Game of Thrones & the Women of Westeros 5/9

“The Dance of Dragons” wasn’t enough to drown out the screaming


I went into “Hardhome” here.

In a nutshell…

Well, I’ll tell you one thing. I’m officially off Team Stannis. Let’s avoid why for as long as we can. At The Wall, Jon, his new Wildling pals, and one giant are let in by a reluctant Thorne. Jon beats himself up for not being able to save everyone. Sam tries to comfort him, but he won’t hear it. Olly gives sad Jon the stinkeye again as Thorne approaches and…

We end on that and move to terribly developed Dorne. Areo brings Jaime to a strange family lunch with Doran, Ellaria, Myrcella, and Trystane, who claims that knock-out punch Bronn gave him was a flea bite. Getting down to business, Doran wants to know why Jaime was a sneaky sneak about stealing his “niece” when he could have just written about a visit. Jaime tells him about the necklace/viper threat. Doran glares at Ellaria as Jaime inquires as to whether his head is going to remain on his neck. Doran says he won’t behead him as, unlike some people, he doesn’t want war.

Ellaria snipes about him eating with Lannisters. He’s all, “Yeah so?” and toasts Tommen as Ellaria pours her drink on the floor. Jaime says King Tommen wants his sister home. Doran grants it on the condition that her engagement stands, that Trystane accompanies her, and is given the seat on the small council that was to go to Oberyn. Myrcella looks happy, not so much for Trystane.

Jaime promises it’ll be done and Ellaria scoffs “The word of a Kingslayer. No wonder you can’t stand,” she says to wheelchair-bound Doran, “You have no spine.” He’s not having it, saying she’s only alive because she’s mother to four of his nieces, but if she keeps up the sass, she won’t be. She leaves and they all turn to the subject of Bronn, being a commoner who struck a prince. Jaime tries to brush it off with “He said it was only a flea bite,” but Doran says Trystane should decide Bronn’s punishment to learn judgment. Trystane decides to show mercy and give the man freedom, on one condition…

In the dungeons, Nymeria and Tyene are playing some Dornish version of slapsies, both trying to distract the other with head games until Tyene finally makes Nymeria miss and uses the opportunity to slap her sister’s face. It’s almost fisticuffs when Areo comes to nabb Bronn. Tyene makes Bronn tell her she’s the most beautiful before he’s led off as Obara, who’s been trying to sleep, calls her a whore. Those wacky sandsnakes! Who needs tough, fighting Dornish women when we can have mild comic relief and slappy games!

Anyway, Trystane’s condition is that Areo clocks Bronn right in the jaw. Later, the Snakes are let out, looking on angrily as Ellaria promises to end this rebellion, kisses Doran’s ring, and cries. He tells her it’s her last chance. She goes off to Jaime to say he knows about him and his sister. She doesn’t judge, considering the Targaryens used to intermarry, that “We want who we want.” She says she knows he and his daughterniece are innocent of Oberyn’s death and leaves. Okay, then. Oh, Dorne. How inconsequential and boring you’ve been. I kind of wonder why this season even bothered to show you.

Arya’s down on the docks, shilling her “oysters, clams, and cockles” loudly when one creepy guy asks how much for her “little clam.” Gross. He leaves, thankfully, and Arya gets her poison ready for the thin man she’s been assigned to off. Before she can, she’s distracted by a boat on the docks, containing Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant. She leaves the thin man, who’s calling out for oysters, to follow them. Mace is still a delightful idiot, trying to small talk one of the Iron Bankers and even busting out the showtunes at one point.

Arya’s been stalking them and eyeing Trant like a pig she’d like to spit. Trant keeps eyeballing her right back, almost as if he recognizes her, but that’s not the case. As if Meryn Trant could be any more repulsive, he likes little girls. He and his men go into a brothel and Arya follows to spy/peddle oysters. Trant is brought a selection of girls, but rejects each one as too old. The brothel’s madam finally catches on and goes to fetch what he wants. Ew. One of Trant’s men pulls Arya in…

… but it’s just to tout the supposed sexual (completely mythological) benefits of oysters. Trant looks her over and, horrified as I am, I know she’s got that poison all ready, so I’m kind of hoping she gets to use it pronto, but the madame comes back with some poor girl, who’s obviously not a pro, from somewhere in the establishment. Trant takes the poor girl off and Arya is tossed out. When she returns to Not-Jaqen, fresh off valar-morghulis-ing some old guy, she lies and claims the thin man wasn’t hungry today. “Perhaps that is why a man is thin.” Since Jaqen doesn’t have any knuckle rappings for her, he either believes her or chooses to ignore the lie, hoping for better news tomorrow.

I can avoid this no longer…

At Camp Stannis, Ramsay and his Bastardettes have successfully snuck in and burned most of their food, tents, and horses. Stannis coldly orders some guards killed and horses butchered. Davos wants to go back to The Wall to regroup, but Stannis won’t move, even if he can’t move forward. Stannis sends Davos to The Wall to request food, supplies, and horses. This is about where I start panicking and so does Davos.

Davos isn’t sure what Stannis is planning, but he must suspect as he tries to fight the assignment, then asks to take Shireen with him to the Wall as “the siege is no place for a little girl.” “My family stays with me,” Stannis rasps. He’s even more of a cold fish than usual, and it’s scaring me. Davos goes to take leave of Shireen and hear about her book: “The Dance of Dragons.” He gives her a carved stag he whittled for her and she wonders why she’s getting a present, the poor, sweet kid. Most princesses are spoiled on the regular. Not poor Shireen. She gets locked in dungeons, dragged into wars, and hissed at by her mother.

Davos tells her it’s because she’s helped him to read when even his son couldn’t make it happen and for teaching him to “be a grown up.” She makes him promise to bring her a doe friend for her stag and he makes her promise to read him the story when he gets back. “Read it yourself,” she says cheekily. I love Shireen, I love this moment, and I hate what’s coming.

Later, Stannis goes to see Shireen and she excitedly tells him all about her book, about a war inside the Targaryen family that split the kingdom. He asks which she’d have chosen and she says neither, as taking sides makes war. Stannis starts talking about hard choices and fulfilling destiny and my heart starts to break. Shireen’s sweet and adorable, telling him she understands he’s making hard choices he’s making and she wants to help any way she can. Oh, Sweetie! Please stop making this easier for him.

No. Never. I hate you and so will Davos and so will all of Westeros and nobody will be on Team Stannis ever again. I’m starting to wonder why I was ever on Team Stannis at all. He had his in-laws burned for not converting and he killed his own brother via shadow-man. I guess that sweet scene with Shireen earlier this season had me bamboozled. So much for this…

He has her dragged to a stake where Melisandre is waiting. Shireen figures out what that means and screams for him. The cold bastard is actually watching from the back with Selyse. Wow, Stannis. Selyse says it’s what the Lord wants (worst religion ever) and that her sacrifice will save them as Melisandre drones on about their “token.” Fuck off, Mel.

She spots her mother and starts screaming for her. Selyse surprises me by breaking away and trying to stop it, but the guards hold her back.

First time I’ve ever liked you, Selyse.

Anyway, we know what happened even if we don’t see it happen. We hear her screams for her parents devolve into blood-curdling shrieks of pain as Selyse wails, Melisandre smiles all creepily, and Stannis gives us cold fish eyes. At this point, I have to pause, slaughter several tissues, walk around the room fanning my face, and decide if I can finish this show without liquor first. Spoiler alert: I can’t.

As if mocking my pain, the scene switches to a cheering crowd at the fighting pits of Meereen, where a still-disgusted Dany has to watch and even start the big reopening. Hizdahr shows up late, giving us and Dany a red herring excuse that he was “just making sure that everything is in order.” Daario and Hizdahr spend the first fight arguing if the big man or the smaller, quicker man will win. We all know who Tyrion’s rooting for. Anyway, the big one wins to Daario’s annoyance and they all spend part of the next fight arguing about the pits and whether great things can be accomplished without killing or cruelty. It’s Dany and Tyrion against Hizdahr when Dany gets distracted by Ser Jorah being in the next six-man round. She reluctantly starts off the fight.

Jorah doesn’t do quite as well as in the early rounds, struggling against each man he’s up against. The second almost has him and Tyrion urges Dany to stop the fight, but the near-victor is speared by a Meereenese crowd favorite, leaving him to face off with Jorah. Jorah falters throughout and is nearly skewered when he pulls out a fancy somersault and stabs the man from below to the boos of the crowd. Dany and Jorah stare at each other until Jorah suddenly grabs the fallen man’s spear and tosses it at the royal box. Dany’s shocked, but he was going for the Son of the Harpy sneaking up behind them. Suddenly, there are gold masks everywhere as the many Sons in the stands slay the freed Meereenese and others converge on Dany and pals.

Daario and the Unsullied (definitely a punk band name if there ever was one) slay everyone who gets close to Dany. Hizdahr calls to Dany, saying he knows a way out, but he gets stabbed by a Son (so much for the Hizdhar = Harpy theory. In retrospect, he’s not such a bad guy). Jorah jumps in to help Daario, who reluctantly and silently accepts him, as does Dany, who takes his hand and lets him lead her down into the arena to an exit. Tyrion knifes one who’s about to slash Missandei, then they take off to follow Dany, Jorah, and Daario. They almost get out through a lower exit in the arena, but someone shuts them in and one Son (just one?) jumps out. Jorah makes quick work of him and they all try to run (Emilia Clark in the most hilariously chicken-legged way in that dress) through the arena to the other side, but are stopped in the middle and surrounded by a new crop of Sons piling in from the other exit. The gang and several Unsullied surround Dany, ready to fight it out. Hey. where’s Greyworm? Still in recovery? Anyway, the fighting slowly, very slowly, starts, but they are pretty outnumbered.

Missandei and Dany grasp hands to wait for death when everyone stops at loud roars from outside the arena. There’s a burst of flame and enter the Drogon! He flies into the arena. He doesn’t look as good in daylight (I bet most of the budget went to last week’s wight battle), but he’s still pretty cool. He starts barbecuing Harpies and gets a few spears in his hide.

I don’t know what it is about this scene, but I’m not as excited as I thought I would be. Maybe it’s because I can still hear poor, sweet Shireen screaming, or maybe it’s because the pace seems slow. Anyway, it’s nothing to Hardhome and I kind of wonder why that battle didn’t get the penultimate spot (as most exciting moments have in past seasons).

Dany, who’s been looking at Drogon with hearts in her eyes (Tyrion’s geeking out not far behind), approaches to pull out a spear and he breathes angrily on her for a few minutes before letting her touch his snout. The tender music swells before another spear interrupts. She stares at Drogon, getting more spears tossed at him, then seems to make a decision. She awkwardly climbs onto his back and says what sounds like “vlar” and, after a few rough starts, they fly off, leaving her friends staring after them. Well… at least he drove off most of the Harpies.

Passing The Bechdel Test…

We pass with Nymeria and Tyene’s slappy head games, short as the scene was.

The Women of Westeros…

I knew this was possible. It’s a sad theory that book thumpers whisper in our darkest hours, that Melisandre will sacrifice sweet Shireen when she has no other sources of king’s blood handy. Then there are those that think Shireen surviving greyscale means she’s special and will survive. Book Shireen didn’t show up much, but Show Shireen was a delightful little smarty-pants and I looked forward to her interactions with pretty much anyone. She even made Stannis seem likable when she was near. My only comfort is that Davos will hear about this and hopefully leave Team Stannis and join Team Stark. You might wonder why I’m not on Team Targaryen. More on that in Dany’s section.

Selyse has been hard to like, but this was a nice redeeming moment. You know what would be even more redeeming? If she renounced the lord of arson and stopped worshipping Melisandre and maybe even killed her in a fit of vengeance? That would make me a Selyse fan.

Melisandre has always been creepy, but in a strangely enjoyable way. I think, after seeing her dispassionately torch Shireen and smile as she screamed, it’s going to be hard for me to enjoy her creepiness now on any level. I hope she dies in the fires she loves so much.

I hardly know what I want for Arya these days. I do want her to get justice and revenge, but there’s this small part of me that still sees a kid (Maisie Williams’ baby face doesn’t help) and it hurts seeing her lose her innocence completely. Her being exposed to a brothel and to Meryn Trant’s disgusting gaze made me sad. I want him to die and I want her to do it. I guess I just wish she were a little older to make this less icky.

I wish I was on Team Daenerys, but I don’t much believe in blood right. The rebellion wouldn’t have been successful, Rhaegar-Lyanna-Robert shenanigans or not, if that family hadn’t screwed up more than once. There was Targaryen trouble even before Aerys went fire-happy, as this episode hammers in. Dany has lots of ideas about what’s right and wants to breaks the wheel, but she doesn’t have any concrete ideas on how to do that. Well, cue Tyrion, but she’s gone and flown off from him and all of her other pals. She’s been rash or spinning her wheels at turns all season. I’m not saying I can’t be Team Targaryen, but she’d have to do something spectacular, like get the other two dragons out and lead them North to deal with the real problem. Maybe that’s where things are heading. I can only hope.

I don’t think Missandei said one word in this episode. I’d say the hand-holding moment was sweet, but there’s a part of me that doesn’t take anything from this show without a grain of sad. Dany touched Jorah with the same hand that was holding Missy’s, after all. Dany may be immune to fire and sickness, but what if she passed it on? It’s a rough thing to consider, but I’m starting to think this show doesn’t show us anything affectionate except to yank it away in the cruelest possible way later. Of course, this may be my bitterness over Stannis and Shireen still coloring everything I see.

Ellaria’s quick remorse is either false and she has another plot or it’s sincere and she’s just been pointlessly bitchy about poor Myrcella. I really don’t understand why, with no Arianne on the show, Ellaria’s actions and motivations are so unlike hers. Maybe they’ll have her change plans and take Arianne’s original plot. Indira Varma is a good actress. I’d like to see her do more than sneer and snipe.

Myrcella was kind of fun, being all snotty and teenaged to “Uncle” Jaime about how much Dorne agrees with her. I like that she seems to have some spunk and a mind of her own. Perhaps they are setting up a plot not unlike that of the book with Myrcella. I hope they aren’t giving her all this agency just to have her turn back into window-dressing.

The Snakes are still a letdown for me. I really hope they do better with them next season. We barely got to see them fight so far and, if you were to take them out of the story, not much would change. I will say I enjoy some of the sibling rivalry and that we got more insight into Nymeria in this episode, who seems to be the thinker of the group. I was just really expecting to be wowed and have yet to be even mildly piqued.

Other notes…

It was nice to see no nudity in the brothel, especially compared to what we might have had in season one. Maybe it was just dark, but I saw no boobs whatsoever. I’d like to see more of that… and by more I mean less of that. You get me. I give the show points for learning or maybe HBO points for letting one go by without a naked mandate.

Well, RIP Hizdahr and so much for the theory that Zo Loraq has been leading the Sons of the Harpy, at least as far as the show goes. Does that mean it’s the same for the book? That’s the problem I keep running into with these changes and early departures. How many are changes they’re making to make things more TV-friendly and how many stem from D&D knowing how things are going to end from their audiences with GRRM?


I hope Mace Tyrell is one of the people left standing. Whoever sits the iron throne, every kingdom needs and pleasant and harmless toady who can carry a tune.

I can’t find much else to geek out about. I’m too deeply in mourning for Shireen.

Next up: “Mother’s Mercy

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