This "Game of Thrones" discussion is written by someone who has read George R.R. Martin's books, but will generally only discuss events that have happened on HBO's televised version -- not that it matters much now that the show is going its own way. Still, please respect these boundaries should you choose to participate in the comments section.
Episode 5.09, "The Dance of Dragons"
FINAL SCORE: Violence 49, Sex 0
(Scoring is typically one point per dead body or nude body, though the reviewer reserves the right to add or subtract points to accurately reflect the episode's action.)
Relax, Russell Crowe. We're entertained.
Totals: One burning horse; a sisterly prison slap; a wicked backhand as punishment for hitting a prince; one scaly princess burned at the stake (NOT OKAY); a cornucopia of violence in the Meerenese fighting pits: one totally bitchin' decapitation, one Dothraki impaled, an over-the-shoulder stab to the heart, another guy speared through the chest, a deus ex machina back-stabbing, one combat roll leading to a sword in the gut and an Olympic-worthy javelin toss to kill an assassin. And then the REAL violence began.
"IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE BIASED, COMMENTARY ISN'T JOURNALISM!"
In the final crescendo: two throats cut by Sons of the Harpy; an array of sword and knife deaths in a stadium melee that totaled approximately 23 on-screen deaths; two men killed by a dragon's jaws; and approximately 15 burnt to death by dragon fire. That is an A++ way to close an episode.
Notes: The episode's final scene NEEDED to be that badass, because the penultimate one was filled with a young girl's screams for her parents, who sacrificed her to R'Hallor to, like, stop the snow or something. It was one of the hardest scenes to watch in the show's five-year run, but I may just be saying that because I have a daughter and am relatively firm in my resolve to not burn her alive. That's Father of the Year material in Westeros.
Totals: The first brothel in "Game of Thrones" history with no nudity. Seriously, there were more shellfish vendors in there than exposed breasts. Worst. Whorehouse. Ever.
Notes: This is probably the sexiest shot in the entire episode (depending on your tastes):
"I dunno, man. Her face is busted."
Episodes this devoid of sex really undermine the construct of my internet column. I DEMAND GRATUITOUS SEX TO MAKE MY FAKE NARRATIVE COMPETITION COMPELLING.
Terrible Undercover Role of the Week
Despite Arya's youth, she's never made the rash decisions of a little girl; she has a highly developed sense of vengeance and the patience to play the long game (see: The Hound dying slowly of his wounds). So I found her abandonment of Jaqen H'ghar's mission in order to stalk Ser Meryn Trant out of character. I understand she'd be shellshocked to see Trant in Braavos, but he wasn't rushing off the boat to disappear into a crowd -- she still could have given the Thin Man his oysters, THEN tailed Trant and Mace Tyrell's showtunes bonanza. The girl is training to be an assassin, she can handle some rudimentary multitasking.
And while we're on the Narrative Nitpick Express, I'll upgrade to Business Class in the "Underage Shellfish Vendor Roaming The Whorehouse" car. Granted, I've never been to a brothel, but I have a hard time believing there are child vendors going, "HOT DOGS! GET YER HOT DOGS HEAH!" (Patron: "Sure, I'm so horny that I came here to pay for sex, but y'know what? Now that I think about it, I could go for a hot dog.") If the narrative reasoning for Arya's presence is to witness Trant's taste for young girls, I would have preferred to see her sneak around in the shadows. It would have been more believable than "DOO DEE DOO, JUST CASUALLY SELLING OYSTERS IN THIS WHOREHOUSE, AS ONE DOES."
I will credit the writers for their restraint, though. It couldn't have been easy to take a character who yells "OYSTERS, CLAMS, AND COCKLES!" and NOT make an innuendo when she's inside a brothel. Some serious red ink went into that.
This Week in Horse Murder
'SCUSE ME FIREHORSE COMIN' THRU
David Benioff and D.B. Weiss -- the men responsible for adapting George R.R. Martin's novels (and now branching beyond them) -- deserve the utmost praise for their work. Excepting their troubling tone-deafness in the realm of sexual assault, they've brought an expansive fantasy world to vivid life despite draconian time constraints, all the while giving new depth and color to characters that are often forgettable in Martin's books.
But I would argue that their greatest accomplishment is the variety of ways in which they've managed to kill horses on the show: decapitation, stabbing, and now burning. Someone on this show REALLY hates horses, and I could kiss them full on the lips.
More like American Fire-oh, right guys?
(GIF via Uproxx)
Of Sands and Martells
I can't blame you if you're unhappy with the narrative in Dorne this season, as it's been filled with thin characterization and even thinner plotting. But I enjoyed it -- and not just for Tyene's jailhouse seduction. Think of it as a Westerosi telenovela: there's a plot, yes, but it's merely a skeleton for the meaty reaction shots of the broadly drawn heroes and seductresses. You don't have to speak the language to understand everything that's happening, and while I wouldn't want a full 60 minutes of that every week, I can appreciate that kind of visual storytelling in small doses.
Let's count down the best faces in this week's episode of my favorite soap opera, "The Sands of Dorne."
4. I AM THE SEXY ONE! TELL ME AGAIN! I NEED COMPLIMENTS TO LIVE!
3. NUH-UH, GIRL
2. When you read Internet comments:
How's Jon feeling this week?
Awww, buddy. C'mon, get out of the cold. Here, I made you some cocoa. You can look out the window and listen to The Smiths, I swear it'll help.
And does no one at The Wall have a hat? That's a pretty serious logistical oversight. Like, winter has been coming for like five seasons. Y'all have had time to get fur hats.
Coming from Marvel Studios in 2017 ...
The Council of Meereen! Starring:
- Tyrion Lannister as the Iron Liver, an outsider thrust into the role of leader
- Jorah Mormont as the Stone Man, the prodigal knight with a terminal illness
- Daario Naharis as the Sellsword -- dangerous looks, and a deadly blade
- Missandei as the Interpreter, the former slave with a magic tongue
If the Referees Try to Pull That No-Call Bullshit on LeBron in Cleveland
(GIF via Uproxx)
I wonder if the reaction shots of the crowd were a simple device to add drama, or if they were an intentional nod to live sports telecasts. Either way, the cutaways to the Meereenese crowd gave the gladiator fights a sporty overtone, and I can't help but picture the bloggers of Essos hard at work making screencaps and GIFs of the fights from Meereen. (ANNOUNCER BRYNT MOSSBURGH: "Fifteen hundred red-blooded slaves just decided to apply for the fighting pits.")
- "Oysters, clams, and cockles!": 5
- "Oysters, clams, and cock--": 1
- Pissed-off glares at Jon: 7
- Rage Against The Machine album covers: at least one
DNP, Coach's Decision (band name edition)
Tommen and the Prison Queens; High Sparrow and the Burlap Revolution; Ramsay and the Firestarters; Ser Pounce and the Direwolves.