Just when you thought last week’s White Walker invasion was the only action-packed scene we were getting before the season finale, this week’s penultimate “The Dance of Dragons” episode gives us a nice surprise, along with one of the best moments in the series.
Last week’s epic battle proved that winter has indeed arrived, revving up the tension in Stannis’ pilgrimage to King’s Landing. His journey, though, takes a bit of a setback when his campsite is set afire in the middle of the night, killing hundreds of his men and horses. The King’s hand, Davvos, thinks it was a band of 20 or so men. Regardless, Stannis is more determined than ever to take King’s Landing and battle it out with Bolton’s army. How determined he is, unfortunately, is something we see in this episode. Just in time for Father’s Day, Stannis proves he’s the worst dad in the world. In the previous seasons he’s been unwaveringly committed to Melisandre and her prophetic visions. He’s seen firsthand what the Lord of Light can do and has had a helping hand in sacrificing people in the Lord’s name to make him King. A few weeks ago, Melisandre asked Stannis to make another sacrifice to propel her vision forward – his daughter Shireen. Before he refused, but this time the determined Stannis, never one to back down once his mind is made up, agrees. Shireen is burned at the stake, a sacrifice to the Lord of Light, while a stone-still Stannis watches. Shireen cries out for her mother and father, only the former of which, Selyse, caves to her emotions and tries to save her daughter. Eventually her screaming stops, but not Stannis’ journey to the throne.
In the North, Jon arrives with what’s left of the Wildlings. With their spirits low and heads bowed, the Wildlings are allowed through the Wall by the recalcitrant ravens, who’re unsure of what they’re getting themselves into.
In Dorne, Prince Doran, not wanting to stir trouble with the Lannisters, agrees to let Myrcella return home. She’s less reluctant this time when she learns her beau Trystane will go with her and take Oberyn’s place at the small council. Oberyn’s lover and mother to one of his daughters, Ellaria, is far from happy from this arrangement. She has every intention of getting her revenge on the Lannisters – it was Tyrion who Oberyn was fighting for when he was defeated by The Mountain during a duel and thus the Lannisters who she blames for his untimely death. She was the one who most likely sent Cersei Myrcella’s necklace in a snake’s grip – a symbol Cersei took as threatening and rushed Jaime and Bron over to rescue her. Bron, however, is still locked up, but the phlegmatic Doran lets Trystane decide his fate. Trystane agrees to let him go, a little worse than when he was jailed, but still alive. Meanwhile, Doran is not happy with how insubordinate Ellaria has been acting since Oberyn’s death. The Prince lets her know she has no more chances with him after he pardons her.
In Braavos, Arya goes out on one of her first assignments from Jaqen. She is to assassinate the Thin Man, as he calls him, slipping him a vile of some kind of poison, as she poses as an oyster vendor on the streets. She backs out of her plan when she sees one of the people on her hit list: Meryn Trant talking to Lord Tyrell as they arrive to Braavos on boat. She follows Trant into a brothel, where she learns he’s only sexually interested in young girls. Trant spots Arya, but whether he recognizes her is hard to tell. She goes back to the House of Black and White and tells Jaqen she was unable to accomplish her mission for the Many Faced God, it’s unsure whether he believed her or not, but it seems clear she is not ready to become no one. Trant is very much a part of Arya’s past, and her unwillingness to carry out her task proves she’s not ready to say goodbye to her.
In Meereen, Daenerys watches yet more carnage in the fighting pits – something you can visibly notice she regrets reinstating in the city. Yet, she watches out of duty and in order to keep order. Things seems violently normal until Jorah makes it out into the arena, someone Daenerys thought she’d never see again after she banished him, under Tyrion’s advice, from the city. After his banishment, however, he agreed to be owned by a slaveowner in order to fight for the Queen under his own free will. Daenerys doesn’t stop him from fighting in her name again, she claps – the sign that the fighting will begin – and watches him fight for her honor. Jorah, despite his age and ailment – he attained grayscale a few episodes back on his journey to bring Tyrion to Dany as a gift and symbol of his commitment to her – wins the fight against five other men. Not soon after there is an assassination attempt on the Queen, which Jorah is the first to catch with a projectile spear to the masked assailant’s chest mere feet from Dany. Daario and the Unsullied create a barrier between Dany and the Sons of the Harpy – the masked rebels who’ve been slaughtering Unsullied and the people of Meereen all season long. The Sons take no prisoners and spare no one, slitting the throats of innocent bystanders in the stands and all in their way of the Queen. Rounding up Dany and her crew like cattle in the middle of the stadium, the Sons surround them. Dany takes Missandei’s hand and closes her eyes, ready to die and is surprised when her rogue Dragon, Drogon, arrives. He takes out a few Sons, several at a time, with the thrust of his tail and sending them aflame. He takes a few spears to his neck, back and wings, but is relatively okay. Dany, unafraid, approaches. It takes Drogon a while to recognize her, but when he does he lets her climb onto his back before taking flight again and leaving her spectators – Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei speechless as they watch their Queen fly away from the grisly battle.