TV Recap: Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 9, “A Dance with Dragons”

The Overthinkers recap “Game of Thrones” Season 5 Episode 9, “A Dance with Dragons.”

Ben Adams, Peter Fenzel, John Perich, Jordan Stokes, and Matthew Wrather recap Game of Thrones Season 5 Episode 9, “A Dance with Dragons.”


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8 Comments on “TV Recap: Game of Thrones, Season 5 Episode 9, “A Dance with Dragons””

  1. Adam #

    Speaking of Entourage, this podcast came with quite a lot of cohorts.


  2. ScholarSarah #

    You said that slavery is better than not-slavery, but there are multiple kinds of slavery, and multiple kinds of not-slavery. I would say at least that between enslaving a population and exterminating them, neither is clearly better, even though one is slavery and the other is not-slavery.

    Also, Danaerys does not get to choose between the generalized slavery and not-slavery that you are referring to, because the Sons of the Harpy are going to be around in the future. The various permutations of slavery are bad, but Meereen may not have any good options for its near future.

    In absolute terms, I agree that ritually sacrificing your child is bad. However, I believe that having Cersei rule the Seven Kingdoms into getting zombified by the White Walkers is worse, and Stannis earnestly believes those to be his choices. You could judge him for believing that to be the case, but in a world of magic fire gods who respond to human sacrifice and immanent armies of cold zombies, deontologies which make sense in a world without magic may not apply in a world with magic.

    Matt’s comment about death being one method of upholding one’s principles is not applicable for Stannis’s situation. Dying would not satisfy Stannis’s values. He is driven by duty, from the idea that he IS King, and consequently owes Westeros a duty to supress the usurpers to the throne. Not sacrificing Shireen to the Red God would be a huge betrayal of the duty to the realm.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      Points taken.

      Still, at the risk of belaboring the issue, I’m inclined to look at it slightly differently, since Stannis doesn’t really talk about the instrumental benefits of his becoming king — i.e., that having him instead of Tommen/Cersei on the throne would generally benefit everyone. He talks instead about his own nature: “If a man knows what he is, is it his responsibility to make sure he realizes his full identity?”

      So I’m not sure I’d characterize his dilemma as “What’s worse? Dead Shireen or Living Cersei?” And he seems a lot less worried about his duty to Westeros than about his duty to his nature as true king. I guess I’d frame it closer to, “Which is the more important part of my nature? Loving father or True King?”


      • ScholarSarah #

        I had a hard time finding a context for that scene. The idea of being who he was meant to be calls to my mind a Daoist philosophy of things acting in accordance with their nature, which doesn’t seem to be echoed elsewhere.

        I guess it’s not a duty to Westeros that drives Stannis. When I hear that I am reminded of Varys saying that his loyalty to the realm, which makes me think he uses a sort of utilitarian calculation.

        As for what does drive Stannis, I find his portrayal in the show to be frustratingly vague. At times it looks like he is a true believer in the Red God, and at others it seems he is more personally secular, but indulges Melissandre because she supports his claim to the throne.

        Regardless, my read of Stannis is not that he was conflicted on whether he would be willing to sacrifice his daughter, but whether he needed to. Which is terrifying.

        The whole situation that Stannis finds himself in calls to my mind a poem from Doctor Who. Now, the Doctor claims not to be a good man, and it is debatable whether Stannis can be called a good man (though I would not go so far as to put him on par with the Roose Bolton, much less Ramsay), but I think that the meaning of the poem rhymes with Stannis’s situation.

        Demons run when a good man goes to war
        Night will fall and drown the sun
        When a good man goes to war

        Friendship dies and true love lies
        Night will fall and the dark will rise
        When a good man goes to war

        Demons run, but count the cost
        The battle’s won, but the child is lost
        When a good man goes to war


        • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

          Of course, that child was already found, but, you know, spoilers.


  3. ScholarSarah #

    I found Hizdar zo Loraq’s story this season has been interesting, especially in light of books. In the books, it is argued by Adam Feldman at The Meereenese Blot ( that he represents the peace in Meereen.

    The show doesn’t hit the same story beats, and contrary to what theory would predict, he is killed by the Sons of the Harpy. I see him in the show as representing the possibility that Meereen is redeemable. His role is less about brokering peace between the former slavers and former masters, and more about trying to show Danaerys the aspects of Meereenese culture that are not dependent upon the exploitation of slaves (though this may be tied up in the necessity of providing exposition through dialogue).

    His story comes to a close, then, when the Sons of the Harpy attack at the Great Games. The idea that her marriage to Hizdar and political compromise not only failed to stop the attacks, but that the Sons of the Harpy have the numbers and the confidence to attack at a large public event, and then kill Hizdar, makes me think that he is supposed to represent the idea that Meereen can be redeemed, and his death in such a manner tells us that Meereen -cannot- be redeemed. (Makes me think of the League of Shadows trying to destroy Gotham, except being given evidence that they are right.)


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      Yeah, I really like the Meerenese Blot. I think it’s the best overall interpretation of A Dance With Dragons that I’ve encountered.

      One of the big insights from it is that, in the books, Daenerys’s efforts to make peace in Mereen, despite the annoyance and threat represented by the Sons of the Harpy, are mostly successful. But she’s so frustrated by the foreign-ness of it, which she thinks is intractable and impossible, that she flies away on drogon anyway.

      She doesn’t think they’re successful, but they are successful. And her marriage to Hizdar works.

      In the show, I might be forgetting, but I don’t think he ever does what he does in the books – which is demonstrate that he can halt the attacks of the Sons of the Harpy through backchannels for 90 days, in order to convince Daenerys that the marriage will work out politically.

      Whereas in the show, Hizdar is clearly under duress, doesn’t actually want to marry her, and provides Daenerys with basically nothing.

      It’s a really unfortunate way to toss a pretty cool character into the garbage. I’m glad they killed him off, though, because he was contributing basically zero at that point.


      • ScholarSarah #

        Certainly the attack at the pits demonstrates that her betrothal to Hizdar isn’t a path to peace. (Wild Mass Guess: unless the surprising number of Sons of the Harpy in the attack on the pit is actually evidence of the fact that it was actually done by the former slaves (who can wear masks just as easily as former masters) to punish the return to the status quo, which explains their numbers, why there were so few Unsullied involved, and why they killed Hizdar (to punish his elevation to King), but that’s pretty paranoid.)

        Actually, the way you describe Hizdar is a perfect metaphor for Meereen.

        First, the city is under duress. Danaerys took the city by force, (though it was primarily by orchestrating a coup).

        Second, the city does not want Daenerys ruling it. The slavers for obvious reasons. The former slaves are also disenchanted with her: Fennesz, petitions to be sold back into slavery because he had a better status under that system, and there are crowd of former slaves who riot over her execution in The House of Black and White.

        And third, it provides Daenerys with basically nothing. She ends up spending a great deal of time in the city, has people who are loyal to her die, and appears to be unable to durably end slavery in the city.

        That he dies makes me think that Daenerys’s time in Meereen is over. She might still have dealings with the city, but I after this I would expect it to be more Blood and Fire than politics and compromise.


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