Despite last week’s extended heart attack of an episode, the GOT writers have obviously decided our tickers haven’t taken enough punishment yet, so “The Dance of Dragons” takes the entire audience’s hearts out of their chests, throws them on the ground and then stomps down hard.
Screw you, Stannis. How could you?
I guess those of us who thought that the show might – having already regaled us with rape and murder and cannibalism and all that other cheery stuff – stop short of ritual child sacrifice were relying more on optimism than experience. There’s a horrible inevitability to GOT killing characters we like, because that’s what GOT does, but, even so, the beautifully-acted, gut-punchingly directed and unapologetically horrific murder of poor, kind, sweet Shireen was a line I wish they hadn’t crossed. The show certainly makes its point about the dangers of religious fanaticism combined with the dogmatic pursuit of power, but this is one of those episodes when, call me soft, but I’d much rather have had a miracle than another lesson on how appalling humanity can be, undeniably powerful though that lesson is.
Sigh. Difficult though all this is to watch, however, the acting is magnificent, so kudos to Stephen Dillane, Liam Cunningham and especially to Kerry Ingram, an immensely likeable, talented young actress whom I hope goes on to do lots of fun tv that lets her live longer in the future.
Moving further north, then, Shireen may no longer be with us, but Jon Snow, against all odds, lives to fight another episode. So far. He and his beleaguered band of Brothers, Free Folk and one Giant return to Castle Black and, in a supremely tense moment, it’s even money whether they’ll be allowed back in or whether the mutiny begins now…. But Ser Alliser chooses duty to the Lord Commander and opens the gate. For now. “You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It’ll get us all killed.” Please not next week, though, eh? I need some time to recover first.
Across the sea in Dorne, meanwhile, Illyria Sand agrees (with some difficulty) to get a grip of herself, and Prince Doran agrees to send Jaime, Myrcella and Prince Trystane back to Kings Landing (presumably they don’t know yet it’s open season on royalty there). The rapprochement is a tad abrupt and tidy, if it’s genuine, but it does mean Indira Varma has a nice scene with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and if it gets us away from the resolutely charmless Sand Snakes, carry on.
Speaking of charmless, I’m going to skip past Arya and Ser Meryn in Boring Braavos because… nope, still don’t care, and head right to the Fighting Pits of Meereen where, after last week’s ice-fest, it’s time for fire to take centre-stage at the Fighting Pits Fun Day (or whatever their big tournament thingy’s called).
As stupid Daenerys sits pouting in her stupid white dress and stupid fantasy blonde curls, Tyrion, Daario and the Head of One of Meereen’s Great Families (nope, still don’t know his name) say smart, quippy things (even if Daario’s mostly involve the metaphorical production of a ruler for anatomical measurement purposes) till Jorah comes out and everyone gets all serious and worried. Turns out, however, that Jorah fighting for his life as some sort of live-action love letter to Daenerys (Dude, she doesn’t want you – just Give. It. Up. Already.) is only a prelude to the main event which is a full-on, fantastic, Sons of the Harpy ambush interrupted by a dragon. Oh, yes. This is all brilliantly shot – the direction and CGI are incredible again this week – and as exciting as all get-out, although Dany just sort of standing there, the battle raging round about her, till she can fly away on her dragon says everything there is to say about this character. On her own, she is static, with absolutely nothing to offer, so…. just as well she’s got three freaking enormous dragons for pets, then, isn’t it?