Game of Thrones – The Bells review S8 E5

Daenerys treated King’s Landing like her personal video game as she spammed the mess out of her Dracarys super move. She took burn em in the flames to a whole new level here. The Bells tolled for a slew of important characters this episode as we saw the fulfillment of a foreshadowed heel turn in the most fiery way possible.

For all the Team Danny fans, The Bells can’t be a surprise. This has been teased for awhile, but it certainly was the most decisive, irredeemable path to the Dark Side since Anakin killed all those younglings.

Danerys was quietly seething. One by one all of her trusted advisors were leaving her side. Jorrah was killed trying to keep her safe against the white walkers. Missandei was beheaded in the cruelest show of force Dany had witnessed. Tyrion kept proving to be increasingly incompetent as her Hand. Now Varys was spreading that tasty tidbit about Jon being the rightful heir to the throne. This betrayal couldn’t occurred at a worst moment for Dany, who was already reeling and low-key seething in jealousy over this adoration for her would-be lover Nephew Jon.

At least with Varys, Dany could take immediate action. All traitors get burned at the stake, hold the stake. Varys knew this was coming and in his own way seemed to hope his death would help both Jon and Tyrion see that Daenerys was too far gone to be a good ruler. Like Littlefinger, Varys was incredibly smart until it came time for his death when he prodded his authority figure a little too much and expecting not to end up dead…or roasted in his case.

Jon seemed taken aback by this, but continued pledging allegiance to Dany as his queen although he was good on the whole hooking up with his aunt deal. Danerys is feeling a little fired up and tells Tyrion her troops caught Jaime trying to get to King’s Landing. Fail her again and it will be for the last time. Can’t really be upset with her for this threat as Tyrion has made a series of boneheaded mistakes since becoming her Hand.

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Still, Tyrion won’t let his brother — the one person who loved him — get burned by Dany. He frees Jaime from his chains and this time the brothers say farewell, I really believed this was for the last time. The great tragedy of Jaime is that he had a good woman who loved him, but his heart was always Cersei’s to do as she pleased. Tyrion arranged for a boat Jaime could use to take Cersei away and start a new life away far away from this conflict. All Tyrion asks is for Jaime to ring the bells, which will signal to Cersei’s forces that the battle is lost in the hopes that it would signal a cease fire. Funny how that ends up working out…

Arya and The Hound were also making their way to King’s Landing away from the main force. I substantially like their odds far more of reaching Cersei and The Hound than Daenery’s main force.

Time for the showdown at King’s Landing! Cersei smugly watches far in the distance while the Golden Company prepares for this face off with The Unsullied. Euron and his fleet are ready with their scorpions locked and loaded. But they didn’t count on Daenerys using the exact same strategy as before, but this time diving in with the rising sun at her back effectively blinding his troops. This wasn’t much of a contest as Danerys and her sole surviving dragon made short work of Euron’s fleet. It was so easy it almost felt anticlimactic.

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That was pretty much the case with The Great War Part 2 as Daenerys attacked Cersei’s forces from behind bathing them in a sea of flames. Clearly having more than one dragon would have been overkill because this wasn’t even a fight. No wonder Dany so casually rode up on King’s Landing last week. “I’ve got two nuke bombs when *spoiler* I only really needed one.”

This fight was over pretty much as soon as it started. Grey Worm leads the Unsullied and apparently the Dothraki who didn’t want to make that road trip up North to fight the white walkers on a wholesale slaughter. The Gold Company was the Tin Company by the time this “fight” was over. Tyrion waited and waited to hear the bells. Surely Jaime wouldn’t let him down in this pivotal moment, would he? No, of course not. The clanging of the bells was the sound of sweet surrender. With Daenerys flying overhead, it didn’t take much convincing anyway. The Lannister army threw down their swords in the smartest tactical move of an army all season.

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The Kingdom was saved and the final battle was over…until it wasn’t. Daenerys knew what the bells meant. Tyrion gave her the head’s up and she agreed to end the conflict at that sound, but at that moment The Breaker of Chains couldn’t care about a surrender. She could see Ser Barristan, Jorrah, Missandei and her two dead dragon children whose deaths were tied to Cersei’s hatred. And in that moment, Daenerys only saw King’s Landing burning and unleashed her dragon on a devastating, destructive tear through the city.

This destruction was impressive just for the sheer scope of watching this shining city imploding under the dragon fire, the towering columns collapsing into so much rubble and the streets of shaming now covered in smoke and ash. At this moment, Tyrion saw firsthand what Varys warned him about as his dear queen went mad and remorselessly burned innocent civilians caught in the fray. Jon also knew Varys wasn’t a one-time power check move. The senseless loss of life was worst than anything he’d seen in the North fighting the white walkers. At least their onslaught had a purpose. Danerys’ actions were unnecessary and cruel.

I’m sure some people will complain this was too much. Too far down this path for the hero of this story. I’d argue going back and revisiting this series will show Danerys has always been on this slow burn path to tyranny and madness. This final step was totally on brand for Danerys:

Now all that was left was the desperate evacuation. For Jaime, that meant getting past Euron, who saw him as the romantic rival to get out of the way to fully have Cersei’s heart. While one-armed, Jaime still had enough of the old Kingslayer mentality in him to kill Euron, who died alone on the beach thinking happy thoughts that he was the man that killed Jaime Lannister.

The Hound was closing in on his destiny. Sandor Clegane had always been a cruel and vicious bastard, but he couldn’t let Arya go down this one-way path to death with him. Arya is a soldier, but she’s smart enough to recognize a losing hand when she sees it. She thanks The Hound in a well-earned moment of respect for these two rivals before heading off.

Cersei was seeing her kingdom in ruin. She’d worked so long, schemed and plotted through so much and now the kingdom that claimed her children was now being engulfed in an inferno with pockets of wildfire — a cruel reminder of her role in sweet Tommen’s death – popping up. Qyburn finally was able to convince her to retreat just in time for The Hound to arrive. The opportunity to finish what he started all those years ago broke through The Mountain’s vegetative state and he was consumed with rage.

Who cared about Cersei’s orders or her manservant whose head squashed so easily against the rocks when he tossed him? Cersei smartly sidestepped The Hound to let them have their fight. We’d been waiting for this Clegane Bowl for years and it did not fail to deliver. The Hound had years of payback brewing and took it to his zombie brother. But Qyburn’s magic made an already nearly invulnerable fighter unbeatable even with a dagger through the skull. With his vision fading, The Hound used the last of his energy to tackle The Mountain through the broken down structure and into a pool of fire below. When they were children, The Mountain used the fire to scar his brother. Now as adults, The Hound would use the fire to permanently end the nightmare of The Mountain.

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Jaime found Cersei and they shared an long embrace. I kept waiting for Jaime to declare his freedom from Cersei by stabbing her to neatly wrap his Kingslayer arc full circle. Instead, Jaime led Cersei back to his escape route only to find it blocked off by rubble. More destruction was leading to a massive cave in, which would ultimately kill Jaime and Cersei. This was a more fitting death for Jaime as he never could quit Cersei and it ended up being the death of him. He could have been happy with Brienne back at Winterfell, but Jaimie dying with Cersei somehow felt more satisfying. Game of Thrones stopped trading in happy endings by episode 9 of Season 1. This was no time to start now.

Jon and Arya both found themselves desperately trying to escape a blazing nightmare. They’d seen war before, but never this level of cruel destruction. They tried to help people who the next moment were burned to a crisp. Arya barely survives several times. She finds a horse that also managed to survive this chaos and rides off presumably to fulfill her new quest of killing this Mad Queen.

The Bells probably proved shocking to a certain disbelieving fanbase who couldn’t spot the signs that Daenerys was never positioned to be the great hero of this series. With this episode she positioned herself as the greatest villain — one who might be in an unstoppable position with all the real threats to her power dead. So what the heck will happen next week?

Rating: 10 out of 10

Photo Credit: HBO

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