We have a lot to expect from this episode because it was directed by David Nutter, the nerd-director powerhouse behind the Red Wedding/"Rains of Castermere" episode, and the showrunners Dan and David. Though we're a little horrified, we're not disappointed.
- Stannis' camp is burned down and he sacrifices his daughter Shireen in desperation
- Jon and the wildlings return to the wall. No one is happy.
- Doran sets Jamie and Bronn free, and sends Myrcella home
- Daenerys attends the fighting pits (where Jorah fights for her), only to get ambushed by the Sons of the Harpy. They look like they're about to get decimated until Drogon shows up and pretty much eats people. Dany flies away on his back.
- Arya finds Meryn Trant in Braavos, and discovers that he is a pedophile
- Ellaria pledges loyalty to Doran.
What We Liked:
- Stannis' camp is burned down, but we're following Melisandre. There's something to be said there about all of that fire present and how we see her genuinely vulerable and shocked, our faith in her is a little shaken, and that makes what comes next with Shireen even more heartwrenching. (+5)
- Bronn gets taken down a peg. I was a little disappointed that the conditions for his freedom were "he gets punched in the face by Areo Hotah" but mostly, I laughed. The cool characters need to look like fools once in a while too. It keeps them dynamic. (+5)
- The Martells make some wise moves. I am a huge fan of the Martells in the books, but in the show, I completely see how a lot of people roll their eyes and ask, "why do we care?". But now that they're becoming more invested in Westorosi politics outside of Dorne, they start to become more engaging. (+5)
- Drogon wrecks everything and it's awesome. Yeah, take that, Sons of the Harpy. I mean, ok, it's a bit of gratuitous violence, and we're only satisfied because the bad guys are getting their butts kicked. But nice. (+5)
- Ellaria says that no one in Dorne bat an eye at the news of Jaime and Cersei. And I like that. It pushes the limits of our conceptions. Ellaria explains that in all of time, who we are supposed to love is constantly changing. The only thing that stays the same is that "we love who we love". It exposes what's at the heart of Dorne: love and passion, which can sometimes fuel the fires of anger. As well, Ellaria is the only person in Westeros logical enough to realize that the Targaryns are also an entirely incestuous line. (+10)
- There's no ~magical moment~ like there is in cute movies like it's How To Train Your Drogon (heh). Daenerys just jumps on his back and he's off. (+5)
- Arya is taking matters into her own hands, she clever sneaks into the brothel, but doesn't straight out attack Meryn. Not only is he massive, but that's definitely frowned-upon by Jaqen H'gar. Whether or not he believes her lie about how "the Thin Man was not hungry today", Arya's playing a dangerous game, and it's great to watch. (+10)
- Shireen's death. WOW I didn't see that coming actually. Usually, young actors and actresses are weakpoints, but Kerry Ingram is so talented. The absolute fear on her face as realization dawns is horrifyingly hard to stomach, and her screams for her parents immerse us into the world of a scared little girl. While I don't think at all that Stannis would've allowed this, it definitely brings a new dynamic to the Baratheon camp, between Selyse, Melisandre, and Stannis. Her death didn't feel forced, actually, though in hindsight I should've suspected something was coming when Stannis told her the story of her infancy with greyscale. (+15)
What We Didn't Like:
- I'm sorry this bothered me so much, I have to include it. The fighters in the pits look at Daenerys and Hizdahr scoffs and says, "You have to clap." like she's an idiot. Wouldn't someone have informed her of the traditions beforehand??
- Why is the camera following Selyse during Shireen's pyre scene? It should be following Shireen or, the one who loves her the most, her father. Selyse never had much love for Shireen, and this weird snap decision to suddenly love her daughter did not tug at my heartstrings the way it could have. (-5)
- Why did Meryn have to be a pedofile? Why did those strangers make that lewd comment at Arya? It seems like sexual violence towards young women is the newest fad in demonstrating "wow these people are so evil". Even though I was shocked by Meryn's perversions, I'd like something a little more creative, please. (-5)
- STANNIS WOULD NEVER DO THAT. Stannis would NEVER kill Shireen or allow her to die. It goes against EVERYTHING he has ever been. A moral man, above all. He does the right things, not the things that give him what he wants. We just got the little speech about how much he loves and is unashamed of Shireen. Stannis felt so human, and Shireen got her time to shine as an actual character. Now, it feels like that moment was completely empty and meaningless: a cheap foil used to contrast this episode. What? (-5)
This episode definitely had its high points, but also its low points which balance it out and make it not-the-best-episode-ever. And while I like that Game of Thrones has been changing their scenes to a more patient pacing (there was a period where one arc would be followed for about 2 minutes before moving on to another narrative. Wtf?), this episode seemed slow at points where I asked myself "where is this going?".
Still a solid effort by Nutter, Benioff, and Weiss, and the entire cast and crew, but hopefully this is all a little bit slow because we're ramping up for the season finale, Mother's Mercy,
Final Score: 45