I’m as interested as anyone in learning more about the magical origins of Valyrian steel and dragonglass from Dragonstone—both ancestral seats of House Targaryen. And I can only assume that actual dragons have some role to play in the coming battle for the fate of humanity. If these are the real stakes for the show, though, does that mean all of the other stories matter only insofar as they get in Dany’s way or help her? I hope not.
Orr: I think this has always been a tension in the show (and the books), Amy: Invest viewers deeply in the convoluted political machinations of the noble houses in Westeros; but also occasionally remind them that none of this really matters at all, because while they bicker, an existential threat to everyone—Stark, Lannister, Baratheon, Tyrell, Targaryen, Martell, etc., etc.—looms on the horizon. That this tension is clearly deliberate doesn’t make it any less vexing.
My greatest cognitive dissonance has always concerned the fact that, as far as we know, there are no White Walkers in Essos. Dany doesn’t need to invent space travel; she just needs to stay where she is, in the arid Sunbelt heat of Meereen. Indeed, the more time the show (and, again, books) has spent across the Narrow Sea, the clearer it’s been that the Eastern lands are richer, more cosmopolitan, and vastly more winter-free than Westeros. And, as tonight’s episode underlined, the Walkers don’t seem to have any boats. Plan your retirement to scenic Volantis accordingly!
But zooming back into tonight’s events, this was an episode that played to showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’ strengths and avoided some of their weaknesses. As I mentioned last week, they have yet to show a knack for the wicked and meticulous plotting of George R. R. Martin (hardly surprising given that this is his most remarkable gift). And, as we’ve all noted on too many occasions to count, they have a terrible weakness for needlessly ramping up the sex and sexual violence of their source material. Tonight’s installment didn’t require much in the way of clever plotting, and it was blessedly devoid of the T & A in which “T” too often designates “torture.”
Instead, we got substantial helpings of what Benioff and Weiss do best: writing great dialogue (hello, Tyrion and Dany!) and engineering big, game-changing events (duh: zombie army). Anyone who read my spoiler-y speculations on where the season’s probably headed will know that I expect more of both in the final two episodes.
I’ll start where the show did tonight, with Daenerys and Tyrion. What a couple! They’re like Sam and Diane, or Joel and Maggie, or Maddie and David. (I’m going to pace myself and give it time before I start throwing around names like Hepburn and Tracy or Powell and Loy.) This almost, almost, redeems the countless hours—the missed birthdays, the neglected friendships—I spent plowing through A Dance with Dragons waiting for the two characters to meet up.