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Game of Thrones: The Dance of Dragons


Last season, Cersei Lannister told Oberyn Martell that “they hurt little girls everywhere in the world.” Although Oberyn disagreed—and although Dorne does seem to be a kindly place, at least in comparison with the rest of Westeros and Essos—this episode suggests that Cersei may be right.

Shireen’s death was this episode’s OMG moment. Stannis has gotten more sympathetic of late, both by correcting the grammar of the men of the Night’s Watch and in discussing his daughter, whom he clearly loved. So perhaps you—like I—forgot that he’s a ruthless pragmatist who believes he is doing the right thing, and apparently weighs the “rightness” of his kingship as more important than the “rightness” of taking care of his family.

That’s my best guess, at least. His motives seem a bit opaque to me: does he want to be king, and justify it with his right to inherit the throne from Robert? Does he think the threats that Melissandre describes are so real that he must be king to save the kingdom? Or is that a convenient excuse for his lust for the crown? His willingness to cross the line—or his exhibition of the utter lack of lines in his mind—makes me wonder if he’d even be any good as a ruler. He’s certainly a shit father. (And, as of this episode, he’s yet another childless ruler vying for a throne. Does no one think of succession?!)

After all, even Selyse—who is, from what we’ve seen, more attached to the Lord of Light than her own daughter—realized they’d made a huge mistake. I wonder if Selyse will start to do the math on that realization: if it’s not right to kill Shireen, who is it right to kill in pursuit of power? I’m curious to see if Stannis killing Shireen leads to any sort of action from Selyse. (I’m also curious to see what Davos thinks of it all, since Stannis sent him away, of course, before doing something awful.)

Myrcella’s plot may have been less gut-wrenching than Shireen’s, but it still fits with Cersei’s quote, which was originally said about Myrcella's vulnerability in Dorne. Jaime and Bronn went to Dorne to protect Myrcella, and wound up getting a taste of women who can protect themselves just fine. In Myrcella’s story—as in Dany’s this week—it’s the vulnerability of women that gets men injured, dead, or (as in Bronn’s case) knocked in the teeth.

Arya, on the other hand, seems to be moving from a “little girl” to a grown woman. Her arc this season is supposed to be one in which she loses her identity—that is J’acquen’s goal—but I think her new skills are helping her become the person she is supposed to be. Her chance encounter with Meryn Trant, who has been on her kill list for a while, was a study in contrasts: Arya is a girl who has learned to take care of herself, but the too-young prostitute is a girl who hasn’t had that opportunity, and who is made vulnerable by the house madam. “They” may “hurt little girls” everywhere, but there are also quite a few girls who can hurt right back.

As evidenced by Dany’s adventures in Mereen, which suggest an extension of Cersei’s ideas about the vulnerability of little girls. Dany has, quite literally, come through the fire and out the other side. Although her governance skills require some work, she is not vulnerable: her menfolk want to protect her (how vulnerable they are, and for what, could be the subject if a different review).

Plus, she has a dragon. Drogon loves Dany—the look in his eyes was unmistakable, and evocative of how Ser Friend Zone stares at her. But on the symbolic level, Drogon and the other, confined dragons represent the thing that makes Dany different. Different from the other girls, both little and grown, but also different from everyone. Dany’s dragons are what make her powerful, even as she seems afraid to harness that power.

Before her death, Shireen told her father about an event in Westerosi history: the “Dance of Dragons,” in which Rhaenyra and Aegon Targaryen vied for the Iron Throne. Each had dragons, and the result was complete devastation. Rhaenyra and Dany are examples of used-to-be-little girls who held their own with some herpetological assistance. They’re also examples of the potential destruction that dragons represent.

Right now, Drogon and the other dragons are Dany’s ace in the hole. But this episode’s title forces us to think about what sort of fresh misery Drogon might visit on Westeros. It forces us to consider who, exactly, Dany might be “dancing” with, or which characters are performing their own “dance” sans dragons. Is there any character who could match her claim to the throne, her power over others, and her dragon-wielding power?

Jon, unlike Dany, doesn’t seem to be harnessing his power to well. Whereas Dany was beset by the Sons of the Harpy, it’s looking like Jon is about to be beset by his own men. Olly, in particular, was giving him the stink-eye. He’ll have to do some serious diplomacy to make things okay with the Night’s Watch. Otherwise, he might discover the corollary to Cersei’s dictum: they don’t just hurt little girls everywhere. They hurt everybody everywhere.

Reminder: The comments on these episode reviews are appropriate for newbies. If you haven't read the books, you're safe! If you have read the books and would like to talk about upcoming events, please do so here, in our Season Five book spoiler thread.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)


  1. Emotionally devastating episode. Platinum acting stars to the girl playing Shireen. Her pleas and shrieks were utterly gut-wrenching.
    What a monster Stannis is, after all. Reminds me of Walter White. He broke his bad when he killed is brother, via having sex with Melissandre, and now he'll only get worse. All in the name of "justice". Horrible.

    The scene at the arena was also very powerful, with Sons of the Harpy killing everyone in sight(?). What a comeback for Ser Friendzone! But, I can't help but think: "What will happen to the ones left behind in the arena"?

    How on earth will this season end?

  2. I honestly did not think Stannis could go through with it. As for his motives, as near as I can figure he's just always been in the shadow of his older borther. He was in Robert's shadow for years, largely not valued. I think over time Stannis began to resent everyone for his fate of being banished to Dragonstone and people basically forcing him out of the loop. Now that it's finally his time he wants to claim the throne because he was in the shadows so long and to make any who did him unjustice pay.

  3. So I guess Stannis never read Homer; he'd better get busy reading. Agamemnon wanted to sack Troy but offended the gods, who becalmed his ships and required him to sacrifice his oldest daughter to get the winds back and make it to Troy. So he sacrificed her, at least in some tellings. And later he was killed by his wife, for that and other reasons. Just sayin'...


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