Game of Thrones Discussion: One of the Darkest (and Most Hopeful) Episodes This Season

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Spoiler alert: Do not read on if you haven’t seen tonight’s episode of Game of Thrones, “The Dance of Dragons.”

For a minute there, Stannis seemed like one of the few good parents on Game of Thrones, a characterization the show dialed up this season. But in tonight’s episode, he joined the ranks of the ugly. Poor Uncle Davos couldn’t save the sweetest character (Shireen literally means “sweet”) on the show from being sacrificed by her own father. It’s the most stomach-turning death we’ve seen on Game of Thrones in a while, in another bloodbath of an episode. But for all its tension, “The Dance of Dragons” ends on a note of release, with Daenerys riding her dragon off into the sunset.

How did they handle that murder?
Shireen’s death (which does not occur in the books … at least not yet) is one of many child killings on Game of Thrones, but it’s perhaps the most painful, disturbing one we’ve seen yet, or rather heard — the camera pans away as Shireen shoots up in flames, leaving us with just the isolated sound of her voice crying out for her father and mother. Stannis keeps his stone-cold exterior, and Selyse, well, she shows too little, too late. Is anyone possibly rooting for Stannis at this point?

Did Jaqen believe Arya’s lie?
Arya spies Meryn Trant — a name on her kill list — in Braavos, and ditches her duties to follow him.  When Jaqen asks about her day, she says, “The Thin Man wasn’t hungry today.” Has Arya mastered the art of the lie, or is Jaqen only pretending to believe her?

Best entrance (and exit) goes to Drogon.
As the Sons of the Harpy close in Daenerys and Co. in the fighting pits, Daenerys gives up all hope for a moment, tenderly holding Missandei’s hand as they wait for certain death. Until Drogon shows up, breathes some fire all over those harpies, and follows Dany's lead out of the pits. It's been a season of growing pains for Daenerys, and with Tyrion by her side now, you can almost hear her thinking, Finally, someone who gets it. In an episode full of emotional lows, the high was seeing Daenerys starting to trust her instincts. (Also, watching Jorah claw his way back — the man is one scrappy fighter.)

Best line goes to Tyrion: “It’s easy to confuse what is with what ought to be.” (Similar words were spoken tonight on Veep: ““You’re acting like there’s a correlation between what should happen and what actually happened.”)

Nina Shen Rastogi’s full recap will be up in the morning. In the meantime, what else struck you in this episode? What do you hope to see in next week's finale? Discuss!