'Game of Thrones' Book Club: 'Dance of Dragons' unshockingly involves fire and blood
Each week, HitFix Harpy will be hosting the "Game of Thrones" book club. A safe space where readers of "A Song of Ice and Fire" can come to dissect the changes to the series and debate what will happen next. All without fear they'll accidentally spoil something for non-readers.
WARNING: THIS POST IS DARK AND FULL OF SPOILERS. DISCUSSION ALL THE WAY THROUGH “THE WINDS OF WINTER“ BEYOND THIS POINT.
The question on everyone’s mind this week was “How can ‘Game of Thrones’ top frost zombies!?” Unless you’re a book reader. In which case — seeing the colosseum in the previews — you knew the answer was “dragons.”
What we didn't know was Stannis’ was about to take a hard left turn into irredeemable villain territory. While I, for one, still hope he breaks the Boltons and leaves nothing of their House name but a smoldering ruin, it’s no longer because I hope Stannis survives the Winter.
#1: Stannis goes off the deep end.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: This hasn’t happened…yet. According to the showrunners, Shireen’s death is coming down the pipe.
On the show: I’m woman enough to admit when I’m wrong. Two weeks ago I was sure the scene between Stannis and Shireen was meant to assure us a father’s love outweighed a king’s religious fanaticism. Alas, it was only to highlight exactly how far Stannis is willing to go to take the Iron Throne (and give the audience more insight into greyscale).
But looking back at Stannis’ pattern of behavior, none of this should be a surprise. He’s been working up to this terrible moment for a long time. When we first meet Stannis, he is burning the effigies of the Seven; later mirrored when he burns his own loyal bannermen. Despite having some remorse, Stannis still kills his own brother. He would’ve killed his nephew — Gendry on the show and Edric Storm in the books — if not for the intervention of Davos. “Game of Thrones” skips over Jon Snow having to trick Stannis into not murdering a BABY. Each time he got a little more comfortable with killing in the name of the Red God.
So while what happened to Shireen is awful, Stannis was always a cultish religious fanatic. We were just pretending he wasn’t.
#2: Drogon to the rescue.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Drogon appears in the pit, drawn by the smell of tasty treats spilling blood on the sand. When he lands and starts breathing fire willy-nilly, the guards attempt to subdue (kill) him while people panic and flee. Dany runs down into the pit to save her “child.” Drogon sets her on fire for her effort, once again proving Daenerys cannot be hurt by dragon flame. Using a whip to berate him into submission, Dany manages to climb on Drogon's back but loses control and he flies away…with her on board.
On the show: Drogon is less of a force of nature running roughshod over everything like the apex predator he is and more of a rescuer. While it’s possible Drogon was drawn to the pit by the smell of blood, his earlier appearance when Dany was feeling vulnerable sets a precedent that they are somehow psychically linked. Additionally, Drogon only set the Sons of the Harpy on fire, and not any of Daenerys’ allies or the thousands of delicious screaming snacks in the stands. Whether this kinder, gentler version of Drogon still absconds to the Dothraki Sea with Dany and refuses to return remains to be seen.
#3: Trystane is headed to King’s Landing.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Prince Trystane is a child — as is Myrcella — instead of a lovesick teenager. He remains safely in Dorne. No one is teaching him to rule anything because he is the youngest of three and Arianne Martell is the heir to Dorne, as the gender of the eldest child doesn’t matter to the Martells’ when it comes to succession.
On the show: By all appearances, Trystane is an only child. Neither Arianne or Quentyn have been mentioned. I had hoped Arianne’s absence was only for the season and not the full run of the show, but Prince Doran off-handedly mentioning his son must “learn to rule” seems to say otherwise.
Dorne had great promise to show audiences a world vastly different from the rampaging misogyny of the rest of the Seven Kingdoms. Arianne wanted to crown Myrcella Queen of Westeros, not kill her. The Sand Snakes were a vibrant and varied group of women. Ellaria wanted peace and an end to the cycle of violence. It was as close as George R.R. Martin’s universe got to a feminist country. And HBO has squandered it at every turn.
Here’s hoping next season is better, if Dorne even continues to play a role. Once Jamie leaves with Bronn, Myrcella, and Trystane, what purpose does Dorne have without Doran’s machinations for Quentyn and Arianne?
#4: Arya’s prayer is answered.
Image Credit: HBO
In the books: Ser Meryn is alive and well and still as much of a favorite of Cersei Lannister's as ever. He’s also still in King’s Landing and has never so much as SEEN the shores of Braavos.
On the show: He’s gonna die. As a guard to Mace Tyrell, Trant is now solidly in Arya’s crosshairs. She’s being trained as an assassin that can look like anyone…including a young virgin. While Trant was gross enough WITHOUT a taste for prepubescent girls, this new personality quirk will make it all the easier for Arya to cross another name off her list.
Odds & Ends
• Was one of those prostitutes named Inara? Did “Game of Thrones” just make a “Firefly” reference?
• Jorah bled all over the fighting pits. How many people who got out have Greyscale now?
• Nice touch having Shireen hold the wooden stag of her House as Stannis snuffed out the last of the (legitimate) Baratheon line.
• Selyse coming to her senses — even too late — was shocking to me. I thought she was eye-deep in her cult beliefs.
• Davos is already North and Sansa is probably headed that way to tell Jon about Bran and Rickon. This cements to me that one of the Stark kids will send Ser Davos to look for their youngest brother.
• I can’t wait to see the look on Melisandre’s face when she realizes she’s been backing the wrong horse for Azor Ahai.
• What do you guys think: Will Olly’s sudden but inevitable betrayal take place in the season finale or next year?