Previously on Game of Thrones: Arya got her first assassination assignment, Dany took Tyrion on as an advisor, Melisandre told Stannis he’d have to sacrifice his daughter to win the war, and Jon managed to survive a terrifying White Walker attack and headed back to the Wall with some of the Free Folk.
‘Is there anything I can do to help you?’
‘Yes, there is.’
‘Good, I want to.’
Stannis’s camp at night. It’s cold and miserable, buried in snow. Melisandre looks up from a flaming brazier in her tent, sensing something, and then goes outside just in time to see some of the tents erupt in flames. Men start running in terror, horses scream, and one horse totally ablaze comes rushing through the camp.
The next day, Davos gives Stannis the death and destruction toll: 20 men rode into camp and killed hundreds of horses and several of the men, as well as destroying all the food stores and siege weapons. Yikes. Stannis calls for the guards to be put in chains, because clearly they weren’t doing their jobs. Davos suggests they return to Castle Black, because their situation is getting fairly dire, but Stannis knows they won’t make it. He orders the dead horses butchered for meat (hey, if life gives you lemons, I guess) and eyes his family and Melisandre.
Jon and the remnants of the residents of Hardhome arrive at the gate of the Wall, where Alliser stares down at them. He and Jon eye each other for a while, and Jon steps forward to silently signal: come on, man, don’t be a dick. Alliser finally orders the gates opened. The free folk and the giant flood through.
Inside, Jon moans that this was a failure. Sam’s like, ‘uh, you see all these people still alive? Not a failure!’ But of course Jon’s all mopey because he couldn’t do more. The giant comes in at the very end and everyone stares at him. Olly comes out and Jon smiles at him, but gets no smile back. Kid holds a grudge. Alliser finally comes down and tells Jon he’s got a good heart, and it’ll get everyone killed. Wow, that was almost a nice thing to say. Don’t worry, I’m sure the writers will have him torturing animals or something next episode, just to remind us we’re not supposed to like him.
Stannis sends for Davos and orders him to return to Castle Black and order up more horses and supplies. In return, he promises as many men as the Night’s Watch can handle, once he’s king.
Davos: Hey, wait a sec, I’m supposed to be your Hand, so maybe right in the middle of military engagements is not the best time for me to take off?
Stannis orders him to go, so Davos, who clearly knows something is off here, asks to take Selyse and Shireen, or at least just Shireen, because a siege is no place for a little girl. ‘My family stays with me,’ Stannis intones.
Before he goes, Davos goes to visit Shireen, who’s reading a book called The Dance of Dragons. She tells him about it and he gives her a gift: a beautifully carved stag. She’s delighted, but then suspiciously asks why he’s buttering her up. He just says she deserves her present, for teaching him to read, at the very least. He tells her he’ll be gone for a few days and wants to hear all about the Dance of Dragons when he gets back. ‘You can read it yourself,’ she cheerfully and presciently tells him.
Jaime is brought to a family dinner with Doran, Myrcella, Trystane, and Ellaria. He suggests his niece/daughter put on something a little less revealing and she musters up some typical teen girl attitude to reply. Ahh, spoiled teen girls and their dads. Ellaria asks what brought Jaime to Dorne and he tells them about the necklace that was sent to Cersei. Myrcella says the necklace was stolen from her room. Jaime asks if this is a last supper but Doran informs him that, while many people want war, he most certainly does not, so Jaime gets to live. He suggests they drink to Tommen, but Ellaria, who’s been throwing shade and side-eye this whole time like she’s giving a master class in it, just dumps her wine on the ground. Ellaria, don’t waste good wine like that! Doran ignores her and says he’ll send Myrcella back to King’s Landing, since his king insists on it, but Trystane will go as well. Woah, that seems risky. Does he have a lot of spare sons or something? I also can’t believe he’d just hand over such a valuable bargaining chip as Myrcella. He insists Myrcella’s and Trystane’s engagement continue, and that Trystane take over his late uncle’s seat on the Small Council. I’d say Cersei won’t like that, but she’s got bigger problems right now. Jaime accepts these conditions. Ellaria gets tired of this and sneers at Doran that he has no spine. He grabs her arm and fiercely tells her that, if she speaks to him like that, this will be her last supper. She whirls out and Jaime moves on, asking if he can have Bronn back. Doran allows Trystane to decide the man’s fate. Trystane’s a pretty chill dude and says Bronn can live, but on one condition.
Down in the cells, two of the sand snakes are playing some weird slapping game. The youngest finally gets her turn and, instead of slapping her sister’s hand as she’s supposed to, just hauls off and slaps her across the face. Before fisticuffs can commence, the head guard comes and collects Bronn and brings him up to the dining royals. Bronn eyes the pie, but first we have Trystane’s one condition: Bronn gets a brutal elbow to the jaw from the guard. ‘Perhaps some soup instead,’ Doran suggests. Heh.
In Braavos, Arya’s out in her guise as the shellfish shiller, getting ready to poison the thin man, but she’s suddenly distracted by the arrival onshore of Mance Tyrell, accompanied by Meryn Trant. Meryn’s earned himself a spot on Arya’s death list, thanks to his murder of Syrio, all the way back in season one. She watches from a distance as Tyrell is welcomed by some official from the Iron Bank. Arya falls into step behind them as they make their way to the bank. The official clearly can’t stand Tyrell and is only dealing with him because he has to. He looks at the man like he’s an unpleasant bug.
Arya waits for them to come out after their business is concluded. Tyrell, for some reason, starts singing.
Later, Arya follows Trant to a brothel, which he’s visiting with two other guards. She goes inside and is nearly sent away, but one of the girls calls her over and orders up some oysters. Her client pays for the half dozen, tipping Arya well because ‘the lady likes you.’ Arya manages to track down Trant, who’s in a private area having prospective girls shown to him. He declares them too old, although they’re clearly in their teens. After a while even the madam’s starting to look a bit horrified. Nonetheless, she leaves to fetch what he wants, and while she’s gone, one of the guards finds Arya and brings her into the private area to serve up some oysters. Meryn gets a ‘hey, wait a second…’ look on his face, and then the madam returns and shoos Arya away. The woman produces some poor girl who’s maybe all of 11 and has clearly just been yanked out of the kitchen and has no idea what’s going on here or why this creepy man is now dragging her away. Uh, what’s the purpose of this? Are the powers that be afraid we might kind of like Trant? Because that’s definitely not the case, there never was anything to like about him. Do they really need to add yet another horrifying sexual exploitation to make sure we know whom we’re supposed to like and hate? Have some faith in your audience!
Arya returns to the HoBaW and tells Jaqen that the thin man wasn’t hungry that day. She promises to get the job done tomorrow.
Doran calls Ellaria for a meeting with the Sand Snakes and tells her she can either stand down or die. She thinks about it, then kneels and kisses his ring, weeping. He warns her that this is her second chance, but there will not be a third. Well, that little uprising possibility sure was a squib.
She then goes to see Jaime and makes fun of his handwriting and then starts talking about his relationship with Cersei. She’s cool with incest, because hey, what’s the big deal? Targaryens married brothers and sisters all the time! And look where they ended up! But love is love, you know? She says she knows Myrcella had no part of what happened to Oberyn, so I guess she realizes the girl shouldn’t be punished.
Stannis goes to visit with his daughter and asks what she’s reading. She tells him about the book, which is the story of two claimants fighting for the same throne. Imagine that! He asks which of those two claimants she would have chosen and she says she wouldn’t have chosen either, because the choosing is what made everything horrible. He tells her that sometimes one has to choose, and sometimes one must go forth to fulfill his destiny, possibly doing terrible things along the way. She plaintively says she wants to help him, if she can. Oh, you poor child.
Shireen is marched out to a stake, around which her father’s soldiers have gathered. Melisandre is standing beside the stake. Shireen, no idiot, immediately knows what’s up and refuses to go another step without seeing her father. Melisandre reassures her it’ll all be over soon. Shireen shakes her head and she is seized and tied to the stake. Stannis steps out as his daughter screams and begs for them not to do this. It’s absolutely horrifying to listen to. Selyse joins her husband and tries to talk herself into agreeing with this, saying the Lord would not have asked for this if it wasn’t necessary. Shireen starts screaming for her mother as Melisandre takes a flaming torch in hand and starts praying to the Lord of Light. And for the first time ever, some kind of maternal instinct kicks in and Selyse starts rushing towards the stake, as Melisandre sets it alight. She’s stopped by a group of soldiers. Shireen keeps screaming for her father, and then starts screaming in agony. And we get to sit here and listen to it right up until the end.
What in the name of GOD IS WRONG WITH THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS SHOW? Seriously, that was nuts. I’m getting really close to giving up on this whole thing, because it’s getting too disturbing. Look, I’m not some delicate flower: I’m not expecting a fairy tale here. I understand that this is a brutal world at war, and that terrible things happen. One would expect that. But the almost…gleeful manner in which violence, particularly violence against women and girls, is depicted, ramped up week after week, is sickening. It’s almost like some sort of game: how can we outdo the horrible thing we did last week? And it’s not that terrible things don’t happen to men—just look at Theon—but it seems like the things that happen to women are more frequent and worse.
And what was the point of that, anyway? Are we supposed to hate Stannis? Because now we will. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, from a character point of view. Just a few weeks ago, he was talking about how much he loved his daughter, and how he fought for her when she was sick. But now he’s just handing her over to Melisandre? I’m so befuddled by this. Even the worst characters on this show wouldn’t do this to their own children. I’m pretty sure even the Boltons would balk at burning their own 10-year-old offspring alive. This is just disturbing and bizarre. And what of Stannis’s men? Why would you risk your life to put such a complete monster on the throne? This seems like a great way to encourage soldiers who probably already have some shaky resolve to just throw up their hands and flee.
Ok, let’s just finish this. In Meereen, Dany has to attend the games at the main fighting pit, which is basically the Colosseum. She’s accompanied by Hizdhar (who shows up late), Missy, Tyrion, and Daario. The MC gets things started and fighters make their way to the arena: one clearly larger than the other. It hasn’t even started and Dany looks a bit sickened. Hizdhar tells her she has to clap to get things underway and she gives a really half-assed clap. Fighting commences. Daario tells her that you should put your money on the smaller guy, but Hizdhar disagrees. Daario says that, back in his fighting days, he was the smaller guy and he always won, because he was faster. The bigger guy wins. Hizdhar smirks. Tyrion is clearly not enjoying himself and Hizdhar asks what’s wrong. Tyrion says he feels like there’s enough killing in the world without making it his entertainment. Hizdhar shrugs that pretty much nothing is ever accomplished without bloodshed and Tyrion says that’s true, but isn’t necessarily the way things ought to be. He says that what they see here is the heart of Meereen, which has existed long before them and will exist long after. ‘My father would have liked you,’ Tyrion intones. Buuuuurn.
The next batch of fighters comes out, and Jorah is amongst them. Dany can’t seem to stop staring at him. She stares and stares and stares and Hizdhar tries to tell her to go ahead and do the clapping thing. Daario tells him to shut it. Dany gets around to it in her own good time. The fighting starts. Jorah’s having trouble with his opponent, but finally manages to overcome him, only to be faced with another, a Braavosi, if I’m not mistaken. He slices Jorah’s cheek with his blade and fights elegantly as the Braavosi do. Jorah is disarmed and about to receive a killing blow. Tyrion urges Dany to stop this, but Hizdhar says she can’t. The Braavosi is killed by another fighter. Jorah recovers and begins fighting with the last man left. He kills him, then picks up a spear and throws it right at the royal box…
…killing a Son of the Harpy that was standing right behind Daario. And suddenly the whole stadium is full of Sons of the Harpy. Oh, come on, isn’t there any security around her? They’ve already gone after her men and killed one of her best and closest advisers! Why aren’t people being searched for weapons or giant gold masks before they come into this place?
Whatever, people start to panic, SotH start just slaughtering indiscriminately, because why the hell not? A man gets his throat cut, a woman is stabbed about five times in the belly. The Unsullied, who suck at their job, it seems, move in and start trying to deal with the situation. Hizdhar tries to show Dany a way out, but is stabbed. Huh. I thought his late arrival would indicate some betrayal on his part, but I guess not. Jorah and Daario fight to protect her, and Jorah offers her his hand and helps her down from the box and onto the fighting ground, so they can try to escape. A Son, meanwhile, goes after Missy, only to be killed by Tyrion. Yeah, Tyrion! Always bet on the smaller guy! He and Missy get out of the box, but the way out of the arena is blocked by Sons. Dany and her friends are all trapped. Sons are now just pouring in, surrounding them. Missy and Dany join hands as the men keep trying to fight their way out…
…and then Drogan shows up and starts barbecuing some of the Sons. And it looks like that might turn the tide for a bit, but then the Sons regroup and start throwing spears and either those spears are seriously sharp or dragon scales aren’t as tough as I would have thought. Dany walks over to her wounded dragon, yanks a spear out (I’m guessing his roar means ‘ow, mum, that HURT!’) and climbs onto Drogon’s back. Looking a bit terrified, she says a word in High Valyrian and Drogon takes off, flying her out of there, but leaving all the others behind. Wow, Dany, that was a bitch move. Also, this CGI isn’t all that great. And I think I’m just a bit cranky tonight. I’m going to go eat some chocolate or something and try to forget about it.