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Monday, 8 June 2015

Game of Thrones S5E9: The Dance of Dragons.

Game of Thrones
Series 5 Episode 9: 
The Dance of Dragons.

More and more, I am starting to have doubts about HBO's capabilities. Which is a shame, because I actually really enjoyed this episode, or a good ninety percent of it at least. It's that last ten percent which is sticking in my teeth like gristle after an otherwise lovely medium steak. 

In this week's episode, Stannis finds his march to Winterfell further impeded when Ramsay and a small gang of men burn his food supplies and destroy his siege weapons. At Castle Black, Jon returns with the wildlings, much to the Night's Watch's dissatisfaction. In Dorne, Jaime meets with Prince Doran and Ellaria Sands, to come to an agreement regarding Myrcella. Over in Braavos, Arya's task to kill Thin Man is derailed when Meryn Trant, one of the names on her kill list, visits Braavos. In Meereen, Daenerys and Tyrion attend the opening of the fighting pit, where they meet a familiar face.

Oh, dear, right. Gosh. Yes. Where to start.

Well, Jon's still pretty, in case you were worried.

Worst storyline of the week? Well, it's a toss-up between Stannis' and Jaime's, but ultimately, Stannis takes the copper cup this week. While we get some nice moments, like Davos bonding with Shireen, Stannis' storyline this episode ends with yet another jumping-the-shark moment, where he agrees to have his daughter Shireen burned so that Melisandre can perform some manner of spell. This is Stannis Baratheon, remember: His defining trait has always been that he was absolutely, rigidly, and brutally principled, and his decision to have his own daughter sacrificed is totally out of character. This is Stannis. Stannis wouldn't sacrifice anybody unless they were a criminal or his enemy. It's a tremendously out of character moment for him.

It feels almost like this was a decision made with the intention of making Stannis less of a fan favourite - that the people at HBO found themselves alarmed and confused by how popular he was getting, and set out to rectify that. Certainly, it isn't a decision that serves his character arc or the wider story in any way.

Best storyline of the week probably goes to Daenerys and Tyrion, actually. In truth, I wish Jorah would die already, and he was the worst part of this plotline by a sizable distance, but Daenerys, Tyrion and Daario teaming up against Hizdahr in conversation was magical to watch, and Emilia Clarke and Peter Dinklage are doing a wonderful job of portraying Daenerys and Tyrion as natural friends. I would be very happy with an episode set entirely in Meereen at this point: Just fifty minutes of Daenerys, Daario, Missandei and Tyrion being awesome.

Nobody likes Hizdahr.

It also had a truly superb action scene, as the Sons of the Harpy besiege the fighting pits (with Hizdahr suspiciously vanishing in the fray) in an attempt to assassinate Daenerys. It's not quite as good as the pitched battle against the White Walkers last episode, but it does have the advantage of having a surprise appearance from Drogon, scattering the Sons and setting a lot of people on fire. I had to take a brief moment to hug my dog after this scene, as she and Drogon are very much alike. So that storyline takes the golden cup.

Which leaves us with Jaime's, Jon's and Arya's storylines competing for silver, bronze and - I don't know, iron. Tin. Wood. 

Well, Jon's barely around in this episode, having a single scene lasting only a few minutes - but it is in many ways a tense scene, and it does advance the plot, so he comes out of this episode with the bronze cup. Studies show that bronze winners are often happier than silver winners, which doesn't hold true here because both our bronze and silver winners are bloody miserable.

Arya, incidentally, wins the silver cup. Her storyline, seeing her deviate from her mission to track Meryn Trant, was very tense, both on a 'what if Trant recognises her' level and on a 'what reprisal will she face from the Faceless Men' level. It doesn't get concluded in this episode, instead being set up for a conclusion in the finale, but I am fascinated to see how it turns out. Also, we get to see Mark Gatiss again, in his role as a banker of the Iron Bank, which is lovely, I do like Mark Gatiss.

Everything in Arya's storyline is very forboding.

That leaves Jaime to take the Cup of Undetermined Material. I'm going to level with you all, I really dislike Jaime as a character, and I do not understand one jot what fans see in him. At best he bores me and at worst he annoys me. I do, however, absolutely adore Prince Doran, as I adore any character played by Alexander Siddig, so there is that. 

Jaime's plot this episode, however, could probably be charitably described as admin work. It wraps up his storyline for this series in a fairly workmanlike way, and sees him, Bronn, Myrcella and Trystane headed back for King's Landing, which might lead to some interesting scenarios next year. It's a necessary part of the plot, but it's not interesting - none of Jaime's plot has been interesting, in fact, and it's all felt like busywork. 

Still, it's a mostly good episode that leaves us in good stead for the finale, in which I'm presuming we'll be seeing the following: A conclusion to the Cersei and the Sparrows plot; the siege of Winterfell (or the first part of it, at least); Arya killing Meryn Trant and maybe Thin Man; those tensions in the Night's Watch coming to a head; and maybe a short scene with Daenerys. I'm looking forward to it.

Gosh, this series has gone by so fast. 

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