We begin at the dreary camp of Stannis Baratheon and his army, bogged down on the road to Winterfell. The army is camped beneath the snow and wind and all is quiet. Somewhere in a tent however, the Red Lady Melisandre is restless. She wanders outside, just in time to see a tent go up in flames. Fires flare up elsewhere in the camp amid screams and shouts. She watches as a panicked horse flees, its body a living inferno.
Sometime later, Stannis and the Onion Knight Ser Davos Seaworth survey the damage. It seems twenty riders got in and mounted a quick raid, burning food stores, killing horses, destroying supplies and causing mayhem. We got a glimpse of this from last week, when psychopath Ramsay Bolton hinted at mounting a punishing hit and run. Stannis is all kinds of pissed. He charges that the guards who allowed the raiders in were either asleep on the job, or conspired with them. In the best line of summary justice ever, he says “put last night’s guards in chains…find out the truth and then hang them.”
Stannis–worst boss ever.
Ser Davos tries to talk sense to his Lord again, pointing out they don’t have enough food or supplies to march forward and barely enough to return to Castle Black. When Stannis replies they’re not returning to Castle Black, a puzzled Davos asks just what he plans to do if at the moment they won’t turn around but can’t march on Winterfell. About that time he notices Stannis barely listening but staring at something. Davos turns and notices it’s not something, it’s someones–Stannis’s wife Selyse and his sorceress-mistress Melisandre. Stannis doesn’t answer Davos’s questions. He just gives a chilling look then walks off and tells the Onion Knight, “have the dead horses butchered for meat.”
Sometime later, Ser Davos is summoned by Stannis. He tells the Onion Knight he’s sending him on an errand. He’s to ride to Castle Black and tell the Lord Commander that they need food and supplies. In exchange, when Stannis is king, he’ll make sure to give The Watch all they need–enough to guard the Wall from all enemies. Ser Davos takes exception, pointing out the Hand of the King doesn’t abandon his king in the middle of war–and that anyone could be sent to deliver this message.
But Stannis ain’t budging. The Onion Knight’s spidey-sense tingles–something ain’t right here. The would-be king is trying to get rid of him for a reason. He suggests that perhaps he should take Stannis’s daughter Shireen with him–where she’ll be safer. But Stannis insists that his family will stay with him. When Ser Davos asks again, he gets the same response. And right about there, the Onion Knight knows something definitely ain’t right.
He wanders past the harried and haggard men to Shireen’s tent. Stannis’s only daughter is reading a book, The Dance of Dragons, which details the old Targaryen Civil War. Davos banters with the young princess, and gives her a present–a carved Stag, symbol of House Baratheon. When she asks why she’s getting a present, he tells her it’s to thank her for teaching him how to read–something he’d put off much of his life. He gives her a farewell kiss, and we have a feeling things are going to get bad. Quick.
Yeah. So, things get bad. Quick. We next see Shireen playing with the stag given to her by Ser Davos. Her father comes to see her and she entrances him with the story of The Dance of Dragons as well, which led to the deaths of thousands. He asks her who would she have chosen to side with in the old civil war she’s reading–Aegon II or his half-sister Rhaenyra. Shireen replies she wouldn’t choose either, because that’s what sparked the civil war in the first place.
“Sometimes a person has to choose,” Stannis replies. “Sometimes the world forces his hand.” Seeing her father distraught, Shireen says she wants to help. She asks her father if there’s anything she can do. “Yes there is…,” he replies gravely. She says, “I want to help. I’m your daughter.” The two embrace and Stannis whispers, “Forgive me.” Oh man. This is not going to end well.
We next see Shireen being led outside by several guards, before the gathered soldiers. She looks confused, uncertain what’s going to happen. And none of the soldiers seem able to meet her eyes. Walking through them she finally glimpses what’s ahead–Lady Melisandre, and a stake for burning. Shireen immediately realizes something’s wrong and demands to see her father. Melisandre tells her it’ll soon all be over. Then the guards seize her. And drag her to be tied to the burning stake.
Oh. My. Damn.
Shireen is royal blood, a worthy sacrifice for the Red God. And Lady Melisandre seems about ready to have her way.
Somewhere in the crowd, Stannis and his mother stand stoically with the grim soldiers–who watch in seeming disbelief as their king seems prepared to sacrifice his own daughter to the Red God. A terrified Shireen screams for her parents, imploring them to come save her. It finally becomes too much for–of all people–her mother, who breaks down and rushes to her daughter. But the guards stop her. And as Melisandre does her chants and sets the fire, Lady Selyse listens to Shireen’s screams as the girl is burned alive.
Wow. We all knew Stannis was driven, but damn my dude. Your daughter? That’s cold. This officially makes the would-be king a killer of both his brother and his sister, meaning he’s killed one more Baratheons than Cersei. Have a feeling that Stannis may have just become more hated in GOT fandom than Walter Frey.
In Dorne, Jaime is escorted to a gathering of food and drink with his “niece” Myrcella, Trystane Martell, Prince Doran Martell and a displeased Ellaria Sand. When Jaime makes a remark on Myrcella’s choice of revealing clothing, she retorts the Dornish climate agrees with her–a reminder of just how Dornish his, umm, “niece’ has become.
Settling down, Jaime finds himself bantering with Doran Martell–revealing his reason for secretly trying to ferret away Myrcella, the threatening message sent by a viper. Doran gives that “fah real?” look with Ellaria Sand who doesn’t answer. When Jaime jokingly asks if this gathering is a last meal before his execution, Doran retorts that he has no wish for war–as he’s seen how deadly it can be. When he proposes a toast to King Tommen, Ellaria Sand–angered by his unwillingness to spark a war–empties her cup of wine on the ground instead. Doran watches but ignores it, saying he’s willing to let Myrcella and Jaimie return to King’s Landing–provided they take Trystane with them, and allow him on the Small Council. When Ellaria balks at this and insults Doran, he finally decides he’s had enough. Grabbing her wrist as she’s set to storm out, he warns that though she’s the mother to four of his brother’s children–she keep on talking to him like that and she might have a shortened life expectancy.
Jaime then asks about the fate of Bronn, who has been imprisoned in the dungeons. The problem is that Bronn struck Trystane–a prince. And the punishment for that is usually the lethal kind. Prince Doran however has Trystane make the final decision on what’s to be done.
In the dungeons, Bronn sits in a cell across from three Sand Snakes, while Tyene Sand plays some violent hand-slapping game with one of her sisters. That’s about the most excitement out of them we’ve seen in a while–a disappointing use of these characters this entire season. Bronn’s relieved but nervous when Areo Hotah comes to set him free–and all too ready to get away from the Sand Snakes. When he arrives before the king, he’s introduced and told what’s what. Trystane has decided to set him free on one condition. When Bronn asks what’s that, he gets a giant Areo Hotah elbow to the jaw that sends him sprawling–the return (and then some) for the punch he gave to Trystane.
Later, Prince Doran handles the pesky problem of Ellaria Sand and her daughters by insisting she swear an oath to him–or die. She does so and he tells her quite chillingly he believes in second chances, but not in third chances. In the next scene, we see Jaime sitting and writing a letter. Ellaria drifts in and is suddenly all small talk. She makes with the niceties, telling Jaime she doesn’t care about his incestuous brother-sister love and that she knows he (and his neice-daughter) are probably innocent in the events that led to the death of Prince Oberyn. But we all know this Mother of Sand Snakes isn’t giving up that easily. No way. No how.
Out at Castle Black, Jon has returned–with several hundred weary Wildling, and a giant. Wun Wun in the house! They gather outside the Wall, atop which professional hater Ser Allister Thorne, now First Ranger, stands staring down. As the young Lord Commander and the Wildlings mass, there’s a lengthy moment of disquiet. Jon looks nervous, not knowing if Ser Allister is going to keep his word or just leave them stuck outside. He steps forward and is like, “I know you ain’t gonna embarrass me like this in front of the Freefolk.” Relief comes when Ser Allister (taking his merry time) finally gives the order to open the gate. Jon and the Wildlings stagger through wearily as uneasy–and distrusting–men of the Watch look on. They’re especially gaping at the giant.
For his part, Jon is wracked by the guilt that he couldn’t save more Wildlings–calling his venture a failure. Samwell Tarly tries to cheer him up, saying he didn’t fail the many faces that are now quite alive. Jon sees Olly and tries to give the kid a warm smile, but the boy doesn’t return it–instead walking off. It’s again a reminder of the deep unpopularity of his attempts to forge an alliance between the Freefolk and the Watch. About then, Ser Allister shows up to give his two cents. “You have a good heart Jon Snow,” he says watching the arriving Wildlings. “But you’ll get us all killed.” Sorry Jon, nobody said being in charge was gonna be easy.
Somewhere in Braavos, Arya is playing her part as the local clam seller–keeping her eye on the gambler as ordered by the temple priest with Jaqen H’ghar’s face, ready to give him the blessings of the Many Faced God. But she’s distracted by a ship that rows ashore holding several figures that don’t look Braavosi. It’s none other than Ser Meryn Trant and the foppish Mace Tyrell–sent to negotiate with the Iron Bank of Braavos on behalf of Cersei. Of course, none of them know the Queen Mother’s current fate. But that’s another story.
Arya loses all interest in her quarry at the sight, ignoring the gambler’s cries for his clams. Ser Meryn Trant after all is on her infamous list of dudes she wants dead, like yesterday. He is, after all, the one who killed her trainer Syrio Forel–who was armed with nothing more than a wooden sword. Plus, as we’ve seen over the seasons, he’s done quite a lot to earn the blessings of the Many Faced God. Easy.
Arya takes to following them instead, as Lord Tyrell tries to charm bankers (we’re greeted to a great shot of the Iron Bank) and as Ser Meryn and his men seek out other activities. She follows them to a brothel, playing the part of a clam seller the whole while. At one point she manages to spy on Ser Meryn as he orders his choice of “girls.” And oh, we do mean “girls.” Turns out the old kingsguard likes em’ young. Think there’s a plot here for Arya, and perhaps a new persona, that folk ain’t going to like. When she returns to the temple she lies and tells Jaqen she couldn’t get to the gambler–maybe tomorrow. Jaqen watches her go, knowingly.
Finally, Mereen. Daenerys and her new adviser Tyrion sit in an arena, preparing to start the fighting games. Hizdahr zo Loraq arrives late, telling an irate Dany that he’s been out making sure everything is in order. With much festive pomp, the gladiatorial contests are announced to the roars of a cheering crowd. The first two fighters come out–a giant of a man and a smaller one. At Hizdahr’s prodding, Dany claps her hand once, and the fighting begins.
While the battle goes on, new face Daario, Tyrion and Hizdahr argue about who’s going to win out–the big man’s strength or the smaller man’s speed? Daario, the lover of the Queen who’s no fan of her intended husband, at one point even takes out his knife and does some “demonstrating” that comes too close for comfort for Hizdahr. Two husbands. What’s a Khaleesi to do? The answer to their bickering is given when the small man (Daario’s favorite) gets his head taken off clean. Point for Hizdahr.
The conversation then turns to a philosophical debate on life, death and rule between Hizdahr and Tyrion. When Hizdahr tries to trip up Dany in some witty philosophy, Tyrion remarks he’s eloquent–but that doesn’t mean he’s not wrong. He tells Hizdahr in his experience, eloquent men are often as wrong as imbeciles. Ah. Having the half-man in Meereen is just as much of a treat as we imagined.
About at that moment, the new combatants reveal themselves. And one of them is none other than–Jorah Mormant,who has now crossed the line from lovesick creepy older guy to the most bizarre stalker ever. A shaken Dany hesitates, but eventually gives the fateful clap.
It’s a brutal bit of hand to hand combat. Gore and blood gush and spurt as you can imagine. Ser Jorah at times gets the worst of it, staying alive and killing his opponents but almost meeting his death in turn. Hard out there for an old fighter. At one point he seems a goner, and Dany hesitates on whether to intervene. Luck manages to save him in the end, and he makes good on it by killing the last of his opponents–a Meereenese with a spear. As the crowd jeers, he stands staring up at Dany with adoration. A surprised look suddenly comes over his face. He quickly pulls the spear from the dead Meereenese and turns towards Dany. Then he hurls it.
At first it seems he means to kill the Khaleesi. And you’re like, whaaaat? But the spear sails past her, behind her–and impales a masked Harpy set to strike! Wait? Who invited that guy to the owner’s box?
There’s a moment of quiet as everyone tries to figure out what the heck is going on. Dany gazes down to Ser Jorah. Daario runs to the impaled Harpy. He glances up in time to look into the crowd. Suddenly, all between cheering citizens, there are golden masks. Golden masks of the Harpy. It’s like they just friggin appeared–faster than the Ducky Boys! Everywhere!
Holy General Ackbar! It’s a trap!
“Protect your Queen!” Daario shouts to the Unsullied. And then it’s pandemonium.
The Harpies start stabbing up everybody. Men, women, slaves, nobles. It’s like a drive-by. But with knives. And of course they’re aiming for the main prize–Dany.
Daario and the Unsullied mount a defense, but it becomes apparent they’re vastly outnumbered. When Hizdahr shouts for Dany to come with him because he knows a way out, the Harpies shank him down.Jorah, the Old Bear, arrives on the scene, and offers his hand to Dany. She takes it. And they flee. Well, that’s one way to win her back.
At one point Tyrion manages to save a terrified Missandei (wait till Grey Worm find out!) and the two join with the larger group who end up pushed into the center of the arena floor, hoping to find an exit. It seems they might get away, until a horde of Harpies pour out from every direction surrounding them on all sides. It looks pretty hopeless, and Dany and Missandei clutch hands in a final embrace. The Khaleesi closes her eyes, and you’re not sure if she’s accepting her fate or saying a prayer.
Then there’s a roar.
Every head turns to scan the skies as a jet of flame announces the arrival of a dragon. It’s Drogon ya’ll! The meanest and most feral of Dany’s dragons has shown up, and he’s none to happy with folk threatening his Momma. Several tons of winged dragon lands on the arena floor and starts ripping apart harpies and burning em’ up good!
But the damn Harpies got spears now. C’mon man! And they’re hurling them at the dragon. Dany runs forward and pulls one from his neck. She gets a brutal roar for it, but Drogon seems to recognize his mother. As more spears are hurled, embedding into him, Dany realizes she has to get him out of there. She manages to climb atop the feral dragon, grabbing hold of his spines. And gives the order in High Valyrian to fly.
Drogon surges forward, gets a good run, and as everyone watches he spreads his wings and takes flight–with Dany atop him, flying over the arena and away. After all this time, a Targaryen is once again riding atop the back of a dragon.
And that’s all. Whew! Are you not entertained!?! Till next week, where (alas) we get our final episode of the season. Predictions for the finale? We finally get introduced to Lady Stoneheart, since we were denied it last time. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.