This is a Game of Thrones recap I have wanted to write for a long time.
Dany escaping the Daznak fighting pit while riding Drogon is one of the most exciting and climactic moments in George R.R. Martin’s novels.
And the death of Shireen—which is not in the novels (at least not yet, but apparently will be)—is one of the most horrifying sequences in the show’s history (and something I’ve been privately obsessing over since first hearing about it).
Thrones has always excelled at giving us moments of terror and triumph, but seldom have the highs and lows ever been so extreme, or come so quickly on top of each other, than in the past few episodes. We’ve had hugs and euphoria (Dany meets Tyrion! Jon’s epic Hardhome battle!) and gut-punches and sadness (Ser Barristan dies, Sansa is assaulted). And now, tonight, in rapid succession, we witnessed the profoundly disturbing murder of an innocent child, and saw the glory of a queen reclaiming her destiny—two scenes that could easily serve as the climax of an entire season on any other show, though it’s tough to imagine any other series pulling them off as masterfully as Thrones did here (with the help of director David Nutter, who previously helmed season 3’s Red Wedding episode).
I have a lot to say about the Shireen scene in particular. So I’m going to break my usual format and begin the recap with the scene I most need to talk about first, and then we’ll dive into the rest.
Stannis’ camp: There are a series of foreboding beats..
Foreboding Beat 1: Melisandre is staring into the flames. The flames are her Netflix. She goes outside and suddenly sees—a lot more flames. Neatly done. Her eyes widen. Some psychic, she didn’t see that coming.
Ramsay’s raid was a total success. There is a flaming horse, which you don’t see every day. Stannis’ food was burned, and the weather is still awful. If only Stannis hadn’t spent so much time hanging out at Castle Black correcting grammar, he might have stood a chance against the Boltons. When you’re plotting to hang your own guards and have to eat your horses for meat, you’re finished.
Stannis sees Selyse and Melisandre, and goes to huddle with his wife and lover—his Batshit Small Council. We do not hear what is said. We are worried.
Foreboding Beat 2: Stannis decides to send Davos away, telling him some excuse about bringing back supplies. My first thought is: “Hurray for Davos, RUN!” But rapidly on top of that is: “Uh-oh…”
Davos may be loyal to Stannis, but he would never stand aside while they sacrificed Shireen. Davos wants to bring Selyse and Shireen with him to Castle Black, but Stannis insists they stay behind.
Stannis Baratheon, the Jack Torrance of Westeros, has just disabled the snowmobile.
NEXT: Why. Why. Why. Why