Review: Game of Thrones Season 5, Episode 9 – A Dance of Dragons

Game of Thrones gets the Spartacus treatment as gladiatorial fighting begins in Meereen, and Stannis commits to taking Winterfell.

Traditionally, episode nine is when things kick off in Game of Thrones. The red wedding and the attack on the wall were the last two, but this season broke the mould in a sense. While the finale was a massive development in the story, none of the main characters died – I say ‘main’ because plenty of supporting characters still perished.

The standard episode nine shocks really happened last week, when we saw the White Walkers come to life – excuse the pun. This time, Jon Snow (Kit Harington) returns to the wall with thousands of dejected Wildlings, who finally understand the need to unite against a foe that could engulf the world.

Although there are more exciting moments to discuss, and we’ll get to those, it’s important to note that other members of the Night’s Watch have now seen the terrifying army of the dead, and this is something our moody bastard Jon Snow can use to his advantage.

In other news, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) and Jaime’s (Nickolaj Coster-Waldau) Dornish adventure continues, and Prince Doran (Alexander Siddig) clearly has a plan for them. The plight of Dorne is more in-depth in the books, but thankfully the intricacies are glossed over in the TV series – I’m only on book three, but I’m told it gets very complicated. Jaime and Bronn are the new Arya (Maisie Williams) and Hound (Rory McCann) – I like the buddy movie element they bring to the show.

The episode focused on Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) and Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). Game of Thrones has often built characters well – apart from some obvious exceptions – and now we see Stannis exhibit the ruthlessness needed to hold the throne. His previous devotion to his family was commendable, but his desire to rule and his devotion to a mythical deity have cost him his daughter and his sanity.

I was beginning to quite like Stannis. Apart from Jon, he’s the only person in the Seven Kingdoms bothered by the undead army marching on the wall, and although he can be a bit cold and stand-offish, he certainly has a moral compass. This episode strips him of that. The callous murder of his daughter, Shireen (Kelly Ingram), was unexpected, and will no doubt stir up a lot of hatred towards him. It was an interesting turning point for the character and the plot, but I’ll miss my moral Stannis. The lack of integrity in the north might just spell destruction for both the Boltons and the last Baratheon.

The end of the episode was worth waiting for – the fighting pits. I have to think Spartacus would’ve beaten them all, and some of the gladiator battles were clearly influenced by the Starz series. The fights were choreographed well enough, and it was nice to see Jorah (Iain Glenn) back in action, protecting the woman he loves.

While this “Game of Spartacus” moment was excellent, it was the politics, and in particular the use of Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), that stood out. His questioning of Daenerys’ intentions for Meereen was very interesting. These two characters should complement each other, and Tyrion will no doubt have a huge role to play in Dany’s quest for glory.

The final act is a gladiator brawl that turns into a full battle. Unfortunately, Daario (Michiel Huisman) can’t handsome his way out of it, but he gives it a good go. The arrival of Drogon showed what a dragon can really do. Someone will have to answer this for me, but did the dragon respond telepathically to Dany? Or was it just coincidence?

Drogon’s intervention was fairly obvious, like the Millennium Falcon in Empire not being destroyed, because the show can’t kill off so many characters all at once. I was a bit taken aback by Daenerys riding off though. It felt like she just ran away, but I suppose the Sons of the Harpy were after her specifically. Or was it the other ones, the Sparrows? I do get ever so confused with these sects popping up all over the world.

This wasn’t a quintessential episode nine of Game of Thrones, but as we were treated to an army of White Walkers last time out, I can’t complain too much. And there’s plenty left to resolve in next week’s finale. After that, I’ll get back to frantically reading the books while I wait a year for the show to return, take six episodes to get going and then disappear from our lives as quickly as it arrived.

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