So I hear that this week on Game of Thrones a little kid got killed or something. Fuck that! Let’s talk about dragons!
In my review of last week’s episode I complained that the Ice Zombie siege at the end of Hardhome would be difficult, maybe impossible to top. How wrong was I? This week’s stop in Meereen finds us once again in the Fighting Pits, Daenerys this time accompanied by Daario and Tyrion, and also that dude she was going to marry. Don’t worry about him, you’ll see why. After Dany’s man spars verbally with both Tyrion and Daario over the first match, the second begins with Jorah back in the fray, still fighting for his unrequited Queen.
Jorah has a rough go of it but is ultimately victorious against several attackers. But what’s this? He lunges one of his downed opponents’ spears at Daenerys? No! The Sons of the Harpy are back in full force and are massacring the audience and advancing on our Queen! Dany’s husband to be takes a blade in the skirmish, our heroes attempt to escape the arena but are locked inside and pushed back to the center. Hopeless? Hardly. Daenerys closes her eyes and seemingly telepathically contacts escaped dragon Drogon, and from there you can guess where things go. Hope you like your Sons of the Harpy extra crispy. Dany then mounts the great winged beast and flies away to safety as Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei look on in disbelief.
This was an absolutely thrilling sequence, paced and shot beautifully, again, maybe even more so than last week’s White Walker-palooza. One of the main criticisms of GoT as a whole (I’m thinking particularly of that infamous South Park episode) has been their reluctance to make good on the earlier season’s promise of snow zombie and dragon action. But now here we are, with all the cards on the table and the show all the more awesome for having taken it’s time to get there.
So as for things that were less awesome than that, the Dorne storyline concludes itself with Jamie sent back to King’s Landing with Myrcella on the grounds that Trystaine be granted a position on the Small Council, and in Braavos Arya’s first assassin mission gets sidetracked by the arrival of Meryn Trant, one of the names on her Nixon-esque “enemies list”.
Okay, so now let’s discuss the “unpleasantness”. It seems like Game of Thrones “breaks the internet” every week this season, and it doesn’t need Kim Kardashian’s fat, worn out ass to do it. First it was various instances of sexual violence and now it’s the murder of an innocent child. You see, things aren’t going so well for Team Stannis. Ramsay’s planned ambush from last episode went off without a hitch and managed to decimate both the horse and food supply. With no way to go forward or turn back given the viciousness of the snow surrounding their encampment Stannis is left with no choice but to sacrifice his daughter to the lord of light at Melisandre’s behest, hoping that will somehow turn the tide of war and result in victory at Winterfell.
Again, similar to Sansa’s controversial arc this season of course this development wasn’t the easiest thing in the world to watch, but it completely sells Stannis’ absolute ruthlessness and loss of humanity in the race for the Iron Throne, just as Sansa’s torment perfectly illustrated how irredeemable Ramsay had become.
The internet shitstorm GoT has engendered this season is a curious phenomenon indeed. Was Ramsay’s treatment of Sansa any worse than what he did to Reek? You could argue that she got off easy compared to the former Theon. And how was Melisandre and Stannis’ treatment of Shireen different from what was done to Genndry in the attempt to kill Renly, Stannis’ own brother? Is it because the victims this time around were female? Characters we’d grown more attached to? Or is it because HBO’s medieval drama has become a true pop cultural touchstone and now the whole world is watching? I think it’s probably different for everyone who finds themselves genuinely offended, though the true accomplishment is how the creators have gotten people to care so deeply about this world and these characters. People who’ve decided to stop watching the show based on these developments should probably ask themselves what kind of show they thought they were watching in the first place though.
Game of Thrones’ fifth season comes to a close next week and even though this has arguably been the most uneven season yet, strong finish notwithstanding, we’ll still be sad to see it go.