TV Reviews

Review | ‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 5: The Bells

Fear is the true enemy in this polarising instalment of Game of Thrones as we rocket towards the series finale.


“The Bells”

Starring Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, Kit Harington, Maisie Williams, Liam Cunningham, Conleth Hill, Rory McCann and Jacob Anderson.


We’re almost there guys: there’s only one more episode of Game of Thrones ever. Let’s be honest, it’s pretty much impossible for the most hyped television programme perhaps ever to satisfy everybody in a final six-episode run, especially when everybody had to wait two years for it. Everybody has their favourite character and their own idea of how things will play out, which puts the programme in the tricky position to neither play into those fan theories (because that would be predictable) but also then getting flack from diverging from those theories. So, for the sake of not pulling on a large thread (unlike how I did for Avengers), I’m not going to question the writing choices so much and reflect on what “might have been” and instead view it as the scripture and try to interpret from there – after all, we can hardly argue that Daenerys “wouldn’t” do anything, since we literally saw it happen. Slightly inconsistent, sure, but let’s play devil’s advocate for what might be one of the more disappointing character transitions so far seen.

We open this episode seeing Dany the most broken we have ever seen her as she stays at Dragonstone. Varys makes it obvious to Jon when he arrives that he believes he would be a better ruler for the Seven Kingdoms, and that he knows of his true parentage, which makes an enemy of Dany, who sentences him to death by dragon.

Vengeful, Dany is keen to set King’s Landing ablaze in the wake of the tragic loss of her friend Missandei at the close of last episode. Tyrion encourages her to reconsider and, upon discovering that Jaime has been captured trying to return to King’s Landing, wants to minimise bloodshed. He concocts a plan for Cersei to abdicate the throne and leave King’s Landing, using Jaime to help secure this surrender, using the bells as the signal of Lannister surrender.

The Hound and Arya manage to infiltrate the Red Keep, each with separate goals in mind: The Hound to challenge his brother at last and Arya to kill Cersei. Jaime fails to get through the gates before they are closed. Meanwhile, as Dany and Jon’s armed forces wait at the walls of King’s Landing, Dany and Drogon decimate the Iron Fleet and all of the scorpions that lie on the walls of King’s Landing to shoot the dragon down. The wall is destroyed and Dany’s forces enter the city.

It does not take too long for the Lannister forces to realise that defeat is soon at hand and they lay down their weapons. The bells ring out across King’s Landing, while Cersei stands in the Red Keep, looking out across what used to be her kingdom. Her face shows her fear and her disappointment at the surrender of her forces, as well as the doubt creeping through that the stronghold she held the Red Keep to be is not as great as she thought it was. Accompanied with the news that Euron’s forces have been destroyed and she can tell that she has lost.

Dany hovers on Drogon as she hears the bells of surrender, but does not heed the bells and, instead, unleashes fire upon the city, incinerating surrendered Lannister soldiers and civilians alike. Grey Worm and Dany’s other forces receive the message and continue to fight the Lannisters even though they have dropped their weapons, in an epic display of foul play. Both Tyrion and Jon are completely horrified by these actions that they see around them, even leading to Jon killing one of his own soldiers in order to protect an innocent civilian.

Meanwhile, on his way to the Red Keep to Cersei, Jaime encounters Euron, fresh from the destruction of his ships at Dany’s hand. He goads Jaime into a fight, which he loses, but not before he gives Jaime a lethal injury. Staggering and bleeding, Jaime continues into the Red Keep.

As the Red Keep and King’s Landing start to crumble, The Hound encourages Arya to turn back, stating that she will only die if she remains here and instead should head back. In another rare display from Arya, we see her properly scared. Except this time, she’s scared of somebody who is meant to be on her side. The Hound heads off to find his brother, while Arya starts to flee.

Realising that she needs to escape King’s Landing as Dany is not going to stop destroying the city, Cersei and Qyburn attempt to travel to the tunnels with Ser Gregor as their protector. They encounter The Hound on the stairs. Qyburn attempts to stop the fight between the brothers, but is killed by The Mountain in return. Cersei scuttles off on her own, while the brothers begin to face off. The fight is bloody and for a moment it looks like The Hound will lose, as the Mountain presses his eyeballs in much the same way as he killed Oberyn Martell. The Hound pulls it back by plunging a dagger through his brother’s head, which has no effect. With no other option, The Hound tackles his older brother through a wall and the pair plunge downwards to a fiery grave.

Image result for game of thrones the bells
‘Brothers in Death: Sandor and Gregor Clegane finally face off, with lethal consequences for them both.

Standing on top of the painted map of Westeros that she once owned, where she has constantly held power, Cersei is now helpless. The castle crumbles around her and she is all alone. Until Jaime appears. Tears spring to her eyes as the pair embrace, in complete disbelief that they are with each other again. Cersei notices Jaime’s wound, but he says it’s not important and that they need to get her to safety. Jaime leads her to an escape tunnel, to discover that it has caved in. Cersei sobs, saying that she doesn’t want to die and she needs Jaime’s help not to die. The pair embrace, and the castle falls upon the two of them.

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Leaving the world as they came in: together. Cersei (Lena Headey) and Jaime (Nikolaj Caster-Waldau) have a tearful reunion.

While Jon and the allied forces fall back from the wrath of Dany and her dragon’s fury, Arya is amongst the civilians in the streets below. There are countless burnt corpses and screams from children and adults alike. While she tries to save the life of a mother and child, Arya is unable to as Drogon sweeps down the street and obliterates the innocent lives below. As ash falls from the sky, Arya pulls herself from the rubble of a fallen building, face bloodied and scarred, expression contorted in a steely resolve as a white horse appears to lead her to safety.

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Hell hath no fury: Arya (Maisie Williams) seems changed and vengeful after her experience in King’s Landing

Musings

This episode got rid of quite a few other characters, most significantly Jaime and Cersei. It’s a shame that Jaime went back to Cersei, but it is understandable why this would happen. Despite his affection for Jaime, leaving the one that you love to die a fiery death is a little extreme. Plus, Jaime has always known who Cersei is and she hasn’t changed, rather he has. I’m a little surprised that he might not have killed her in a mercy killing way, but it’s fitting that the pair bow out together.

Dany’s choices in this episode are admittedly ill thought through. This is hardly the first time, though. She’s famously made bad decisions when left to her own devises, and often tends towards cruel behaviours. Never has it been so extreme, however, and for a woman who is worried that more people will like her than Jon, you would think that she’d capitalise upon the benevolent “freer of slaves” angle. Clearly, politics is not her thing, and this advice is not present from any of her advisers. To be fair to Dany, had she attacked King’s Landing with her three dragons when she had first arrived in Westeros, she would have the Iron Throne at this point. We could clearly see how she took King’s Landing in this episode with just one dragon, let alone three – and even with the Scorpions that were suspiciously deadly in the previous episode. You can sense her frustration to just get the situation over with at this point: because of listening to her advisors (mainly men), like Tyrion and Varys and Jon, she’s now ended up losing her two children (bearing in mind that Dany can’t have any biological children anyway), as well as her only friend. She’s raging, and she’s tired and she’s ruthless. She’s unfortunately also homicidal and falling slightly into a “hysterical” woman cliche. And yet, it is understandable. It’s unfortunate that it’s another woman in line for the Iron Throne showing the toxic influence of power etc. Yet, very few of the characters in Game of Thrones are anything other than morally grey, with the seeming exception of Jon Snow who is irritatingly noble.

I do not understand Dany’s game plan, though. At this point, it makes sense for Jon and Dany to rule together – if for Dany to rule at all. Sure, Dany could be Queen. But she cannot have children, so the only thing that will happen is that she will die and then nobody else will be around to rule Westeros.

Dany’s punishment of Varys shows that she is very insecure about her position for the Iron Throne, and the knowledge of Jon being closer in line to the throne is bound to be a huge plot point in the upcoming final episode. I wouldn’t be surprised if Varys had spread the information before he died or if Dany tries to kill Sansa for treason as well. After all, she has a dragon and she has a loyal army.

Ultimately, I’m calling that either Jon or Arya will be forced to kill Dany at the end, though who will actually sit on the Throne is anybody’s guess. As for half of the characters like Bran and how they will fit in, I’m still confused as to how all of these plot points will come together.

Verdict

I’ve already spoken about the impossibility of writing a show like Game of Thrones where there is so much expectation to provide. I did find that this episode felt a little long. There was another episode of fighting for the most part. I suppose lots of the appeal of Game of Thrones was the more subtle political moves that were made in the earlier seasons, instead of the large battles that we now see. Lena Headey’s performance was wonderful, perfectly portraying Cersei’s downfall in an honest way. Even though very few viewers feel very much sympathy for Cersei, it’s still important to see this humanity coming out towards the end, even if it doesn’t tug on the heartstrings too much. Maisie William’s also does sterling work as Arya, adding extra emotional depth to a character who is often fairly stoic and enigmatic. I would also like to learn how Arya survives quite so many buildings being dropped on her. It’s a skill I wish to learn. It’s a pity that in an episode so much about her character’s turning point, very little is made of Dany and Emilia Clarke. We see her sat atop her dragon an awful lot, but I think it would have been nice to actually talk to her in this episode about what she is doing. I’m assuming that the repercussions of that act are to come next week. It’s also a tricky episode where I feel like half of the characters have been forgotten about. Samwell and Gilly have pretty much been written out, as well as Gendry. It would be disappointing if this was the last we saw of them, but it also doesn’t make much sense to bring them back into the action after all this time. Only one more episode!

My predictions

Prediction

Tyrion Lannister
Jaime Lannister
Cersei Lannister
Daenerys Targaryen
Jon Snow

Davos Seaworth
Sansa Stark
Arya Stark
Theon Greyjoy
Missandei
Brienne of Tarth
Samwell Tarly
Bran Stark
The Hound
Varys
Melisandre
Tormund Giantsbane
Gilly

Bronn
Gendry
Jorah Mormont

Current fate

Tyrion Lannister
Jaime Lannister
Cersei Lannister

Daenerys Targaryen
Jon Snow
Davos Seaworth
Sansa Stark
Arya Stark
Theon Greyjoy
Missandei

Brienne of Tarth
Samwell Tarly
Bran Stark
The Hound
Varys

Melisandre
Tormund Giantsbane
Gilly
Bronn
Gendry
Jorah Mormont

Location

KL


KL
KL
KL
Winterfell
KL


Winterfell
Winterfell
Winterfell



Going North
Winterfell
Winterfell?
En route to KL?

This week, I was proved correct on several of my predictions: Jaime and Cersei died – and together, albeit in a different way to what most of us expected, with Jaime seemingly undoing his redemption arc by going back to his sister. Meanwhile, The Hound also bit the dust, taking down his brother The Mountain as he did so. Additionally, Varys faced the wrath of Ms Targaryen. Elsewhere, the royal pain in the ass that was Euron Greyjoy also died. And somehow, Arya didn’t?

Next week

Tune in next week for the final review of Game of Thrones‘ final season.

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