A few thoughts on Dance of Dragons
Season 5 Episode 9
“The Dance of Dragons” or
“She said, “Burn!“
Warning came, no one cared.
Earth was shakin’, we stood and stared.
When it came no one was spared.
Still I hear “Burn!”
“Burn” by Deep Purple, 1974
Blackmore, Coverdale, Lord, Paice
If last week was a Song of Ice, last night’s “The Dance of Dragons”, the penultimate episode of Season 5, was a Song of Fire. And what a song it was… without rhythm, without melody, off-key and out of time. For all its flaws, you would still be hard pressed to find a more engrossing hour of television, because while everyone else is penning nursery rhymes, Game of Thrones is composing a Wagnerian Opera.
I expected more from the 9th episode of the season. We’ve been trained by the showrunners to expect nothing short of a Roman Spectacle. We have been treated to the beheading of Eddard Stark, the Battle of Blackwater, the Red Wedding, and the Battle of Castle Black.
How will “The Dance of Dragons” be remembered among that company?
Overall, poorly I think, though to be honest, there were some bright and shining moments, to be sure.
The problem, I think, more than anything, was the pacing of the episode, which falls squarely on those involved in editing this episode (and the season as a whole, actually).
Television is a far different animal than a novel. Each episode requires a hook, an overall theme that is adhered to, and let’s face it, Game of Thrones has a lot of pieces on the board. Characters, settings, locations all have to be juggled, the adaptation of each POV from the novel(s) has to be carefully plucked, reimagined and rearranged, not unlike one of Qyburn’s experiments.
I still feel like the creators have hit more than they’ve missed.
So, what stood out for me last night? Despite my grievances with the overall rhythm of the episode, the prevalent theme of “Fire” was well managed in Stannis’ Camp and the Daznak Fighting Pit. I do wish, however, that they would have taken it just a little bit further. They missed a great opportunity here.
Stannis allowing Shireen to be sacrificed to the Lord of Light was brutal to watch, especially in light of how hard the writers worked to bring people around to Baratheon’s cold-hearted nature by softening him a bit. It made last night’s burning all the more poignant and painful.
Imagine how much more dramatic it would have been had they hewed closer to Martin’s depiction of Drogon and Daenerys’ reunion in Daznak’s Pit. Shireen being bathed in Melisandre’s fire would have been interestingly juxtaposed against Dany’s similar fate in the novel, when she was bathed in Drogon’s dragonsfire.
Like I said, a missed opportunity.
Can next week’s Mother’s Mercy redeem Season 5? Oh, most certainly. Whether it does or not remains to be seen.
Addendum: One more thing I forgot to address, and it’s a big one for me — the Daznak’s Pit fight choreography. Gods, but that was atrocious, especially after seeing some spectacular work in the previous episode, Hardhome.
Jorah Mormont should be a man to be reckoned with. He doesn’t have to be flashy (in fact, shouldn’t be), but he’s a knight, for the gods’ sake… he should at least look comfortable with a sword in his hand.
Iain Glen is a terrific actor, but the man should have spent a wee bit more time with a competent instructor.