Game of Thrones Recap: Stannis Baratheon Makes a Brutal Sacrifice, Daenerys Dances With Dragons

Game of Thrones The Dance of Dragons recap
Game of Thrones season 5 episode 9, "The Dance of Dragons," saw one character meet a brutal end -- and a dragon returned! HBO

Stannis Baratheon might still be in the running for the Game of Thrones, but his Worst Dad of All Time award is in the bag after the penultimate episode of Season 5.

In keeping with the show’s tradition of breaking out the big guns in each year’s ninth episode, “The Dance of Dragons” was a major, major turning point for our characters — and an untimely, shocking end for one. Who did the titular dance with the titular dragon, and whose Game of Thrones future went up in smoke? Read on for Us Weekly‘s recap.

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The Wildling Alliance Returns to the Wall

After last week’s carnage at Hardhome, which saw roughly three-quarters of Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) hopeful Wildling allies turned into members of the White Walkers’ undead army instead, Jon and the remaining one-quarter of surviving Wildlings returned to Castle Black. Although Allister Thorne reluctantly let them in, none of the Night’s Watchmen were happy to see a hundred free folk trudging through the gate, which means dividing their already-meager supplies even further… and that’s even before the giant showed up. How were they ever going to feed that guy? An entire cow is, like, half a meal for him.

A Shaky Peace at the Dornish Court

A sit-down between Jaime Lannister (Nicolaj Coster-Waldau) and Doran Martell (Alexander Siddig) did a lot to clear the air after last week’s “garden invasion” incident — despite Ellaria Sand’s (Indira Varma) seething and shade-throwing throughout the meeting. A fresh cooperation was established between the houses, and happily for lovestruck Myrcella, her engagement to Tristan Martell still stands. Ellaria, shamed and foiled in her attempt to exact revenge on the Lannisters, had no choice but to swear allegiance to her prince and make nice with Jaime, which she did. Still, something tells us that she hasn’t given up hopes of avenging her beloved Oberyn so easily.

Arya tracked down Ser Meryn Trant, one of the men she is on a quest to kill on Game of Thrones. Courtesy of Macall B. Polay/HBO

Arya Has Murder on Her Mind

Arya (Maisie Williams) was hocking cockles at the port, as instructed. But rather than watching her bookie target, she was distracted by the arrival of Ser Meryn Trant, who had come along with Lord Tyrell for a meeting with the Braavosi bank. Lest you’ve forgotten, Trant is one of the names on Arya’s must-kill bucket list, and the temptation proved too much. She followed him all day and into the night, into a brothel where he was blowing off some steam by calling all the whores “too old.” And no, she didn’t kill him — yet — but when she went back to the house of Black and White, the lie she told Jaqen H’ghar about how she spent her day made it clear that girl is very much back in the business of being Arya Stark.

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The Cost of King’s Blood

In Stannis Baratheon’s (Stephen Dillane) camp, the night was dark and full of terrors — specifically, terrible fires set by Ramsay Bolton’s men that had wiped out the crusaders’ food supplies, weapons, and horses. With no hope of pressing forward and not enough food for a return trip, Stannis sent Davos Seaworth back to Castle Black for supplies… but only because he knew that Davos was the one person in camp who wouldn’t allow him to do what he intended to do next. And with Davos dispatched, Stannis resolved to take creepy Melisandre’s (Carice van Houten) advice and sacrifice his own child, Shireen (Kerry Ingram) to the Lord of Light. On another show, Shireen might have been spared from a fiery death by the last-minute arrival of a heroic savior. On this one, the poor girl could do nothing, except scream, and scream, and scream.

After an attempt on Daenerys’ life, one thing saved her — her biggest and most unpredictable dragon, Drogon. Courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

Enter the Dragon

True to her word, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) had reopened Meereen’s fighting pits (basically the Game of Thrones version of the Colosseum.) She was hating every minute of it, though. For one thing, she loathed the violence. For another, her fiancé, Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) wouldn’t stop insisting that it’s totally normal and awesome to spend your afternoon watching people chopping each other’s heads off for funsies. And worst of all, her old friend Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) appeared in the arena, ready to fight and die right in front of her.

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Dany looked stricken as Jorah took one hit, then another.

“You can end this,” Tyrion urged.

“She cannot,” Hizdahr retorted.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to: Jorah claimed bloody victory over his last remaining opponent — and then whirled, sending a spear flying right past Daenerys’s head! Behind her, a masked Son of the Harpy fell, dead.

But he wasn’t the only one: The arena was full of men in gold masks who drew blades and begin killing everyone in sight. Unsullied soldiers were slaughtered. Hizdahr went down with a knife in his heart. Missandei came thisclose to dying, only to be saved by Tyrion at the last moment. But they were hopelessly outnumbered, and trapped, and it looked like it was all over as the Harpies closed in on Dany and her friends. Seriously, the only way they could possibly get out of this would have been if, say, some giant, fire-breathing beast with Targaryen loyalties were to suddenly appear from the sky and incinerate all the Harpies and OH HEY, LOOK AT THAT.

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Drogon, Dany’s biggest and most unpredictable dragon, was back, and more protective of his mother than ever. And when Daenerys saw the Harpies flinging spears at her baby, she didn’t stick around to see how it was going to end. She climbed aboard, and away they soared: exit the dragon. Surely all the friends she left behind on the ground surrounded by armed assassins are fine!

Tell Us: Did “The Dance of Dragons” live up to your expectations?

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