Game Of Thrones Season Five, Episode Nine Recap: The Dance Of Dragons

For the second week in a row, season five of Game Of Thrones has delivered the goods. Parts of the episode were exhilarating. Other parts were exceptionally unpleasant to watch -- Red Wedding style. Read on for the recap.

Warning: Spoilers within!

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Traditionally, the penultimate episode of Game Of Thrones has always contained the show’s biggest moments. In season one, it was Ned Stark’s shock beheading. In season two; the Battle of the Blackwater. Season three served up the Red Wedding while season four gave us the wilding’s assault on the Wall.

Compared to these stellar episodes, The Dance Of Dragons was a moderately low-key affair. While there was plenty of action and drama to keep things interesting, none of it was particularly jaw-dropping. (Unless you count burning a little kid at the stake, which we’ll get to in a moment.) With that said, it was still a highly entertaining episode from start to finish.

Episode 5.9 picks up several days after the Hardhome massacre, with Jon Snow and the battered remnants of the wildling army showing up at the Wall. After a tense faceoff, the prickly Ser Alliser Thorne proves loyal (for now) and opens the gates to the refugees. The rest of the black brothers are none too pleased to be sheltering the enemy though – particularly orphan boy Olly whose stare practically shoots daggers. Watch your back, Jon!

Elsewhere in the North, Stannis finally succumbs to Melisandre’s urging and does the unthinkable; burning his daughter at the stake as a blood sacrifice to the red god R'hllor. We knew this was coming, but that didn’t make it any easier to watch. It was a truly horrific moment; right up there with Sansa’s despoilment or the mayhem of the Red Wedding. There can now be no doubt that Stannis Baratheon is doomed. No man is as accursed as the kinslayer.

Incidentally, we’d like to give a shout-out to actress Kerry Ingram who played Shireen Baratheon. From her touching tête-à-têtes in Ser Davos’ dungeon to her blood-curdling wails while lashed to the pyre, her acting was always top notch. Of all the newcomers to appear in Game Of Thrones, she was arguably the most impressive performer. Hopefully we get to see her in more stuff.

In the far south, the kingdom of Dorne continues to bask uselessly in the sun. While the Spanish villas and slinky sand snakes are very nice to look at, none of it has contributed to the plot in any meaningful way. (Well, apart from helping each episode meet its nudity quota, natch.)

It may come as no surprise that the books' Dornish subplot has been gutted by the show, with key events and characters removed for pacing reasons. We suspect they would have been better off scrapping Dorne entirely. As it stands, this has easily been the weakest part of the show.Perhaps everything will come together in the season's final episode but we're not going to hold our breaths.

We then cut to Braavos, where Arya is entrusted with her first assassination by the Faceless Men. By chance, she happens to spy Kingsguard member Meryn Trant who killed her sword-fighting instructor all the way back in season one. He's also one of the chief names on her kill list. Sensing a golden opportunity, Arya shirks her assassination duties and tails Meryn Trant into a brothel. We learn that Trant prefers underage prostitutes (eew) which will surely factor into Arya plan for revenge next episode.

Like last week's episode, the final third of The Dance Of Dragons was devoted to rip-snorting action. In Mereen, Daenerys finally attends the grand re-opening of the fighting pits, where various warriors fight to the death for the crowd's amusement. Among them is Jorah Mormont who's determined to get back into the queen's good books or die trying. The CGI coliseum out-Gladiatored Gladiator; the scale was truly spectacular. We also liked how the combatants all had different looks and fighting styles; it was all very Conan-esque (in a good way).

Pandemonium erupts as the Son's of the Harpy launch a surprise attack on the queen's viewing booth. (The fighting pit organisers clearly need to bump up their security -- how did so many guys with gold masks get through the front gates?) Danny's would-be husband Hizdahr zo Loraq is brutally dispatched by the assassins' knives which pretty much rules him out as a conspirator.

A desperate battle then follows, with Tyrion, Missandei, Daario, Jorah and the queen scurrying around the blood-soaked amphitheatre looking for a way out. Just when all hope seems lost, along comes Drogon -- and he's hella pissed! Scores of Harpy henchmen get chomped and/or barbecued by the rampaging dragon after ill-advisedly poking him with spears. Daeneryes then makes an impromptu escape on her scaly savior's back. Fade to black. Awesome.

What did you think of this week's episode? How do you think the finale will pan out? Share your views in the comments section below!

Note: Please, no spoilers from the books in the comments below!


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Comments

    I don't know, but I felt a bit underwhelmed by this episode, mainly because of the finale scene. The special effects once Dany got in the dragon looked pretty shonky in a "check out this green screen" kind of way, and the dragon's presence didn't exactly solve anything. Sure it killed a bunch of people, but it wasn't stopping the massacre elsewhere (Jorah and Dhaario were still having issues) so it just felt like Dany was abandoning the people she was just cowering with to certain death.

    Maybe she meant to, could be a big character moment. The episode wasn't a bad one, the Stannis and Arya plotlines continue to be awesome and brutal, but the White Walker attack in Hardhome stole all of episode 9's thunder.

      She needed the uhhh, how do we say - 'Emotional Connection' with Drogon to re-establish the fact that Drogon realizes what Dany is to him. Special effects aside it served the story absolutely fine. I believe that a better way of pulling that scene off would have been to watch them fly off from Tyrion, Daario, Jorah & Messandei's perspective.

        The look on Dany's face when Drogon swooped in did it for me, the little "moment" they had drilled it home but the ourpouring of relief conveyed in that initial moment was pretty great.

        But I have to agree with @agent_six, the effects as she flew away from the arena were pretty shonky considering how much of the rest of the show is made up of similar vfx and are generally fairly seamless.

          I agree, the exchange between mother and drogon, was the most important aspect to focus on. Although I thought for a minute the he was going to be speared to death. Glad he wasn't. The dragon isn't fully grown yet, has he?

            Dragons throughout history have varied in size, the oldest and strongest had skulls the size of rooms - so no, Drogon isn't anywhere near fully grown. However towards the end of the Targ reign growth of dragons was slowed until the final dragons were sickly things the size of dogs that died very young. It's unclear how dragons and magic are related but generally magic seems to be more powerful in Westeros now that the dragons are back, and Dany's dragons are the strongest that have been seen for centuries.

            Then again, it could be related to anything - winter, the white walkers, the red star, etc.

            Nay, he's not fully grown. Yet. Albeit he's much larger than the other 2. He's set to become *much* larger if some theories are true.

        Yeah, the emotional context for the moment was great, and the scene itself wasn't at all terrible. I guess I just had a greater sense of tension and excitement when Jorah was fighting in the arena before the attack than during it. And I certainly had A LOT more excitement/fear/awe during the attack on Hardhome. That was masterful!

      I've yet to see convincing effects in either film or tv of someone flying in CGI

        Aye and that's the thing. You've got three approaches to it:
        1: Live action Dany + puppet Drogon
        2: CGI Dany + CGI Drogon (Matrix Reloaded)
        3: Live action Dany + CGI Drogon

        Heavily suggest that everyone to read this post in regards to the CGI.
        http://www.reddit.com/r/asoiaf/comments/3910ts/spoilers_aired_regarding_cgi_in_the_show/

        Last edited 09/06/15 9:55 am

      Oh come one, it was so "Neverending Story" at the end there that I started singing like Limahl!

      I loved the episode.

    Controversial episode, absolutely. Shaken my trust in Stannis? A little bit. However this scene was foreshadowed in season 2 and also by Stannis himself. He has a duty to the realm, not ambition to be king. He has mentioned something along the lines of "If I have to sacrifice one family member of the light to save thousands of others from the darkness, then I will".
    Kerry Ingram played her role incredibly well. Those screams...
    Free pic of Kerry & Liam (Shireen & Davos) http://imgur.com/cBoIBpl

    The Mereen scene was fascinating. Absolute joy to watch. Annoyed that Hizdar wasn't the ring leader though.

    I am however absolutely terrified by the next episode. FTW. Book readers...

    Last edited 09/06/15 9:39 am

      I've read them all, but not since about 2012, so while as soon as the Merreen amphitheatre came in, I remembered what was going to happen, I'm having a hard time remembering what comes after.

        For The Watch, with Jon. With all of the foreshadowing that's been going on in that area, I wouldn't be surprised if it happened.

          There's a lot of speculation as to whether he actually is, or remains, dead too. With all the black looks coming from the Brothers in The Watch this episode, i'm expecting that to happen soon (next ep maybe?).

      I'll miss Shireen, I think she was Stannis' heart. I don't know if GRRM intends to have this happen later in the books (IIRC his army is still snowed in outside of Winterfell as at the end of ADWD) but it's certainly served to make Stannis less likeable. If this were any other show I'd say they were doing it because he's going to die soon and this will make us miss him less, but this is Game of Thrones so chances are he'll actually win this thing, at least until Daenerys does something with her dragons other than lock them in a dungeon while she sits around listening to people whine.

      Last edited 09/06/15 9:53 am

        ^ With regards to the other 2 locked up, I wonder if one of the other 3 (T, J or D) will free them?

          It'll be interesting to see if someone tries that considering that's what happens in the books (via a character the show didn't bother introducing because it went nowhere) but all that happened before Danerys flew off on Drogon. I assume they'll stay locked away until next season. I assume we won't see any more of Mereen this season. Next episode teaser suggests we'll have scenes in King's Landing, Castle Black, Braavos and Winterfell, so I wouldn't expect to see Jamie or Bronn again this season either.

            Positive I heard Jamie's voice in the teaser... Who knows, have to wait and find out.

        I don't know if GRRM intends to have this happen later in the books
        Apparently he does, or it seems that way from the Inside The Episode thing from this weeks Game of Thrones. Dan & Dave said they were told about the scene by George.

        I expect it'll be different there though, Shireen isn't with Stannis in the books, she's up at one of the Nights Watch's castles (they didn't march with him).

        Man, I'll admit that made me cry. I can't say I was emotionally attached to the Shireen, but after the story of how Stannis went to great lengths to save her, only to turn around and light her up...

        One thing I liked about her character, was despite having a rather terrible upbringing and being locked away most of her life, she was still full of light. Oh well, another one bites the dust. I'm very interested in seeing what the hand of the king (forget his name) is going to do.

    I'm quite nervous with all the changes in the show that while unlikely, it is possible that they could scrap the "Dornish master plan" from the show. While I think at this point it's obvious that the mummer's farce that is Quentyn Martell has been scrapped, I doubt they will do the same with "Little Griff".

    I guess we will see next week. I suspect that's when we will finally see the true face of awesome that makes, in my opinion, Doran Martell the most awesome of the brothers.

    And as a Stannis fan even I was screaming "YOU MONSTER" at the burning of lovely little Shireen.

    Quentyn clearly won't be included at this point, the period where his character arc occurred has come and gone, and he achieved nothing in the books anyway. I guess there's still room for the young Griff, but it seems like Jorah contracted Jon Connington's case of greyscale so perhaps not. Casting rumours suggest the Greyjoys have a larger presence in the next season, so that'll be interesting.

    (cc @beeronious due to reply fail)

    Last edited 09/06/15 9:56 am

      Book wise, young Griff has struck me as being essential, as either one of the "heads of the Dragon" or the first true threat to Dany's claim to the throne.

      One of the casting call is most likely Euron, meaning we will finally have the Greyjoy (*yawn*) plot. Save for the Theon debacle I have found the Greyjoy claim to be a total joke. Save for the Sam chapters they struck me as the weakest part of book 4

      Last edited 09/06/15 10:11 am

    The fight at the end was underwhelming really. Considering the fight scenes in previous seasons, the last couple of episodes and this episode felt a bit off to me. Yes episode 8 was epic, but the fighting still felt a bit off. Also, with the guys in masks (forgot the name, sorry) rushing in and stabbing everyone rather than fighting them, why when they had a handful of people surrounded did they not just rush them with the pointy ends of their weapons pointing forwards? Instead they walked forward in typical 80s action film trope one by one to be killed one by one. Disappointing really

    Other than that, Stannis doing what I expected him to do, guy on the wall did what I expected him to do (the Nightwatch don't break oaths). A good episode, but not great. One episode for a lot to go through though, hopefully it won't be rushed to tie up all the loose ends of this episode.

    So far though, this season has fallen short of previous seasons in my eyes.

      hopefully it won't be rushed to tie up all the loose ends of this episode
      In my experience, the season finales never tie up the loose ends. One of the most unsatisfying things I find about this show. Possibly what others love about it, I dunno?

      This season has kind of turned me off of the show frankly. The writing has slipped considerably, the plot is now all over the place and compelling characters seemed to be turned instantly villainous.

      It makes me long for the days of seasons 1 to 3 where it was more about the characters than shocking the audience with the next atrocity.

        I think the storyline slippage occurred when they started cutting and combining characters in the books to "streamline" the last books into a short season. There are a few plotlines that are missing that would have made it a LOT more interesting, especially regarding the Dany story. it is interesting to see what happens next though.

    My highlight of this episode was when my missus yelled out "She should have totally ridden that dragon naked!!!"

    Guess she read my mind!

    Last edited 09/06/15 1:56 pm

    I wouldn't be surprised if Hizdahr zo Loraq was somehow involved in the attack, he is only stabbed once and dragged to the ground, and the stabbing was on the upper right side of his chest

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