After the crazy zombie infested final scene of last week’s Game of Thrones, one would expect to have more subdued, more character driven penultimate episode to the season, and for the most part you would be right. The first half of the episode is filled with great character moments. Jon Snow is feeling the desperation and regret of not being able to save all of the Free-People at Hardhome last episode, and there is an air of mutiny at Castle Black. In Dorne Jamie and Bronn are negotiating the “release” Myrcella back to King’s Landing. And Arya, on a mission from Jaqen H’ghar runs into an old friend at a brothel. All three of these segments are filled with insights into who these characters are. Jon wants more than anything to help those around him and has a hard time coping with the lost of innocent lives, and sees how hard the inevitable battle with the white walkers will be. Prince Doran of Dorne wants very much the same thing, quelling the Sand Snakes and reinforcing the alliance with the Lannisters, in his mind, will keep the peace. And as for Arya, coming face to face with one of the names that has been on her list since its inception, walks away. Is she finally ready to let go of the past and her revenge along with it?
All of these plot threads continue to be incredibly entertaining and well executed, but the real meat of the episode are the threads with Stannis and Daenerys.
Let us start with Stannis. Here is a man, like Jon, who will do whatever he thinks is necessary for the good of the kingdom. He may be a little misguided and stubborn, but to him it is the only way to achieve his destiny and peace in the land. We have seen the power of King’s blood before and after an attack from the Ramzy Snow and some coaxing from the red which, Stannis feels there is no way to continue on with his fight but with a sacrifice. I feel like the last few episodes of the series have been building up Stannis’ relationship with his daughter Shireen to make this scene even more heartbreaking. We were getting to see another side of Stannis, going from pig-headed to a character with a little more depth. Here all of that changes. Shireen is offered up to the Lord of Light, will it be worth it to Stannis? What is great about this scene, as wrenching as it was, was we finally got to see a human side of Selyse, Shireen’s mother, there was finally some emotion and more than just the singleminded servitude that we have come to expect.
And now for the main event, Daenerys and the big games. Much to her disgust, Daenerys has reopened the fighting pits for the people of Meereen. There are three really great things about this scene. The first is the return of her relationship with Jorah, after all he has done for her, it was nice to see her flinch with worry every time he was struck in the pits. Number two, was a wonderful scene where Daenerys loses her faith. Wow that sounds really depressing. What I mean it is a wonderful bit of acting where in the face of everything falling apart and her dreams crumbling around her, she accepts her fate and closes her eyes to await what becomes of her. The last… do I really need to say it? Dragon. So yes it is really satisfying to get some real dragon action after waiting so many seasons, and it was great, but I really enjoyed the reconnect that Daenerys and Drogon (I still say that’s a dumb name for a dragon) had. After so many encounters between the two ending with look on Daenerys face like a mother who just had a child yell “I hate you” to her, it was nice to see some recognition on Drogon’s face as he came to save his mother from certain death.