The penultimate episode of the final season of Game of Thrones was, in many ways, exactly what I expected. And that leaves me just a little bit disappointed.
SPOILER WARNING: Do not read ahead if you’re not caught up. Check out my recaps for past episodes here.
What I Hated in “The Bells”
Before I get to the full recap, I want to give my general thoughts. I have loved every episode this season, but not this one. Here’s why.
- Daenerys. Game of Thrones has set us up for 7 seasons to love her and I am majorly disappointed she ended up going evil. I hoped the message of the series would be that people can overcome their past/family and that she and Jon and Sansa would find a new way to rule and not even have an “Iron Thone.” Yes, we have seen hints that Dany was slowly descending into madness. I knew they were moving toward full-on Mad Queen. But Game of Thrones is known for surprising us, so I had HOPED the writers would take her in another direction.
- Jaime. Way to completely ruin a character arc. We got all that goodness with Brienne and Jaime fighting for the North just to see this ending for him? A stupid battle with Euron and a tender moment dying in the arms of his evil sister lover? Hated it. And I have a huge problem with the writers thinking a battle between Euron & Jamie was in any way worthy of filling time in the precious last few hours of the show.
- Cersei. I wanted to see a BIG scene where many of Cersei’s enemies confront her and she died in some horrific manner. Instead, we got a scene that – what? – attempted to make us feel bad for her? Lame and highly unsatisfying.
Things That I Loved in Episode 5 of Game of Thrones
- Jaime and Tyrion’s final goodbye. When Tyrion sets Jaime free and tells him he was the only person who didn’t see him as a monster, that did me in. Tyrion has such a good heart. I guess Dany was right all along that Tyrion will always have a soft spot for his family. Or just for people in general. Ahem.
- Arya’s letting go of the list. The Hound implored Arya to give up her quest for revenge, and he finally got through to her. As much as I love seeing assassin-Arya, I’m also very happy she’s not dead. I am slightly disappointed that we’re not seeing more of her using the faces though. Maybe the final episode?
- Jon and Grey Worm realizing that Dany has turned to the dark side. The moment when Cersei’s army lay down their swords and the bells ring was full of tension. And then the moment when Dany starts burning EVERYTHING, but Jon tries to get them to stop fighting. There is a brief look exchanged between Jon and Grey Worm and I think at that moment they both realize they’re going to have some serious decisions to make.
- Overall production of the battle. Bravo! The fire, the destruction, the people running and panicking and fighting and dying. All so good.
Recap of “The Bells” Season 8, Episode 5
This episode starts with Varys preparing several scrolls explaining that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. A young girl comes in to report that Daenerys has not been eating. I didn’t get this scene at first, but after a second watch, I realize Varys is trying to poison Dany! (With things moving so quickly this season, every little thing means something!)
Jon arrives at Dragonstone and Varys attempts to convince him that he would make a better ruler than Dany. Jon is visibly annoyed that his secret is out, but brushes Varys aside, asserting that he has no interest in the Throne.
Tyrion sees all this from a distance and runs to tattle on Varys. Daenerys says she’s been betrayed by Jon Snow. Tyrion says, no, it’s Varys. But Dany sets him straight. Jon told Sansa, therefore he was the betrayer. Sansa “trusted” that Tyrion would spread the word, which he did.
At this point, I’m thinking Tyrion is dead. But alas, Dany only chooses to execute Varys. I really thought she was going to burn both of them in that scene. Killing off Varys didn’t really shock me, as we’ve seen Dany execute others for far less.
Later, Dany offers Grey Worm Missandei’s sole possession – a slave collar. He tosses it in the fire. Jon comes into the room and Dany tells Grey Worm he can leave, calling him “Torgo Nudho.” At first I found this curious, but some Googling revealed that Torgo Nudho is simply “Grey Worm” in High Valyrian.
Dany tells Jon Sansa is as much responsible for Varys’s death as she is. Hmmm… not quite sure about that logic, Dany. Jon tries to assure Dany she is his queen, but that’s not enough for her.
Dany comments that there is no love for her here, only fear. We’ve been seeing this shift since she left Essos. Where she was once praised and worshipped, she is now distrusted and disliked. She tries to kiss Jon and he’s not quite as into it as he used to be, given that she’s his aunt and all. Dany pulls away and says, “Alright then. Let it be fear.”
Oh damn. I know where this is going, but I still have hope someone will snap her out of this madness.
Daenerys is meeting with Tyrion and Grey Worm, planning the attack on King’s Landing. Dany is set on burning it all, but Tyrion is still pleading with her not to kill the innocents. She reluctantly agrees to call off the attack if she hears the bells of surrender.
Before they leave, Dany tells Tyrion that they stopped Jaime as he was trying to get through their lines. Tyrion finds Jaime and sets him free, telling him a way he can take Cersei and they can flee together.
This was a really beautiful scene with great acting. Tyrion breaks down in tears and tells Jaime he was the only reason he survived his childhood. “You are the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.”
Mad Queen Mania
I didn’t want it to happen, but it did.
Drogon destroyed all the scorpions and the Iron Fleet. Cersei’s army threw down their swords, accepting their defeat. For a long, hot minute, they waited to hear the bells ring. Finally they did.
But Daenerys wasn’t having it. She decided to burn the whole damn city to the ground. Jon, Grey Worm and Tyrion were shocked. But quickly realized they needed to act.
Grey Worm drives his spear into the army that just threw down their swords. Some people think Grey Worm was taking a cue from Dany that there was no surrender. But I think Grey Worm was acting in defense. He realized that the army was going to pick up and attack as soon as that fire started raining down.
All hell breaks loose and there’s mass panic. Jon tried to stop the fighting, but it was futile. He ultimately tried to help the innocents find safety, but there wasn’t much of anywhere to hide from the dragonfire.
Well, I was not at all happy with Jaime’s story in this episode. The writers just threw away his entire character and redemption arc. What’s the lesson here? You can decide to be a good guy, but ultimately, you can never change? Or is it just that Cersei was the one and nothing could ever change how he feels about her?
Jaime, after being set free by Tyrion, finds himself on the beach where Euron washes up after Drogon destroys the Iron Fleet. Euron is more than a little excited to tell Jaime he “fucked the Queen” and fight his foe to the death. He gets in a couple of serious stabs to the torso before Jaime drives his sword through Euron’s abdomen and twists real good.
Euron dies with a smile on his face, though, satisfied that he probably killed the Kingslayer.
But somehow Jaime makes it back to Cersei, even though he’s bleeding pretty badly. He brings Cersei to the tunnels to find they are all blocked off and they can’t escape. As the walls come crashing down, he holds her and tells her to just look into his eyes, the two of them are all that matter.
The Story of Arya and the Hound
Arya and the Hound ride on up to the gate and Arya announces, “I’m Arya Stark. I’m here to kill Queen Cersei.” The guard doesn’t quite know what to make of that brand of honesty. They take advantage of his confusion and ride on in.
I guess with all that’s going on in the city – everyone scrambling to get inside or to some sort of safety before the battle – Arya and the Hound are able to saddle right in to the Red Keep.
And then we get to one of the best scenes of the night. The Hound is about to head in to find his brother the Mountain and Arya is ready to kill Cersei. The Hound stops her.
“You think you’ve wanted revenge a long time?” he asks. “It’s all I care about and look at me. You wanna be like me?” He puts his hand on the back of her head and says, “You come with me, you die here.”
You can see how this affects Arya (props to Maisie Williams’ acting ability) and she makes a shift. As the Hound walks away, Arya offers him a heartfelt, “Sandor. Thank you.”
He saved her life.
We get to see the much-anticipated Cleganebowl, which was pretty satisfying! The Mountain seems utterly unstoppable and clearly set on killing the Hound. Qyburn tries to command him to stay by Cersei’s side and the Mountain just picks him up, cracks his head against the wall and tosses him like a ragdoll.
And Cersei’s like, OK then, I’ll just tiptoe away and leave you two to fight it out.
They fight brutally and it doesn’t look good for the Hound until he gets a solid stab into the Mountain’s eye. He still doesn’t go down though, and I laughed when the Hound stabs him repeatedly and screams “Fucking die already!”
Finally, the Hound takes a running leap and hurls them both over the edge of the tower, to a fiery death below.
This was a great sequence. Awesome fighting, and a good death for both of them.
Scenes of the Hound fighting are echoed by scenes of Arya trying to escape the burning city. She is almost trampled at one point and we see a very cool sequence with Arya’s face on the ground, then the Hound’s face on the ground, then each of them getting up. I loved the complementary scenes showing their struggles.
The final scene of the episode is Arya, covered in blood and ash, finding a horse and riding out of King’s Landing. I’m really happy Arya made it through. She’s pretty much the only character I really want to live!
Death Toll for Game of Thrones Season 8
In this episode, we see the following deaths:
Varys: Burnt by Drogon for suggesting to Jon that he’d be the better King, thus betraying Daenerys.
Euron: He died at the hands of Jaime Lannister, but with a smile on his face, thinking he killed the Kingslayer. As I mentioned above, I did not like this scene. I don’t think Euron is a character that deserved the screen time he got in this episode.
Qyburn: Arguably the best death of the episode, creepy Qyburn gets his skull cracked open by the Mountain.
The Mountain & The Hound: Fans finally got the satisfaction of Cleganebowl and it didn’t disappoint. The fantastic fight between brothers ended with the Hound hurling the Mountain and himself off the tower and into the flames below. I loved the Hound’s classic line “Fucking die already!”
Jaime and Cersei: After Jaime has such a beautiful arc in this show, he decides he needs to go back and die with his sister and one true love. He finds her and tries to help her escape, but they are trapped and die together in an embrace, the walls crashing down around them.
Predictions for the Finale
I am honestly at a loss here. Part of me still wants Dany to turn things around and end up good. But I guess it’s too late for that.
I don’t see Jon on the Throne, but it seems that’s the way the story is headed. I also don’t see Jon killing Dany, so will it be someone else. Arya? Sansa?
OR. Perhaps Dany will go back to Essos and rule there – where they love her. Would she ever be content to NOT rule the Seven Kingdoms? Yeah, probably not. But even after her actions in King’s Landing, I still don’t want her to die.