Continuing its streak of thoroughly engaging episodes, not to mention the tradition of episode 9 of the season being the one where truly epic events happen (Death of Ned Stark, Battle of the Blackwater, Red Wedding, Wildlings Attacking Castle Black), ‘Games of Thrones‘ delivered a heart-wrenching and, strangely enough, uplifting episode this week, one that will be remembered and debated by fans for a very long time.

Starting off with the less important storylines from the episode, we see Jon Snow and the remnants of the Wildling army return to the wall, waiting patiently for Alister Thorne to open the gate and let them past, which almost looks like it might not happen based on Jon Snow’s reaction. Eventually Thorne relents and the Wilding’s enter Castle Black, much to the consternation of those within, including little Olly, who looks supremely pissed at his Lord Commander. While Jon and Sam discuss how many were lost and how many owe their lives to Jon, Thorne approaches Jon, and continuing his Professor Snape impersonation, tells him “You have a good heart Jon Snow. It’s going to get us all killed.”

In Braavos, Arya continues to stalk the thin man while he sells his insurance, waiting for him to order food from her so she can fulfill her mission. Unfortunately, right when he finally starts calling out for oysters, Arya is distracted by the arrival of Lord Tyrell in Braavos, who is accompanied by Ser Meryn Trant, one of the chief members of her kill list. Abandoning her assigned mission, Arya follows Ser Meryn and Lord Tyrell through Braavos, eventually finding Ser Meryn and the guards accompanying him inside a brothel, where Ser Meryn is revealed to have a taste for very young woman, and we learn brothels apparently have no security, not even a “No Solicitation’ sign, which is why Arya could continue to sell her oysters within the establishment. Eventually she is found by the proprietor of the establishment and forced to leave, but not before Ser Meryn sees her, which could make things difficult down the road. She returns to the House of Black and white, where she lies to Jaqen and tells her the thin man was not hungry that day, explaining why her task was a failure.

In Dorne, Jaime is invited to a very uncomfortable brunch, with Myrcella, Prince Doran and Tristane and Ellaria. They question his motives in sneaking into the Water Gardens, and Jaime explains the threat they had received in the form of a Viper with Myrcella’s necklace in its mouth, a necklace that the girl states was stolen from her room. Doran knows exactly what happened, and Ellaria is well aware that the jig is up. Doran decides to send Myrcella and Prince Tristane back to King’s Landing with Jaime on the condition that Tristane get Oberyn’s seat on the small council, which seems reasonable enough. In fact everything Prince Doran is doing for Dorne seems reasonable, and I worry that his level head and sound judgement might be just about enough to piss off the rest of the Dornish (like Ellaria and the Sand Snakes), making him the next ruler to see his people rise up against him. Anyways, before leaving, Jaime asks about Bronn, who had struck Prince Tristane during the battle, an insult that could not be ignored. Prince Doran decides that Tristane should be the arbitrator of that judgement, and it is decided that Bronn could go free, but only after taking a blow to the face himself, which Jaime readily agrees to. Shortly afterward, Prince Doran has words with Ellaria, warning her that although she has been given a second chance, there will not be a third. She then visits Jaime before he leaves, speaking of the strange judgement of people’s love in Westeros, telling Jaime that his love of Cersei would not have been unusual in the least had they been Targaryans. She points out that everyone in King’s Landing thought her and Oberyn’s love was odd, but that people’s opinions of these things changes over time. It is a strange conversation as she seems to be just be talking to Jaime, with little to no threats besides her knowledge of their incest and the true parentage of Myrcella and Tommen.

And now for the main events of the night. At Stannis’ encampment, Melissandre leaves her tent to discover the effects of Ramsey’s raid, finding burning tents and horses, which in the morning they learn was all of their footstuff going up in flames, leaving the army without supplies. We see Stannis confer with his wife and Melissandre, but we cannot hear what they are speaking about, though we can guess it has something to do with finding a way to change their luck. Next we see Stannis order Sir Davros to return to Castle Black and ask Jon Snow to send food and supplies, with Stannis pledging to refill the ranks of the Night’s Watch once he takes back his kingdom. Davros (rightly) points out that anyone could bring that message to Snow, but Stannis tells him that only Davros has the ability to convince Snow of their need if the letter does not work. Davros visits Shireen on his way out, giving her a hand-carved Baratheon stag as a parting gift, while she tells him about her latest book, A Dance With Dragons, which chronicles a war between Targaryan siblings for control of Westeros, with lessons that should not have been forgotten in the seven kingdoms. After Sir Davros bids her farewell, Stannis visits Shireen, asking about the book, even while it is clear he is having an internal struggle, and we all begin to fear for his daughter. Unfortunately for Shireen, she has no idea what is going on, and helpfully offers to do whatever her father needs, as she wants to see him succeed. Her kind words seem to seal the deal for Stannis, as we next see Shireen being led out into the snow by guards, and even as we realize what is about to happen, we also realize no one had the guts to tell Shireen. She is a lamb being led to the slaughter, and only right when the pyre is revealed does she recognize what is about to happen, screaming for her father, whose appearance confirms for us all that Stannis had indeed condoned the murder of his daughter in the hopes of getting some magic to help his war. While Shireen shrieks for help, we see her mother have a change of heart and try to stop the proceedings, but she is stopped by the guards, and off-screen we hear the anguished screams of the little girl with greyscale, whose untimely death has permanently tainted Stannis’ whole righteous quest, and left the audience in the untenable position of not knowing which army to root for in the coming battle, the forces of Stannis, or the Bolton army.

From that shocking moment we cut to Meereen, where the great pit fight is about to begin, with Daenerys, Daario, Hizdahr, Missandei and Tyrion in the royal box watching, the Queen clearly still unhappy to be there. The first battle begins when Daenerys claps her hands, an act which is forced upon her by tradition, and as the warrior battle, those upon the platform engage in their own verbal sparring, especially Hizdahr and Daario, who debate the merits of battle and warfare in accomplishing great deeds in the world. At one point Tyrion interjects with his opinion of Hizdahr, claiming “My father would have liked you,” which only he and Daenerys would understand is an insult. The first battle ends, and real combat is about to begin, with Jorah marching out along with 5 others, prepared to fight to the death. Daenerys and company are shocked to see Jorah once more, and there’s a great moment where Hizdahr is about to give advice to Daenerys, but is stopped by Daario who tells him to shut up. Daenerys ends up clapping, beginning the match, where we see Jorah’s skill and luck, as he bests all of the combatants around him. He finally stands alone, grabbing a spear and chucking it into the royal box, where it strikes a Son of the Harpy assassin perched behind Daenerys, about to kill her.

And then all hell breaks loose.

Sons of the Harpy appear in the crowd in droves, slaughtering all those around them, including Hizdahr, while the Queen and her retinue flees into the pit itself, with Ser Jorah joining them as one of the Queen’s protectors, and we are thrilled to see her allow him to stay. However, they are in a lot of trouble. The exits have been sealed, and with the Unsullied in the crowd being overwhelmed, Daenerys has but a handful of Unsullied left to guard her, plus Jorah, Tyrion, Missandei and Tyrion (who had proven he was still adept with a blade earlier, killing one of the assassins handily.) The group is surrounded, though any Son of the Harpy that gets close is instantly killed by one of her protectors, it is clear that once the assassins attacked en masse, they will easily overwhelm Daenerys’ group. Knowing this might be it, Daenerys grasps Missandei’s hand, and she closes her eyes, and we can almost feel her sending out a psychic call for help to her children. We hear a noise offscreen, and then in all his triumph Drogon rockets into the pit, taking down Sons of the Harpy in droves, using his fire to burn dozens at a time. His appearance is regal and spectacular, and you could almost hear the cheers of fans across the world that night, watching a fully-grown dragon in full battle mode. Unfortunately, the remaining Sons of the Harpy start chucking spears at Drogon, which embed in his scales. Daenerys approaches her child, who roars at her but makes no move to hurt her. She pulls out one of the spears, and then climbs atop the dragon, who rears up and takes off, bringing the Mother of Dragons safely out of the fighting pits as he shoots off into the air, leaving all behind awestruck and in shock, including everyone watching the episode. And then, of course, end credits.


– Will Olly make an attempt on Jon Snow’s life? Is that why the character is given so much prominent screen time to express his dislike of the Wildling plan?

– Does Jaqen know how Arya really spent her day? Is he playing along so that she’ll have the chance to kill Ser Meryn? Was that the point of sending her to the docks in the first place, suggesting that Jaqen somehow had knowledge of the future telling him Ser Meryn would be coming to Braavos?

– How does Greyscale get passed on? Because Jorah touched Daenerys tonight, and I really don’t want her to die of that terrible disease.

– So do Jorah and the rest still have to fight there way out of the fighting pit? Or will the Sons of the Harpy retreat now that they lost their real prize, the Queen?

Phenomenal episode, with true range as it went from ugly and dark (painful to watch) to action-packed and uplifting as we saw Drogon and Daenerys take the first step toward their destiny, setting the stage for when she returns to Westeros riding her dragons to take back her kingdom. Can’t wait for the finale next week!