Just how long will book readers tolerate the decimation of the source material? Dear HBO, it’s one thing to streamline all of the stories for production concerns, but mutilating the characters for the shock factor is deplorable. It’s a wonder Martin is allowing this farce, but I guess he’s in it to shock his readers as well. What a horrible way to twist perfectly good characters and events into something menial or cruel. Episode 9 has long been a much anticipated episode per season, ever since Season 1’s tragic and shocking “Baelor” where Eddard Stark was beheaded for irking the Lannisters. Since then, we had “Blackwater”, “Rains of Castamere”, and “Watchers on the Wall”, all of which were shocking and visceral at a certain point. Does “The Dance of Dragons” live up to expectations, especially with the added pressure of last episode’s chilling “Hardhome”?
Wildlings Head South
The latest revelation in Hardhome brought the Wildlings and select brothers of the Night’s Watch staggering for the protection of The Wall. Jon Snow’s edict as Lord Commander holds and the Wildlings are passing through the gates, even poor Wun-Wun. The rest of the crows are not happy with Jon’s decision. They don’t see a potential army for the White Walkers, but a persistent barbaric enemy that should be eliminated. These crows aren’t the smartest, definitely; vengeful and close-minded. The writers are taking their time building up to the “For the Watch” story arc and I can’t wait for it to come full circle in “Mother’s Mercy”.
Oysters and Pedophiles
It’s a little frustrating how the show consistently dangles some false hope ahead of us, some glimmer of retribution for characters that have long been at the bottom of the rung. This time, Meryn Trant is dangled in front of Arya in Braavos, timed perfectly with her first assignment to kill the “Thin Man”. Will she succumb to the call for vengeance and give Ser Meryn the gift of death? Or will she complete her training by following Jaqen H’gar’s orders to off the thin man? Again, this was just a build up of things to come, but I’m hoping they made Meryn Trant a pedophile for a reason. His death will be justice #theNorthremembers
The Dornish storyline is by far the weakest in the series. I was looking forward to characters like Doran Martell, Areo Hotah, and Nymeria Sand. They even got rid of Arianne Martell! But fuck it, they all suck. The exposition is ridiculous, their fight choreography lame, and even the pacing is terrible. Even Nikolai Coster Waldau, acting as Jaime Lannister, is obviously at a loss with his character. What was the point of all his character arc in season 3 and his attempt at redemption with Oathkeeper?
The Night is Dark and Full of a Child’s Screams
This is perhaps the most tragic episode since Rains of Castamere. This time there’s no bloody massacre or ominous music. Just a little girl trying to help her father and instead ended up being burned alive, choking on her own screams. Does that give you nightmares? Shireen Baratheon’s cries will haunt me for a long time. We’ve come to know this sweet intelligent girl as someone who’s hungry for affection from her parents, keen and quick with words, and compassionate. I can still remember her scene with Stannis a few episodes ago, how it warmed my heart. He was told to send Shireen to the ruins of Valyria to live with the stonemen, but he did not allow it. Why? “Because you did not belong across the world with the bloody stone-men,” he told her at the time. “You are the princess Shireen of the House Baratheon and you are my daughter.”
Just when you thought Stannis might just be the king Westeros needs, he burns his own daughter. Even Cersei Lannister would never stoop so low, even Roose Bolton never treated his bastard as such. The mutilation of Stannis’ character is an unacceptable change for me. How could you allow this, Martin? YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!!!
Perhaps the only storyline that’s satisfying both book readers and non-book readers is that of Daenerys Targaryen and her quest for… er, what was her quest again? We’ve watched this helpless girl turn into one of the most formidable conquerors Essos has ever seen and she’s definitely the strongest contender for the Iron Throne. But this season, we see Dany make one mistake after another and perhaps that’s only understandable. She’s only just learning how to rule, after all.
When she decided to reopen the fighting pits at Daznak in the hopes of quelling the rebellion of the Sons of the Harpy, even going so far as to making Hizdahr zo Loraq a consort, we knew it wasn’t going to be a smooth peace treaty. At Daznak’s Pit, where she was obviously vulnerable and lax with security, the Sons of the Harpy attack and initiate a massacre, prompting chaos and blood everywhere. My biggest questions are,
1. WHERE THE F**K ARE THE UNSULLIED?
2. Why are the Unsullied, supposedly the best combat soldiers in the world, easily bested by untrained Harpies? I was expecting the fight choreography to be more visceral and brutal, but I got slow and lame instead. Though that’s not the point. The biggest turning point in Daznak’s Pit is Drogon’s rescue of his mother. When we heard his shriek and flap of wings, we were fist pumping the air. When he torched all those lame Sons of the Harpy, we cheered. When he faced eye to eye with Dany and non-verbally called her “Mom”, we fainted. When Dany climbed unto Drogon’s back and was like, “Peace out, biaaaatch!” we almost slipped into a coma.
Despite the lackluster build-up to the Daznak’s Pit sequence, the inconsistent size scale of Drogon, and the slightly faulty SFX, “The Dance of Dragons” still delivered a stunning catalyst for the series. Now that Daenerys is flying on the back of her dragon, take note that this is no small thing, what will happen to the rest of the storylines?
Obviously, bigger things are being staged in the seasons to come. Until then, let’s wait for next week’s “Mother’s Mercy”. I’m pretty sure that episode will just break the internet.