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There are spoilers for the show and some of the books in here. Duh.

It’s hard to put into words why this episode annoys the hell out of me. I’m sure everyone’s heard all the  anger and disappointment being thrown around. Social media exploded. As usual, it’s a “shocker” and maybe that’s it, maybe it always feels like they’re just trying to shock us. This isn’t a bad thing exactly until you trade good storytelling for shocks. Sensationalism is a thing, and it’s starting to wear out some viewers. We knew there would be changes to the book, especially this season, but have they been good changes? Not really, in my opinion. Previously on Game of Thrones, Tyrion and Dany are now BFFs while she’s trying to deal with Harpies in Meeren. Jorah chose to go back into slavery to fight for his Khaleesi. Stannis is trying to wage war on Winterfell but he’s definitely in a weak position, and Melisandre says the only way to guarantee victory is to take his daughter as a sacrifice. Arya’s training to be an assassin, Jaime went to Dorne to get his daughter/niece back, and Jon brought the surviving Wildlings back toward the Wall.

I’ll get the easy ones out of the way first. Arya is distracted when she sees Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant show up in the bay. Trant was the one who fought Arya’s teacher Syrio Forel and probably killed him, and he’s been on her list. She tracks him to a brothel and sees he’s a pedophile. She tells Jaqen her mark wasn’t hungry, but it’s fairly clear he knows she’s lying and this is probably a test. Careful, Arya. Jon gets back and no one’s happy to see him, but they do end up opening the Wall to him and the Wildlings. Hopefully whoever went with him to the camp can tell their brothers the very real threat of the White Walkers and everyone can shut their faces. I know this is very unlikely, but serious guys, bigger problems. Prince Doran agrees to let Jaime take his daughter/niece back, and insists that his son join them and take his position on the council. This seems very dumb to do considering it’s his heir and King’s Landing is not exactly safe. Plus his son is kind of a wimp, unlike ARIANNE MARTELL HIS TRUE HEIR. I told you I was never getting over it. He insists Ellaria beg his forgiveness and warns her not to betray him again. She has a weird bonding moment with Jaime saying she doesn’t judge him for his love of Cersei. I feel like she’s definitely setting him up, as if she’d bond with a Lannister. None of them know that Cersei is still in prison.

0x600So the major storylines are both intense, one horrible, and one amazing. Stannis sends Davos away to the Wall to get supplies, and I knew as soon as he did that, bad things were about to happen. Shireen told her father she wanted to help him, and apparently that means “please kill me.” As she is burned to death, Shireen screams for her parents to help her and begs to live. Everyone watches her die. Her mother briefly loses control and runs toward her, but can’t help her. A lot of people are bothered by this because book Stannis hasn’t done it. The jury’s still out on whether he will, but he’s not going to any time soon because book Stannis is no where near Shireen. Stannis has always been a little crazy. He killed his brother with a shadow creature, let Melisandre gleefully burn innocents to death, and will do whatever it takes to win. He is an end justifies the means guy in a lot of ways, as long as the price seems enough to pay. I do think it’s odd they worked so hard to have the audience be won over, only to do this. I also think they spent way too much time letting us hear her scream. It was horrific enough that it happened, but after the first minute or so of her begging and screaming, I got emotional and had to fast forward. This is sensationalism. Did we need to sit there and hear it for 5 minutes? Jeez. Now people are steadfast back into “everyone sucks, especially Stannis” territory. Can the White Walkers win? I vote them.

Meanwhile Dany is at the fighting pits with her husband-to-be. She, Tyrion, and Daario are snarking at him, and it’s pretty hilarious. It gets less funny in a minute. Jorah comes in and while he does nearly get his ass handed to him, he survives and wins the battle. He hucks a spear toward Dany, but it kills a Harpy behind her. They’re attacking! He offers her his hand, which made me go wait what about the grayscale. Maybe it only infects you if you are touched with the specific scaling. Otherwise way to poison her. They try to flee and Tyrion saves Missandei (where is Grey Worm?), but they get caught in the middle with everyone around them. Drogon comes crashing in to save the day and eats or sets fire to a bunch of Harpies. They are oddly brave enough to throw spears at him, because I would just run the hell away at that point. Dany gets on his back and they fly away. Meanwhile all of Dany’s friends are sitting in the pit going “ummmm, remember us? Help?” We see them in the preview so obviously they’re find, but it is kind of hilariously dropped there. She needs to let her other dragons out too! Get the family back together.

At the end of the day, I see Shireen’s death as yet another added instance of violence toward women in the show that was not in the books. I think it makes narrative sense, although they definitely made it as dramatic as possible, which is really gross in this context. She’s a child, no one needs to hear her burn to death. It’s been really constant this season; added rape, sexual violence, now murder of a child, and the poor child prostitute Trant took and planned on abusing. When it keeps adding up one after the other, I start to think the writers have a problem. Not one that they apparently care to address. What they’re doing now isn’t shocking so much as exploitive, and it’s not entertaining anymore. Dany’s scene was the best from the books but now they’re in a space for her that isn’t in the books. Considering how they’ve gone off book for other characters? I’m not optimistic about what she has ahead of her. There’s still the finale left. Here’s hoping it gives me reason to continue watching.

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