With just another episode left in the ongoing season of Game of Thrones, expectations were high that the makers will up the ante in episode nine The Dance of Dragons... Oh, up the ante they did. But they also managed to leave fans stunned and horrified.
Move over rape scenes and castration, a hopeful king just "sacrificed" his daughter by burning her alive on a stake.
Be warned: Spoilers ahead
“You are the princess Shireen of the House Baratheon and you are my daughter.”
Not too many episodes ago fans saw this gooey, fatherly side of Stannis Baratheon while he eplained to his daughter Shireen why he saved her from Greyscale instead of leaving her to die. A character that has been treated rather lightly (almost to the point of neglect) in the series than in the books, Stannis quickly made a special place in fans' hearts. There was good reason too, considering Shireen was one of the most likeable, smart and confident young characters in the show.
Today when Shireen recited the same words to her father, in an effort to reassure him that she will do whatever she can to help him, little did anyone know what was coming.
There were certain moments that stood out like her mother Selyse's realisation, moments before Shireen caught flames, that what was happening was wrong. Then there was Ser Davos' attempt to not go back to the Wall or take Shireen with him. More emotional was perhaps his final goodbye -- unknowingly -- to the little girl he has loved dearly through the series.
As of today, Stannis has managed to replace Joffrey, Ramsay, Cersei and every other character hated passionately by fans. Twitter was on Monday morning full of jokes about how fans suddenly found their parents to be almost angelic and how white-walkers didn't seem like the most horrifying characters on the show anymore.
This particular scene hasn't gone down in the book... yet. On HBO's Inside the Episode writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss were seen hinting that this development was George RR Martin's idea, after all (no surprises).
“When George first told us about this, it was one of those moments when I remember looking at Dan, and I was just like, God, that’s so horrible – and so good in a story sense, because it all comes together,” David Benioff said on the show.It is important to appreciate here the writers' and director's call to not show Shireen on fire.. her screams were bloodcurdling enough. Despite all the horror, this was perhaps one the show's finest scenes too, considering the delicate and sensitive screenplay.
Selyse breaking down, the look on the face of every man in Stannis' army, the momentary pain on Stannis' cold face -- such emotional screenplay is a rarity for GoT. It is not often, that characters die a respectful (even as it was messed up) death on Game of Thrones.
The goings-on in Mereen were the second most crucial part of Monday's episode, and here we've got no complaints. After regular, sufficient helpings of violence in which Ser Jorah -- as expected -- emerged victorius, all hell broke lose in Mereen as Sons of Harpy declared open season on the Masters, the Unsullied and Khaleesi herself.
That was until Drogon entered the arena after which it was basically fire that declared open season on the dragon-mother's attackers. The prodigal dragon is back and pretty much in control.In what was probably one of the most spectacular scenes of the episode since the wildfire explosion from the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Dany climbed atop Drogon and flew her way to glorius safety.
What happens next in Mereen is for episode 10 to tell (or maybe next season), but it's safe to say that Daenerys seems almost infallible at this moment.
The Wall, Dorne and Braavos were visited briefly during the episode.
Jon Snow returned to the wall with the wildlings who managed to survive last week's vicious white-walker attack and it's clearly going to be a while before the Crows actually warm-up to the Others.
In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn are fine and will head to King's Landing with Myrcella and Price Trystane. Prince Doran in the series is pretty much a watered-down version of his counterpart from the books, as of now. Who knows if the clever man from the books is playing the game of thrones even better on TV.
Arya made an appearance too, and was supposed to carry out her first assassination before she saw Meryn Trant, the man who killed her dance-master Syrio Forel. Trant, who spent his time rejecting women at a brothel for being "too old", settled for a girl young enough to be Arya's age but not before catching enough glimpses of Arya. Whether he remembers her or is just suspicious of seeing her around will be known later, for now it looks like a girl is not ready to completely erase the past that is part of her identity.
(All photos courtesy HBO Defined)
(Game of Thrones Season 5 airs every Monday on HBO Defined.)
The writer tweets as @saxenavishakha