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GAME OF THRONES Re-Throned: “The Dance of Dragons” (S5, E9)

Winter is coming, but not soon enough. So to help pass the time until season seven of Game of Thrones, we’re doing a weekly re-watch of the series, episode-by-episode, with the knowledge of what’s to come and—therefore—more information about the unrevealed rich history of events that took place long before the story began. Be warned, though: that means this series is full of spoilers for every season, even beyond the episode itself. So if you haven’t watched all of the show yet immediately get on that and then come back and join us for Game of Thrones Re-Throned.

Because the next best thing to watching new episodes is re-watching old ones.


Season 5, Episode 9: “The Dance of Dragons”

Original Air Date: June 7th, 2015
Director: David Nutter
Written by: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

The first time I saw Stannis sacrifice his own daughter in “The Dance of Dragons,” I was too stunned that he actually went through with it to process the scene on an emotional level. That was not a problem this time around. Listening to Shireen’s screams and her mother Selyse’s pleading is heartbreaking, and the moment stands as one of the saddest from the show. It even hurts seeing a broken and desperate Stannis watching his daughter burn to death, though he gets a lot (A LOT) less sympathy.

But beyond the inhumanity of it all, there is an important lesson here, one that might tell us which characters are already doomed.


Stannis believes that he is the Lord of Light’s chosen one, the prince that will save the world from darkness. Except, for supposedly being this great hero, nothing has worked out for him on his quest to fulfill that role. From half of his sworn houses declaring for his brother Renly when he had the best chance to defeat the Lannisters, to losing Blackwater because House Tyrell allied with the Lannisters, to being abandoned by hired mercenaries, to having both Mance and Jon turn down his offers, to this terrible snowstorm as he heads to Winterfell, his path to greatness has been a disaster.

When his camp is attacked at the start of this episode by Ramsay and 20 men, greatly hindering his ability to march on Winterfell, it leads him to doing the unthinkable out of desperation. Stannis tells Shireen, after he has already made his decision to sacrifice her, about making hard choices, especially ones you personally do not want to make:

“Sometimes a person has to choose. Sometimes the world forces his hand. If a man knows what he is and remains true to himself, the choice is no choice at all. He must fulfill his destiny and become who he is meant to be. However much he may hate it.”


Being able to put duty over love, as Maester Aemon said, is one hard lesson of leadership the show has consistently pushed, so Stannis wasn’t wrong about the difficult choices a ruler must make. But we know this choice was the wrong one, beyond just the inhumanity of killing your own daughter. Yes, the snows will melt after he does this, but half his force will leave him too because of what he did. And when he readies for his siege of Winterfell he will be caught off guard when the Bolton army attacks him instead.

Stannis killed his daughter, and as a direct result he will soon be dead at the hand of Brienne of Tarth.


So if this choice was wrong, what was the right one? It’s possible one didn’t exist, but we know what it definitely wasn’t.

Kinslaying is considered by many to be the greatest sin one can commit in the Seven Kingdoms, and Stannis did it three times: his daughter, his brother Renly, and his brother-in-law Axell Florent.

Other characters have also not lived after killing a family member. Lysa Arryn poisoned her husband Jon and she went out the Moon Door. Craster sacrificed his sons to the White Walkers and he got a dagger through the throat. Ramsay killed his father Roose Bolton, his step-mother, and his baby half-brother, and ended up as dog food. Even across the Narrow Sea, Khal Drogo “crowned” his brother-in-law Viserys and he too ended up dead.


This episode also takes its name from a massive form of kinslaying, the famous Targaryen civil war known as The Dance of the Dragons, which Shireen is reading about before her death. Brother and sister fought over the Iron Throne, they both ended up dead, as did many Targaryens, and the war led to the end of dragons (until Daenerys), which in turn eventually led to the near destruction of House Targaryen.

It’s possible that kinslaying eliminates anyone from coming out victorious, or even of living a long life after. And it just so happens there are still a lot of kinslayers standing and fighting right now, major players in the coming end of the story.


Jaime killed his cousin Alton when he tried to escape captivity. Baelish murdered his wife Lysa. The Sand Snakes conspired to murder their uncle and cousin. Euron Greyjoy assassinated his brother Balon. Cersei blew up her uncle, cousin, and daughter-in-law. Olenna Tyrell killed her grandson-in-law Joffrey.

Might every single one of these people get their comeuppance for committing the greatest crime possible? If history is any indication, they surely will, much like Stannis and the rest did.

So what does that mean for Tyrion, who left Westeros after killing his father Tywin. Is he long for this world? Or is the wise and humane Hand of the Queen, someone we’d expect to play a major role in the coming Great War, not going to be around long enough to help win it?

That might depend on whether or not he really killed his father in the privy, or if his real father was killed years ago when Jaime put a sword through the Mad King.


The theory that Aerys II raped Joanna Lannister, and is therefore really Tyrion’s father, is an old one, but it has merit. Tywin repeatedly told Tyrion he was no son of his, he got along famously with (who would be his nephew) the secret Targaryen Jon Snow, and Tyrion was able to get very close and personal with dragons. Could he be the third head of the dragon?

That remains to be seen, but if he’s not, and he did kill his real father when he fired his crossbow at Tywin, he too might pay for his crime with his life.

Because while an arrow in your jerk of a father’s stomach isn’t as horrible as burning your daughter alive, kinslaying is kinslaying, and the outcome for people who commit that sin seems to be a death sentance.

What do you think? Are all of the kinslayers accursed? Or will some of them still be standing at the end? Kill it in our comments below by telling us your best theories.

Images: HBO

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