Well, here we are then. The big episode nine. The one we all look forward to, or dread, every season.
Remember back in the show’s early days? How the shocking deaths and twists kept you on the edge of your seat, hardly daring to guess what was next? How you really didn’t want to get too invested in any character because they might be snuffing it next week? How the biggest surprises tended to happen in episode nine? It was good back then, wasn’t it?
Let me be clear: I started these reviews as a bit of fun to point out some of the more ridiculous but entertaining aspects of Game of Thrones, but it’s slowly turned into a weekly examination of its faults, which have been all too apparent this year. And this episode highlighted one hugely ironic thing: the big set-pieces such as the Red Wedding are now so engrained in the show that you expect them, which undermines their impact. The same is true of the source material. When reading book five, I actually found a certain plot twist – it hasn’t happened in the show yet – predictable and almost boring, and instead of being gripped by it, I was just annoyed. It felt like shock tactics, rather than an attempt to advance the story.
Season five has snuck away from the books more than past series, to varying degrees of success – last week’s episode, for example, was nothing short of fantastic. But its missteps have been massive, and they’ve seriously affected the quality. First there was Sansa’s (Sophie Turner) rape, which, while I don’t think it was entirely pointless, was the final straw for many people, including our own chief editor. The Dorne subplot remains a huge letdown, which I’ll look into later. And then there’s what happened here.
Shame on you (i)
Just when we were starting to root for Stannis (Stephen Dillane), he goes and does that. There’s nothing to laugh at here – that scene was just fucking horrible. Utterly awful. As far as I’m concerned, Stannis can become Ramsay’s (Iwan Rheon) new Reek, until Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) turns up riding Drogon, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) by her side, and burns the lot of them to a crisp.
I mean, wow. Everything about Shireen’s (Kerry Ingram) murder was cold, calculating, and basically the perfect way to ruin a rather interesting and deep character. First, Stannis sends Davos (Liam Cunningham) away, knowing full well that he’ll try to stop him – I seriously hope this is the final straw for Davos. Then he visits the poor girl and listens as she promises to do everything she can to help him. Finally, he watches as they drag her out in front of his army, begging and crying for her father, and burn her. And we hear it all.
Couldn’t he have knocked her out first? I half expected him to stab her, so at least she wouldn’t be fully aware while being, you know, burned alive. But nope. And then there’s Melisandre (Carice van Houten), who set the girl alight without a second’s thought, and even seemed to be enjoying herself. I’ll say it again: I seriously want Daenerys to turn up and sort this shit out. Let’s see how that Red Woman holds up against dragon fire.
Who are we supposed to root for now? Stannis the child murderer or Ramsay the rapist? Jesus christ, show. I’m seriously hoping Sansa offs Ramsay, Roose Bolton (Ian McElhatton) defeats Stannis, and the two of them join forces against the Lannisters. That’s what you’ve made me do. Shame on you!
The show lost a lot of viewers after the rape a few weeks ago, but it won a few of them back last week. I have no idea what this latest twist will do to the ratings, but it’ll be entirely deserved.
Shame on you (ii)
Speaking of lovely blokes, let’s talk about Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie). Always such a nice guy before, when he was beating Sansa and getting off on it, and now we discover he’s also into raping little girls. Nice. I’ll give the show credit though – it did a good job of making us think he recognised Arya (Maisie Williams) when his gaze lingered on her. However, in hindsight, I think he was staring at her because he wanted her. It’s lust, not recognition.
At least Arya’s story has finally perked up. I think it’s fair to say that Meryn Trant is not long for this world. If Arya wants to get to him, she has a way. But I don’t think the Many-Faced God will be too chuffed.
Shame on you (iii)
And, as though it never happened, it looks like the Dorne plot is being resolved. Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) finally had some character development this time, which makes a nice change from the nothing he’s had so far. Turns out his priority is his people, and he seems to be the only bloke in Westeros who realises the consequences of going to war. Despite his hatred of the Lannisters, he’s still willing to deal with them.
Or is he? He’s very forgiving of Ellaria Sand (Indira Varma), who has about as much respect for him as Tywin (Charles Dance) had for Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) – basically none. Is Doran a complete idiot, or smarter than he looks? I honestly don’t know.
So now Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) can return home with the handsome Prince Trystane (Toby Sebastian), who gets a seat on the Small Council. Forgive me, but won’t his position be Master of Coin? They’re going to give that job to a teenager, who looks like wooing girls is all he knows? Oh well. At least he was smart enough to spare Bronn’s (Jerome Flynn) life, even if he did have him beaten up. I’d like to see that happen when Bronn’s at his best.
Shame on you (iv)
So there we were, reeling over the brutal murder of a young girl by her own father, before realising there was only 20 minutes to go. Cut to Meereen for a sequence that was terrific, but badly placed. I guess the writers wanted to end the episode on a high – literally – but you don’t just gloss over infanticide. If I have one criticism, though, it’s that Dany can now, apparently, summon her dragon at will. Since when could she do this?
Season two showed us that Dany had some influence over her dragons, but after that she lost control of them. Now she can call on Drogon whenever she fancies? Plus, the last we saw of him, he was hanging out with Stone Men in old Valyria. He took two seconds to get from there to Meereen? It took Tyrion two sodding episodes!
So now Dany has flown off with Drogon, to save his life as much as hers, leaving Meereen in the care of Tyrion, Daario (Michiel Huisman) and Jorah (Iain Glen), who, it seems, has finally been forgiven.
It’s about time someone said it: Meereen is a lost cause, Dany. You’re a dragon rider now. Pick up Tyrion and Jorah – you can leave Daario – get the hell over to Westeros, roast Stannis, Ramsay and Cersei (Lena Headey) alive, get Prince Doran on your side so he can actually do something, then journey north, find the Night King, and melt him.
Who am I kidding? What she’ll actually do is spend another series moping around Meereen and the Free Cities. Ah well, one can wish.
So, the fabled episode nine. Did it live up to expectations? It was certainly memorable, but not necessarily in a good way. Dany finally flew a dragon, yes, but we also saw a man kill his daughter because a crazy fanatic told him to, and that left a bad taste in my mouth.
One episode to go. Join me again next week to see how they close the season out.