- This article is about the Season 5 episode, for other uses see The Dance of Dragons (disambiguation).
"The Dance of Dragons" is the ninth episode of the fifth season of Game of Thrones and the forty-ninth episode of the series overall. It premiered on June 7, 2015. It was written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter.
Stannis confronts a troubling decision. Jon returns to The Wall. Mace visits the Iron Bank. Arya encounters someone from her past. Daenerys reluctantly oversees a traditional celebration of athleticism.
At the Wall
Jon Snow, Tormund, and the surviving few thousand wildlings from Hardhome arrive at the Wall, before the gates of Castle Black. For a tense moment Ser Alliser Thorne hesitates to let all of their old enemies through, but finally he gives the order to open the gate. Thousands of wildlings come through the Wall to Castle Black itself, including many women and children, and even the giant Wun Wun. Many men of the Night's Watch glare at them. Alliser coolly tells Jon that he has a good heart (to save so many people), but that it may end up getting them all killed .
Jon reunites with Samwell Tarly, but is despondent, saying that the mission was a disaster and they only managed to save a small fraction of the wildlings at Hardhome. Sam points to different wildlings passing by and notes that each of them would have died if he had done nothing at all, so it wasn't a complete failure.
In the North
During the night at Stannis Baratheon's army camp, Melisandre gazes intently into the flames of her tent's brazier hoping to receive visions from the Lord of Light. In the distance, several tents burst into flames, sending confused men shouting, and one horse screams as he runs away on fire. During the night, Ramsay Bolton and twenty men raided the camp, burning much of their food supplies and heavy siege weapons. Hundreds of horses also died in the fire. Davos notes that their situation is now dire: they don't have enough food to make the march back to Castle Black or to advance to Winterfell, and without their siege weapons they have little chance of storming the castle to take its food supplies anyway. Stannis asks how this could happen and Davos insists that the Boltons know the North's terrain better than they do so it was easy for a raiding party to sneak into camp. Stannis suggests that the watchmen were either collaborating with the enemy or simply not attentive enough at their posts to allow such a disaster - either way he orders them to be executed. Stannis says to slaughter the dead horses for their meat, which should at least buy them a little time.
Stannis's demeanor becomes grave and half-stunned, as he believes there is only one course of action to take. He starts by ordering Davos to return to Castle Black to ask for more supplies from Jon Snow. Davos is confused given that even if Jon did decide to resupply them the provisions probably wouldn't reach them in time, and wonders why Stannis would send him instead of just a messenger. Stannis insists that it is because he needs his Hand of the King to engage in diplomacy to win Jon over - but in reality, Stannis sends Davos away so he wouldn't be around to stop what Stannis was planning on doing next.
Davos visits the tent of Stannis's daughter Shireen Baratheon to say goodbye. She is enjoying reading a book by Grand Maester Munkun about the Dance of the Dragons, a major civil war in the history of the Seven Kingdoms. They share a laugh about how a knight tried to kill the dragon Vhagar by sneaking up on it with a mirrored shield, but it didn't fool the dragon, who promptly roasted the knight. Davos gives her a wooden stag figurine he has been carving as a present. She asks why he has been so nice to her, and he explains that he felt bad that his son Matthos always insisted that his father learn to read and he never did. Matthos died in the war, and by teaching Davos to read Shireen helped him fulfill his son's wish.
Some time after Davos leaves, Stannis himself visits Shireen, visibly shaken but trying to speak to her kindly. He asks about her reading, and she explains that "The Dance of the Dragons" was a great civil war between Rhaenyra Targaryen and her half-brother Aegon, each of whom thought they deserved to sit on the Iron Throne. The great lords of the Seven Kingdoms each declared for one or the other, dividing the realm in half, and tearing Westeros apart. Brother fought brother and dragon fought dragon in the devastating war. It was a disaster for House Targaryen as well, who never truly recovered. Stannis asks who she would have chosen, Rhaenyra or Aegon, and she says she wouldn't have chosen either - it was all of the choosing sides that plunged Westeros into civil war. Stannis gravely responds that sometimes the world forces a man to choose even if he doesn't want to, but if he stays true to himself he knows what he must do, and then it isn't really a choice at all - even if he hates doing it. Shireen says it's all right and she wants to help him, though he responds that she doesn't even know what he wants. She doesn't care and asks if there is any way she can help, and he says that there is. Shireen insists that she wants to, because she is Princess Shireen of House Baratheon, his daughter. They hug and he embraces her tightly and Stannis whispers "forgive me".
Later, Shireen exits her tent as well and sees all of the soldiers gathered around, and asks where her father is. Coming to the front of the assembly, she sees Melisandre in front of a wooden pyre with a large stake in the middle. She starts shouting to see her father, but is grabbed by soldiers who drag her to the pyre and tie her to the stake. Melisandre soothingly tries to calm her by saying that it will all be over soon. Shireen's cries ring out through the camp, but no one intervenes. Stannis and Shireen's mother Selyse then appear in the crowd. Shireen sees them and begs her mother and father to help, but they do nothing. Selyse insists aloud to herself that the sacrifice is what the Lord of Light wants.
Melisandre begins praying and announces that they offer up the life of this girl to the Lord of Light, and sets the pyre on fire. As she explained to Stannis before, she believes that sacrificing Shireen's life - which contains the power of a king's blood - will gain the Lord of Light's favor, who in return will aid them in their time of need by lifting the blizzard. Stannis believes that if they do nothing, they will remain snowbound and all starve to death here. Shireen continues to repeatedly cry "Mother, please!" and "Father, please!" - eventually even Selyse, who only had a cold and non-existent relationship with her daughter, suddenly breaks and rushes forward, begging that they can't go through with it. Soldiers restrain her, however, and she sinks to the ground crying in despair. Shireen's cries become even more frightened, but Stannis continues to watch even as Selyse sobs on the ground. As the flames begin to consume Shireen she wordlessly screams in pain and fear, and eventually even Stannis cannot bear to look anymore as she burns to death.
Jaime Lannister is escorted into the main apartments of the Water Gardens by Areo Hotah, to be received by Prince Doran Martell in a luxurious solar, along with Ellaria Sand, Doran's son Trystane Martell, and Jaime's "niece" Myrcella Baratheon. They lounge on a circle of couches, Myrcella cuddling with Trystane. Jaime notes that Myrcella is wearing a revealing Dornish-style dress now, and she says that the warm climate of Dorne agrees with her.
Coming to the point, Doran asks Jaime why he has snuck in to Dorne to abduct Myrcella back to King's Landing. He says he feared for her safety, but when Doran insists why he didn't just send a letter by messenger-raven, he explains that they received a threatening message: Myrcella's Lannister lion pendant jammed in the mouth of dead viper. Doran glares at Ellaria, while a confused Myrcella explains that her pendant was simply stolen from her room.
Jaime asks if Doran intends to behead him, but (acting more sympathetic now that Jaime revealed he was threatened first) he says that he will not, because he wishes to avoid war. Doran has seen what war can do, bodies piled on the battlefield and orphans left starving in cities at home, and he will not lead his people into that. Ellaria bluntly asks what he will do, break bread with the Lannisters? However he says that is precisely what he will do, as wine is poured for Jaime, and he raises his own goblet and offers a toast to King Tommen, First of His Name, long may he reign. Jaime returns the toast but Ellaria deliberately pours out her wine onto the floor in disgust.
Doran asks if Tommen indeed commands that his sister be returned to the capital, and Jaime politely says he does, to which Doran says he cannot disobey his king - Myrcella will return to King's Landing. She is upset for a moment, but then Doran explains his solution: his son Trystane will go along with them, to take over the seat on the Small Council which Tywin granted to Oberyn, but which was vacated by his death. Doran insists that for the alliance between the Iron Throne and Dorne to continue, the engagement of Trystane and Myrcella must stand, and Trystane will simply take his uncle Oberyn's place on the Small Council. Jaime finds Doran's request entirely reasonable, and Myrcella is ecstatic that she will not be separated from Trystane, so Jaime agrees. Ellaria gets up to leave and snaps that it is no wonder that Doran cannot stand, because he has no spine. As she walks out he grabs her by the arm and lowers his voice, saying that she is the mother of four of his nieces and for their sake he hopes she has a long and happy life but if she talks to him that way again, she will not.
Jaime then asks what fate will befall Bronn, who is still imprisoned. Bronn punched out Trystane when they tried to take Myrcella, and Jaime is asked what the normal punishment is for striking a prince where he is from. Jaime politely insists that Bronn was only following orders and they can't punish him for simply following Jaime's commands. Trystane agrees, saying he has learned the value of mercy from his father, but that he has one "condition".
In the prison cells, Nymeria and Tyene Sand spar out of boredom, as Obara tries to ignore them and get some sleep. The guards arrive and release Bronn, and Tyene mocks him as he leaves. Areo leads Bronn back to the solar where Doran, Jaime, and the rest remain. Bronn apologizes to Trystane when he sees him and says he didn't mean anything by hitting him before. Jaime then gladly informs Bronn that the Martells agreed to let Bronn go with Jaime, but on one condition: wordlessly, Areo then delivers it by striking Bronn in the face with his elbow, so hard that Bronn is knocked to the floor, as a payback for hitting Trystane.
Later, in the courtyard, Areo brings Ellaria and the Sand Snakes before Prince Doran in his wheelchair. Doran gives Ellaria an ultimatum: she can either choose to swear allegiance to him (and that she will not try something like this again), or she can choose death. Restraining tears, she kneels and kisses his hand. Doran says that he believes in second chances and she is forgiven - but sternly warns her that he does not believe in third chances.
Ellaria then finds Jaime in a study writing a letter back to King's Landing informing of his return. He writes very poorly, given that he is using his non-dominant left hand, and Ellaria remarks that he writes like a seven year old. Ellaria notes how odd it is that she and Oberyn were looked down on for their sexuality in King's Landing, and Jaime is scorned for his incestuous love for Cersei - to which he remains silent and gives no acknowledgement - though a hundred years ago, if his name were Targaryen, no one would have blinked an eye at such a relationship. Cryptically (perhaps spurred by Doran), she then says that she knows "your daughter" Myrcella had no part in what befell Oberyn, and maybe even Jaime is innocent of that (and indeed he is, as Oberyn volunteered for the trial by combat). She exits, and Jaime is left to ponder what seems to be her apology.
Arya, in her "Lanna" persona, is once again pushing her cart through the canal streets of Braavos selling various types of shellfish. She passes the "Thin man" who sells insurance to sailors, having been given a mission by the Faceless Men to assassinate him with poisoned oysters. Just as she reaches him, however, she stops in her tracks and stares fixedly on a boat at the dock which has caught her full attention. Stepping out of the boat is Master of Coin Mace Tyrell - and the commander of his guards is none other than Ser Meryn Trant of the Kingsguard, one of the names on Arya's kill list which she recites as a daily prayer. Meryn helped betray her father and killed her Water Dancing trainer Syrio Forel. Mace was sent by Cersei Lannister to treat with the Iron Bank of Braavos, which has started calling in the crown's massive debts, and at least try to gain a little more time to deal with the problem from the bankers. Mace is greeted at the dock by the bank's representative, Tycho Nestoris. Mace addresses Tycho politely and amiably, though he doesn't realize that his jokes aren't really funny. All the while Arya remains frozen and staring at Ser Meryn, ignoring the Thin Man's requests for some of her oysters.
Arya abandons her mission to assassinate the Thin Man, and instead follows Ser Meryn as he accompanies Mace. After visiting the Iron Bank building, Meryn and a few other Lannister guards depart from Mace at night and go to visit a local brothel. Arya sneaks into the brothel under the guise of simply selling her oysters and clams from a hand basket. The bouncer Brusco doesn't want her in at first but the prostitute Lhara, who is one of Arya's regular customers, tells him to let her stay, as oysters are held to be an aphrodisiac. Arya sells a few and then makes her way to the back chambers where she spies on Meryn from behind some shutters. Meryn catches a brief look at her at one point, and she seems vaguely familiar, but he just shrugs it off (it has been years since he last saw her, she is older and thus looks different, she has different Braavosi-style hair and clothes, and he doesn't think that Arya would logically be in Braavos).
The brothel's madam presents several girls in succession to Meryn, but he passes on each as too old. She brings out her best and most expensive prostitute, a beautiful young woman named Anara, but Meryn again dismisses her as too old. The madam slowly realizes that Meryn is perversely interested in young girls who are barely teenagers - around Arya's age - so she brings out a very young girl who Meryn accepts gruffly, bluntly saying he expects another "fresh" one tomorrow. After he leaves the madam runs into Arya and shoos her out.
Later, Arya returns to the House of Black and White empty-handed, having abandoned her first mission for the Faceless Men. When Jaqen H'ghar asks what happened, she lies to him and says that the Thin Man simply wasn't hungry today and didn't order any of her oysters. Jaqen quips that perhaps this is why he is a "thin man", and Arya promises that she will follow through on the assassination tomorrow. She departs, and while Jaqen seems to suspect that she was lying, he makes no outward reaction to it.
Attended by Tyrion Lannister, Missandei, and Daario Naharis, Daenerys sits in the royal box at the Daznak's Pit. Hizdahr zo Loraq arrives late, claiming to have been putting the final touches on the arrangements for the event. When the first two combatants take the field, Hizdahr indicates that Daenerys is to start the fight with a clap of her hands. Daario verbally spars with Hizdahr for much of the first match, drawing Daenerys's attention from the spectacle in front of her. Her attention returns to the arena when Jorah Mormont gives the traditional dedication to her. In spite of Jorah's previous successes, he has decidedly mixed results in the grand melee he finds himself in. The grand melee begins with six fighters, with Jorah pairing up against a Norvosi long-axe fighter. The Norvosi is able to land several blows against Jorah, eventually knocking him to the ground, however Jorah is able to bring out his dagger and eventually bury it in the Norvosi's chest after a brief melee.
Meanwhile, a Braavosi Water Dancer easily dispatches his Dothraki opponent, and then focuses his attention on Jorah. Jorah finds himself hopelessly outmatched by the Water Dancer and suffers many cuts from his opponent's rapier. During the fight, a Meerenese Pit Fighter is able to lance his opponent in the chest. The Water Dancer eventually knocks Jorah to the ground, and is about to deliver a killing blow, but fails to notice the pit fighter who kills him from behind. Jorah then battles the pit fighter and kills him and is the last fighter standing.
Jorah stares for a few moments at Daenerys, then suddenly grabs and hurls a spear at the royal box – embedding itself in a Son of the Harpy sneaking up behind Daario. The Sons of the Harpy reveal themselves on every level of the arena and begin slaughtering collaborating Masters and freedmen alike – Hizdahr included. Jorah and Daario evacuate Daenerys from the royal box, while Tyrion rescues Missandei. Finding the exits blocked, the group makes a stand in the center of the Pit with remainder of the Unsullied defenders. Seeing they are hopelessly outnumbered, Daenerys takes Missandei's hand and closes her eyes, ready to face her death.
At that moment, a draconic screech pierces the air, and Drogon descends upon the arena, flying out of a giant flame burst.
Many of the Sons scatter in terror as Drogon bites, crushes and mercilessly burns the nearest ones to death. The Sons rally enough to attack Drogon with spears, embedding them in the dragon's tough hide. Daenerys hastily makes an effort to remove the spears, prompting Drogon to turn on her with a huge roar. He stops short of attacking her and becomes calm. Trying to get Drogon out of the Sons' range, Daenerys climbs atop his back and bids him to fly ("Valahd"), becoming the first Targaryen dragonrider in over a century. The Sons of the Harpy routed for now, Daario, Jorah, Missandei and Tyrion look on in astonishment as Drogon soars away.
- Shireen Baratheon
- Dothraki pit fighter
- Norvoshi pit fighter
- Pit fighter
- Water Dancer
- Meereenese Champion
- Hizdahr zo Loraq
- Many unnamed Slave Masters
- Many unnamed Sons of the Harpy
- Many unnamed Meereenese residents
- 16 of 27 starring cast members appear in this episode.
- Starring cast members Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister), Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish), Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell), Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy), Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark), Hannah Murray (Gilly), Conleth Hill (Varys), Gwendoline Christie (Brienne of Tarth), Dean-Charles Chapman (Tommen Baratheon), Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton) and Iwan Rheon (Ramsay Bolton) are not credited and do not appear in this episode.
- Guiomar Alonso, Boian Anev, George Appleby, Adam Basil, Richard Bradshaw, Jonathan Cohen, Christopher Cox, Matt Crook, Ricardo Cruz Jr., Rob DeGroot, Ben Dimmock, Levan Doran, Clint Elvy, James Embree, Bradley Farmer, David Grant, Richard Hansen, Bobby Holland Hanton, Radoslav Ignatov, Borislav Iliev, Rowley Irlam, Erol Ismail, Charles Jarman, Danko Yordanov, Milen Kaleychev, Georgi Manchev, Jonathan McBride, Leona McCarron, Richard Mead, Trayan Milenov, Sian Milne, Camilla Naprous, David Newton, Antonio Ona Sanchez, Radoslav Parvanov, Peter Pedrero, Velizar Plamenov Peev, Rashid Phoenix, Andy Pilgrim, Dominic Preece, Paul Shapcott, Vencislav Zlatkov Stoyanov, Ryan Stuart, Teodor Tzolov, Tony Van Silva, Raycho Vasilev, Pablo Verdejo, Kala Vodenicharov, Calvin Warrington-Heasman, Belle Williams, Annabel E. Wood and Lewis Young were stunt performers in this episode.
- This episode takes its title from the fifth and most recent novel of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons.
- Like the book title, however, it may be a nod towards the Dance of the Dragons, which was the name given to the civil war between two rival branches of House Targaryen after the death of King Viserys I. Despite this event occurring prior to the events of the series, it may refer to the near-civil war ongoing in Meereen, between Daenerys and the Sons of the Harpy.
- The scenes at the Great Pit of Daznak in Meereen were filmed in Osuna, Spain, at the Plaza de Toros, which has real sandstone walls and is over a century old. Controversially, it is an actively used bullfighting ring: annual events are held at the Plaza de Toros which end with bulls actually being killed in the arena (though "sometimes the bull wins").
- The entire sequence in the coliseum took 12 days to shoot, and involved 1,000 extras (who were then digitally doubled up to make an even larger crowd).
- Notice once again that not every Harpy statue in Meereen could be torn down, because many of them were large load-bearing statues, but Daenerys had her soldiers deface such statues. A large harpy statue supports the outer wall of Daznak's pit, and it has its face smashed.
- This is only the fifth episode in the entire TV series in which no scenes are set in King's Landing at all (the fourth was episode 5 of this season, "Kill the Boy", which focused largely on the Boltons). Much of this episode focuses on Stannis Baratheon's camp, Arya in Braavos, Dorne, and events in Meereen. Members of the Lannisters and Tyrells do appear (Jaime and Mace) but not those in King's Landing. Littlefinger, the Arryns, and the Vale do not appear. Winterfell itself, House Bolton, Reek, Sansa Stark, and Brienne of Tarth do not appear in this episode. House Greyjoy has not appeared at all throughout Season 5 and there is only one episode left after this.
- Shireen Baratheon is still alive at the end of the fifth and most current novel, A Dance with Dragons, but in the "Inside the Episode" featurette for this episode, Executive Producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss confirmed that George R.R. Martin told them that Shireen is going to be burned to death as a sacrifice in an unpublished future novel. Benioff said: "When George first told us about this, it was one of those moments where I remember looking at Dan, it was just, like, god it's so, so horrible, and it's so good in a story sense, because it all comes together."
- Shireen's death is thus the first major spoiler even for book readers. The only other thing that has been somewhat of a spoiler so far is the appearance of the White Walker leader and revelation that Craster's sons are indeed being turned into new White Walkers, back in Season 4's "Oathkeeper" - but it was implied that this was happening, and presumably the White Walkers would have some kind of leader. The burning of Shireen, however, is the first major character death confirmed to take place in an unpublished novel.
- In the novels, Stannis actually left Shireen, Selyse, and Melisandre at Castle Black with Jon Snow. The basic idea that Shireen is burned as a sacrifice seems to have been moved around somewhat from how it will play out in the novels. In the books, Melisandre is still insistent on burning a sacrifice of royal blood (to the point that before his death Jon fears that she might want to burn Maester Aemon, because he is a Targaryen and specifically the son of a ruling king). It is very strongly implied that Melisandre might burn Shireen as a sacrifice in the future - but in the upcoming apocalyptic war against the White Walkers, not so the blizzard halting his march against the Boltons at Winterfell will cease. When he marches to Winterfell, Stannis actually instructs the men he leaves behind that if he dies in the assault, he expects them to keep fighting to put Shireen on the Iron Throne. Fundamentally, however, Martin confirmed to Benioff and Weiss that in at least some form, Melisandre is going to burn Shireen alive as a sacrifice to the Lord of Light in a future novel.
- The TV producers were initially not certain that Shireen would ever even appear in the TV series due to time constraints. Back when Stannis was introduced in Season 2, they later said that they actually focused very carefully on the lines saying that he "has no sons" to intentionally leave open the possibility to introduce in the future that he does have a daughter. Even when Kerry Ingram was hired to play Shireen when she was subsequently introduced in Season 3, she stated that they only hired her for the one year - again uncertain if there would be enough time to extensively include the character into the TV series. Afterwards they enjoyed Ingram's performance and how the character was working out so they gave her more scenes in the next two seasons (it is unclear at what point Martin told them that Shireen was going to be burned to death in a major moment in a future novel).
- Shireen's death seems to be based on the Greek myth of Iphigenia during the Trojan War. Her father King Agamemnon needed to lead the combined Greek fleet to Troy, but the winds were against them and it remained stuck on the coast in Greece, due to Agamemnon killing a deer in a sacred grove of the goddess Artemis. Left unable to fulfill their oaths to attack Troy, Agamemnon is told by the seer Calchas that the only way to appease the gods so that they will calm the winds and let the fleet leave is if he sacrifices the life of his daughter Iphigenia. Agamemnon is at first horrified, but under pressure from the other Greek captains he reluctantly agrees. Iphigenia is unaware of her imminent sacrifice until the last moment, when she is brought before the altar. Ironically, while in the myth, this action ultimately leads to the Greek victory in Troy, it achieves the exact opposite for Stannis. Although this sacrifice does melt the snow and open the way to Winterfell in the following episode, Shireen's gruesome death disgusts Stannis' men, and many of them desert as a result, leading to Stannis' defeat and death.
- Of note, since the Greek people could not tolerate stories about human sacrifice, the original story was edited; in the edited version, Artemis saves Iphigenia, places a stag in her place upon the altar, and takes her to Tauris. Many years later, Iphigenia's brother Orestes arrives at Tauris and brings her back to Greece.
- Shireen's execution is the third kinslaying performed by Stannis, following Renly's murder and the execution of Axell Florent.
- Shireen's death has been foreshadowed in Season 2 episode "Valar Morghulis": Melisandre told Stannis "You will betray your family. You will betray everything you once held dear".
- Davos Seaworth was previously seen starting to carve a piece of wood four episodes ago in "Kill the Boy" when he left Castle Black, which he finishes as the stag figurine he gives Shireen in this episode.
- Actress Kerry Ingram actually got to keep the carved stag figurine and posted a picture of herself with it in her room on her Twitter feed.
- Shireen extensively mentions in this episode that she is reading a history book about the Dance of the Dragons, a massive civil war between two rival branches of House Targaryen (fought about 170 years ago) which devastated Westeros. Oddly, she says that the title of the history book written by Munkun that she is reading is The Dance of Dragons, A True Telling, and vaguely implies that "The Dance of Dragons" was the name of the war. In the novels, the name of the civil war is "The Dance of the Dragons", and moreover, Munkun's book is titled "The Dance of the Dragons: A True Telling". It is unknown why the episode made such minor dialogue changes - though the Season 4 animated Blu-ray featurettes did refer to it by the correct full name, "The Dance of the Dragons". Whatever the case, Shireen accurately gives a succinct summation of the war: Rhaenyra Targaryen fought her half-brother Aegon II Targaryen for the throne, the great lords of the realm chose sides between them, and ultimately Targaryen fought Targaryen and dragon fought dragon. So many dragons died in the civil war that the Targaryens "never really recovered" (so few dragons were left alive by the end that within the next 30 years they went extinct).
- Joffrey Baratheon previously explained who Rhaenyra was by name back in Season 3 episode 4 "And Now His Watch Is Ended", saying that in the end she was captured by her brother, who then fed her to his dragon while her son watched.
- Shireen mentions that Ser Byron Swann tried to sneak up on the dragon Vhagar with a mirrored shield. Vhagar was one of the original three Targaryen dragons used to conquer Westeros, as Arya herself explained back in Season 2's "A Man Without Honor". Shireen couldn't possibly know this from reading Munkun's book, but in the novels when this incident is brought up to Tyrion Lannister, he is much better read, and points out that Munkun's "True Telling" was actually filled with several factual errors: Byron Swann fought against Rhaenyra, and Vhagar belonged to Aegon II's faction. In reality, Tyrion explains, Bryon tried to sneak up on Rhaenyra's own dragon, Syrax - though the end result was the same, the ploy didn't work and he was roasted alive.
- Stannis remarks on how odd it is that it was called the "Dance" of the Dragons. In-universe, that is just what popular songs and minstrels ended up calling it. Maesters have commented on how it isn't a very appropriate name, and "the Death of the Dragons" might be more fitting, given the massive loss in both human life and dragons killed. The loose reason might be that when dragons fight each other it somewhat looks like an elaborate aerial "dance", as each tries to land strikes with teeth and claws on the other, darting back and forth and making attack runs.
- George R.R. Martin did start writing a series of prequel novellas in 2013 expanding on the events of the Dance of the Dragons in more detail. Martin has been in discussions with HBO about various prequel projects they might want to make as spinoff TV series after the main Game of Thrones series is finished, but talks are only tentative at the moment. The other prequel novellas set only 90 years before the main series (instead of 170 years ago), the Tales of Dunk and Egg, would probably be made first. Essentially, the Dance of the Dragons was a civil war like the War of the Five Kings - but in which both sides had dragons. If the Dance of the Dragons will ever be adapted into a prequel TV series project it will not be for many years.
- No explanation is given for why Jon Snow, Tormund, and the thousands of surviving wildlings arrive at Castle Black from the north side of the Wall, necessitating a tense moment in which Alliser Thorne hesitates about letting them through. They were last seen fleeing Hardhome by ship. The easternmost castle on the Wall, Eastwatch-by-the-Sea, is also their port on the east coast. Though Jon never explicitly says he is going to Eastwatch to depart with the fleet, it is implied due to previous acknowledgements of its status as a port. The fleet should have simply sailed around the Wall and deposited them directly at Eastwatch, after which if they wanted to go to Castle Black they would march along the south side of the Wall.
- It is known that there were several rewrites to the Hardhome scenes. They originally thought they could film it in Iceland, but eventually decided to expand it into a major action set piece, necessitating building an expansive set in the same quarry where the Castle Black set is built in Northern Ireland. It is possible that the surviving wildlings march overland to Castle Black because this is an early scene filmed before the rewrites. In the novels, Jon never goes to Hardhome, and Tormund's wildlings, who never go to Hardhome, are simply gathered in the Haunted Forest north of Castle Black, so there was a tense moment when they had to be let through the tunnel from the north side of the Wall. It is possible that the earlier drafts of this scene were based more closely on how this played out in the novels.
- In-universe, it might be explained that Stannis's sellsail fleet that he loaned to Jon was so terrified after the massacre at Hardhome, and maybe facing such bad weather, that they refused to sail along the coast back to Eastwatch - instead just sailing for a few days down the coast for a relatively safe distance, then making Jon and the wildlings debark, and then fleeing directly across the open ocean back to the Free Cities. Nevertheless, this explanation doesn't cover why Jon and the Free Folk survivors don't go to Eastwatch but instead make the perilous march to Castle Black - as seen on the map at right, Castle Black is in the center of the continent, and even over land it would be a much shorter walk to Eastwatch and its gate through the Wall than to Castle Black.
- Another possible explanation is that Stannis Baratheon's fleet never used Eastwatch as a port of anchor. We never see where Stannis had his ships anchored in The Children, leaving open the possibility that he actually had the fleet anchor further up north as a possible means of surprising the wildling forces. This is supported by the fact that when Jon and Tormund leave for Hardhome, they actually head toward the gateway through the wall instead of leaving south of Castle Black. This, however, does not explain why they would not anchor at Eastwatch after the events of Hardhome when there is a clear and present danger of wight attack. The only possible explanation is that the fleet wanted to get out of there quickly and simply packed whatever supplies they left at their original port of anchor, hightailing it out of there afterwards. Jon Snow and Tormund would then have determined that they might as well use the opportunity to rescue more Free Folk on the walk back (which was, after all, the point of the mission).
- The scenes in which Prince Doran Martell and his family receive Jaime Lannister were filmed in the luxurious interiors of the famous Alcázar of Seville, a medieval Islamic royal palace in Spain and a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has rarely been open to filming.
- This episode provides confirmation in dialogue that Ellaria Sand is the mother of four of Oberyn Martell's daughters, and Oberyn previously established in Season 4 that he has eight daughters in the TV continuity (just as he does in the novels). In the novels, Ellaria's four daughters are Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza - all of them small children who do not yet play any significant role in the narrative, though preview chapters of the next novel indicate that the eldest Elia is going to start accompanying Oberyn's older daughters. The TV version of the Sand Snakes has been somewhat condensed, specifically Tyene Sand is essentially a combination of two of his daughters from the novels: Tyene and Elia Sand. Book-Tyene is a master poisoner but not Ellaria's daughter, while book-Elia is the eldest of Ellaria's four daughters - meaning that she is young and headstrong and trying to prove herself to her older sisters. TV-Tyene combines book-Tyene's skill with poisons, with book-Elia's status as Ellaria's daughter and the youngest of the Sand Snakes that are of fighting age (Ellaria's younger three girls are small children). Oddly, "Elia Sand" was actually mentioned by name as existing in the TV continuity by Oberyn himself (though due to time restrictions there is a good chance she will not appear in the TV show, and she has barely appeared in the current novels). Given the reshuffling of the Sand Snakes in the TV series, there was some confusion over exactly how many of them Ellaria is the mother of in the TV version. Just as in the books, she is the mother of four of them - however, because she wasn't Tyene's mother in the novels, that would mean that she can't be the mother of all four of the youngest Sand Snakes behind Tyene (Elia, Obella, Dorea, and Loreza). Also no mention has been made of Sarella Sand, daughter of Oberyn and a Summer Islander ship captain, though she is "not in Dorne" at this point in the novels. The House Martell family tree remains in some confusion until the writers make official statements about this.
- Moreover, Doran Martell remarks that his son Trystane must learn to rule on his own some day - implying but not definitively stating that he is Doran's heir. In the novels, he is the youngest of Doran's three children, after his daughter Arianne and elder son Quentyn. As Dorne follows gender-blind inheritance (unlike the rest of Westeros), his eldest child Arianne is also his heir in the novels. The TV series has avoided making any definitive statements on the matter, and even Doran's lines in this episode are vague - which is what the writers did back in Season 2, when they weren't sure if Shireen Baratheon would ever appear in the TV series, so they carefully phrased lines to say that Stannis "has no sons" to intentionally leave room open to later say that he has a daughter.
- In the novels, Doran actually sends Nymeria Sand to King's Landing to take Oberyn's place on the Small Council. In the TV-version he sends his own son Trystane instead - though this does solve the problem of how to send Myrcella back to King's Landing when she doesn't want to be separated from Trystane.
- Jaime notices that Myrcella is so taken in by the Martells that she is even wearing revealing Dornish-style clothing (better suited to the hot climate). He quips about her dress by asking if she is cold, implying it is too revealing and doesn't cover her well. This implication about being "cold" is the same remark that Cersei made about Margaery Tyrell's revealing dress in Season 3 episode 2 "Dark Wings, Dark Words". Myrcella's fashion choice is a sign that her allegiance has shifted more to the Martells than to Cersei and the Lannisters (see "Costumes: The Seven Kingdoms - Dorne").
- Myrcella explains that her Lannister lion-pendant necklace which was mailed to Cersei in King's Landing as a threat ("The House of Black and White") was simply stolen from her room. It remains unclear, though, who sent it:
- Ellaria and the Sand Snakes had no reason to forewarn Cersei about their scheme.
- Doran might have sent it, to bait the Lannisters to try to "rescue" Myrcella, when in fact he was wise to the Sand Snakes' plan the entire time, and wanted to make a big show of "stopping" them, to convince the Lannisters he wanted to avoid a war at all costs when in fact he was secretly preparing for one; however, such plan seems over-complicated and dangerous, because it could have resulted in Myrcella's death (as nearly happens in the fourth novel). Doran could have both foiled the scheme and convinced Cersei that he was loyal to the Crown simply by arresting his nieces and Ellaria, then sending an explicit message to Cersei, stating that he found out they meant to stir up troubles and he foiled them of loyalty to the Crown; this is the way he acts in the novels.
- Ellaria says that Jaime writes like a seven year old with his left hand: in the novels, Jaime himself notes that he can barely write legibly with his left hand, like a child first learning his letters.
- Doran refers to Tommen as "King of the Andals and the First Men". In the novels, the full title is actually "King of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men" - indeed, the modern Dornishmen are the descendants of the Rhoynar who migrated to Dorne one thousand years ago. The TV series didn't start introducing Dorne until Season 4 and barely mentioned it beforehand (for fear of deluging viewers with too much information), thus in the first three seasons the title consistently omitted any mention of the Rhoynar - going back to the Season 1 premiere, when Eddard Stark recites it when he pronounces sentence at the execution. Any mention of the Rhoynar was also omitted in Season 4's "First of His Name" at Tommen's coronation ceremony, even though Oberyn Martell was present in the audience. Missandei also introduced Daenerys early in Season 4 as "Queen of the Andals and the First Men", omitting mention of the Rhoynar. Then in the Season 4 finale Missandei abruptly referred to Daenerys as "Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men" - contradicting not just the TV series in general but that specific character's own lines earlier in the same season. Now Doran, ruler of the Dornishmen who are descendants of the Rhoynar, is himself presented as omitting the Rhoynar from the title. It isn't clear which one is meant to be official in the TV continuity but given that the "of the Rhoynar" addition was mentioned only once and four seasons into the TV series, then not consistently applied, Game of Thrones Wiki continues to assume for the moment that the title was changed to "King of the Andals and the First Men" in the TV continuity.
- The hand-slapping game that Nymeria and Tyene Sand play in their prison cell is actually an in-joke by the writers to an incident that occurred off-set. During one of the season wrap parties, David Benioff got very drunk and started goofing around with Jason Momoa (Khal Drogo). One thing led to another, and Benioff became so brazen that he challenged Momoa to the hand-slapping game he had seen him take part in before and which Momoa was very good at (a variant of the "Mercy" hand game). Momoa is very strong (6'4" tall and 245 pounds) and the inebriated Benioff ended up losing. By the time Benioff got home later that night, after he had sobered up somewhat and regained more feeling in his arms, he turned to his wife and said that Momoa had actually broken his hand. The story circulating around that Momoa actually broke Benioff's hand in a fit of anger after learning for the first time that Drogo would die at the end of Season 1 is just a false rumor that got corrupted from this incident.
- Hizdahr zo Loraq is still alive in the novels and it is as-yet unknown if he is the true leader of the Sons of the Harpy.
- In the novels, Daenerys Targaryen notices how riding dragons uses different commands than when riding horses: because horses are prey animals, they instinctively turn away from danger, so a rider hits them on their left flank to make them turn right. In contrast, she realizes, dragons are predators, so if she hits them on the left side they will instinctively turn left to counter-attack whatever is hurting them.
- Linguist David J. Peterson explained a mixup that happened with Daenerys's command to Drogon to "fly!" when she leaves the arena - the on-screen subtitles say she actually said "valahd", even though she audibly seems to say just "fly". Peterson explained that she was actually supposed to say the High Valyrian command "sōvēs!" - which has been previously heard in the Season 3 finale, albeit in the plural "sōvētēs!" This is what Peterson officially handed in as both a script and audio files. The problem is that in the specific take used in the final shot, actress Emilia Clarke just says "fly!" in English - Peterson noted that this sort of thing happens all the time, production is hurrying and an actor just forgets the translated line. Months later, the ADR team tried to fix this so that Clarke actually is saying a non-English word, and they asked Peterson for an audio recording of the original line. Peterson surmised, however, that the ADR team then realized that because the camera is focused on Clarke's face, the mouth movements of her saying "fly!" clearly do not match the two syllable long "sōvēs!" They didn't contact Peterson again but they do have all of his materials he submitted: he determined upon watching it that they must have used a Dothraki language word which both matched her mouth movements and which made sense in that context. "Valad" is actually a Dothraki riding command, basically a variant of "giddyup!" or "run to the horizon!" etc., so they were able to fix the line so it makes some sense in this context - though Peterson noted that "Valad" isn't spelled with an "H", the subtitlers must have just been sounding it out.
- Specifically, Peterson explained that the instruction books he sent to the ADR team lists the riding command as "Frakhas valad!", which literally means "touch the horizon!", and like in other languages is just one of several variant commands basically just equivalent to "giddyup!". "Valad" specifically just means "horizon", but in the listing for the command he left a note that the whole command is often shortened to just "valad", because commands shouted out to a horse tend to be short and not long sentences.
- The TV series has switched around the actions and fates of several of the men who were on Arya Stark's kill list, specifically men who served Gregor Clegane at Harrenhal. Three men on her list were Meryn Trant, Polliver, and another man called Raff the Sweetling who does not appear in the TV series. In the books, it is Raff who accompanies the Master of Coin to the Iron Bank of Braavos, not Ser Meryn. Raff is interested in having sex with under-aged girls in the novels (this is not an invention of the TV series), though Meryn specifically is not, but these traits carried over to him by combining their storylines. Mace Tyrell also wasn't the representative sent to Braavos, but Ser Harys Swyft. Ser Harys is sent after Ser Kevan Lannister assumes power, not as Hand of the King, but as Lord Regent.
- Maisie Williams (Arya) had to actually have some oyster-shucking lessons; moreover, the gloves she wears are actually functional, because oyster shells are very sharp.
- The oysters that Arya sells to the Thin Man were actually filled with mushrooms because the actor playing him is a vegetarian. The oysters that Maisie is eating when she sees Meryn Trant arriving for the first time were actually made from bits of chicken.
- When Arya is in the brothel she takes payment in "coppers" and "silvers". Braavos doesn't use the same Currency that the Seven Kingdoms do, based on the "Gold Dragon" coin and its denominations, the Silver Stag and Copper Penny. In fact, Braavosi currency takes the form of square iron coins - and these have appeared prominently in the TV series since Season 3. That being said, not much is known about the Braavosi currency system, and it is entirely possible that just as the overall "Gold Dragon" currency system in Westeros has smaller denominations that use other metals, the Braavosi currency system might also have denominations in copper and silver coins. Alternatively, these might have been other Lannister guardsmen, out of uniform, visiting the brothel and just offering to pay in Gold Dragon denominations.
- The exterior shots of the Iron Bank of Braavos building that Tycho Nestoris and Mace walk towards was a local church that the production team wasn't actually allowed to walk inside of. Notice that when Arya watches Tycho, Mace, and Meryn, while they appear to be walking in and out of the building, they are actually just miming it - the doorway itself is always off-camera.
- Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant were ordered by Cersei to leave for Braavos five episodes ago in "Sons of the Harpy". It doesn't take that long to travel between King's Landing and Braavos, because they are relatively close across the Narrow Sea (Braavos is a bit further north, around the same latitude as the northern coast of the Vale). Given that the scenes set in Braavos are not directly connected to scenes in other parts of the world (immediately reacting to letters, etc.), it is possible that they are just not being shown synchronized with the same day events occur in scenes set in King's Landing in the same episode, but their presentation to viewers is spaced out for dramatic pacing (when Jon Snow doesn't appear for a full episode it doesn't mean he just sat around for a few weeks doing nothing). Mace is directly asked how his voyage went, and he says it was fine, not mentioning any delays.
- There was no "King Maegor the Third" in the A Song of Ice and Fire novels, as Mace Tyrell describes, who tried to outlaw money-lending throughout the Seven Kingdoms. There was only one King Maegor, second son of Aegon the Conqueror, who was an infamous tyrant - to the point that history popularly remembers him as "Maegor the Cruel". He has been mentioned several times in the TV series since Season 1. While she didn't mention him by name, when Cersei and the High Sparrow discuss how the Targaryens disbanded the Faith Militant over two hundred years ago, it was actually Maegor who ruthlessly warred with the Faith of the Seven to crush their military order. In the generations after his death, Maegor was so infamous - he was called "Maegor the Cruel" after all - that the Targaryens avoided ever naming one of their children after him again (except the son of Aerion Brightflame, Maester Aemon's older brother, but Aerion was wildly insane). There are four possibilities: First, that this was a script error; Second, that the actor himself flubbed the line and it wasn't caught in post-production; Third, that the writers intentionally had Mace mix up his historical facts as a subtle in-joke to make him look foolish, and finally, that the scriptwriters intentionally decided to invent a new "King Maegor the Third" (and by extension a Maegor the Second) in the TV continuity.
- Similarly, back in Season 4's "Breaker of Chains", Tywin listed off several kings such as Baelor Targaryen and Robert Baratheon, but also "King Orys the First" - even though there was never a king on the Iron Throne named Orys. That instance could be explained by saying that this "Orys the First" was an infamous local king of the Stormlands, because Tywin never said that he was a king on the Iron Throne. However, in this episode Mace says fairly clearly that this "Maegor the Third" apparently ruled over all of the Seven Kingdoms and thus sat on the Iron Throne, making it less easy to explain.
- Game of Thrones Wiki managed to contact George R.R. Martin to ask about this reference to "Maegor the Third", but he politely responded that had no more idea about it than we do, because the scriptwriters hadn't mentioned it to him. He suspected that it might be a mistake, as the TV writers would be reluctant to invent new kings into the timeline, but also allowed that it might have been a subtle in-joke that Mace is getting his history wrong in-universe - but ultimately he really didn't know the story behind "Maegor the Third".
- Game of Thrones Wiki also managed to contact actor Roger Ashton-Griffiths (Mace Tyrell), who confirmed that "Maegor the Third" is what was written in the script.
- A wide array of cultures are represented by the different fighters in the pit. Jorah Mormont first faces a Norvoshi bearded priest armed with his long axe, then a Braavosi water dancer, having himself killed a dothraki warrior.
- "The Dance of Dragons" won several Emmy Awards for 2015:
- Outstanding Special Visual Effects
- Outstanding Single-Camera Picture Editing For A Drama Series
In the books
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Storm of Swords:
- Chapter 72, Jaime IX: Jaime's poor handwriting is criticized.
- The episode is adapted from the following chapter of A Feast for Crows:
- The episode is adapted from the following chapters of A Dance with Dragons:
- Chapter 7, Jon I: Stannis offers the Night's Watch support to man the nineteen castles along the Wall.
- Chapter 35, Jon VII: The giant Wun Wun and some wildling men follow Jon Snow to Castle Black, and they are let in through the gate, though the men of the Night’s Watch are reticent to let a giant in.
- Chapter 38, The Watcher: The Sand Snakes are released. Prince Doran hosts Cersei’s Kingsguard, drinks in the name of King Tommen and agrees to have the Kingsguard take Princess Myrcella back to King’s Landing, accompanied by Trystane. Ellaria Sand says she is tired of the cycle of vengeance. Doran demands the conspirators to swear their allegiance or else —and they do, reluctantly. The Prince chooses a relative to take on the position Oberyn had briefly held in the small council before his death.
- Chapter 49, Jon X: Tormund returns to the Wall with thousands of wildlings.
- Chapter 51, Theon I: Reluctantly, Roose Bolton lets out a host to fight Stannis in the snow.
- Chapter 52, Daenerys IX: In celebration of the marriage between Daenerys and Hizdahr and the reopening of the fighting pits, a gladiatorial celebration is held at Daznak's Pit. During the games, an attempt is made on Daenerys’s life, believed to be perpetrated by the Sons of the Harpy, and just then Drogon appears. Many try to kill the dragon and die in the attempt. Daenerys runs into the arena, shouting at Drogon. Although Drogon shows some aggression towards her, she subdues him until he allows her to mount him. Then, she rips out a spear pierced in his side. Drogon flies away with Daenerys, who looks back on the city of Meereen beneath her, while in her thoughts she commands him to fly.
- Chapter 57, Tyrion XI: Tyrion witnesses the events at Daznak’s Pit.
- Chapter 58, Jon XII: Jon lets over thousands of Free Folk through the Wall at Castle Black, despite the misgivings of most of the Night's Watch. While watching the wildlings pass through the wall, Jon discusses the White Walkers, which the group encountered on the way to the Wall.
- Chapter 62, The Sacrifice: Stannis’s camp is left stranded by the heavy snowstorm in their way to Winterfell —All men are hungry and many are dying, both among the men and the horses, which they are resorting to eating now, as the food supply is lacking. Stannis finally relents and authorizes a sacrifice to be made for the Lord of Light in the hopes the storm will dissipate, which he watches silently. The sacrificed ones beg for mercy, but in vain.
- Chapter 64, The Ugly Little Girl: In her disguise of the orphan girl who sells oysters, clams and cockles in the canals of Braavos, Arya follows the conman she is charged with assassinating.
- Chapter 70, The Queen’s Hand: The Sons of the Harpy resume their attacks against Daenerys’s people.
- The sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, remains unpublished, so there are some events brought forward from it that may occur in the story, yet the specific chapters are unknown. This may include Sansa’s wedding and her return to Winterfell, both of which are also part of Littlefinger's plan in the books but have not happened yet. The meeting of Tyrion and Daenerys has been confirmed to take place in the sixth book, as well as the resolution to the Battle in the snow between Stannis and the Boltons, and Shireen’s death. The episode is adapted from the following chapters of The Winds of Winter:
Alliser Thorne: "You have a good heart, Jon Snow. It'll get us all killed."
Doran Martell: "Many in Dorne want war but I've seen war. I've seen the bodies piled on the battlefields. I've seen the orphans starving in the cities. I don't want to lead my people into that Hell."
Ellaria Sand: "No, you want to break bread with the Lannisters."
Doran Martell: "And that is precisely what we're doing. Let us drink to Tommen, the First of His Name, King of the Andals and the First Men, Lord of the Seven Kingdoms!" [They all drink except Ellaria, who deliberately tilts her cup over, spilling wine over the floor.] "King Tommen insists on his sister's return to the Capital."
Jaime Lannister: "I'm afraid he does."
Doran Martell: "I cannot disobey my King's command. She will return with you to King's Landing and my son, Prince Trystane, will accompany you both. If the alliance between Dorne and the Iron Throne is to continue their engagement must stand."
Jaime Lannister: I accept.
Doran Martell: "One more thing. My brother was named to the Small Council before his death. Your father understood the importance of keeping Dorne in the fold. With Oberyn gone, Trystane will take his place on the Small Council."
Jaime Lannister: "You have my word."
Ellaria Sand: "The word of a Kingslayer!" [Stands up, walks to Doran.] "No wonder you can't stand! You have no spine!"
Doran Martell: [Grabs her wrist hard.] "You are mother of four of my nieces, girls I love very much. For their sake, I hope you live a long and happy life. Speak to me that way again, and you won't."
Doran Martell: "Your rebellion is over. You can swear your allegiance to me now or you can die." [After a long pause, Ellaria kneels and tearfully kisses Doran's ring; she raises her head and stares at him.] "I believe in second chances. I don't believe in third chances."
Elllaria Sand: "You think I disapprove? Why? Because people disapprove of that sort of thing where you are from? They disapproved of Oberyn and me, where you are from. Here no one blinked an eye. A hundred years ago, no one would have blinked an eye at you if you'd been named Targaryen. It's always changing, who we're supposed to love and who we're not. The only thing that stays the same is that we want who we want."
- The Dance of Dragons on Wikipedia
- The Dance of Dragons on IMDb
- The Dance of Dragons on A Wiki of Ice and Fire