‘Game of Thrones’ 5.09 Recap: “I Fight and Die for Your Glory”

I guess ‘Game of Thrones’ didn’t blow its entire production budget for the season on that big action scene last week. In the penultimate episode of the season, the show builds to an (in my opinion, which surely nobody else will agree with) even better sequence this week.

By the reaction on the internet, I appear to be the sole person on the entire planet who was disappointed in last week’s big zombiepalooza extravaganza. Fine, so be it. I don’t need anyone else to agree with me. I just don’t really care about Jon Snow or any of the anonymous hordes of Wildlings, and still find the White Walkers to be kind of cheesy. In contrast, I care a lot more about the characters featured this week, and dragons are way cooler than silly skeletons.

Oh, sorry, did I spoil that too soon? The episode is called ‘The Dance of Dragons’, so it’s right there in the title.

Stannis Baratheon’s Camp

Although he’s not shown on camera this week, Ramsay Bolton is successful in his sapper raid on Stannis’ army. The episode opens with a series of fires breaking out in the camp. Food and weapons are destroyed, and hundreds of horses are killed. This comes on top of the generally miserable state the army’s already in due to the winter conditions (which don’t really look all that bad, to be honest; I had way more snow in my front yard this winter). Nevertheless, Stannis is determined to press forward anyway. He is confident in Melisandre’s vision.

When Davos once again advises his king to postpone the attack on Winterfell, Stannis orders him to return to Castle Black and beg for new food and supplies. It’s an errand that any messenger could perform, and Davos knows that Stannis is just trying to get rid of him. What he doesn’t realize is just what kind of atrocity Stannis has planned that he doesn’t want Davos around for.

Before he leaves, Davos has a nice moment saying goodbye to Stannis’ daughter Shireen. Yeah, that’s a really bad sign for the girl.

(If you want to get nit-picky with me, ‘Dance of Dragons’ is also the title of the history book Shireen is reading about the Targaryen feud for the Iron Throne. It’s clearly meant to have a double-meaning, however.)

In what may be the most horrifying thing to ever happen on ‘Game of Thrones’, Stannis sacrifices his daughter Shireen to the God of Light by burning her at the stake in front of his entire army. While her death mercifully isn’t shown on camera, the girl’s screams are so piercing that even her batshit crazy mother (who has never shown any love for her in the past) breaks down and has to be restrained from running to save her. Melisandre, on the other hand, watches approvingly.

Castle Black

Jon Snow returns to the Wall with the 5,000 or so Wildlings he was able to rescue, including that one giant. (How did he fit on a ship?) Ser Alliser hesitates for a moment before opening the gate. When Snow explains his failure, Alliser (again) comments that his mercy is a weakness that will get them all killed.


Jaime is brought before Prince Doran, who makes it clear that (unlike Ellaria) he has no interest in starting a war. He even raises a toast to King Tommen – to which Ellaria dumps her drink on the floor. Jaime will be allowed to return to King’s Landing with his niece Myrcella, on the condition that her fiancé Trystane go with them and they still marry. Also, Trystane must take Oberyn’s place on the Small Council. Jaime gratefully accepts.

When Jaime asks what will happen to Bronn, Doran leaves that decision to Trystane, because Bronn hit him during the Sand Snake skirmish. Trystane agrees to be merciful, with one condition of his own. When Bronn is brought before them, the big guard named Areo Hotah punches him in the face. Hard.

Doran will also let Ellaria live, but forces her to swear allegiance to him, which she does grudgingly. He cautions her that he believes in second chances, but not in third chances.

Later, Ellaria visits Jaime and rubs it in his face that she knows all about him and Cersei, and that Myrcella is really his daughter.


Arya takes the vial of poison that Jaqen gave her and makes her rounds with the oyster cart. As she gets to the gambling man, however, she ignores him when she spots a boat arriving at the docks with Mace Tyrell (whom Cersei sent to negotiate with the Iron Bank) and – more importantly to her – the knight Ser Meryn Trant. The latter has been on her hit-list since (presumably) killing her swordmaster Syrio Forel.

Arya becomes obsessed and stalks Meryn to a brothel, where she discovers that, among his many other unpleasant qualities, he’s a pedophile who likes little girls. It seems pretty clear where this is going next.


Daenerys and Tyrion attend the grand championship at the fighting pit arena, even though neither of them approves of the sport. The first match pits a strong fighter versus a quick one. Blatantly flirting with Daenerys in front of her fiancé Hizdahr, her boyfriend Daario boasts of his own accomplishments in the fighting pits (which clearly turns on the hypocritical Dany) and says that he always puts his money on the quick over the strong. Just a moment later, he’s shown-up when the burly knight decapitates the smaller one. It’s a lesson this show has made a few times previously (most notably The Mountain killing Oberyn Martell) that brute strength often wins over showy technique.

At the next match, Dany is disappointed to see Jorah in the pit, as one of three sets of dueling fighters. She gives the go-ahead for the battle, probably thankful for an excuse to kill him without technically ordering his death.

At first, Jorah does poorly and takes a beating from the Merenese champion, but eventually emerges triumphant against all challengers. He’s booed by the crowd as he stands before the queen. Shockingly, Jorah chucks a spear directly into the stands. But this isn’t an assassination attempt. The spear strikes and kills a masked Harpy who was sneaking up behind Daenerys.

Suddenly, more Harpies reveal themselves. The crowd is filled with gold masks on every side. Mass chaos erupts. The Unsullied guards move in to protect their queen but are greatly outnumbered. Many of them are killed. A Harpy kills Hizdahr. Jorah rushes in and rescues Daenerys from another. Tyrion saves Missandei.

As they try to escape, Daenerys and her group are forced into the center of the fighting pit, surrounded in a circle by Harpies who push closer and closer toward the remaining Unsullied.

Just as things look hopeless, a screech cries out. Of course, if you paid attention to the episode title, you can guess what happens next.

Drogon, the biggest of Dany’s three dragons and the one she wasn’t able to lock up, swoops into the stadium, setting dozens of the attackers aflame with his fiery breath. Harpies toss spears into his back and neck, wounding the dragon, but Daenerys is able to walk up to him, climb onto his back, and fly off to safety.

I fully admit that the final shot uncomfortably recalls ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and is perhaps a little corny, but I’m with it all the way. This episode is, for me, everything that last week tried to be. I’m much more invested in the fates of these characters and, personally, I think the action is more interesting. It’s just a shame that it has taken literally 90% of the season for the show to finally kick into gear.

Traditionally, ‘Game of Thrones’ finale episodes function as dénouements and rarely feature big action set-pieces (though last year tried). I don’t expect next week to top this one.


  1. Another great episode, if not a horrific episode. So many things starting to happen as we wind down the season, making me dread the season finally next week. If last week didn’t kill of any long time characters, this episode fixed that up pretty quickly. GOT definitely not afraid to breach some awful subject matter.

    Like Josh, I felt that Dany climbing aboard the dragon was a bit cheesy, but still necessary and the right thing. I am not sure if it is possible to pull off something like that and not come off cheesy. Even if I read that in a book it seems cheesy to me. It was great to finally see at least one of the dragons play a significant roll in an episode.

    It looked like Jorah clearly touched Dany’s hand with his hand when he helped her down into the arena. Does that mean she now has the Gray Scale disease? I will really be annoyed if Dany comes back next week and banishes Jorah again.

    I really enjoyed watching the looks on the Nights Watch faces when the giant stepped through the tunnel. Now they may want to take John Snow a little more seriously. He has seen some crazy shit and they better believe it is real. But, they probably won’t remember and keep hating on him.

    Overall the Dorne story line didn’t feel compete enough, it seemed thin and not as impactful as it should. I was hoping for a bit more there. It feels like it is a setup for something next season. Perhaps Jamie is unwittingly giving Trystane the access he needs to take the Iron Throne.

    Is it possible we get another big episode with an attack on Winterfell? My guess is not. I have a feeling all we will get next week is Arya dispatching Ser Meryn Trant. And all the other storylines will leave us with cliffhangers.

    • Without going into anything specific, prepare for BIG things next episode. They’ve already stated that a main character dies this season that hasn’t yet in the books, but I doubt they meant Stannis’ daughter.
      This isn’t going to be a wind-down episode. Still lots of stuff needs to happen. Can’t wait!

    • Timcharger

      Eric Hanes: “I really enjoyed watching the looks on the Nights Watch faces when the giant stepped through the tunnel. Now they may want to take John Snow a little more seriously. He has seen some crazy shit and they better believe it is real. But, they probably won’t remember and keep hating on him.”

      I don’t quite get how witnessing giants doesn’t
      have a similar effect to witnessing a dragon. Yeah,
      dragons are cooler. I agree. But seeing an actual
      giant should change minds.

      When Dany’s dragons are witnessed, people get
      it. They know this worldview they used to have,
      has changed. Their minds change about gods,
      houses, power.

      The giants should have a similar effect. The
      Night Watchmen should revisit their beliefs of
      the Wildlings and the leadership of Jon Snow
      by just witnessing the fact that Jon has brought
      in a giant to ally them against the White Walkers.

      I may have a certain established worldview, but
      if I personally witnessed a Water Walker, water-
      to-winemaker, once-crucified-zombie, I would
      re-examine my worldview.

  2. cardpetree

    I actually kind of felt about this episode the way you did about the last episode. The final fight was kinda cheesy and the flying on the dragon thing was just silly. Don’t get me wrong, even a bad episode (this wasn’t a bad episode by any means) of Game of Thrones is still great television but I really like the Jon Snow and White Walker story. Shireen burning alive was brutal though. I thought the episode a few weeks back that showed the moment between Stannis and his daughter was very touching and then he allows her to be burned alive? Absolutely brutal.

  3. Clemery

    You are certainly not alone in your opinion that last week’s big action sequence was disappointing. With nobody of consequence in the scene (apart from Jon Snow, and not for one second did I ever think he was in danger of being killed off), it was little more than a generic action sequence, with minimal gore compared to other episodes. And I also don’t get really excited by the inclusion of zombies, they are so oversaturated at the moment that it almost makes the show feel less unique. Perhaps people have been so starved for action this season that they instantly fell in love with any offering, and I was also close to writing off the season after last week’s failure to bring the magic back. But happily, The Dance Of Dragons brought the series back for me, with a shocking death, plenty of action with blood and gore, and its great to finally see a dragon do something useful to the plot. I didn’t really see how cheesy it was when Dany flew away, but now that it has been described that way, I can’t help but agree… however, its not much of a downer considering the awesomeness of the rest of the episode.

  4. It’s been a while since I’ve read A Dance with Dragons, but I remember a completely different tone to Dany’s escape. There wasn’t some huge action sequence leaving her only one option to flee. She left because she truly despised ruling Meereen. It was rather odd since the entire book was her figuring out how to rule these people and the result is her escaping it all. I’m sure they will hit on it next week, but it was obvious at this point of the book that she didn’t want to come back.
    I wish the sequence happened faster than it did. It was so shocking in the book because out of nowhere she jumps onto Drogon and gets out of there immediately. In the show she slowly tests the water and eventually makes her way onto Drogon.
    I’m not sure I like the shift for Stannis. I loved how much this season developed Stannis because he gets little to no time in the books. They developed him this season just to turn him into a huge monster though, and that sucks. Even bigger a shocker is that they make his wife the compassionate one, even though she is responsible for countless family members being burned alive. I know what they are trying to do, but I don’t like it. I’m pretty tolerant of the content of the show, but hearing Shireen scream was hard to sit through.
    Oh well, time to find out if it was truly worth the sacrifice of his own child.

  5. Mario Menchaca

    Oh my, the scene with Stannis’ daughter was terrible. I felt so bad about her asking to see her dad so he could come and save her. All her innocence betrayed. It really made me feel bad.
    I didn’t like the final scene either. All the preparation, and the appearance of the Sons of the Harpy was great, but when it all seemed doomed, my wife said: The dragon will come and save them. And moments later, it happened! It was so cheesy. Of course I didn’t think they would kill those characters, but I didn’t like it how Drogon saved everything, when last time we saw him he was a little rebel and disrespectful with Dany.
    BTW, Jared, nothing in the scene implied Daenerys was leaving Meereen, or at least I didn’t catch that, so that was kind of a spoiler for us, non-readers… :S

  6. Charles M

    My problem with the Dany/dragon scenes, is that they come after one of the most horrific scene in the show. I was kind of too depressed to really care that much for whatever happened there.

  7. Timcharger

    Josh: “Davos knows that Stannis is just trying to get rid of him. What he doesn’t realize is just what kind of atrocity Stannis has planned that he doesn’t want Davos around for.”

    I think the opposite. I think Davos knows. He suspects,
    yet doubts that Stannis will really go through with it. He
    wants to be nearby just in case. He was in a previous
    season, able to convince Stannis to go with his, instead
    of Melisandre’s advice. Davos repeatedly suggests to
    have Stannis’ daughter & wife to be moved away from
    the battlefront.

  8. Timcharger

    Josh: “…on the condition that her fiancé Trystane go with them and they still marry. Also, Trystane must take Oberyn’s place on the Small Council. Jaime gratefully accepts.”

    I get why Jaime agrees. He’s a prisoner. He’ll agree to
    anything. But why does Prince Doran think these
    demands will be met by a Kingsguard? A Kingsguard
    has no place in determining membership of the
    Small Council. Even if Prince Doran knows Jaime is
    Myrcella’s father, why would Prince Doran think
    Jaime being a secret father can insure a wedding.
    The fact that Jaime is in Dorne personally to do a
    kidnapping means that Jaime does not have strong
    political power. Would Robb Stark, Tywin Lannister,
    Balon Greyjoy, Stannis Baratheon personally go on
    a mission behind enemy lines?

    Prince Doran risks much. He’s throwing his son’s
    life away. Trystane has not demonstrated any of
    Oberyn’s fighting skills or acumen. Replacing
    Oberyn with Trystane?! Doran has gone from wise
    to stupid, in my book.

  9. Timcharger

    Josh: “I fully admit that the final shot uncomfortably recalls ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ and is perhaps a little corny, but I’m with it all the way.”

    It’s not corny to me. I’m with it all the way.

    Because an animated film (a good one, too) has a dragon
    riding scene, that’s supposed to make this GoT scene
    corny? The concept of dragon-riders has existed for a
    long time, and gets repeated in film every decade or so.
    Was How to Train Your Dragon corny because Eragon
    previously did it?

    It’s in our mythical-(sub?)consciousness. Did Greek
    children complain that every similar story after
    Bellerophon riding Pegasus was corny?

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