Game of Thrones “The Dance of Dragons” Review

by Matthew Thompson

Daznak’s Pit was the moment I was waiting for this season. My first reaction upon seeing it was that it didn’t quite live up to the scene I’d watched play out in my imagination for years now. That is still probably true even after thinking on it for a couple of days, but it isn’t really a knock against the show. This was a tough one to portray visually and I think the end result is still an exciting and important sequence that capped another good outing for Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones The Dance of Dragons 3

I think the part that came off the worst in Meereen was probably the very end. I always wondered how well they would pull off someone riding a dragon and unfortunately it looked a little cheesy. Perhaps it would have been best to cut away as Dany took off, but she (and likely others) are going to have to be shown flying dragons during the series, so there probably wasn’t much use in hiding it now. I didn’t realize what else was holding this all back from the how I imagined it until I reread the book passage. The truth is these are fairly different scenes with different people involved and a different main threat in the arena. Realizing this gave me a different perspective on what happened in the show and allowed me to better appreciate what was here.

Like many of Game of Thrones’ most exciting moments, the final sequence in “The Dance of Dragons” had me rapt, watching with wide, unblinking eyes as everything unfolded. While the CGI showed some weaknesses after Dany climbed aboard Drogon, it looked excellent in the moments beforehand. Seeing Drogon circling around the stadium and landing in the sands or watching it fling a Harpy about soon afterward were both sights to behold. Even the look inside its great jaws as he roared at Daenerys looked amazing. And the importance of Dany calming and riding a dragon can’t be understated either. There are a lot of other moments sprinkled throughout our time out in the far east this week as well. Like Dany having to put her trust in Jorah again. I even dug Daario and Hizdahr’s little verbal spat in the times before Drogon arrived. This all had the tough task of following up last week’s events in Hardhome and the series’ previous unforgettable ninth episodes. While it didn’t quite live up to them, it is still a pretty damn cool sequence in its own right.

Game of Thrones The Dance of Dragons 1

Perhaps the most talked about event of the week will be Stannis going ahead with burning his daughter Shireen. It was an incredibly sad sequence. What we have seen of Shireen has painted her as the nicest, sweetest girl in Westeros. While I figured this would ultimately be her fate, I didn’t expect Stannis to go along with it until I saw the pieces falling into place this episode. His involvement makes the moment that much more heartbreaking. I am still going back and forth on whether I think this move fits Stannis as a character (one of the tough parts about doing weekly reviews is I don’t always know exactly how I feel about something in its aftermath), but there were undoubtably some strong scenes that accompanied this storyline this week. My favorite was the one between Davos and Shireen. Their scenes together have always been lovely and this one was no exception. I wasn’t as keen on Ramsay’s burning of the camp being one of the final catalysts for Stannis to make his big decision this week though. It felt a little convenient and contrived that Ramsay and his men could so easily get into camp and take out things that were so important to Stannis’s army. The fact that we don’t get much of a clue as to how he pulled it off makes it kind of frustrating as a factor behind something as big as Stannis deciding to burn his daughter and heir.

In Braavos, Arya finds herself distracted from her mission to take out the Thin Man when she sees Meryn Trant arrive with Mace Tyrell. To truly become a Faceless Man, Arya must leave her past life behind and we see her once again struggling to do so this episode. I feel like perhaps Arya wants the skills she will gain from being at The House of Black and White, but still wants the revenge she seeks for herself. I like the conundrum they have set up for her and I am curious to see how it plays out next week. Trant’s predilection for young girls clearly sets up an opportunity for Arya to take him out while at the same time makes it so her doing so will likely feel more satisfying. It seems pretty clear Jaqen knows everything Arya is up to and it should make seeing how they wrap this all up in the finale more interesting.

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And then there is Dorne. I love the region of Dorne. Its history and customs make it stand out from the rest of Westeros. Sending great characters like Jaime and Bronn there so we had some familiar faces around as we delved into this new location and met these new people seemed like a good idea. But it really has been a miss for the show so far. The storyline has been peppered with sloppy plotting and subpar acting along with that ridiculously bad fight scene a few weeks back. And now the whole thing hasn’t seemed to amount to much. Jaime and Bronn leave with an elbow in the eye a slap on the wrist. Myrcella and Trystane, two characters the show has failed to make us care about thus far, are headed to King’s Landing. I guess we get to know Doran a bit and I at least like the actor they have chosen. I think I am most disappointed with how little they have done with Jaime’s character this season. I understand why they didn’t want to adapt his book material, but I was hoping the character development that fits so well alongside Cersei’s arc this season would be retained despite shifting Jaime’s plot to a new location. It was not and it is a bummer. I guess we have one more episode to see if they do any more with all of this, but with so much ground to cover in the finale, I figured I’d just dive into this now. If they do something right with this next week, I will be sure to give them some praise for it.

A few more things:

  • Scene of the Week: Daznak’s Pit was pretty rad despite some issues I had with it which were mostly dealing with my own expectations.
  • I didn’t touch on Jon’s part this week, but he and the people he managed to rescue returned. I am glad that giant came back with him.
  • Was there really no better way to use the time they allotted to the Sand Snakes little slap game scene?
  • I enjoyed Dany asking Hizdahr if he has ever actually fought a man and Tyrion remarking, “My father would have liked you” to him at one point. Oh and I guess Hizdahr died! I wasn’t exactly expecting that.
  • The look on Tyrion’s face as Dany flew away was also pretty great.
  • I mentioned up top that I was most excited for Daznak’s Pit this season, but I had no idea coming in to the year that Hardhome would be what it was.
  • Mace Tyrell cracks me up and I think this episode needed the bit of levity he delivered.
  • I will likely be distracted by E3 news next week, so I don’t know when my review of the finale will get done, but it will be up at some point next week.

Like many of the episodes this season, “The Dance of Dragons” has some things I liked and some things I didn’t, but I enjoyed it quite a bit overall. It does seem to leave us with a ton to do with only one episode left this season. Where is Dany off to? What will the friends she left in Meereen do next? How will things close out in King’s Landing this season? Will the conflict between Stannis and the Boltons reach a conclusion? What of Sansa and Brienne? And I could go on. It should be a jam-packed finale and I’m hoping they can bring what has been an up and down season to a close on a high note. What did you think of the latest episode? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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5 comments on “Game of Thrones “The Dance of Dragons” Review

  1. Yeah, Dany riding Drogon wasn’t exactly a visual wonder to behold, but it was still an exciting moment. The showrunners kind of gave it away in the episode title, which got fans salivating. Maybe if they were more sneaky about it we could’ve lowered our expectations. Still, it was a powerful moment for Dany. I wonder where Drogon will be taking her in the finale.

    Now, I too am going back and forth on Stannis’ actions. Burning Shireen ranks among one of the most tragic things to have happened on the show. I find myself asking, “did they go too far?” I believe the showrunners when they say it was “narratively justified,” but that didn’t make it any less painful. I think the reason why it hurt so much is because we got to know Shireen as a character, whereas in the books she’s just there. Again, I’m going back and forth on this. It feels like what Stannis would do, but then I recall their heart-to-heart in episode 4 and I think, “how could he do such a thing!?”

    My mixed feelings towards Stannis certainly dented the moment when Dany took flight. I just hope the season finale can help me recover because I am still reeling from this episode

    Anyways, great review! I myself have a few more to type up before Sunday. Keep it up!

  2. What’s interesting is how this episode pulled off one it’s most tragic and sad moments followed up with one of it’s more thrilling and exciting scenes one after another. That’s a good point about how the trip to Dorne was a missed opportunity for Jamie’s character.

    Heading into the finale, the two locations that excite me the most is Winterfell and the Wall. From Brienne and Sansa to Theon there’s a lot of character’s to service and I can’t wait to see how it all shakes down. Of everything that could happen in the finale, I think everyone will be talking about the Wall’s end scene. Can’t wait! 😉 Great review!

    • Thank you! Yeah those are the things I am most excited for too. With the Winterfell stuff, I am really unsure how it will turn out. The Wall should be fun to see reactions to. So both should be really interesting this week.

  3. Imagine if they had ended the episode on the little girl screaming… That’s what I thought of Sansa’s rape scene. How do you end on that? These last two episodes have been very good. This season has been a slow burn. Everyone has been waiting. Brienne is waiting, Cersei is waiting in a cell. Arya was waiting to be trained. Just a whole lot of waiting. These last two episodes were worth the wait. But the finale has to be just as huge to save a dull season. If they just clean up the stories for an easy return next season, I’m gonna be disappointed.

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