‘Game of Thrones’ Season 5 Episode 9 Recap: The Dance of Dragons

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 9 Recap
Liam Cunningham and Kerry Ingram in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 5 episode 9 (Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO)

Welcome to another episode of Game of Thrones, season 5. We’re closing in on the end, with only two episodes left. (ALREADY?!) Frankly, I don’t know how they’re going to top the madness and mayhem of last week’s fateful battle at Hardhome between the Wildlings, a handful of men from the Night’s Watch (including Jon Snow), and a massive army of White Walkers.

The title “The Dance of Dragons” of season five episode 9 would suggest we’ll be spending at least a bit of time in Meereen with Daenerys Targaryen (and hopefully, Tyrion Lannister), although from the preview, we also know we’ll be seeing more of Arya…er…Lana…er “the girl who wants to be no one” as she stalks the streets of Braavos. (I know assassins aren’t supposed to be “cute”, but Arya [Maisie Williams] looks like MinMei from Robotech with her hair in those little “mouse-ears.”); we’ll spend some time in Dorne with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Prince Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig), in the snow with King Stannis the Intrepid (Stephen Dillane), and there was a quick flash of the Red Witch (Carice van Houten). They’d better not be plotting against Shireen! (*shakes fist*) And of course we’ll need to check in with everyone at The Wall. Looks to me like Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) is about to attempt a coupe. Hmmpf.

The official HBO log line: “Stannis confronts a troubling decision. Jon (Kit Harington) returns to The Wall. Mace Tyrell (Roger Ashton-Griffiths) visits the Iron Bank. Arya encounters someone from her past. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) reluctantly oversees a traditional celebration of athleticism.”

Let’s begin, shall we?

We open in the camp of the army of the One True King (Stannis Baratheon). Suddenly, fires spring up all over camp. Even the Red Witch is stunned. Now we know what Ramsey Bolton wanted with those 20 men he asked for last week. He managed to get behind Stannis’ lines and destroy their weapons. Ser Davos (Liam Cunningham) is giving a report of the damage, wondering what Stannis plans to do now, when he sees Melisandre and Queen Grumpy-pants (Tara Fitzgerald) staring at the king. I fear for Shireen! Stannis orders the dead horses to be butchered for meat (so at least his army will eat thanks to Ramsey’s treachery) and then goes off with the Sisters Grimm.

Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 9 Recap The Dance of Dragons
John Bradley and Kit Harington in ‘Game of Thrones’ (Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO)

At the Wall, Ser Alliser glowers from his perch, making Jon and company stand around freezing before deigning to open the gates. As the Wildlings file in, Jon tells Sam (John Bradley) that his mission failed. Sam, bless him, tries to cheer up his friend. (He probably can’t wait to tell him all about the source of his sunny outlook and get his manly fist-bumps. Now that Jon is the Lord Commander will he be okay with Sam breaking his vows? Do as I say, not as I do?) The gigantic wilding makes his way through camp, a great big huge reminder to Olly that here be the f*ckers who killed his parents (at least he wasn’t muttering “Fe Fi Fo Fum”). Olly glares at Jon (because everything is all his fault, because he knows nothing, after all. I, however, know that the interwebz are abuzz with the theory that Jon Snow is not long for this world and Olly will be the one to take him out of it. This isn’t a spoiler because I could very well be wrong, but D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are certainly setting the stage, if it’s true.)

Stannis has decided that the best use of Ser Davos’ time and skills, is for him to go the Wall for supplies and uh, oh yeah, take a message. Davos, who is Hand of the King, and knows his place is beside said king, sees this for the ruse that it is, a ploy to get him out of camp. Davos even offers to take Shireen with him, but of course Stannis says no, his “family stays with” him. Run Shireen! Run!

Princess Shireen the Sweet and Innocent (Kerry Ingram) is in her tent reading a story called “The Dance of Dragons.” Davos gives her a present of a hand-carved stag, the sigil of House Baratheon. If only it could act as a talisman of protection.

In Dorne, Jaime is marched before the Prince where he finds Ellaria (Indira Varma) as well as Romeo and Juliet, I mean Trystane (Toby Sebastian) and Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free), waiting for him. One big happy family having cocktails. While Prince Doran is not happy with the way that Jaime and Bronn arrived in Dorne, he’s smart enough not to want to start a war over it, especially since it was Ellaria’s unsubtle message that brought him there in the first place. He tells Jaime that he’s not holding Myrcella hostage, but the engagement stands and Myrcella will marry Trystane. Trystane will also take Oberyn’s place on the Small Council. Ellaria is not happy and very rudely refuses to drink to King Tommen. Doran tells her basically to shape up or ship out.

Down in the dungeon, Bronn (Jerome Flynn) is watching the Sand Snakes play patty-cake and bicker when Doran’s axe-man arrives to bring him before Prince Doran and Trystane, who will grant Bronn his freedom after answering the “slight” Bronn visited upon his royal personage. The big ax-man gives him a hard elbow in the face and all is forgiven.

In Braavos, “Lana” is hawking her fish throughout the streets, preparing to kill her “assignment,” the gambling “thin man” we met last week, when Mace Tyrell, accompanied by Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), arrive by boat. Since Meryn Trant is on Arya’s “Kill List,” she’s of course distracted. (Is this what she was really meant to discover or will Jaqen be unhappy that she didn’t stick to the mission?)

Why is Mace singing in the middle of the square? No matter, Arya is stalking Meryn. She follows him into a brothel, still carrying her cargo of oysters. She watches Meryn refuse the whores on offer as being “too old”. It really looked like Arya was about to volunteer when her oyster cover is blown. Meryn Trant gets a look at her though. He recognizes her, but he can’t figure out from where.

Back in the House of Black and White, Arya tells Jaqen (Tom Wlaschiha) that the “thin man wasn’t hungry today,” but she’ll try again tomorrow. He knows she’s not telling him the whole truth and sends her to do her chores.

In Dorne we find out that the line in the preview “You can swear your allegiance to me or you can die” wasn’t spoken to Jaime as we were led to believe, but to Ellaria. In tears, she kneels at Doran’s feet and kisses his hand. “I believe in second chances,” he says. “I do not believe in third chances.” She looks sincere, but I do not believe in her tears.

The next minute we see Ellaria alone with Jaime, telling him she knows about his relationship with Cersei but not to worry, she does not disapprove. “We love who we love and we want who we want.” She also tells him that she knows he had no part in Oberyn’s death. I don’t trust this repentant Ellaria any more than I’d trust a repentant Cersei.

In Stannis’ tent, sweet little Shireen is telling her father about the legend of the Targaryens and the dragons and the divide of the kingdoms. He asks her which of the two warring Targaryens she would have chosen to side with. She says neither of them. Her father tells her, “When a man knows what he is and remains true to himself, the choice is no choice at all. He must fulfill his destiny and become who he is meant to be, no matter how much he may hate it.”

Carice van Houten (Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO)
Carice van Houten (Photo: Helen Sloan / HBO)

Shireen doesn’t know what he means (BUT WE DO!!) and offers to help him any way she can. Stannis, who it is obvious feels that he has no choice but to do what he’s about to do, especially after Ramsey has managed to cripple his army, enfolds her in his arms and whispers, “Forgive me.” (NO! NOW WE WON’T!) The next thing we see is brave, but unaware, Shireen trudging through the snow, surrounded by guards, to a stake. The Red Witch pops out in front of her to very creepily tell her that it will “all be over soon, Princess” as Shireen finally figures out what all of this means and screams for her father.

The poor girl’s mother stands with Stannis telling him it’s for the greater good. Melisandre is babbling about the Lord of Light while Shireen is still screaming and the fire is lit. Finally, Queen Selyse remembers that this is her child about to be roasted like a marshmallow and tries to get to her, but is held back. Stannis’ army is sickened. (How long before they turn on him? I doubt if any of them signed on for burning children alive.) The Idiot Queen is horrified (so is Stannis truth be told, but what could he do? Destiny, yadda yadda yadda and all that crap) as she should be. Her devotion to the Lord of Light has just cost her her only child. May she live forever to reflect in agony on what she’s just done.

The games are beginning in Meereen. Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) is late and like a good wife-to-be, Dany wants to know where he’s been (especially since this was all his idea, yeah?). While the pitmaster (Nicholas Boulton) gets the crowd worked up, Dany looks alternately bored and disdainful. Daario Naharis (Michiel Huisman) is acting like a jealous suitor, baiting Hizdahr. She’s obviously still quite smitten with him, to her betrothed’s annoyance.

The first fight ends with a swift beheading. Tyrion, who gets to sit in the Royal Box, is not having a good time. Suddenly, it’s Jorah (Iain Glen) in the pit. Dany thought he was gone. She is stirred, but is she afraid for him or does she want to see him die? Jorah bests the bigger man. He looks to his queen before taking on his next comer. He’s wounded. Tyrion, who doesn’t want to watch his newfound friend die, asks her to stop the fight. The crowd cries for blood. Dany doesn’t want to see him die either, but thinks stopping the fight will show weakness (plus she STILL isn’t ready to forgive him) and does nothing. A Meereenese fighter saves Jorah but takes him on himself. Jorah prevails, the crowd is not happy.

Suddenly Jorah throws a spear toward the Queen and for an instant we wonder if this was his goal all along (but how could we have misjudged him so badly?). No, his target is behind her! A masked Son of the Harpy was about to attack Dany! Daario looks up and the crowd is now full of masked Sons of the Harpy. It’s an ambush. Hizdahr is murdered (I guess this was the “Red Engagement Party”) and Daario lets Jorah step in to save Dany again. Tyrion saves Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). Dany, Jorah, Tyrion, Missandei and Daario become trapped in the pit surrounded by Harpys.

Dany takes Missandei’s hand, preparing to die.

A dragon is heard in the distance and everyone turns to see the prodigal son…er dragon, the fire-breathing Drogon, swoop in! Those he doesn’t eat, he barbeques. Even cynical Tyrion is left speechless at the sight of him. Whether he intended to or he was just looking for his next meal, Drogon saves the day. The Harpys throw spears and the dragon is injured in the fight, but he recognizes his “mother.” Before the Harpys can kill her baby, or her, she climbs on his back and flies out of the pit. (I guess everyone else is left to fend for themselves.) This is a HUGE moment for Daenerys and for the show as a whole. (But I have to say, and this is JMHO, the CGI is not very impressive.)

And we’re out.

Well that was quick! That episode flew by (no pun intended). Next week is the season finale, and while I have no hopes that all (or any) loose ends will be tied up within that last hour, I hope we get at least a few things resolved. As you can see in the preview below, Stannis has to try to get past what he just did to his daughter and advance his freakin’ army. He’d better at least be able to liberate Winterfell. We see Sansa preparing for something and it looks like we’ll catch up with Brienne and Pod at long last. Please let her be of some use before it’s too late! There was a brief glimpse of a haggard looking Cersei, with Jaime’s voice echoing Ellyria Sands words. Is he going to spring her from the big house? Will she be the same old Cersei when he does? Questions to ponder until next week, same bat time, same bat channel.

I’m still not over Shireen, so I only have a few memorable lines from episode 9 for you tonight:

“I fight for your glory.” (must be Meereenese for “We who are about to die salute you.”)

“You have a good heart Jon Snow. It will get us all killed.” – Alliser Thorne

“It’s easy to confuse what is, with what ought to be.” – Tyrion Lannister

A look back: Game of Thrones season 5 episode 8 “Hardhome” recap

– By Sheri Young

Sheri Young
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