Stannis (Stephen Dillane) is the Lord of Dragonstone and brother of the late King Robert Baratheon. He claimed the Iron Throne after discovering that then-King Joffrey was a bastard son.
But his attempts to seize power have been nothing short of disastrous. His ill-fated attack on King’s Landing at the Battle of Blackwater Bay, left him brooding, bitter, and frankly, teetering on madness.
He’s been under the spell of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), Red Priestess of the Lord of Light, a deity worshiped in Asshai, her homeland. She’s supposed to have the power of prophecy, but her visions often require blood sacrifice.
Stannis is enthralled by her because of his own insecurities and desperation. But why he kept her around after Blackwater is anyone’s guess. It was her idea to attack, assuring him that her prophecy said he wold be king.
Now Stannis is on the march again, and Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is back working her sadistic magic. She convinces him that he needs to sacrifice his gentle daughter Shireen (Kerry Ingram) to the Lord of Light to be successful in his latest campaign against Winterfell.
That means, of course, burning her at the stake.
Ramsey (Iwan Rheon) sneaks into his camp with 20 confederates and sets fire to everything, thwarting an attack on Winterfell, where Ramsey’s House Bolton, has declared itself Lord of the North.
That apparently convinces Stannis he needs some super-natural help. He agrees to go along with Melisandre’s twisted plan. He dispatches Davos to Castle Black to resupply his army, and does the deed in shocking detail. Her screams are piercing.
Not since the death of Robb Stark (Richard Madden) at the Red Wedding has there been such a shocking plot development. But you could sense it coming when Stannis reconciles with his sweet daughter, setting everyone up for a fall.
No telling how Davos will react when he finds out; and Stannis’ wife may want revenge. Did the scheming Melisandre really think Shireen needed to be sacrificed, or was she just elminating Stannis’ heir?
Next week’s cataclysmic season finale will apparently occur in Braavos, where other plot lines, except Jon Snow’s, led this week. Snow is back at Castle Black with the remnants of the Wildings, setting up a potential conflict with his enemies at Castle Black.
Meanwhile, in Braavos, Arya finally gets a mission from Jaqen to assassinate insurance cheat known as the “thin man.” But she spies Lord Mace Tyrell’s henchman, Ser Meryn Trant (Ian Beattie), who is on her hit list.
His taste in young brothel girls makes him a ready target for revenge, and Arya appears ready to use her new skills to do him in. But what will Jaqen say?
Daenerys is learning the hard way that conquering cities, like Meereen, is the easy part; ruling them is another matter. She gets cornered by the Sons of the Harpy at the gladiatorial games and a major battle breaks out. But she’s not the dragon queen for nothing.
Drogon, her biggest, baddest–and errant–dragon, has been keeping an eye on her. When it sees the danger she’s in, Drogon swoops in and blasts the Harpys. She climbs on its back and is flown to safety.
The scene is not lost on awed Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), who finally understands why they call her the Dragon Queen. The bad news: her betrothed Hizdahr zo Loraq (Joel Fry) is slain. The good news: Jorah (Iain Glen) has won her confidence again, after saving her life.
Daenerys may be ready to march on Westeros, but Jaime Lanister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has set up a major obstacle.
His mission to rescue his neice/daughter Myrcella (Nell Tiger Free) has produced an unintended benefit–an alliance between the Lanisters and Doran (Alexander Siddig).
Doran’s son Trystane Martell (Toby Sebastian) is returning to Kings Landing and will be given a seat on the Small Council. He will also go through with his marriage to Myrcella.
A lot of dominoes have been set up for the season finale. But after the shocking death of the innocent Shireen, there’s no telling what will happen.
So far, however, the show seems to staying true to the old adage, “only the good die young.”
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