Summary: Jon returns to Castle Black with the wildlings. Stannis' camp is sabotaged by Ramsay. Stannis gives in to Melisandre's suggestion and burns Shireen despite his wife objecting. In Dorne, Jaime and Bronn are allowed to leave with Myrcella and Trystane if Trystane is allowed a place on the small council. In Braavos, Arya doesn't kill the gambler after having her focus distracted by the arrival of Meryn Trant with Mace Tyrell. Arya follows Meryn and plots to kill him. In Meereen, Dany watches the fighting pits. Jorah wins his melee. Suddenly the Harpies attack and murder Hizdahr. Drogon arrives to save Dany and burns the rebels. Dany rides Drogon away to escape.
The Good: The most I enjoyed from this were short scenes. I thought Jon's scenes were very good. I liked the tension presented between Jon and Alliser at the gates. I appreciated that Alliser didn't openly rebel by leaving Jon beyond The Wall, but you have to get the feeling that there is more to this conflict. I also liked the Night's Watch gawking at the giant as it walked through Castle Black.
Arya's storyline was the only complete story that I entirely enjoyed. I thought that Meryn's arrival was a terrific moment to get us some inner conflict for Arya who hasn't done all that much this season. She is unable to leave the past behind and is still herself despite all of her training so far. I thought the sequence of her following Meryn was really tense, and I was especially nervous when I saw Meryn notice her several times over. I think Arya has figured out how to kill him (see: The Unknown) but I don't imagine it will be easy for her. Things are set up really nicely for the season finale in Arya's story.
Some other odd scenes were really good. Davos and Shireen had a touching scene, made sadder by what happened later in the episode. It should be impactful to see Davos' reaction when he learns that Stannis burned Shireen. I thought Mace Tyrell's singing was really funny and a good bit of continuity with his character. Bronn's punishment being that he gets smacked hard in the face was pretty funny and fitting of what we know of Dorne.
The spectacle of the ending scene was really well done. Dany riding Drogon was a fantastic moment and an exciting ending.
The Bad: Unfortunately, "Game of Thrones" couldn't keep the momentum from "Hardhome" and this was another poor instalment that did very little to get me excited for what happens in the next episode.
Ramsay conveniently being able to quickly burn Stannis' supplies didn't work for me. I was annoyed that we didn't see how he pulled it off as it left me with too many questions. How did Ramsay locate Stannis so easily? If the answer is that he was just on the Kingsroad, surely it would have been harder for Ramsay to sneak up on his camp. I can't buy that Ramsay and his men not only slipped past the guards somehow, but also lit fires at the exact same time before escaping the camp without being detected. It's an impossible feat which only happened because the plot needed it to happen. The excuse that "Ramsay is a northerner so he has the advantage" is so stupid. It has been summer for 10 years, so how on Earth does Ramsay have more experience in winter combat? As such, I can hardly buy that as a credible excuse.
The rest of Stannis' story didn't deliver either as it was unfocused and downright lazy. Stannis chose to burn Shireen and the scene happened, yet I hardly felt anything. Sure I was horrified by the fact that Shireen was being burned, but that was it. Surely I should be feeling more from a dramatic moment like that but I really didn't. I'm not sure how Stannis felt about this, so I'm not sure how I'm supposed to be feeling about this. Plus, the whole story has been horribly rushed and there haven't been enough scenes to give Stannis time to make this decision. And unfortunately we didn't get enough time to see how Stannis felt about this decision either. Is he heartbroken because of this? Is he conflicted? Is he scared? Confident that it will work? I have no idea, and that is preventing me from getting emotionally invested with what is going on. The scenes are fine on paper, but in execution they are sorely lacking.
I've already complained enough about the show being too focused on horrifying us without much substance, and this continued to do that. There were no other emotions being offered other than "wow that was messed up", and that is far too simple for such a disturbing scene. This show used to expertly make scenes like these feel impactful and earned, but this season hasn't done that. What has happened? And to make it worse, immediately afterwards a man get decapitated and it's played for laughs. The show has gotten completely tone-deaf and, like I claimed in "The Gift", is just trying to play up shock value at the sacrifice of storytelling.
Unfortunately, Dany's story wasn't any good either aside from the final moment. First of all, Jorah should be dead right now. It's amazing how convenient his survival was, as his opponents were vicious and merciless until they just inexplicably let him recover in time to kill them in a "surprising" way. Ugh. Then we have another "surprising" reveal as the Harpies reveal themselves and attack. Yet for some reason they do not swarm Dany and waste time murdering innocent civilians, which seems completely at odds with what I know of them so far. The whole scene felt over-dramatized to make it more exciting. Furthermore, why didn't Dany have more guards? She is the queen and there is an obvious threat from the Harpies in the city.
The Dorne scenes feel utterly pointless and dull. I'm not sure what they are going to accomplish and I honestly don't care at all because they are boring. I have no reason to care about any of these new characters, so this storyline has failed in an extremely basic way. I swear, if Myrcella or Trystane "surprisingly" die in the season finale as the big pay-off for this story, I won't be pleased.
The Unknown: Where will Dany go now? What will happen with the Harpies? Will they be defeated next episode?
What will happen now that Shireen has been burned? Will the Lord of Light save Stannis' army somehow? Or will Roose and Ramsay die somehow? Perhaps Theon will regain his identity and kill Ramsay?
Does Arya plan to pose as one of the girls to please Meryn in order to kill him? I imagine she will. Will Meryn remember that he saw her before? I think he will and that it will lead to a much more intense confrontation for Arya to extract her revenge?
Best Moment: Nothing really stands out. Probably Davos and Shireen's final scene.
Character of the Episode: Arya.
Conclusion: Sadly, the outstanding work done in "Hardhome" was undone this week. This was a big disappointment of an episode. This had several similarities with "The Gift" as both episodes didn't do anything particularly awful, as the main issue was just a weaker, unfocused execution of the story. This season has fallen apart after a strong start and it is disappointing to see a great show make some boneheaded decisions to ruin what could have been another awesome and engaging season. Hopefully the season finale can provide a fitting conclusion, but after the show has presented its two weakest episodes thus far, I'm not getting my hopes up.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.