Hello, friends and bannermen. On Sunday's Game of Thrones, Stannis undid his "Mannis" status, Arya saw an old acquaintance, and a dragon saved the day. How did it match up with the books? How did it differ?
This weekly chat series is for fans of George R.R. Martin 's A Song of Ice and Fire books, upon which HBO's fantasy drama is based. It's meant to be a safe haven to discuss spoilers and changes from the novels and how they have played out or will play out in the TV series. Hanh Nguyen and Sadie are longtime fantasy fans of varying levels of geekiness who will sound off on all things Westerosi (and beyond!).
[Warning: If you're a Game of Thrones fan who has stumbled upon this chat and haven't read the books yet, begone! Instead, check out our recap for "The Dance of Dragons" for a spoiler-free discussion.]
Hanh: Although I still think last week's Hardhome battle is my favorite of the season so far, last night's "The Dance with Dragons" was emotionally affecting. Obviously the biggest and most heart-wrenching deviation was Stannis deciding to sacrifice his daughter Shireen, whereas in the books, he had burned Gilly's unnamed wildling baby off the page, and Shireen still lives.
Sadie: That was rough! I mean, killing someone else's baby is bad enough, but to kill your own daughter? That's just too much for me. But major props to the actress who plays Shireen. Her screams will haunt me at night all week. What did you think of the decision to have Stannis' wife freakout over Shireen, but have him be relatively unaffected (at least outwardly) by the murder of their only child? I would have assumed it would have been the other way around.
Hanh: I left the TV on while I was writing my recap, and I heard her screams again when the episode replayed. Make it stop!!! Yes, it was such a nightmare, and yet Kerry Ingram gave the scene the exact amount of horror it needed with her screams. As for the opposing parents' reactions, I was of two minds about that. Selyse suddenly having a change of heart — when in the past she's never liked her own daughter and is pretty much the most devoted Red God follower besides Melisandre — didn't necessarily feel true to me. But, from a storytelling standpoint, I could see that having no one be human and sympathetic in the scene would have pushed it a little too far maybe. Also, perhaps her freakout enabled Stannis to maintain his demeanor because he could channel his emotions through her. And while burning Shireen a great move that made sense to the story and plot, my mind cannot wrap itself around that decision, that scene in some ways. It's so unbelievable. That's a daughter he loved and fought for! I wonder if fans of Stannis are mad because it ruined his character since he never did that in the books. Although he's always been grim and sacrificed people, killing his own daughter has to cross the line even for his fans. (Note: It appears Stannis will kill Shireen according to this video by the showrunners, so that means we've been spoiled for a change!) I never really cared for him on the page, and although he's more interesting on the show, I was never a "Stannis the Mannis" follower (although I love that he's a strict grammarian).
Maybe this is all a setup for us to be happy if he gets killed off while fighting against the Boltons.
Sadie: I'm also very split on this deviation. I can see exactly how Stannis could come to this decision and force himself to harden his heart against murdering Shireen. But I found the entire thing to be so rushed, it never quite felt natural. It seemed as though there should have been more build-up to such a big decision or at least a bit more time spent on it, but that the showrunners just cut corners to fit it into this episode. And Selyse's reaction had absolutely no basis in her character. It was frustratingly shoe-horned in.
Hanh: Right. Melisandre gave Stannis the suggestion two episodes ago, and yet Ramsay's attack on their tents just happened in this episode. Although they expositioned the amount of damage he did, we didn't get to really feel how desperate the situation was as a result. (Although as bittersweet as it is, I'm happy Davos was able to spend some time with Shireen before she died. Oh man, I wonder what he'll think of his king when he finds out. Stannis knew that Davos would not approve.) And as for Stannis' character and decision, if he is a true believer — and Melisandre's predictions have proven to come true so far — then burning his beloved Shireen would indeed be the most potent sacrifice. But still....ugh!
Sadie: My memory is a little murky, but in the books she burned three leeches for each of the "false kings": Joffrey, Robb and Balon. Did she do the same in the show? Because Balon is definitely alive and well on HBO, and I don't understand why someone would burn their own daughter if the magic only had a 66 percent chance of working.
Hanh: Haha. Yes, I'm with you there. Those odds aren't enough for me. But no, as far as we know on the show, three leeches were burned, yet Balon is alive, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it won't come true. I think Stannis has been fooled by her magicking the sword, so he not only believes he's the rightful heir to the throne, but that he's Azor Ahai reborn. So in a way, even if I doubt that his faith in R'hllor is as strong as Melisandre's, he's always had an unshakeable faith in his own rightness to take the Iron Throne after Robert's death. He's probably rationalized that the Red God is the new way, the right way since it supports his claim. Circular reasoning at its finest!
Sadie: So true! Stannis would be more swayed by his own self-importance than any religious faith. Which reminds me, let's talk about Arya! I saw Meryn Trant was trending this morning of all things. I, for one, am very excited to see her cross a name off her list.
Hanh: Yes! Another bit of convergence we didn't get from the books. And OMG, did they need to make him a bespoiler of virgins (and pedophile?) to boot? He was always Joffrey's biggest bully on a leash, so this makes me want her to kill him more. I wonder how she'll do it. And if the Kindly Man/Jaqen H'ghar will know. *slap*
Sadie: I think there's no way Jaqen won't know. That's such a classic House of B&W move. Sit back and let Arya make whatever decisions she wants (and think she can get away with), then knock her down a few pegs and remind her she isn't as tough or sly as she thinks. Maybe by blinding, perhaps?
Hanh: Hmm, that's an interesting thought! At this point, I'm past predicting what the show is going to do. I mean, I'll guess what will happen, but I have very little certainty in me anymore. And the guy she's supposed to kill — I kind of want her to poison his money as she did in the books, but it'll probably be with oysters, clams or cockles. Death by shellfish?
Sadie: After that final scene, I would take most anything over death by dragon. The fire alone I could handle, but having your spine broken by whiplash is beyond my limits.
Hanh: This is when having a show bring GRRM's words to life really pays off, when we get big scenes like the Red and Purple Wedding and Drogon's rescue of Daenerys. (Although I do love seeing the subtler conversations and machinations as well). Drogon shaking that guy like a cat does a mouse freaked me out! I think anyone who hung around to try and take on a Drogon is nuts. I definitely would've saved myself. Oh, but we also saw that Hizdahr died, right? I didn't imagine that? So did they ever marry on the show, or was this like, courtship? Thank the gods he's no longer in the picture! That was a weird GRRM decision.
Sadie: I assume they married off-screen. But what was the point? He wasn't tied to the Sons of the Harpy. His marriage didn't stave off the attacks. He didn't try to kill her. He didn't do anything. It was such a waste of a character.
Hanh: I kept expecting him to sneak away or don a Sons of the Harpy gold mask or something. Maybe we'll find out that he was with the Sons but they killed him anyway? The only thing I could think about his presence was that he was needed to really sell the idea of the fighting pits and have that Meereenese expertise. In the scenes from next week, we do get to see Daenerys' followers sitting around chatting, so I'm really looking forward to that. Maybe they'll discuss Hizdahr's fate. I always wondered how those people felt — she's the queen and saved herself, but what about their unified mission? Will we see her return somehow next week? What will Daario and Tyrion's conversations sound like?
Sadie: And what happens in that pit next? Everyone was trying to kill each other, but now that the main target (Dany) has flown off, do the remaining Sons of the Harpy just let Tyrion, Jorah, Daario and Missandei walk out? As soon as the badass wonderment of seeing Dany fly away on Drogon wore off, all I could think about was what Tyrion must be thinking. I imagine it to be something along the lines of "Sh--. What now? I don't want to die for a queen that isn't even here anymore."
Hanh: Ha! Yes... that's why I was glad to have seen that they lived util the next episode. Is it common knowledge in Meereen that Dany has chained up her other two dragons? Maybe the Sons thought they were coming next and fled.
Sadie: No matter what happens, the few left behind in Meereen are such an eccentric bunch. I can't wait to see their interactions without the unification of Daenerys.
Hanh: Right? Tyrion in a conversation with anyone now is my favorite thing. We haven't heard him and Daario really size each other up. And now with Jorah having won his queen's trust again, but only to have her get whisked away... OH! Do we know the way that greyscale can be transmitted? He and Dany touched hands, but I didn't know if he was only contagious in the parts that showed greyscale or not.
Sadie: A common treatment for Greyscale is amputating the infected parts. However, that doesn't necessarily work every time. But I can't imagine the Mother of Dragons getting infected. I mean, she better not! Who would lead her dragons into war with the Others if she were to be turned to stone?
Hanh: I can't think that they'd go there either. Also, Jorah hasn't really be wrapping his unblemished parts up, so it probably just is the greyscale-y parts that are contagious. I wonder if he'll reveal his disease to Tyrion next week. I hope we get to see more Daenerys flying, but with so much Drogon and the Hardhome battle this year, I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to keep Episode 10 fairly CGI-free. Any predictions for next week's finale? (Wow! I can't believe how quickly the season goes by.)
Sadie: It's kind of fun, because I have absolutely no idea what next week will feature. There are so many major storylines that haven't culminated yet. Sansa's (hopeful) escape from Winterfell with the possible aid of Brienne. Arya's blinding. Cersei's walk of shame. Jon Snow's death. It'll be interesting to see what makes it into the finale.
Hanh: And may I also propose that Bronn somehow kills Tyene? Seriously, why else make the Sand Snakes and especially her that annoying?!
Sadie: It's funny, because had you ever suggested I would love to see a Sand Snake be killed before this season began I would have called you crazy. Now, I would relish it.
Hanh: Cersei's walk of shame for sure will happen judging from her tears in the scenes from next week, but I also wonder if she'll be thrown off the deep end by something that happens to one or both of her kids. Her biggest motivation besides power has always been her children.
Sadie: The fact that they're planning to bring Myrcella and Trystane to King's Landing does not make me hopeful about her lifespan.
Hanh: Yes, so many things can happen on that journey! And as for Jon Snow... I am feeling that sense of dread. The show doesn't typically do those kinds of cliff-hangers for their finales, but I could see the stabbings happening next week. OMG! Just saw this online.
Is that for real??
Sadie: Nope. No. No. Refuse to acknowledge if it is.Beard or nothing.
Hanh: Does. Not. Compute!
Sadie: I love those ads he does. I would watch Tormund do anything.
Hanh: This really is an example of casting that makes it for me. I think in the books he wasn't kissed by fire. But this version of Tormund has been glorious. I wonder if he'll also be targeted by the Night's Watch mutiny.
Sadie: If Tormund dies, I will lose it 10 times more than if Jon Snow does
Hanh: YES! Ok while we ponder whether a Tormund is still a Tormund without his beard, it's the readers' turn to share thoughts about the episode.
The Game of Thrones finale airs Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.
VIDEO: Check out CNET Jeff Bakalar's quick take on Stannis, aka the Father of the Year: