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Review – Game of Thrones S08E05: “The Bells”

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6.7/10
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Summary

Daenerys begins the siege of King’s Landing.

 

Game of Thrones – Where Everything is Made Up and the Arcs Don’t Matter

 

This week’s episode of Game of Thrones was just messy. We finally have Daenerys reach King’s Landing, only for her to screw up everything she’s worked for. Of course, people die. But no character’s death was horrible to watch as the complete decimation of the characters’ arcs built over the last eight seasons.

Warning! Spoilers ahead!

Daenerys 

Perhaps one of the most disappointing parts of this Game of Thrones episode was seeing Dany’s full descent into madness. It opens with her discovery of Varys’s change in loyalty. She views this also as a betrayal from Jon. Jon told Sansa, Sansa told Tyrion, and Tyrion told Varys. Dany executes Varys for this. In the first five minutes of the show, she executes him by fire. It felt brutally unfair. 

Speaking of unfair, Tyrion is STILL having to persuade Dany to spare the innocent people of King’s Landing. He is still having to tell her that she cannot kill women and children because Cersei killed her friend. For a moment, it feels like Dany agrees. She says to him how much mercy is a strength. He begs her to call off the attack if they ring the bells of surrender. She again seems to agree. Until she gets there. 

Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister Photo by Helen Sloan - © 2019 - HBO
Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister Photo by Helen Sloan – © 2019 – HBO

The Mad Queen

The assault on King’s Landing begins and it honestly feels so anti-climactic. Dany, with no trouble, takes out the Iron Fleet as well as the scorpions that surround King’s Landing. They took down Rhaegal in like two seconds, but sure, now it takes forever to turn them around to shoot Drogon. Sure. Fine. Then, Cersei surrenders. They ring the bells so freaking quickly and you as the viewer KNOW something is wrong. Dany looks at the Red Keep, gets pissed, and then lights the whole city up. Who is she? This is not the same Dany who tried to stop rape, who fought hard to end slavery, and who wanted more than anything to spare innocent people from a tyrant. She spent literal YEARS building up her reputation for being merciful and loved and she threw all of that down the drain. 

Now, I understand that Daenerys has lost a lot and she’s been betrayed. BUT SHE’S BEEN THROUGH ALL OF THAT BEFORE AND NOT KILLED INNOCENT PEOPLE. Remember the first time her dragons killed a child? She put them in chains! At a great emotional cost to herself! But she had to do it to protect her people! Do these writers even read their own scripts??? I don’t think they do!

I don’t like to speculate about this show, but I believe that all of this is to force Jon’s hand. To make him confront Dany and fight her for the Iron Throne. But that makes this even worse! Dany, who has been a huge symbol of female empowerment is suddenly reduced to a pawn in a man’s story? That sucks. I hate what’s become of her. It’s unsatisfying and disappointing. Fuck these writers for doing that to her. 

Jaime

Jaime disappointed a lot of people last week when he abandoned Brienne, but he didn’t truly reach peak dumbass until last night when Dany’s forces capture him on his way to King’s Landing. Tyrion allows him to escape, and they have a sort of touching scene where Tyrion tells Jaime how he and Cersei could get out of this alive. He gets to King’s Landing just as the invasion is starting.

Jaime tries to get in through the gate by showing his gold hand, but he doesn’t get anyone’s attention. He goes into the Red Keep through the passage Tyrion told him about, but first, he meets Euron Greyjoy. In one of the dumbest fights I’ve ever seen on television, these two morons duke it out over Cersei. They stab each other, but ultimately, it’s Euron who dies on the beach, believing he killed Jaime Lannister. 

The Stupidest Lannister

Jaime and Cersei finally reunite and try to make their escape. The whole time, I was hoping Jaime would complete his character arc and kill her. It would feel like justice since Dany or Arya didn’t get to her first. But he doesn’t. He leads her through the tunnels and finds the exit blocked by all the rubble falling. Cersei begins to cry about not wanting to die. Jaime comforts her. I keep thinking, “okay, this is it,” but nothing happens. The roof collapses over the two of them embracing. 

That was one of the meanest and ugliest things the writers have done, in a long and storied career of mean and ugly. Jaime grew so much as a character. He learned to care about other people like Brienne. He learned to see the big picture about the White Walkers. And he dies telling Cersei that she and him are all that matter. His entire character arc was just…gone. He was the same Jaime from season one. These two were the worst, and there was no justice in their deaths. They died like they wanted to – together. They didn’t deserve that. 

The Hound and The Mountain

Sandor Clegane has had a vendetta against his brother Gregor for the entirety of Game of Thrones. He and Arya make their way through King’s Landing, both set on one person they came there to kill. But when they make it to the Red Keep and find it collapsing, he urges her to abandon it and get out of the city. She does (I’ll get to that later) and the Hound presses on until he meets the Mountain trying to get Cersei out alive.

This long-awaited showdown was one of the more entertaining parts to watch. The fight choreography was really interesting since they’re fighting on the stairs with rubble coming down around them. Visually, it was very cool and suspenseful to watch. Plus these two are both intense fighters, with little regard for fighting fair. We almost lose the Hound the same way we lost Oberyn, but he rallies. He rallies by charging the Mountain and going over the side of the tower, falling into the fire together.

I’m conflicted about this death. I really wanted the Hound to come out on top, of course, but it also felt empty. Yes, it symbolized that his hatred for Gregor was stronger than his fear of fire, but it didn’t feel right. It felt like a contrived bit of symbolism that didn’t actually fit his character. Was there more for the Hound to do? I don’t know. I guess you could say his arc was complete, but he didn’t live to enjoy that.

Arya 

Arya Stark is the current hero after saving the universe from the Night King. She goes to King’s Landing with the Hound and is quite literally on the prowl looking for Cersei. Like I said before, the Hound advises her to leave, since Cersei will surely die anyway. And Arya just does it! She actually does what someone told her! This isn’t in character for her at all.

I really, really wanted Arya to kill Cersei. She was on the list, after all, and Cersei deserved to die by a Stark’s hand. And it’s a part of Arya’s story! She’s cultivated this list, and Cersei has been basically at the top since Ned Stark’s death. Why would she give up just because Cersei was most likely going to die? The Arya we know would want to guarantee it. 

Horse Ex Machina

Instead, Arya tries to flee King’s Landing with the people trying to escape Dany’s onslaught. We follow her running through the streets, and it feels sort of like when she escaped the capital the first time. Only now, she’s helping others and dodging a lot more fire. This was suspenseful and interesting to watch, but I wanted Arya to be more active. She gets beat up as she goes on – she almost gets trampled, she gets thrown around by fire, and definitely gets a concussion. But then, something happens that was wild, even for Game of Thrones. She narrowly escapes a blast of fire, and it kills everyone around her. Except for one other living thing – a random ass horse. 

I genuinely hoped that Arya was hallucinating this, but she wasn’t. There was literally a horse just standing where the fire had been, and behaving in a perfectly calm manner that allows Arya to mount it and ride off down the streets of King’s Landing. That’s where the episode ends too. I was livid. That horse was the most unrealistic thing that ever happened in a show of snow zombies and dragons. Arya is not a Disney princess, she can’t just summon animals to her aid.

Final Thoughts

This episode told us one thing, the writers of Game of Thrones do not care about the fans or the characters. All they care about is shocking viewers so much that they start trending on social media. Forget good writing, forget character development, and forget satisfying your fan base. They don’t care.

I know there’s a difference between a narrative choice I don’t like and bad writing, but this is genuinely both. After a turbulent show like Game of Thrones, there has to be satisfaction, or you’re a bad storyteller. It’s simple. And honestly the way these characters are being treated is proof that it’s a bad show but it’s shocking enough to keep people interested. There’s nothing to be gained by watching it.

I tell people who ask me if they should watch it that they shouldn’t. It’s a waste of time and emotional investment. 

 

 


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