Subtitle: last week ice, this week fire
Let’s start in Dorne. I don’t think anyone in Dorne knows why they’re in this story but they are all acting the hell out of what they are given (which, actually, is a pretty apt description of this entire season). The meeting between Prince Doran and Ser Jaime is family drama at it’s best. Jaime is scandalized by how much skin Myrcella has on display, Ellaria is furious to be breaking bread with evil double dealing Lannisters, Trystane and Myrcella appear to be one step away from elopement, and Doran is exhausted with the lot of them. Despite all this Doran and Jaime come to an agreement that allows everyone to stay alive, which is somewhat shocking and closer to what Ned Stark would do than what Tywin Lannister or Oberyn Martell would do — but all three are dead so you know what? There’s only one rule in the Game of Thrones: everybody dies.
Bronn is set free on the condition he gets slapped the way he slapped Trystane, and the Sand Snakes are set free on the condition that Ellaria ends her rebellion and swears her allegiance to Doran. Both conditions met, everybody moves on. Ellaria takes the time to tell Jaime she know Myrcella is innocent of any wrongdoing in regards to Oberyn, which is amazing character development, and also that she’s totally down with his incestuous romance cuz hey those Targaryens did it for generations and they turned out fine, right? Jaime makes this face:
And so do I. That said, I’d be okay with Ellaria joining the road trip back to the capital and becoming Jaime’s new bestie.
Jon arrives back at the Wall with a company of traumatized wildlings, and few supplies because they had to flee. He does not look at all confident that Thorne will let him in because Jon Snow and Wildlings are the two things Thorne hates the most. But he opens the gate and the downtrodden walk in. Thorne tells Jon he’s a good man that will get them all killed and once again Olly glares from the sidelines. If looks could kill Jon would be dead twenty times over at this point — will anyone anywhere be surprised when Olly shows up to murder him in his sleep?
Speaking of murderous preteens, Arya is set to poison the insurance swidler she’s contracted to kill when she glimpses Ser Meryn Trant and realizes she’d much rather kill him. Ser Meryn, you probably don’t recall (I didn’t), has a spot on Arya’s Kill List for killing her dancing teacher Syrio Forel (way way back in season one). Or more rightly, allegedly killing Syrio, as neither Arya nor the audience witnessed it. There’s a popular theory that “Jaquen” is secretly Syrio. I think it’d be cool if the Waif is secretly Syrio, though Jaquen makes more sense probably.
So, Arya ditches her contract to stalk Ser Meryn and learns that he is the worst of the worst. Meryn heads to his favorite brothel and has a private look see of the merchandise but deems them all too old — it’s strongly suggested he wants an underage virgin to despoil. I am very concerned I can see where this is going and I can only hope and pray to every god that Arya destroys him before he touches her.
Speaking of sacrificing children for the greater murder, we catch up with Team Stannis outside Winterfell and it’s all terrible. Ramsay’s twenty good men succeed in mucking up Stannis’s camp, army, and confidence so well he turns to the Dark Side for help. First he sends Davos away because he has no time for a conscience right now. Davos wants to take Shireen with him (WHY DIDN’T DAVOS TAKE SHIREEN WITH HIM SOB!) but Stannis refuses so he gives his princess a toy stag to remind her of her worth.
Stannis then goes to Shireen to get her permission to do what must be done to win this war. Shireen tells him, with words, there is a third choice but he’s too far gone and only hears her request to help him, and her pride to be his daughter, the princess. And thus is her fate sealed:
Stannis hands his only daughter over to Melisandre and the priestess ties her to a stake and burns her in front of her mother, her father, and his entire army. Because Davos was sent away only Selyse tries to stop it happening. When Selyse — the woman who spent Shireen’s entire life verbally, emotionally, and physically abusing her, as well as literally praying she would die — is the only one acting with some sense of compassion, you know things are really really horribly screwed up.
During the burning, the camera pans away from Shireen so we see the reaction of the onlookers and hear her screaming off screen which is similar to what happened during Sansa’s rape. As horrific as the entire sequence is, that choice doesn’t bother me as much here because the action has nothing to do with the characterization of Shireen. Her story is terribly and tragically over and what matters is that Melisandre watched through the flames, Stannis stood stone faced, Selyse fought her way to the front to stop it, and the soldiers stood by and watched, some even forcibly holding the queen back. What kind of people watch a child burn to death? I don’t want to count myself among them.
Interestingly, Tyrion makes a similar comment in regards to the fighting pits in Mereen. He, like Daenerys herself, has little use for murder games saying “There’s always been more than enough death in the world for my taste. I can do without it in my leisure time.” It’s a strangely meta comment in a series known for its unapologetically brutal violence in the name of entertainment.
The box of dignitaries debate on death sports is halted when Jorah appears in the ring. Daenerys, Tyrion, and even Daario are concerned about his fate while Hizdahr argues even more vehemently against interference. But Jorah can’t die before he infects someone with the scaley plague so he survives again — and just in time to save Dany’s life (also again) with a well placed spear through the heart of a masked assassin. Unfortunately, the crowd is full of them and Team Dany find themselves suddenly surrounded by Sons of the Harpy determined to end her reign.
Daario shouts to the royal guard of former unsullied to “Protect your queen!” Hizdahr goes down despite many hints that he was in on the attack. Tyrion saves Missandei like a boss. Dany accepts Jorah back into her service either because third time’s the charm or because she’s surrounded by an angry mob whose main goal is to kill her. Or love, it could be love. I mean, probability low, but no one expected Jorah to still be around/alive either, right?
Aside: there remains the question of Jorah’s secret affliction, that is passed by touch…but I believe the actual greyscale has to touch skin and the patch we’ve seen is covered by Jorah’s bracer. So Daenerys, and everyone else, should be safe from that.
Aside to the aside: anyone else think Jorah is secretly pleased he caught greyscale because now he’s more like a DRAGON?
But they’re unable to find an escape route and find themselves in the pits, fighting for their lives. I think Tyrion wins the debate. It looks bad for our heroes but Drogon makes his triumphant return. As Team Dany look on with shock and awe Drogon sets the mob on fire, snacks on a few of his mommy’s enemies, and stomps on others. Watching, Daenerys recovers her footing, remembers who she is, and climbs on her dragon to escape into the sky.
Team Dany continue to look on with shock and awe. And trepidation because she just took their secret weapon away. But it’s okay, next week they join a boy band.
Next week: the season finale
Winning: Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen
Dead: precious baby princess Shireen Baratheon