Game of Spoilers 009: The Dance of Dragons

In the twenty-four hours that have passed since this week’s episode, there have been many reactions and analyses, but the consensus of what I’ve read—from friends and critics alike—seems to be that Shireen’s death was a shocking reversal for Stannis and Dany’s flight was an exhilarating victory. Allow me to disagree with both of those assertions. I found this year’s penultimate episode rushed, poorly written, and ultimately underwhelming.

She's clearly not a fan.
She’s clearly not a fan.

Oddly enough, Dorne was pretty good! We saw the prince establish his control and take some real positive political action. Even the porny sand snakes seemed mildly entertaining.

Arya’s experience in Braavos did not fare so well. So far this season, they’ve handled her story relatively effectively, even if they needlessly collapsed several characters. All that went out the window this week. There simply has not been enough screen time with Arya as Cat the oyster girl for us to fully appreciate the path that she’s on. And now in comes Meryn Trant. Who the hell remembered that Meryn Trant killed Syrio Forell? I certainly didn’t, and I don’t think I’m alone. I had to look it up. Is her plan to kill a Kingsguard? That seems like it would be noticed and create trouble for her. Plus, the inclusion of his pedophilia just seems gratuitous, except to make Meryn seem like even more of a dick. And then there’s her really terrible trailing skills. Besides, she’s not supposed to be Arya any more. It seems so rushed. If she had completed a bunch of tasks for the House of Black and White first, a murder for Arya would seem like a bigger deal. Now, she hasn’t really left herself behind, so of course she will exact vengeance. The rush just kills the dramatic tension.

Not exactly
Not exactly “Parents of the Year” material.

Stannis’s actions certainly had dramatic tension. And, while I could have gone a long time without seeing Shireen get burned as a sacrifice, the events clearly worked to build his character. He would sacrifice anything—even a beloved daughter—to get the throne. But, even this creates some character issues. He just sacrificed his only heir in the quest to establish a dynasty. That seems…ill-advised. 

But how did we not see this coming? Davos saw it coming, which is why Stannis sent him away, and why he gave Shireen a gift. My only question is, when does Davos just say “fuck it” and leave Stannis behind? I don’t think this will do it. I think he’ll still follow his king’s orders, and I don’t think he will do anything to kill Melisandre.

Everything about Stannis has shown him to be ruthless in his quest for the throne. We all had at least a week to get used to the idea that innocent, sweet little Shireen was going to get burned alive. If anything, the move was telegraphed in a hacky, ham-fisted manner that Martin and the series have avoided before this. If it shocked you, it’s your own fault.

There really was only one way for this to go
There really was only one way for this to go

Similarly, as soon as you saw the title of this episode, you had to know how Danaerys’ story would end: dragon. It appeared triumphant, Drogon saving his mother in her hour of need. But how, exactly, are her friends supposed to survive when they’re still surrounded by an apparently endless stream of the Sons of the Harpy? Obviously they will, but it certainly didn’t seem like they should. The Harpy is too powerful, when they should be a small guerilla force. In the numbers they apparently have, they could easily overcome Danaerys’ forces in the arena, but they stopped and attacked one at a time. They kept a secret among hundreds of individuals, planned an intense strategic victory, and then forgot how to mount an attack at the last moment? It seems laughable, and Tyrion et al are still surrounded. Rushed, hackneyed writing.

Before the season began, Martin told us all that the writers of the series are more brutal than he is, and that has certainly panned out. More troubling, though, is that, without Martin’s direct involvement, the writing has become predictable even while it’s horrifying, and rushed even while attempting tragedy.

2 thoughts on “Game of Spoilers 009: The Dance of Dragons

  • June 9, 2015 at 1:26 pm
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    I don’t know, I had a good time. While I agree that the dragon thing was pretty well telegraphed, it was still pretty cool to see. That said, I agree that it wasn’t exactly a victory for her. She had to flee because this problem is way bigger than she knew. Now, again, how these dudes in masks are able to cut through the most elite fighting force on the planet like they’re nothing but a bunch of storm troopers I will never understand, but all in all, I was entertained. When that whole scene started, I really didn’t see it coming. I was so focused on trying to figure out what Jorah’s plan was, I forgot all about those harpy folks. When he threw that spear, I was thinking "Wait, what the hell? He wants to kill her? No, her husband? No, Tyrion? Oh! That guy. Oh, there’s more that guys. Oh crap, half the crowd is that guy. Ooooooooohhhhhhh…" and then there was flashy action, and Tyrion killed a dude. Not the shocking twist I would expect from the show, but I was entertained. To your point about the rest of her crew escaping, it looked to me like the dragon had killed enough of the nearby harpies for them to make a reasonable escape. Mr. Dragon did scare off/burn quite a few of those jerks.
    Then there’s Stannis. I wouldn’t say I was shocked, but I honestly didn’t think he would go through with it. When it happened, I was more sad than shocked. I’ve never been in the Stannis camp, but the show made me want to root for him just a little. I wanted to believe that he wouldn’t cross that line, but ultimately I wasn’t surprised that he did. More disappointed. Not in the show, just in him. That red witch lady (I’m bad with names) might be my most hatred character on the show at this point. Her smile when she burned that cute kid… Not since Joffery have I wanted someone to die so much. Sure, her magic seems to work, and the preview for next week’s episode seemed to show that they got the desired effect from the sacrifice/adorable kid murder, but if that’s the price of her success, it’s just not worth it. Like you said, he’s fighting for a legacy, and has now sacrificed his only kid, and he did it because Loony McSmoke-Monster-Crotch-Woman told him to. That lady is crazier than a bag of Hodors, and she needs to be put down.
    I clearly liked this episode more than you did, but I totally see your complaints. Great insights, though. I guess the finale has a lot of work to do.

    Reply
  • June 9, 2015 at 1:45 pm
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    I haven’t read all the books yet, but I do wonder where they’re going with Arya. I had the same reaction to Meryn Trant. If I hadn’t heard her repeat his name so many times in her "prayer" I would have forgotten him completely. My take on the escape of Dany’s crew is that the Sons of the Harpy were after Dany. Once she escaped, they were under less of a threat. I personally think they would have made great leverage against her as prisoners, but the Sons of the Harpy don’t strike me as forward-thinking like that. And I agree with Kris, the Unsullied did seem a little too easily overwhelmed. Overall, I agree, I think there is some messiness going on in the writing in Martin’s absence, but I guess I’d need to read the books to know for sure. I look forward to tackling them once the show is complete.

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