Who was your favorite brother in the Baratheon

"Game of Thrones": Season five, episode nine

Main pictureDavis Seaworth and Shireen Baratheon(c) HBO

"The Dance of Dragons" is a disturbing episode with a high and a low point.

SPOILER WARNING: I blog about every "Game of Thrones" episode and reveal details about the plot. Please do not leave any spoilers in the comments that reveal the plot beyond this episode.

We had all feared that since Melisandre made this suggestion in episode seven of "The Gift" Stannis Baratheon: Burn your daughter and the victory is yours. By sacrificing Shireen, he would gain the favor of the fire god R'hllor and take Winterfell, she makes him believe. After a guerrilla force further weakened Ramsay Bolton's Stannis army and threatened his mission to become a kind of Stalingrad from Westeros, he actually agreed to this proposal.

The title of the episode naturally also refers to volume five by George R.R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" series, "A Dance With Dragons", primarily refers to the book Shireen reads. It tells the story of the war between the siblings Rhaenyra and Aegon Targaryen, which plunged the whole country into disaster and heralded the fall of the dynasty. "You'll read it yourself," says the child to Davos Seaworth, to whom she does not want to reveal the end. Prophetic. The "Onion Knight" is sent to the Wall by Stannis. Knowing full well that Davos would try to prevent this "sacrifice" by all means.

"Where is my father?"

Shireen's screams as she is burned are among the worst I've seen or heard on Game of Thrones. And there was a lot. At least we are spared the sight of the dying child. In the end, it is Selyse, known to be a bad mother and religious fanatic, who runs to her daughter, not Stannis she calls for. He loves his only child, he has shown that repeatedly, but he is an unimaginative, blind, fanatical and power-hungry idiot. There is ALWAYS another way out.

The Shireen murder is an emotional low point in the series for which even book readers were not prepared. It doesn't exist in the book, not yet. Some readers have expressed concern that this will happen. Only one thing is certain now: This brother and daughter murderer will not sit on the Iron Throne at the end of the saga.

So does Shireen's death in the story only serve to expose Stannis as a monster? That would be cruel. The question that arises here is: What story does Game of Thrones actually want to tell us? Is it one of senseless cruelty and blind lust for power? The story of human failure? What should be left of the series? Hopefully more than the "innovation" that any of your favorite characters can die at any time. In the end, it will boil down to the old, eternal song of good and bad (with good and bad having many sprinkles of each other). As is well known, the good always wins.

"Your rebellion is over"

At the other end of Westeros, another child threatens to become the plaything of his father's power plans. Doran Martell agrees to send his son Trystane to King's Landing with Myrcella. In the middle of enemy territory. At least that's how he sells Jaime, but Doran's a cool, calculating ruler and I would be surprised if he doesn't have a sophisticated plan - one that doesn't unnecessarily endanger Trystane.

"Game of Thrones" finally shows at least a rudimentary part of what is so captivating about this character and about Dorne in the books. Doran is the embodiment of a theme that generally runs through "Game of Thrones": The apparently weak or "defective" characters Daenerys, Tyrion, Doran, Arya, Bran, Ser Davos etc. regularly conquer their weaknesses and are constantly getting stronger. And you can use it to defeat the seemingly overpowering, as long as they don't get cocky (see Oberyn, and also the first fight in Meereen).

"But I've seen war"

A war like the one the Sand Snakes and Ellaria wanted, Doran successfully prevented for the time being - as well as the power struggle within his family. "Your rebellion is over," he says to Ellaria, before letting her swear allegiance again. He couldn't have won a war against the Lannisters and Tyrells on his own anyway. "But I've seen war," he says to Ellaria. That means: I know what war means. And I know its price.

War costs - that's why the head of the family Mace Tyrell is in Braavos at the Iron Bank. He may not have the joke of his mother Olenna, but he does have a sharp tongue, as he proves in a dialogue with the banker Tycho Nestoris (Hello again, Mycroft Holmes!). "You are the world's best gamblers", Mace attests to the banker. Meryn Trant from the Royal Guard, the alleged murderer of Arya Stark's combat instructor Syrio Forel, traveled with him. We can tell from his look that he's an ass. "Game of Thrones" has to make this even clearer and has him ask for very young, virgin girls in the brothel.

Arya, with a cool new hairstyle, optically transformed, not only becomes a witness of the scene, she also forges plans. She may call herself Lanna and strive for the art of becoming "no one", but as a child of the north she does not forget. Here the series is likely to anticipate again, book readers know a similar story from one of the chapters from "The Winds of Winter" (which will be published in early 2016 at the earliest), which George Martin published on his blog.

I wonder why - or better, for whom - Arya is trained to be a faceless killer. Maybe for the brother and daughter murderer Stannis? According to the motto: girl murders girl murderer.

"You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It will get us all killed"

Up in the north, Jon Snow is practicing goat looking again - but after the Night's King, Ser Alliser Thorne is a snack. He opens the gates and lets the wildlings pass without engaging in a power struggle with Jon. Of the Brother's of the Night's Watch, Sam Tarly alone seems convinced of the mission. "You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It will get us all killed," says Alliser, speaking from the soul of many. Probably also the creepy boy Olly, who sneaks around Castle Black.

It still remains bloodless in Castle Black, in contrast to the Fighting Pits in Meereen. May the gladiatorial fights begin. The jealousy-fueled discussion between Daenerys, Hizdahr zo Loraq and Danerys lover Daario Naharis is wonderful - especially because Tyrion formulates Daenerys thoughts, the harshness skilfully weakened with wit.

I wouldn't have bet that Dany's loyal knight Jorah would survive the fight against three opponents. Classic case of a "He's still alive" figure. I would also have bet that Hizdar is the head of the murderous gang Sons of the Harpy, which has more followers than you think. After his death by one of the harpy offspring, I think that is unlikely. The men and women in the golden masks assassinate to choir songs, as we know them from the opera, down half the stadium before they surround Daenerys.

"I believe in second chances. I don’t believe in third chances," says Doran to Ellaria in Dorne. The sentence could also be true for Daenerys. As Queen of Meereen, she failed. She doesn't have to pay for it with her life. None of Dany's admirers rescues her, but her "child": Drogon, bigger and more prickly than ever, frees Daenerys, who awaits death upright but with her eyes closed. Even more, she can fly on him. Those are the moments that I like about Game of Thrones for all of the atrocities. A highlight.

Lo and behold: Tyrion learns to believe. Now he just has to survive the escape - but he has Jorah by his side.

The Dragons:

The CGI look at the rise of Drogon was a bit screwed up. Drogon is more "sensitive" than I imagined. The spears break through his armor. Also, in the middle of the fight, he seems to be running out of fire.

Quote of the week:

  • Tyrion to Hizdahr: "My father would have liked you." Just because I thought that after Shireen's death there was nothing more to make me laugh in this episode.
  • Ellaria flirts with Jaime (and apparently knows who Myrella and Tommen's father is): "It's always changing, who we're supposed to love and who we're not."

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Editor's note: The current "Game of Thrones" episodes are made available to the author by the Sky broadcaster, which shows the series in Austria.