Why, Stannis? Why?
How could you…by the old gods and new, how could you? Do you see these tears? They began when that dear little girl looked up at the pyre and asked for her father to help her, and you did not go to her. YOU DID NOT GO TO HER. Those tears have not stopped since.
OK, except for the part where - sweet Lord Almighty - the dragon showed up.
If I sound garbled, it's because I am as discombobulated by that episode as my foster kittens are by the laser light chase game I downloaded onto the iPad for them.
I want to fall into the arms of my beloved Throners, so we all may weep for darling Shireen, a strong heart torn from us, the wound gaping and bloody.
I want to throw back several bottles of Double Strength Braavosi Bitter and give Arya a run for her money in the "Let's Slice Up That Creep Meryn Trant" Stakes.
And I want, I want, oh how I want, for a dragon to swoop in and let me mount it, and fly, and fly, and fly far away. I want to ride Drogon rough and hard, maybe whip him a few times, and scratch my nails down his leathery back.
Look, I never said I was rational. And reason goes out the window when writing a Raven On recap about such a hardcore episode of Game of Thrones.
Spoiler warning: You're on your own, jerks.
Last season, before his eyes were unceremoniously popped out, Oberyn and Cersei had a conversation about Myrcella Water's relative safety in Dorne. "We do not hurt little girls," the Red Viper promised. "All over the world, they hurt little girls," Cersei replied.
That was the line that swum about in my vision during this penultimate episode. Yes, we've seen girls hurt this season - Sansa being the most heinous example - but there was a concentrated stream of violence against females that stung at my eyes and forced another torrent of rage from my ranty feminist throat.
Then I realised that not all will end as Shireen did, pointlessly sacrificed for a man's ambition. In the end, the little girls you hurt will hurt you back.
Let's start in Dorne, where the warm, dappled sunlight belies a chilly undertone as Jaime Lannister meets with the Martells.
As an experienced man whose illness has left him incapacitated, Prince Doran wants to spare his people the pain of war. His somewhat sister-in-law, Ellaria, wants to spill Lannister blood as easily as she spills wine from a goblet, her drop-the-mic insult when asked to toast King Tommen.
Jaime insists he only wants to protect his niece - even from the weather, as he comments on her scanty gown - and he meant no insult to the Martells by sneaking into their country and attempting to kidnap their legal ward.
Prince Doran agrees to return Myrcella Water to King's Landing, but only if Prince Trystane goes with her, their engagement stands, and Trystane takes Oberyn's place on Tommen's Small Council.
Jaime them gives his word, which I guess it what he does now that it's a bit hard for him to shake on it.
Ellaria's response "No wonder you cannot stand up, you have no spine," is hardly original, but boy does she deliver it with venomous gusto and fabulous hair. Doran's response shows him to be just as rattley-snakey, telling her to back off or else.
Dorne is a place where little girls don't get hurt. Big girls - well, maybe. Particularly if they're Sand Snakes and like slapping the crap out of each other for fun.
While Nymeria and Tyene's Game of Knucklebones showed the Sand Snakes as regular sisters attempting to one up each other, but also as canny and capable fighters potentially capable of being divided just as much as being united.
Nymeria blamed her eventual psych-out on luck, but Tyene is wily and possibly the most dangerous of the three (Obama, sorry Obara, is the least vocal, a simple "slut" thrown at her sister and she's back to sleep), particularly since she seems to be up for anything if it can get her praised as the most beautiful woman in the world.
Finally we saw an interesting exchange between Ellaria, now cowed and back in line after her mini-rebellion, and Jaime, He of the Excusably Bad Handwriting. "You must love her very much," she tells Jaime, and she doesn't mean Myrcella Water.
Ellaria's suggestion that people in Dorne don't care what they each do in their bedrooms is interesting, but I'm not certain what she means. Is she suggesting Jaime convince Cersei to leave the capital and head south, where they can, ahem "head south" as much as they want, together?
After last week's phenomenal White Walkers/wildlings/wights battle, I feared Jon Snow's return to Castle Black would be undeservingly difficult. But Ser Alliser Thorne in My Side proved himself to be almost human, raising the tunnel gates to let our favourite incredibly-hot-zombie-hunter back in, along with a few hundred wildlings.
"I failed," Jon Snow says moodily as the wildlings tramp by. "I went to save them but I failed." Honestly, that kind of morbid fatalism sounds just like me through high school. And uni. And through my career in the media. OK fine, I like to whinge, shut up, we all have stuff going on.
But Jon has such a lovely friend in Sam, who points out that there's a fair few people who have Jon to thank for getting them out of the way of a rampaging pack of snarling death monsters. Even STAMPY THE GIANT, who triumphantly returns for what we can only hope will be a sitcom spin-off called "Standing on the Shoulders of Giants", in which Stampy tries to help in the community but accidentally crushes everyone he loves. Hilarious.
There's a fleeting moment where we see Tormund moving along with Awesome Chick's two orphaned daughters, and goodness, what lies ahead for them. Hopefully Tormund will act as their protector, at least until they're old enough to stab zombie wights for themselves.
Finally we see Jon smile at the sight of Olly, his young steward. There is Jon, so battered, so downcast, so unbelievably in need of some tender and pantsless care from a Mother of Kittens… and there is Olly, turning up his nose and looking away. "Yeah, we're sorry your parents died, bro," I wish Jon would yell. "But you put an arrow in my girlfriend's back and you don't hear me going on about it."
Across the Narrow Sea, Arya is still doing her best Molly Malone impression in Braavos, selling cockles and mussels, alive, alive-oh.
She's supposed to be keeping an eye on the Thin Man, aka Dodgy Insurance Guy, but her attention is distracted by the arrival of Mace Tyrell and his King's Landing entourage, including the villainous Ser Meryn Trant.
Now it's been some years and I had to go and check exactly why Ser Meryn is on Arya's Great Big List of People to Slaughter. Remember Syrio Forel, Arya's dancing master from Series One? We have to go back that far - Arya believes Ser Meryn killed Syrio, even though we all know the first sword of Braavos is out there somewhere because frankly he was too awesome to die.
Regardless, Trant is worth killing just for breathing the seven gods' green air, so I'm pleased we might see movement on this front. He dutifully follows Mace Tyrell around as he sucks up to a pack of bankers, praising their incredibly realistic CGI central branch, and even sings at them. Oh Mace Tyrell, you really are that guy, bless you. Why not pick up a guitar and strum out a few chords that no one asked you to?
Arya fobs Jaqen H'ghar off saying the Thin Man is not yet ready to die, giving her more time to follow Trant around Braavos' best brothels.
On the creep scale, Trant managed to zoom past Littlefinger with just two words: "Too old". His parade of prostitutes actually made me feel physically ill, and when the madam pushed the unsuspecting servant girl - clearly no professional sex worker - in front of him, I retched a little.
This is where Game of Thrones gets you, right in the bile ducts, right in the gag reflex. This kind of transaction is the one that we all know is happening in the grimy corners of our own dark, ethically bankrupt world. It is not a fantastical one we can distance ourselves from, like the zombies at Hardhome or the dragons at Meereen.
All over our world, they hurt little girls.
"You'll have a fresh one for me tomorrow," Trant instructs the brothel keeper as he shoves the timer back in her hands. "Of course," she replies, before sending Arya away for spying.
Ser Meryn had seemed to look inquisively at Arya on a few occasions, with a glint of near recognition. You just know Arya will make herself available for the unpleasant task of being Ser Meryn's whore, no matter how much we scream at her to stay away. All we can hope is that Arya, the Faceless Man, will strike first.
If only Shireen had some of Arya's skills. Oh, Shireen, darling girl.
Ramsay Bolton's attack on Stannis' camp was so effective they didn't even need to call the actors for that day's filming. How about that flaming horse, hey? Talk about Char Lap, am I right? No? Too soon?
The surprise raid forced Stannis' hand towards a direction hinted at two episodes ago and firmly suppressed by all of us who had come to believe Stannis was kind of an upstanding guy. Well, as upstanding as someone who never smiles and bangs 80s singer-songwriter Kate Bush could be.
It all started going downhill when he asked Ser Davos to ride back to Castle Black to demand fresh supplies. "But I'm your Hand," the Onion Knight argued. "My place is with you."
Ahh, but who will convince the Night's Watch when they try to get out of it? Stannis needed Ser Davos' powers of persuasion at The Wall. He also needed him out of the way because Ser Davos would never, ever, in a million years, tolerate what was about to happen.
In one of the sweetest scenes this season, Davos thanked Shireen for teaching him to read by presenting her with a small hand-carved wooden stag. Delighted, Shireen asked him to carve her a doe too so the stag would have company. She kissed him, and he bashfully told her to stay safe.
We also had a scene in which Shireen spoke to her father about the book she was reading, The Dance with Dragons, and how the conflict it outlines came down to people choosing sides in the first place.
Oh, but sometimes people have to choose, Stannis says. Sometimes they have to do things they really don't want to, because the have to fulfil their destiny, like, you know, getting the Iron Throne.
It is at this point in my notes where I just have the words OH NO.
Shireen asks her father if she can help, and golly Moses lord above, it turns out she can. Of course, she should have been specific and asked "Is there any way I can help… that doesn't involve my brutal demise?" But she's 12 for goodness' sake, and most kids don't expect Daddy to ask them to die for his kooky faith.
Stannis at least has the decency to look like a shitheel as he hugs his courageous and kind young daughter - HIS OWN FLESH - one last time.
Then she is led out by a guard formation and delivered to Melisandre, who has no soothing power ballads for her, only a funeral pyre.
Poor Shireen. Surrounded by soldiers, and yet completely alone, she cries out for her father, who emerges from a tent to watch, but not intervene. Shireen cries louder as Melisandre binds her and starts reciting incantations to the fricking Lord of fricking Light.
Stannis' face seems to reflect the pain of Shireen's deeply upsetting screams, but he does nothing. His wife, Selyse, the one who always hated Shireen, tells him it's the right thing to do, the necessary thing.
And then something clicks in her, and in a moment she comes close to redeeming herself as a mother. The strangled cries of her child awaken an instinct long since dulled by disappointment that Shireen was not a boy, and she throws herself through the crowd towards the pyre. As Shireen cries "Mother!", Selyse wails and tries to get to her, only to have Stannis send his guard to hold her back. It is gut-wrenching, it is agony, it is wrong and it is just bloody unfair.
The betrayal, devastation and rage I feel at Stannis comes with a real sense of heartbreak that this genuinely loving father-daughter relationship (one of the few semi-functional ones on the show until this point) has come undone. All for the sake of Stannis' pride.
Question - if Shireen had been a boy, would Stannis have sacrificed a son? He was happy to turn Gendry over to Kate Bush for sex and leeches, but that was his illegitimate nephew. WHAT'S THE LINE, STANNY?
All in all, I'm suiting up in my best bad-ass leather spy gear to come after you, Stannis, because in the words of Taylor Swift: Now we got Bad Blood. You know we used to be Mad Love. But take a look what You've Done. Stanny, now we got Bad Blood.
And it's nothing Stannis can get past either. Bandaids don't fix bulletholes, as our Lady T-Swizzle says. If you live like that, you live with ghosts. And Stannis is going to be haunted so much by his crime he'll have both Macbeth and Hamlet saying "Dude, lighten up."
I'd also like to give a brief shout out to my own father, who despite my innate messiness and refusal to follow in his nautical footsteps and go to sea, refrained from having me burned at the stake. Thanks Dad, I know it's been a close call sometimes. I promise I'll try to remember your birthday this year.
The upshot of all of this is with the sacrifice giving a boost to Stannis' army, he is going to lay siege to Winterfell and the Boo! Hiss! Boltons and I DON'T KNOW WHO TO SUPPORT.
As Shireen said, maybe I shouldn't pick a side. Maybe they can all stab each other's bollocks off and rot in the fetid outpourings. As long as Sansa and Ser Davos live, everyone else can be a feast for crows.
As Ritchie Benaud might have said, it's a marvellous day for a spot of bloodshed as the Great Games get underway at the MCG - the Meereen Colosseum Ground. Queen Daenerys has even tricked herself out in the bone, the white, the off-white, the ivory or the beige to play host to a series of burly men beating the crap out of each other.
To be honest, it's rather stupid of everyone involved that they didn't think the Great Games could be hijacked by a bunch of Sons of the Harpy masquerading as happy onlookers to a pack of Russell Crowe wannabes.
The one person who did is Ser Jorah "Tubthumper" Mormont. The guy gets knocked down, but gets back up again, you're never gonna keep him down.
Dany's face as she sees Jorah standing on the arena's dirty ground, chest puffed out, craggy face creased with a hopeful wry smile - it was enough to make my bitter heart glow for a moment. I know it's not a love story that will happen, and clearly I'm very much in the "Let's See More of Maario Nude" faction, but Jorah's steadfastness is still sweet.
Dany's job is to clap her hands to start the battle, and Jorah starts whaling on fellow fighters just as we hoped. He gets cut, sliced, pushed, bashed - but he gets back up.
Question: Hizdahr the Lorax, Dany's man bride, was late for the start of the contest. He said he was making sure everything was ready. Are we to read that as confirmation he was heading up the ambush attack? That the whole "re-opening the fighting pits" brou-ha-ha was a ploy to lure Dany into a very large, Colosseum-shaped trap?
It's only when Jorah survives his fight is the plot revealed, when the disgraced knight launches a spear directly, it seems, at Dany. But the weapon catches a masked Son of the Harpie, which prompts the rest of them to reveal themselves and begin a full scale rebellion.
Maario and Jorah fall into line to defend Dany, with Tyrion and Missandei joining the small group. They nobly surround her, but the more they tried to fight them off, the more they find themselves trapped and bombarded. By the Seven, I've just realised - the Sons of the Harpie are internet trolls.
When they became trapped in the very middle of the arena, surrounded by Harpie bastards with pointy spears, all seemed lost.
Except it totally wasn't, was it?
Dany grabbed Missandei's hand and closed her eyes, which you could interpret as facing her fate. Or you could interpret as meaning exactly what I was thinking at the time - "Now would be a REALLY good time for a dragon to show up."
Yes, it was an ice-based killing machine last week so it's only fitting that this week brings the fire.
Drogon laid waste to virtually every Harpie worth fighting, with hundreds more turning and fleeing from his terrifying and delicious vengeance.
They threw spears at him, Dany plucked one out, he kept the anger going. But then Dany, miraculously, instinctively, grabbed hold of his hind leg and swung herself onto his back. She crawled up towards his neck and whispered "fly".
And then it was like we were all five years old again and it was Bastian riding Falkor the luck dragon in The Neverending Story. I swore I heard Dany laughing and yelling "Yeah! Faster!"
For if it's one thing we know about the Targaryen conquest of Westeros - it was done by Targaryens flying dragons. This was a moment that we needed to see to spin Dany's future potential out before us.
The long awaited dragon flight was so inspiring I've since tried re-enacting it using my black-and-white foster kitten James Bond. I think I might be in trouble with the body corporate or the RSPCA or the estate of Ian Fleming though after yelling "Fly, James Bond, fly!" and hurling both of us down the stairs.
But before we get too carried away (ha!), let us not forget what I said at the start, that all over the world, they hurt little girls. Let us not forget Dany, despite her triumphs, is still young and full of promise.
So how did Jorah hurt Dany, when his spear-based intervention saved her life?
He touched her. He held her hands to help her off the royal platform at the Colosseum.
And Jorah has greyscale.
Now maybe there's some sort of catch - perhaps greyscale is not contagious unless you come in direct contact with the diseased area. But then, this is Game of Thrones. Why would they give us a catch to exploit when they could give us a loaded weapon like this?
A Catch .22, if you will.
Yay! Best Moments
Maario Doharis and Hizdahr the Lorax had a glorious cockfight as the Great Games got underway, arguing over who would win the first match - the strong or the quick.
Flirting with Dany, who was quick to take his side, Maario told of how as a young skin-and-bones street fighter he too had had to learn how to combat brute force with quick hands. To prove his point, he dazzled the Lorax with some keen knife tricks. As as aside for the gentleman readers - this was a very good idea. It's never a bad idea to show off how dexterous you are with your hands. That's why chicks dig guys who can DIY repairs or hand wash our bras, and why jugglers are constantly surrounded by groupies. Heh, I said jugs.
Anyway, Maario's going on about how the quick guy is going to win for sure when THUNK, they look up to see that the strong guy has cleaved the quick guy's head clean off. It was a cut sharper than Oscar Wilde in a insulting mood could deliver, and the look on Maario's faceless was almost as good as the look on my face when Maario gets his kit off.
Zing! Best Lines
When Prince Trystane announces he will spare Bronn's life, the Knight of the Blackwater (the only Knight of the Blackwater), says the pie they're eating looks nice.
Prince Trystane responds that there was one condition, and CRUNCH - Bronn takes an elbow to the face.
As Bronn massages his bruised jaw, Prince Doran then chimes in with the delightful, "Perhaps some soup instead?"
Tyrion also had some corkers while watching the Games, with the same distaste for them as Dany. His rejoinder to Hizdahr - "I've found eloquent men are just as often wrong as imbeciles" - was almost as juicy as his summary of the Lorax's character: "My father would like you."
Two words. Meryn. F---ing. Trant.
Next week… next week! Next week is the season finale! How did that come around so quickly? What shall I go? Where shall I do? Frankly, my dears, do any of you give a damn?
I hope you do, all Scarlett fretting aside. There is only one more episode before our lives go back to their normal, non-dragon drenched reality. Join me for one last dragon-fuelled fly-by.