment with the idea that First Ranger Thorne would refuse to open the gates, leaving the Lord Commander and his guests to rot on the northern side of the Wall. The tense moment passed and the wildlings were allowed to pass through the gate. There were a lot of hateful glares directed Jon's way, but the passage of the wildlings was allowed to occur without violence. This would be the sole appearance of Jon Snow in the episode, highlighting once again a problem I've had with this season. If a character's time in an episode is limited to a handful of minutes and then not to be seen again in the episode; I would prefer they held off on that character's appearance until there was more to see. There was no need for this scene in “The Dance of Dragons,” Jon's arrival at Castle Black and the consequences of his choices could have waited until next week.

Arya set out to complete her first assignment for the Many-Faced God, but was distracted with Lord Tyrell's group arrived in Braavos. She recognized Ser Meryn Trant immediately and abandoned her assassination of the Thin Man in favor of following Trant around town. The writers saw fit to remind us how bad a guy Trant is with a very uncomfortable scene in a brothel. He rejected a couple of the brothel's women before settling on a young girl. Part of the fun of the previous seasons of Game of Thrones has been the ambiguity surrounding the good or evil nature of its characters. Sure some characters acted in such ways as to cause the audience to dislike them, but beneath the schemes and plots you could see how the character(s) in question could consider themselves the good guy. The unquestionably bad guys have previously seemed evil organically, The Mountain was just a murderous behemoth, Armory Lorch was a sadistic sword for hire; neither of them required reminder scenes reinforcing the level of disdain the audience should have for them. Between Bolton, and now Trant, it seems the audience is being bludgeoned about the head with the writers' desire for us to dislike those characters. I don't know if it's a lack of confidence in their own writing, or in the audience, but it has been too blatant for my tastes. Anyway, Arya reported back to Jaqen that the Thin Man wasn't hungry when she passed by, and that she'd try again the next day. It seems obvious that he would know she's lying, so his motivation for allowing things to play out may be interesting.

Dorne wasn't as bad as it has been this week. Doran Martell argeed to allow Myrcella to return with Jaime to King's Landing, on the condition that Trystane Martell would still be allowed to marry her, and that he would take Oberyn's seat on the King's Small Council. Jaime agreed to the terms, and even managed to get Bronn freed from his cell. Ellaria seems to have dropped the grudge she held against the Lannisters, but her surrender seemed too easy. I expect her to renege on her new sworn fealty to Doran at the next possible moment. I don't believe that her tears when Doran forgave her were due to his kindness, most likely she realized that he had become an obstacle in her way.

Stannis' encampment was attacked in the night, with most of their food stores being destroyed. This made a desperate situation worse. Faced with no options that would allow him victory Stannis made a decision I was sure he would never made. I knew things were going to take a turn for the worst when he sent Davos back to Castle Black to beg for supplies. With the only voice of reason among his confidants removed Stannis gave in to his desire for victory. He had a quiet chat with Shireen, during which she professed her willingness to help in any way she could, and then sentenced her to die on a pyre in sacrifice to the Lord of Light. After so much time had been spent making Stannis a more likable character this season it was surprising he decided his own daughter was an acceptable loss on his way to the throne. All of the goodwill Stannis had accrued from the audience died in the fire with Shireen. Here's to hoping that her cries for help and her pained screams haunt his sleep. While she begged for mercy it was Selyse, Stannis' wife and devout follower of the Lord of Light, who was shaken enough to try to help. By that time it was too late.

Finally, in Meereen, Dany was attending the festive reopening of the fighting pits by viewing the spectacle of men killing each other. Daario verbally sparred with the Queen's soon to be husband in what I though was a good character moment for Daario. Jorah made his appearance and after some hairy moments managed to win his fight. During his fight you could see Dany's stance towards him waver every time he was in danger. Upon his victory she seemed relieved, until Jorah took up a fallen spear and threw it in her direction. It wasn't intended for her though, as it struck an approaching Son of the Harpy. Soon there were dozens of Sons making their way towards the Queen, with a small band of defenders struggling to keep them at bay. Tyrion gave a good showing for himself, killing one of the assailants and saving Missandei in the process in the process. Once again the Unsullied were made to look like the Stormtroopers of Westeros as they proved rather ineffectual in protecting the Queen. When all seemed lost Drogon, aka deus ex dragon, entered the battle. After man spears through Drogon's hide, and even more Sons of the Harpy burnt extra crispy, Dany clambered upon his back and took to the skies.

Conclusion: “The Dance of Dragons” faced a tough task this week, and fell short. If not for how good “Hardhome” was I think my reaction to this episode would have been different. None of that is to say this was a bad episode, it just failed to up the ante the way the ninth episodes of seasons had before.

Rating: 8.5/10

No comments:

Post a Comment