I am just going to take what might be a controversial stance. However, if Melisandre is going to continue setting fire to innocent children, I will have to seriously rethink her position on my TV crush list. She’s definitely going to lose ground to some non-murderesses. Does this make me a hero? Probably.

Yay! According to the credits, we’re blissfully free of Boltons this week. No Cersei either, but given that mostly she’s been hanging out in a dungeon and refusing to confess, I’m OK with that.

Right off the bat, it’s chaos at Stannis’ camp – fires break out everywhere, people are running around screaming. Ramsay (ick) and his “twenty good men” pulled off some night sabotage. The next morning, Stannis surveys the damage. Davos tells him they can’t push forward and they don’t have enough food to make it to Castle Black. Stannis goes off to meet with noted EJ crush Melisandre.

Jon Snow and his band arrive at the wall. Despite the previews that made it look like Ser Allister was going to refuse to open the gate, he actually opens the gate, like, immediately. We once again cover the ground that this is not a popular decision. Also, Jon feels guilty for not saving everybody, but Sam gives him the Schindler’s List speech about all the people he did save. That’s all we see of Castle Black this week, but we do get some shots of the giant walking around and being awesome.

Back at the Baratheon camp, Stannis sends Davos to Castle Black by himself to get provisions. And thus, there’s nobody left with a conscience so his plan can proceed. Davos seems to get what’s going on, because he really pushes to bring Shireen with him to keep her safe. It does not work.

And there’s little Shireen in her tent. She has a really nice moment with Davos, who clearly adores her. He gives here a stag that he carved and promises to make a doe when he comes back. And then he’s off.

Over in Dorne, Jaime explains to Doran that he came because he was aware of a threat to Myrcella. Between Jaime telling him this and the fact that his guards actually broke up an attempt to kidnap her, Doran realizes that the Lannister princess was actually in danger. He’s not quick on the uptake, that one. Doran decrees that Myrcella should return to King’s Landing immediately, and that her fiancee Trystane will accompany them and take Oberyn’s place on the Small Council. Yeah, everybody’s going to have some bad news on that front.

Jaime advocates that Bronn be released, and Doran leaves it up to Trystane who has one condition. In the cells, two of the Sand Snakes are playing a hand slapping game. One I can’t remember is taunting Tyene, and it’s an interesting look at the power structure of the group, but I kind of feel like the Sand Snakes didn’t live up to the hype. The part where they fought Jaime and Bronn was awesome, but they haven’t really done much else. Unless you count Tyene pushing her boobs through the bars of her cell, that is.

The guards show up to release Bronn, but they won’t let on whether or not he’s headed for execution. They bring him to Doran and Jaime where he learns the condition of his release – that one giant guard gets to punch him in the face. This is pretty hilarious, actually. Bronn is great, you guys.

Hey, let’s head to Braavos to get totally skeeved out. Arya does her oyster girl act, but then she spots Mace Tyrell and Meryn Trant arriving and she gives up her mission to follow them. They meet with Tycho (Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss), who does not seem to be warming up to these deadbeats at all. We don’t get to see the meeting, but afterwards, Arya follows Trant to a brothel.

So, turns out that Trant is a pedophile because why not add that to the list of things that make this show incredibly uncomfortable? I was really worried that he was going to get his hands on Arya but, no, he claims a different underage girl. She then returns to the House of Black and White and tells Jaqen the guy she was supposed to poison didn’t want any oysters and she’ll try again tomorrow.

Back in Dorne, Doran gives Ellaria the chance to pledge loyalty or be executed. He says this is the last chance he’ll give her, and she tearfully accepts. Then she goes to Jaime and has kind of a coded talk about incest and how in Dorne you can love whoever you want. She also acknowledges that Myrcella had nothing to do with Oberyn’s death and maybe Jaime didn’t either. I’m happy about this because I want all the characters I like to end up on the same side even if that doesn’t make sense.

Oh, this is gonna get rough. Stannis goes to see his daughter and she adorably tells him about history. He talks to her about how a man has to fulfill his destiny, even if he hates doing it. She offers to help if she can and Stannis cements his villain status by deciding that yes, she can help. He has some guards walk her outside, toward a pyre. As she gets close and sees Melisandre, she knows this isn’t going to end well. The guards tie her to a stake as she calls for her father. Stannis lingers at the back of the crowd and at first, his wife Selyse says this is a good thing. Remember, she is not a fan of her daughter.

Melisandre says a prayer and lights the pyre as the fire starts, Selyse has a change of heart and tries to save her. The guards tackle her and she watches Shireen burn. It’s a horrifying scene. It’s not graphic – we don’t see Shireen catch fire or anything. But we hear her screams off-camera. Until we don’t hear her screams anymore, and that’s so much worse.

And now we’re spending the rest of the episode in Meereen for the Great Games. Ah, a break for sport! This time, it’s actually an arena like I was expecting. Apparently the last time we saw the fighting pits, that was just for sectionals. Daenerys, Tyrion, Missandei, Daario, and Hizdahr wait in the royal box seats and Hizdahr is way more into it than any of the others. Oh, also he talks about “making sure everything is in order”, which seems ominous.

The Michael Buffer of Meereen comes out and announces the first fight – big strong guy vs. smaller quick guy. Which is basically the fight that would decide Tyrion’s fate last season. He doesn’t mention that, but Dinklage really sells that he’s aware of the coincidence. There’s plenty of argument about whether or not this is appropriate and Daenerys clearly hates every second of it. She even has to officially start the fight by clapping her hands, which does not sit well with her.

Eventually, the big strong man wins by beheading, and that’s that for the first fight. The second fight is six guys, last man standing wins. One of those men? Jorah Mormont. He looks Daenerys right in the eye and she hesitates, but she lets the fight begin. Jorah is outclassed here and at one point he only survives because somebody else kills the guy who’s fixing to kill him. Ultimately, he gets lucky and wins the last fight, but instead of killing his opponent, he hurls a spear into the stands, toward Daenerys… and right into the masked Son of the Harpy who had snuck up on her. And then there are Harpies throughout the crows. Hundreds of them put on their masks and start slaughtering everybody around them.

Eventually Daenerys and her inner circle make it to the middle of the arena, minus Hizdahr. He’s cut down early on, and I won’t remember his name a week from now. The Unsullied form a ring around Daenerys and company, but it’s like the Ultrons attacking the Avengers. Just one has to get through. Then Daenerys closes her eyes for a second, and I don’t know whether we’re supposed to see it as coincidence or causality, and Drogon flies in. He lands in the arena, eating several Harpies and setting whole squads on fire.

The Harpies attack, and it’s clear that they’ve injured the dragon. And then Daenerys climbs on his back and they Neverending Story it out of there, in a scene that features both amazing and terrible CGI depending on when you’re looking at it. Her friends watch, amazed, as the remaining Harpies scatter. Hopefully none of them stop to attack the largely defenseless group!

And that’s the episode!

–Confession time: I’m dumb. I didn’t realize until this episode, forty-nine hours into the series, that “A Song of Ice and Fire” refers to the White Walkers and the dragons.

OK, I could have done without the pedophilia angle. We already hate Meryn Trant – it’s not like he needs further character assassination. I’d feel so much better if this show had fewer sex crimes.

However, as shocking as the sacrifice of Shireen was, I don’t find it offensive in the same way that some people did. It was horrifying and upsetting, but I don’t think it was an ethical misstep on the part of the creators. And in fact, it was handled as tastefully as possible without showing us anything. I don’t want to keep going on about this, but sexual assault is a real thing that happens with alarming frequency in the real world, whereas the ritual sacrifice of children is virtually unheard of.

I wasn’t thrilled that it happened, of course. Shireen was one of the few wholly positive characters and her death breaks my heart. Especially the way she cried out for her parents the whole time. So well done by Kerry Ingram.

This establishes Stannis as a monster, but it’s not the heel turn that it’s been played up to be. That guy’s been setting people on fire for as long as we’ve known him. I think he ends up being more noble in people’s minds because he’s in opposition to people who are much worse. If somebody is looking to wipe out the Boltons, they have my unconditional support. But even before this, he was responsible for a lot of deaths. I mean, what die Renly do to deserve being murdered by a shadow beast? This is easily the worst thing he’s done, but his record was not spotless by any means. He’s the guy who’s so obsessed by what he’s decided is his destiny that any other person in his life is an acceptable loss.

(Also, SPOILEE WARNING for the books. This scene has not yet happened, but George R.R. Martin told Benioff and Weiss that it was going to.)

In more pleasant news, the last scene was awesome. The Harpy ambush was genuinely chilling, the way those masks just showed up. I really liked the nice human moments, like Daenerys and Missandei holding hands when the Harpies caught up to them. Along those lines, what the heck was going on with Jorah taking Daenerys’ hand? Dude has magic leprosy! I’m going to assume that only the parts of his body showing the effects of greyscale are contagious. I just need to tell myself that so I’ll feel better.

I feel like there might be something to the idea that we were horrified when Shireen was burned at the stake but it was awesome when Drogon set fire to the Harpies. Also, Tyrion’s comment about not needing death in his leisure time may be a comment on the show’s own habit of overkill, but I don’t know if Game of Thrones is that self-aware.

Season finale next week! Say a little prayer that everybody who’s at all likeable survives and maybe the Sand Snakes will do something to justify all the hype!

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