In the wake of last week’s best episode in the series yet comes yet another strong one. ‘The Dance Of Dragons’ takes its cue from the title of the fifth book in the series, and this seems pretty apt.
At this point, most of the major storylines in the book have almost been caught up with – the amount of chances for fans of the books to whisper in viewers’ ears “You won’t believe what happens next” are becoming less and less by the moment.
Even so, there’s still time for the show to provide moments that no one saw – indeed, wanted to see – coming. Ranking up there with that infamous Sansa scene for the most horrific moment of the series is the ritual sacrifice of Shireen Baratheon, approved by her own father.
Stannis has always come across as righteous. Extremely ruthless, yes, but righteous nonetheless, guided by pragmatism and reason. At least that’s how he has come across. Now, everyone can see him for what he is: a delusional fantasist who is willing to sacrifice his own flesh and blood in pursuit of power.
When the battle between him and Ramsay finally takes place, it’s going to be genuinely hard to pick a side. It’s probably a bit too optimistic to hope that they somehow kill each other, but we won’t particularly mourn for either of them, as surely one of them isn’t walking away from this.
Game Of Thrones has always stood out due to the moral shades of grey exhibited in its characters, but even by its standards, this is dark. The amount of characters we can genuinely root for is diminishing all the time – somehow we doubt even Davos will be able to stand with Stannis when he finds out what he did to Shireen.
At least we can probably count on Arya to do the right thing – and by right thing we mean put a dagger in Meryn Trant, who this week adds yet another charge to his already extensive rap sheet. One of the weaknesses of this season (and there have been more than usual) has been the way in which Arya has been short-changed with regards screen time. We’re sure this’ll get rectified come next week’s finale.
Yet even after all this, it is somehow Daenerys in Meereen who steals the show yet again. The scenes taking place across the Narrow Sea used to seem purposefully designed to slow the pace of the episode down to a crawl; now, they play host to some of the show’s most engaging moments.
The addition of Tyrion has undoubtedly helped in this regard, but it also highlights Game Of Thrones’ unique nature among fantasy better than any of its other settings. Most fantasy shows concern a quest for power – Game Of Thrones shows what happens next, and relishes in upsetting everyone’s best-laid plans.
The rage of Drogon doesn’t quite match the visual beauty of last week’s massacre at Hardhome, but it comes close. The cast’s reaction does a great job of selling it, too shell-shocked to even carry on fighting, but to have achieved these kind of effects on a TV budget is nothing short of astounding.
Still, not everything’s great. The Dorne storyline wraps up (probably) here. It always seemed like a random diversion, designed primarily to give Jaime something to do, and it’s undoubtedly the weakest of all the narratives on show here.
That being said, there’s a lot still to come in next week’s finale – and we sense it’s going to be a big one.