Game of Thrones 5×9: The Dance of Dragons

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Remember how last week made me so happy?  I was like ‘hey, this is that show that I love!’  I thought my feels were back and I’d be able to enjoy this show again going forward.  Well, that didn’t last long.  It’s going to be hard to give a balanced review for the rest of the episode, because I’m just so damn angry about one plot line I can hardly breathe.  I. Am. Fuming.  But I’ll try, because a lot happened and the scene that sent me into a state of shock and anger only lasted a few minutes, so it’d be unfair to ignore the rest.  But holy hell, guys.  Why?

TRIGGER WARNING: This review contains discussion of sexual assault, which seems like is a default for almost all Game of Thrones reviews going forward, unfortunately.

GoT4Shireen.  My darling Shireen.  The best thing about Stannis’s story, the part of his plot that made him a likable character, is now dead.  For much of the books I wasn’t too thrilled with Stannis’s plot.  He would sweep in to save the day for someone, be sort of moody elsewhere and grump about, then skip off to save the day elsewhere all in the name of politics.  Shireen is what made his story on the show something to look forward to.  Now what do we have?  Not much.  Daavos, maybe, but he’s headed back to Castle Black right now and I hope he stays there.  Melisandre was pretty cool until she proved she’s willing to kill children (which she’s also willing to do in the books, but the thought is expressed under very different circumstances).  Now we have cranky Stannis, evil Melisandre, and nearly-redeemed-herself-but-waited-too-long Selyse Baratheon.  Oh, and then a bunch of nameless soldiers we know nothing about.

It’s strange how in the books I don’t bat an eye when they kill characters left and right, but when the show decides to push the envelope with death it’s not nearly with the same carefully-crafted emotional impact.  Ned, Robb, and Catelyn’s deaths all felt like a punch to the gut, but their deaths did something to the story.  Ned’s death essentially spun the war for the throne out of control, causing the North to break off and rebel against the capitol.  It was basically the source of the plot for most of the story so far.  That was a well-written, but shocking death.  The Red Wedding was also quite emotionally devastating, but it weakened the North when it was doing well and changed the course of Arya’s character for the rest of the story thus far.  What on earth did killing Shireen do?  Cause Stannis pain?  In the next few episodes, it’ll probably cause Daavos pain too and, Gods, I am not looking forward to that. I guess it did show the extremely dark side of Melisandre, but we kind of got that already haven’t we?  Shireen’s death isn’t something that would cause huge political repercussions no matter how you look at it.  It was done purely for shock value.  The thing is, this story doesn’t need something done purely for shock value.  When it does something shocking, it can actually give something to the overall story instead of just causing emotional pain.

I can predict that people will come into the comments and say one of two things.  First, ‘give it a chance, we don’t know if it’ll be useless yet.’  That’s the same line of argument used to explain why Sansa’s rape wasn’t so bad.  Maybe Sansa will get revenge?  Maybe Shireen’s death WILL have a huge impact?  Well guess what, I don’t care what might happen in the future.  I’m feeling hurt now and not seeing any good reason for it.  Second, I’m sure people will urge me to ‘quit watching.’  Once the show gets to the point that the bad outweighs the good, I will.  So far the scale hasn’t quite tipped, but it’s getting dangerously close.  The only thing that saved this episode of the final sequence of events, but I’ll get to that in a bit.  At this point I’ll be watching the final episode of the season, then weighing my options.

But hey, at least Shireen wasn’t sexually assaulted before her death, right? Small miracles.  Because that’s kind of what this show’s been doing lately for shock value.  They just decided to kill her instead.  Should we feel like we got off easy here?

Moving on from the pointless shock value death, let’s talk about what plots have stalled.  I love Dorne, but the civil disputes between the Martells almost seem like a distraction when everything else is so overwhelming.  Do I care about Ellaria Sand and Prince Doran bickering about going to war with the Lannisters when an army of Wights and White Walkers is marching on the wall? Should I be concerned about the star-crossed romance between Trystane and Myrcella when there’s that whole Dragon situation across the Narrow Sea?  Considering how much I love Dorne as a location and the fiery personalities that reside there, I’m really bummed that I just don’t care about what’s happening.  Maybe it’s a pacing problem, like with Arya’s story.  I don’t know.  I didn’t feel nearly as bored with Dorne when I was reading it.

Speaking of Arya… well, there’s actually not much new besides, you know, some sexually violent language.  A female character just can’t exist in this universe with some sort of sexual violence being flung at her.  Besides that little ‘clam’ comment and the threat of being raped, she’s still doing her Oyster Girl thing and finding herself in Braavos.  Now that there are some big name characters from Westeros in Braavos there is a thread tying her back into the main plot, but I still feel like her story is being eclipsed by the rest of the show.  It doesn’t seem fair considering how incredible Arya is and how awesome the setting she’s landed in can be.  Alas, with all the stuff happening in other parts of the world her plot seems stalled, too.

GoT2Now let’s talk about the one sequence of the entire episode that wasn’t done for shock value and wasn’t part of an overall stalled plot.  Daenerys finally rode a dragon.  Thank the Old Gods and the New because this episode was almost completely horrible.  This part was every bit as thrilling to watch play out on screen as it was to read it.  Daenerys is one of only two plots that I like anymore, but I like it so much that the scales are still tipped in favor of watching it further.  The other plot is Jon Snow’s, which we sadly didn’t see much of this week.  His also felt stalled for several episodes, but the battle at Hardhome last episode really pulled it out of the water.  Will Arya and Dorne’s plots have similar saving moments before the season ends? Not sure, but that was definitely a much needed shot of adrenaline.  Daenerys’s plot never really dragged, but this also propelled her plot forward at a remarkable speed.

So that’s where I’m at here.  Daenerys, her dragons, and Tyrion, and the Jon Snow’s plot with the Wildlings, Whitewalkers, and Wights are so awesome they are keeping me around.  Everything else is either awful or just plain boring.  After next week I’ll see if I’m going to stick it out or jump ship.

You know what should have burned on the pyre besides Shireen?  About 90% of this script.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.


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About the author

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She's contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She's written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. She identifies as queer.

Comments

  1. In before anyone can come in and point out that what happened to Shireen was GRRM’s idea. (This is apparently revealed on the behind-the-scenes about this episode.)
    1) Different circumstances in the books – Shireen is not with Stannis on the march but back at the wall with Melisandre and Selyse. And Ramsey is not some ridiculous badass in the books who somehow manages to cause so much trouble for Stannis just because he “knows the land” (he may know the land, but he doesn’t know their camp, GODS that was so terribly-written I can’t even find the words).
    2) Regardless of whose idea it was, I DON’T HAVE TO LIKE IT. I hate the assumption that just because it was in the books, I should be okay with it. I didn’t like the Jeyne Poole storyline in the first place, so I don’t like that they transferred it to Sansa. Unsurprisingly, I am not okay with the idea of burning a child alive. (Especially Stannis’s only heir. WTF?)

    Also, thumbs down for another pointless brothel scene and making someone a pedophile just because we don’t already have enough reasons to dislike Meryn Trant so let’s add that in. Because shocking.

    1. Didn’t know it was his idea. Still horribly disappointed that we’ve been reduced to pure shock value instead of shocks that have a strong narrative point.

      1. Oh, I agree completely. I follow show/book discussions a couple of places and everyone trotted out “it was GRRM’s idea” as though that excuses the shoddy way it was done in the story. Ramsey’s completely implausible raid happens, and there are like two inches of snow, and Stannis is suddenly in favor of sacrificing his daughter and only heir. Um… No. It made no sense, and it was very poorly done. There has been a lot of lazy writing this season.

  2. I pretty much stormed away from the TV last night after telling my husband that this season is ruining the story because they wrote out Lady Stoneheart, combined Sansa and Jeyne’s story so that Sansa was raped, written out the Mance Raydar and Gilly child swap (the idea that Sam wasn’t even aware of why Gilly was crying was very telling, imo), and now the stupid camp fire thing (wtf) as justification for killing Shireen?

    My husband thought Shireen’s death was justified because now Stannis will be conflicted over the sacrifice (seriously, the trope of killing women to further man pain needs to be lit on fire and shot into the sun, I’m so over this trope). To which I replied, Shireen is a person not an animal or a thing, therefore she couldn’t be owned and couldn’t be sacrificed but could be murdered. Stannis chose to murder his daughter and went from a character I actually liked to one that I am apathetic about. The opening scene next week could be of him instantly dying and my response would be “Good, they took care of that plot thread.” The story would have been better with the Mance-Gilly child swap because at least Stannis wouldn’t be murdering his own daughter but the people who haven’t read the books would all still know he’s okay with killing children to meet his goals.

    I’m so incredibly disappointed in this season not even the dragon ride could fix it. And Tyron’s line about not need violence and death in entertainment was insulting.

    1. For me it’s not even that they are deviating. It’s that they are deviating poorly.

      You know what’s a good deviation? Accelerating the plot with the White Walkers. That’s been great! But all that stuff you mentioned? Completely terrible deviations that make no sense.

      1. Exactly! There were differences in the path that led to the Red Wedding, they didn’t actually cut off part of Tyrion’s nose, they haven’t gone into all the details with Daenerys’ trip from bride to mother of Dragons, etc, etc. I understand they have to edit to make the books into a palatable show.

        But the choices they’ve made this season have seem to be made in a way that highlights and increases the cruelty of the world for women (or writing them out of the story entirely) while downplaying the cruelty of the world for men or keeping the men in play with more authority/power than they had in the books when they should be written out or moved to less prominent positions (Davos, for example shouldn’t be where he is right now, Ramsay was not close to being so powerful or controlled in the books as he is in the show).

  3. I think the Game of Thrones showrunners definitely did use Shireen’s death for shock value but I also think it was for a purpose in the end game of the entire story.

    It’s almost a direct retelling of certain parts of the Agamemnon myth. I think they’re going to use it to propel Stannis to the end. He’ll get the iron throne and win Westeros but either Davos or Selyse or both of them will kill him when this is all done and they will do this because of Shireen.

    I’d like to think it will open the door for Daenerys to walk right into Westeros and take over.

    1. That’s a unique prediction but we have no proof that her death will result in something like that, especially since there’s not something equally as powerful for Stannis in the books. I also wouldn’t be satisfied if Daenerys just ‘walked’ onto the throne. And as I mentioned in the article u don’t really care about speculation for what COULD happen because this is what’s happening NOW. If we just waited for everything to play out we wouldn’t have any media crit of ongoing franchises whatsoever. So I’m still not satisfied by this speculation.

  4. I do like to speculate about where the story is going, especially since we are off book and no one really knows what will happen next. I hated Shireen’s death with a burning passion. (Too soon?). However I think it could be interesting going forward. My first thought is it does help Dany a bit in some strange way for there to be no Baratheon heir. I totally understand the frustration about what is going on right NOW but I’m still interested enough to keep watching to see where this will go and how it will play out. If they do one more bad thing to Sansa though, I’m going to have a fit. Enough is enough.

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