Spoilers for ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 5
The penultimate episode of Game of Throne’s final season, “The Bells,” premiered on Sunday. Given that many were disappointed with episode four, “The Last of the Starks,” there was hope that this episode would put the show back on track before the series finale next Sunday.
The episode opens with Lord Varys (Conleth Hill) trying to convince Jon (Kit Harington) to take his rightful place on the Iron Throne while Jon makes it clear that he will never betray Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), his sworn queen. Having discussed this treason last episode, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) warns Dany of what Varys has been doing leading her to execute Varys by Drogon’s fire.
Varys has always been about wanting what’s best for the people of the realm. His plea to Jon is him looking out for the realm and he knows full well that he’s putting his life on the line by conspiring against the Dragon Queen. If the situation was the reversed, with Jon as King, there’s no doubt that he would make the same choice.
Unlike Varys, who stood against Daenerys’ plans last episode, Tyrion is still blindly following Dany, unaware of the effect that turning in Varys would have on the course of events that follow. This moment does an excellent job foreshadowing Tyrion’s realization that Dany may not be the best choice to rule over the Seven Kingdoms later in the episode.
After Varys is executed Daenerys begins to make plans to burn down King’s Landing at dawn. However, Tyrion tells her about his plan to stop Cersei (Lena Headey) without bloodshed, or with very little. As she informs Tyrion that her troops captured Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) before he could enter King’s Landing, his loyalty is called further into question and Daenerys is clearly outside his influence for the first time since he became her hand.
Proving his loyalty to his family, Tyrion sneaks into the tent to see Jaime, freeing him with the help of the best smuggler in Westeros. While they reunite, Jaime tells him that he has a plan to smuggle Cersei and himself out to Pentos once she surrenders. However, Jaime knows that she first has to agree with the plan.
One of the major things that this episode does is focus on Daenerys’ anger and need for revenge, and it perfectly executes it. Her rage clouds her judgement, which makes her confrontation with Tyrion much more serious, and more than just him turning in a traitor. She’s threatened him before, but this is personal because of last episode’s events, the death Missandei by his sister’s order. For Tryion, he wants to protect his siblings but he also wants to protect the innocent people in King’s Landing, regardless of his feelings for them.
In Tyrion and Jaime’s reunion we see callbacks to season two where Jaime is also held as prisoner, as well as season four where Jaime visits Tyrion, who has been put on trial for the murder of King Geoffrey, and ultimately saved by his brother.
The next day, both Cersei’s and Dany’s respective armies prepare for battle. As preparations are being made, Jaime, Sandor (Rory McCann), and Arya (Maisie Williams) infiltrate King’s Landing. Arya is still on her mission to kill Cersei and Sandor has unfinished business to deal with his brother, The Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson).
While the three of them work their way into the gates, Dany arrives with Drogon and makes quick work of both the Iron Fleet and the Golden Company with dragon fire while the army on the ground, Unsullied, Northmen, and Dothraki, breach the gates and quickly force the Lannister forces to surrender.
Although the battle proper is quick, the Dragon Queen is still angry over Cersei killing Missandei and ignores the bells of surrender, launching a full attack on the city, laying waste to both soldiers and civilians. Her army follows her lead, which catches Jon by surprise as the slaughter of those who threw down their weapons ensues.
I’m suddenly taken back to the previous episode where many fans on Twitter were calling for Dany to “burn it all down,” but as the fire engulfs King’s Landing, I’m starting to think that this wasn’t what they had in mind. Although viewers can understand that Dany is angry, launching a full-scale attack was unexpected for her character leading to this point.
As she burns through the city, she murders the innocent people, those trapped in the walls by Cersei in hopes that people would see what kind of queen Daenerys would be. Unfortunately, the Breaker of Chains had no problem showing her true colors, especially once she lets her emotions get to her. The amount of character progression that Daenerys has gone through since season one was all thrown in the trash during her attack, and I don’t think anyone is going to pull it out.
It was upsetting to see how easily she was able to take out both the Golden Company and the Iron Fleet. It suggests that Rhegar’s death last episode could have been easily preventable and that the harpoon-like weapons fired from the Scorpions used were also not best fit for a situation like that. The soldiers struggle to turn the weapons around and it’s not wonder she dispatched both forces quickly. While the show had been hyping up the Golden Company’s capability in battle for so long, we see them get decimated minutes of just singular episode.
As the attack is happening, Jaime makes his way to the Red Keep through a secret entrance, only to be met by Euron (Pilou Asbæk), who has miraculously survived Dany’s attack on the Iron Fleet. He confronts Jaime and the two fight to the death. After Jaime wins, he enters the Red Keep, eventually running into Cersei as she attempts to escape the falling rubble of the stronghold.
Now together, the two make an attempt to escape through an escape tunnel but it collapses on them from the battles happening outside. Both Jaime and Cersei embrace each other as they die, ruining some fan theories that Jaime headed back to kill sister instead of save her.
If both the previous episode and this one have proven anything, it’s that character development is pointless. Both Cersei and Jaime find themselves as they were in season one. Their relationship has been shown to be toxic and I, like many fans, was excited to see Jaime find a way out of it. They were never good for one another, especially since they were brother and sister.
Everything that they had both individually worked toward was, like Daenerys’ character development, thrown away. Jaime’s choices in these last two episodes have been nothing but disappointing. It’s as if his interactions, intimacy, and possible relationship with Brienne didn’t matter at all.
Back inside the castle, Sandor, the Hound manages to convince Arya to give up on her quest to kill Cersei. He tells her that he doesn’t want her to end up like him, filled with revenge to the last day and the two say their final goodbyes and go their separate ways. As he makes his way inside the castle, Sandor runs into his brother, the Mountain, the man he’s there to kill. While Qyburn (Anton Lesser) tries to prevent the Mountain from fighting he is killed and with all distractions having been dealt with, the two brothers finally exchange blows.
The Mountain has the upper hand throughout most of the fight, but Sandor manages to distract him long enough to sacrifice himself and ram his brother through a wall. The two fall down into the fire below, his one fear in life.
Fans of the show have been looking forward to the fight between the brothers for years, dubbing it “Clegane Bowl” online within the fandom. The payoff for including it near the end of the show was perfect. McCann did an incredible job showing his disbelief, urgency, and sense of enjoyment that his character Sandor was feeling during the battle. His arc throughout the entire show has been by far one of the best developed and ended. I couldn’t think of a better way for the Hound to go out than by knowing that he sacrificed himself in order to kill his brother, making this battle by far the only real highlight of the episode.
Back on the streets of King’s Landing, Jon calls for the soldiers to retreat to prevent any more casualties, with his men listening to his orders to varying degrees as most have resorted to pillaging the city.
Once the dust has settled, Arya walks around the remains of the city. Now, she has witnessed the true destructive power that Daenerys is capable of and barely managed to escape the city alive. As the episode ends, Arya sees a single white horse in the middle of the street, choosing to ride away from the city on its back.
Having just seen Arya kills the Night King in episode three of the season and make a stand that she is not lady material in the following episode, the continuation of her arc in “The Bells” was rather lackluster. She had put Cersei’s name on the list of people she wanted to kill for a reason, and for that to not have a real payoff is disappointing.
If the purpose of her running through the streets of King’s Landing was to see what Daenerys is capable of, then I suppose the episode did what it set out to do. However, nothing gave me that impression or a lasting impact. For the an ending, the white horse is very symbolic, possibly suggesting that she’s the one that might kill Dany after seeing what she’s done.
Besides the “Clegane Bowl”, the cinematography in this episode was outstanding. Whether it’s Drogon settling King’s landing ablaze, the Hound and Mountain’s fight scene, Tyrion looking on as his home is destroyed, or Arya walking in ashes, these will definitely be memorable shots. However, no television show should not depend heavily on its cinematography to carry an entire episode.
Overall, I was extremely disappointed with this episode. It’s as if the writers took the development from its major characters and pushed it out the window like Jaime pushed Bran. It’s hard to imagine that both Jaime and Cersei would get a romanticized death given what their characters have gone through.
I can’t sympathize with Jon and Tyrion’s epiphany in regards to what Dany is truly capable of. The Northern men suddenly losing their honor and harassing civilians didn’t make any sort of sense. Having Jaime and Euron duel was added material that did not need to happen.. It’s quite alarming that the only highlights of this episode were the “Clegane Bowl” and the cinematography.
I can only hope that the final does redeem this season. However, given the way things have played out, I’ve set my expectations very low. It will truly be a slap in the face of many fans if the show somehow finds a way to mess things up even more. Given the hype for this season from the past two years, I would have never predicted things to have turned out this way.
Game of Thrones will air its final episode this Sunday at 9 pm EST / 6 pm PST on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO GO.
Final Rating: 4/10 Final Battles