Game of Thrones: Good Week for Redemption-Seekers, Bad Week for Girls

Oriana Schwindt
Helen Sloan/HBO

Game of Thrones

So. This episode's title is "The Dance of Dragons," and boy howdy, did it deliver on that "Dragons" front. For the history-minded: Shireen Baratheon informed us, the Dance of the Dragons was a titanic struggle between Aegon II Targaryen and his half-sister Rhaenyra that blew out into a full-scale war and ended in thousands of deaths and years of instability. Tonight, it meant the reunion of Dany and Drogon in rather breathtaking fashion.

We'll get back to Shireen in a moment.

There were a lot of other things that happened, as is usual with the second-to-last episode of the season: Prince Doran agreed to send Myrcella home with Jaime, as long as his son Trystane goes along, too. Mace Tyrell let us hear his lovely baritone, and Ser Meryn Trant is a pedophile. The Sons of the Harpy completely ruined Meereen's Great Games by murdering the hell out of everyone—including Dany's betrothed, Hizdahr Zo Loraq, not that anyone will miss him—and it took Drogon's appearance to save the day.

But the joy we should have felt at seeing Dany ride off on Drogon's back had already been turned to ashes in our mouth before we knew it existed. Stannis, beleaguered by both winter and a small force of Bolton guerillas, chose to make the ultimate sacrifice to R'hllor: his daughter Shireen. The lovely, kind little girl who taught people to read, and who clearly had a good head on her shoulders and might actually have made a good queen some day. Stannis allowed Melisandre to burn her alive, so Stannis could receive some kind of miracle and continue marching on Winterfell.

There are myriad problems with introducing that kind of horror only slightly more than halfway through the episode. It isn't that this was an out-of-character move for Stannis. He's so totally bought into the idea of being the Red God's chosen vessel that it makes sense for him to be that committed. As he said, he so knows who he is that it hardly even qualifies as a choice. However: Is this something we didn't already know? Furthermore, we had already just witnessed the horrible fate of one young girl (Ser Meryn at the Braavosi brothel). This is a brutal world, but that's already been established over the last five seasons. Your audience doesn't need a full minute of a girl's shrieking while she's burned alive by her father's priestess to get that.

It wasn't all bad for everyone, we suppose, but it's becoming increasingly more difficult to balance these out. Here's whom the gods smiled upon, and who had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

A Good Week For…

Arya Stark

Looks like she's going to be able to cross another name off her list soon! If Ser Meryn doesn't die horribly at her hands next week, that'll be yet another tragedy.

Jorah Mormont

He finally won back his place by Dany's side! Being willing to fight to the death for her pleasure ("pleasure"), spearing a Son of the Harpy… All very good. Though of course Drogon had to butt in just as he was closing the protector-deal. Showoff.

A Bad Week For…

Shireen Baratheon

Innocent, adorable, smart Shireen. You poor child. Ser Davos is going to go ballistic when he hears about this—though he probably figured it would happen while he was gone. (This is another reason this is a narratively questionable choice: Would Davos really stay loyal to Stannis after something like this? Isn't that kind of blind devotion just as dangerous as the madness the Targaryens began showing at the end of their dynasty?)

Daario Naharis

Man, that whole long speech about how the little guy always wins because the big guys are too dumb and slow was rather ill-advised. On the plus side, at least Hizdahr didn't get to enjoy his little wit-victory for very long.

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