Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons – Tripping over its own feet

AS THE FIFTH season of Game of Thrones reaches its end, the world is holding its breath for how it will wind into its downwards spiral. Long time fans of the show will know that episode nine of every season is ‘the big one’; the episode where things get very real. Whether it be the beheading of a beloved character, a fire drenched battle over Blackwater bay, a red wedding or an entire episode set in the snow. Needless to say, Season Five had a lot to live up to, especially after the excellent eighth episode of the series, which concluded in a climactic battle between Wildlings and White Walkers.

But, once again in the series, I’ve been left feeling deflated. ‘The Dance of Dragons’ had its moments, but they were certainly few and far between. I certainly didn’t feel like there was anything quite as mad and spectacular as we’ve seen in previous seasons. In place of this however, we had something… disturbing. Before I tackle the more climactic scenes in this episode, let me discuss the slightly more tame aspects.

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After the spectacular battle of Hardhome in the last episode, we have a little closure in the form of Jon Snow and the Wildlings arriving at Castle Black. Already there’s a sense that all is not quite as it seems within the fort, with it actually being uncertain over whether Alliser Thorne was actually going to open the gates. While only a small part of the show, it sets an uneasy tone for the season finale, especially following the attacks on Sam and Gilly.

Meanwhile in Dorne, Jamie and Bronn’s… urm, subplot looks like it’s drawing to a close after a slightly weird tenure. Aside from introducing the Martells properly to the story, I’m not really sure what the point of this storyline is. Unless the Martells get a larger part (or something big is revealed in episode ten), I’m still going to consider this storyline as a slightly wasted plot for two great characters.

Arya gets a little development in this episode as well. To her delight, Ser Meryn Trant arrives in Braavos with Mace Tyrell. You remember that list she had? Well, looks like it’s making a comeback for episode ten. Again, there was nothing particularly wrong with plot; it was a nice little development into what I imagine will be a triumphant finale for young Arya.

I did feel like making Trant a paedophile was taking the easy road a bit for Game of Thrones. After all the character development that’s been put forward in the last four seasons, it seemed like just another ploy to make the audience scream ‘BOO, HISS’ at the screen. Admittedly, in any other series it might work, but I feel like it’s slightly too predictable for this show.

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Perhaps one thing in this episode that might not be considered predictable was the fate of Shireen Baratheon. Throughout the series the audience has warmed considerably to Stannis. However the writers clearly weren’t happy with that, decideding to flip the metaphorical bird to the viewers by having Stannis kill off his daughter as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light. On the one hand, this is a stupid move that alienates the viewers from the character and from the show.

On the other hand, it’s a really interesting twist that reveals just how far Stannis will go to secure his claim to the Iron Throne. I’m still in two minds about this plot move. The writers are certainly pushing the limits and letting it be known that no character is safe. With this and the rape of Sansa Stark, it’s unclear whether the writers are being controversial for the sake of being controversial, or actually trying to incorporate something new into the story.

Finally, we go over to Meereen and the first pit fights, with Dany and her band of advisors in attendance. Jorah is one of the many fighters to appear in the pit and it’s clear that he’s still devoted to Dany despite everything that has happened between them. There’s decent, yet minimal banter thrown between Tyrion and Daario. But while the fights are underway, those pesky Sons of the Harpy attack the event, slaughtering many civilians and Unsullied.

In a scene resembling something from Attack of the Clones, the main characters gather in the centre of the arena surrounded by Jedi… I mean Unsullied, while the Sons of the Harpy close in for the kill. Then, when all seems lost, who should arrive but Drogon, who proceeds to set a few people on fire. Dany then braves the odds and takes control, climbing onto Drogon’s back and flying off, proceeding to, urm, abandon her friends.

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‘Don’t worry guys I’ll… urm…. go get help.’

The whole scene is meant to feel very climactic but I feel it’s lacking something. The exchanged dialogue between Tyrion, Dany, Daario and Hizdahr doesn’t do much except stretch the scene out, unless the descriptions of the quick and strong were some kind of metaphor. While I found the attack on the pit enjoyable, I also found the outcome with Drogon disappointing.

This sequence in the series doesn’t do enough to empower Dany and truly show that she has the power to control the absolute power that are her dragons. Not only that, she abandons her friends and advisors to a possible death; what kind of Queen does that? I don’t know if this is just me, but I found the effects of Dany climbing onto Drogon… dodgy, incomplete and less than impressive.

I’ll level with you. If this episode had been broadcast earlier in the season, I could probably let it slide a lot more than I have. But the fact remains that this is a penultimate episode; it has a reputation to uphold and a standard to maintain and I just don’t think ‘The Dance of Dragons’ manages to achieve this. While the Jon and Arya storylines are working quite nicely, Stannis’ has taken a disturbing and interesting turn. Jaime’s has rounded off with little to no effect on the overall story and Dany’s is frankly underwhelming.

I’ll close my final review for this season with a small thought. Yes, it’s diverted from the book. Do I think this is a bad thing? Not necessarily. Have they done it well? No. There’s no way to keep track of all the characters in this universe without a guide, which you can’t have in a TV show. Changes have to be made, there’s no doubt there. But a lot of the changes made for the TV show have been for the worse; either making no sense, fucking characters (and the audience) over or missing out big plot details that are necessary for the story. Overall, I have been very underwhelmed with this series and the fact that even the ninth episode has been a disappointment solidifies Season Five as perhaps the poorest season yet. I just don’t feel like the writers are producing enough exciting storylines from scratch, certainly not ones that hold a candle to the original books. Here’s hoping it can support itself without any source material for Season Six.


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