Another penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” another horrifying death to contend with: The brutal HBO drama left viewers angry and unsettled after killing off an innocent character in an episode packed with blood, violence and little love for young girls.
Warning: Detailed spoilers ahead.
In Sunday’s “The Dance of Dragons,” Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane) readily sacrificed his daughter Princess Shireen (Kerry Ingram) to firm up his tenuous path to the Iron Throne -- another jarring narrative choice made on the TV show that diverges from George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” source material.
After Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and a gang of men set fire to the food stores, weapons and horses of Stannis' army, they leave his troops stranded in the snow with too few supplies to return to Castle Black or continue their march to Winterfell. Stannis strategically sends his conscience, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), away on a fool’s errand to avoid his opposition and moves forward to obtain another of Melisandre’s (Carice von Houten) macabre prophecies by sacrificing his young daughter to the Lord of Light.
The sweet princess -- gray-scaled as she may have been -- taught Davos how to read and showed what little humanity the stoic Baratheon once had. Though, let’s not forget, he also killed his brother Renly because he impeded his claim to the throne and crusade on King’s Landing. Any modicum of warmth fans had for Stannis earlier this season literally went up in flames as he and his wife watched Shireen burn on a funeral pyre, screaming for her parents to help her.
Viewers took to social media to unleash their anger and even make death threats to the would-be king (see: #StannisMustDie) over the episode’s gratuitous violence against children. Other fans threatened to stop watching the show, which remains HBO’s top-rated series of all time.
Here’s a sampling:
“A little girl burned alive? Seriously? I honestly didn’t think they’d go there. I have no more words, only tears. #RIPShireen,” one user wrote.
“When someone asks how they can help you, doesn’t mean you BURN THEM!!! #stannismustdie #gameofthrones. On the other hand #teamdany,” another viewer tweeted.
"#Stannis just made Cersei look like an angel...at least she fights to protect her children #GameofThrones really messed this up,” one fan tweeted.
“STANNIS S5 PLOT - BRING SHIREEN ON MARCH FOR NO REASON THEN BURN HER BC OUR HORSES DIED WHAT?!?!?!?! #NOONEUNDERSTAAANDS #GAMEOFTHRONES,” wrote AngryGoTFan.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner D.B. Weiss justified the death as an exploration of religious fanaticism in the show.
“Horrible things happening to people in this show, and this is one that we thought was entirely [narratively] justified,” Weiss said. “It was set up by the predicament that Stannis was in. It will be awful to see, but it’s supposed to be awful.”
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