Game of Thrones S8E5 RECAP 'The Bells'
I knew the final season of Thrones would be divisive, but not like this.
At this point, it feels like you guys are actively trying to hate this season, which is disappointing, but alas.
I hate to break it to you, but The Bells, was a great, episode of Game of Thrones.
I didn’t come to that conclusion immediately though. For a while, after the episode, I was in shock. I didn’t know what to think of what I had just seen. It was a lot to take in and I was overwhelmed. Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen finally did it. She went full Mad Queen, and it did something to my spirit. I was disturbed. Not because I couldn’t see it coming, but because no matter how many times I said “burn this shit down” last week, I truly didn’t want her to. I wanted to see her rise above being the Queen of the Ashes, and I thought she would. Boy was I wrong. Is there room for redemption? Probably not, but what makes this show so emotionally distressing is its tendency to subvert your expectations and really mess you up. Thrones never gave a damn about your feelings and they weren’t about to start in season 8. That being said, let’s get into it.
We start off hot with Varys the snake in his chambers writing letters to the realm, presumably telling everyone that Jon is the true heir to the Iron Throne. One of his little birds walks in and we find out that he’s tasked her with POISONING DANY. Tough job for a child, but as Uncle Varys apparently always says, “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.” We then see Jon arriving at Dragonstone and guess who’s there to greet him. Varys shoots his shot, citing the old saying about the Targaryen coin flip. Jon realizes that Varys knows his secret and once again states that he doesn’t want the throne and reaffirms his faith in Dany. One time for Jon’s new catchphrase “she’s/you’re my queen,” I’ll be using that one a lot this summer.
You Look Tired
So Tyrion goes to talk to Dany and man is she looking rough. She’s gone full Aerys II Targaryen at this point. Dark circles under her eyes, hair disheveled, paranoid as all get out. But for good reason. Tyrion informs her that somebody in her ranks has betrayed her, and she automatically assumes it’s Jon. Tyrion tells her it was Varys then Dany goes all “well actually…” and explains how just about everybody betrayed her. She has a point. Jon shouldn’t have told. It starts with him. Stupid.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
Boom. We go back to Varys in his chambers. He’s writing another letter when he hears a door open. He instantly burns the letter he’s writing and takes off his rings and prepares to be taken in. Grey Worm and some other Unsullied take him out to a cliff where Dany, Tyrion, and Jon are waiting for him. He and Tyrion have a heartfelt moment where Tyrion admits it was him who dimed him out. It’s kind of reminiscent of when Varys took the stand on Tyrion during his trial. Varys says he hopes he deserves his fate and the two friends say goodbye for the last time. Dany sentences him to die and issues the laxest ‘dracarys’ in history. Queen. Jon looks over at Dany kinda weird, which is dumb because what did he think she was gonna do here? Oh well. RIP Spider. You were a great character.
You Had One Job
Jon goes to see Dany in her chambers just to see how she’s doing and explain himself. He once again affirms his commitment to her cause and tells her he loves her. Dany asks him if she’s only his queen and tries to make her move, but once again, Jon recoils smh. Come on man. She’s your aunt, yeah, but that hasn’t stopped Targaryens before. She fine dawg, just take one for the team. He essentially breaks up with her with his silence here and this is big. Dany, heartbroken, says, “all right then, let it be fear.” and the Mad Queen is born.
Dany is sitting in the throne room looking menacing. Just downright terrifying up there. She tells Grey Worm to ready the Unsullied for an attack in the morning and Tyrion begs her to call off the attack if she hears the bells. She nods and sends them on their way. Stopping Tyrion on his way out to tell him that Jaime had been captured trying to make his way back into King’s Landing.
Hug Me Brotha
Tyrion goes to free Jaime and the brothers share a really beautiful moment together. Tyrion knows why he’s going back to King’s Landing. We all should’ve known. Jaime always said he wanted to die in the arms of the woman he loves and shame on us for thinking it was Brienne. He played ALL OF US. Men truly ain’t shit. Anyway, Tyrion returns the favor from when Jaime saved him after his trial by combat and he tells Jaime that he was the only person that made his life worth living when they were young. It’s honestly very sad that this is the last we’ll see of these two together, but they’ve been amazing every time they’ve shared the screen and I’m grateful for it. Despite his character’s stupidity over the past few seasons, Peter Dinklage’s performances have always delivered. Tyrion essentially risks his life here to try and save the people of King’s Landing. He tells Jaime about his bell plan and that he’s arranged a way for he and Cersei to get out of dodge and start a new life. An admirable effort, but f*ck them guys.
Give It Up for Harry Strickland and the Golden Company
After a short scene of Arya and Sandor, and Jaime arriving in King’s Landing, we get a shot of the Golden Company getting into formation outside of the city gates and preparing for battle. We then see the rest of Dany’s forces, Unsullied, Dothraki and Northmen, lined up across from them in a shot almost identical to the shot of Jon looking at the Bolton army from the Battle of the Bastards. We cut to Euron and the Iron Fleet preparing in Blackwater Bay and we see the wind start to pick up and blow stuff around, which only means one thing, dragon inbound. In a smart play, Dany dives on the Iron Fleet out of the sun using the glare as her cover, making her first run before they could even see her coming then flanking as they try their hardest to turn the scorpions around. It’s too late pals. You may be asking, why didn’t Dany do this last week? Well for one, they caught her off guard last week. The Iron Fleet were the predators and she was the prey in episode 4, this week the roles are reversed. The Iron Fleet knew she would come, but they didn’t know when or how. She had the advantage of playing offense this go around and it showed. She narrowly dodges some scorpion bolts, something that Drogon has always been good at, and executes the first part of her attack flawlessly, destroying the Iron Fleet and the scorpions guarding the bay.
Meanwhile, there’s a bit of a standoff at the city gates. The Golden Company are waiting for Dany’s army to make their move and Dany’s army is waiting for Dany’s signal. They get one. Dany comes from behind the gate and blows the whole thing to shit, killing a huge portion of the Golden Company and sending Harry Strickland running for the gotdamn hills. Dany’s army charges and cleans up the remaining Golden Company while Dany takes out the scorpions on the walls. Things seem to be going swimmingly as Dany’s army breaches the gates and easily dispatch the Lannister forces waiting inside. Drogon is a beast, man. He’s burning the absolute hell out of shit. Good grief.
We cut to Cersei in her usual viewing spot (she hasn't really moved much in the last few seasons) and she’s holding out hope as Qyburn informs her that shit has indeed hit the fan. She claims the Red Keep has never fallen (your dad literally took the Red Keep in Robert's Rebellion :/) and says she will stand her ground. You fool.
Inside the city, Dany’s Army and the Lannister forces come to an impasse. Danny flies over and parks Drogon on top of a tower and he lets off a few roars. This scares the shit out of the Lannister army and they drop their swords in surrender and I think we all let off a collective sigh of relief in this moment. It’s a tense couple of moments waiting for the bells to ring, but ring they do, and oh man…
BURN THEM ALL
Like it or not, this turn for Dany has been coming for a while. It’s supposed to bum you out. She was a heroic, almost Messianic figure, but the potential for her to light shit up has always been there. It was there when she coldly declared “fire cannot kill a dragon” after Drogo murdered her brother (he was a dickhead but still her brother and she had defended him several times before). It was there when she threatened to lay waste to Qarth after being denied entry into the city gates. She’s threatened to burn cities to the ground and take what is hers with Fire and Blood more times than I can count. She’s burned noblemen alive to prove points. She crucified hundreds of masters in Mereen. Yes, she’s freed slaves and has shown herself to have a gentle heart, but she’s always been ruthless as well. There’s always been the chance that she could break bad. Did it happen fast? Sure, they could’ve given her descent into madness a whole 10 episode season if they had the time, but they didn’t. This season she’s lost everything that could’ve kept her grounded. Two of her children. Her two best friends. The second man she’s ever loved. She’s been betrayed by her closest advisors. Everything that has kept her in check to this point is gone. If those same tragedies happened to any human you know, you’d say that person was damaged, would you not?
As she sits on top of Drogon on that tower she has a terrible epiphany. She has what she wants, but it feels empty. She knows she’ll never get the love she craves in Westeros, only fear. The bells only serving as a reminder that these people fear her. They’re ringing the bells because they’re scared of her, not because they’re welcoming their savior.
“All right then, let it be fear.”
She decides to fully lean into that and absolutely let it rip on King’s Landing. It honestly reminded me of when Theon took Winterfell. Theon was a broken person. Rejected by his father and desperately craving his love and acceptance, he lashed out and did horrible things he normally wouldn’t have done had he been whole. Dany is similarly broken. She’s lost everyone she’s ever loved or cared for. She knows she’s in a foreign place, no matter how many times she calls it home. Dany is broken inside, and it makes her lash out. Granted, she took it further than Theon ever did, but give a severely broken person a nuke and see what happens. I’m not saying Dany is justified in her genocide of hundreds of thousands of people, but you can see where it came from. It’s not supposed to feel good, guys. It’s Dany. She’s our girl. You’re supposed to be sick about it. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t earned or well-developed over several seasons.
Jaime’s journey to get to Cersei leads him to a cove near the bottom of the Red Keep. You’d never guess who washes up next to him. We finally get the showdown between Euron and Jaime and I honestly really enjoyed it. I’ve never been stabbed in each side before, but I assume it would kill me. I think we’re supposed to read this as Jaime was so determined to get to Cersei that he wasn’t going to let anything kill him until he was with the woman he loved. It’s beautiful if you think about it that way.
Euron’s last words are, “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.” which is false for one, but it’s interesting because it made me wish we saw more of his obsession with Jaime. We hear him talk about him a lot, even when he’s not in the scene with him, but imagine if they depicted Euron as a man who was hellbent on killing Jaime, either as revenge for what he did to Greyjoy soldiers on Pyke or just as part of an unhealthy obsession he had with the golden boy of the Sven Kingdoms. I have to give credit to Chris Ryan of The Ringer for this idea, I heard it on their Thrones aftershow ‘Talk the Thrones’ and thought it was a really good point. Really makes you think of what could’ve been, but it was still a great scene.
Sandor, Thank You
As the Red Keep falls apart, Arya and Sandor make their way up to check the most wanted names off their lists. Sandor sees that the Red Keep won’t hold for much longer and urges Arya to go home or risk dying here in King’s Landing. Arya resists at first, but Sandor uses himself as an example of what happens when you let vengeance and hate consume your whole life and this is the final step in operation humanize Arya. This scene made me wish we would’ve gotten two episodes of them on the road to King’s landing discussing the concepts of vengeance and hate and what they do to people in greater depth, but this was a beautiful scene and I love that she calls him by his real name when she thanks him for all that he’s done for her. Goodbye to the best pairing on the show, and goodbye to Sandor Clegane. An incredible character came to an incredible end here in this episode.
C L E G A N E B O W L was upon us and holy shit was it awesome. This shit was like Undertaker vs. Kane on steroids. Michael Myers vs. Jason Voorhees. Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. It was a hell of a scrap and it ended so poetically with both brothers falling into a pit of fire, the very thing that caused all this hate in the first place. For everyone questioning how The Mountain survived all that shit up until getting tackled, he’s not human anymore. I thought they made that clear with his grotesquely discolored skin, festered wounds, and even more than before superhuman strength. The fight with Oberyn (gods rest his soul) basically killed him, but Qyburn found a way to turn him into a mostly obedient super zombie to serve Cersei. Speaking of Qyburn and Cersei, the old man’s death was hilarious, as was Cersei pulling a “my name Bennett and I ain’t in it” and tip-toeing past the scuffle. Sandor has always been a humorous character, so it was fitting that they put some notes of humor in his last scene. Clegane Bowl was 10/10. 100% fan service, but guess what, I’m a fan! Service me, please!
Nothing Else Matters
Finally, Jaime finds his way to Cersei and she immediately recognizes that he’s hurt. That doesn't matter though, as he’s determined to get them both to safety. They quickly realize that isn’t going to happen though as they’re trapped in the dungeons below the castle with the dragon skulls. Last week I was concerned about Jaime leaving Winterfell for King’s Landing if he wasn’t going back to kill Cersei. This week, I totally get the decision from a character standpoint. It makes perfect sense. Jaime has always been a dickhead, sure he’s had some redeemable moments here and there but his driving force has always been Cersei. We’ve known it all along, we just wanted to look past it to see the good in him, but it’s classic Thrones to see us rooting for Jaime and just shit on it. Even in this moment, we’re sad to see him go because he’s a character a lot of us have grown to love over the years. Yeah, he’s trash, but he’s our trash. He really wanted to go die with the woman he loved, and I have to respect that. Listen to how he commands her to look him in the eyes. He wanted one last moment looking at the woman he loves before it all ended. Does it make the Brienne stuff feel a little shallow? Maybe, but in the beginning, middle and end, it’s always been Cersei. Yes, Jaime cared for Brienne. He loved her. Just not like he did his sister. It’s a tragic end for an all-time great character. Salute.
At first, I was disappointed in how it all ended for Cersei because I thought Jaime was going to kill her. But they didn’t do the Valonqar prophecy in the show for a reason. Once I got over the initial disappointment of Jaime not strangling the love of his life, I came to the conclusion that this was a fitting end for my most hated character. Whenever shit gets hot for Cersei, it’s always because she gets too cocky and thinks she has everything all figured out. She’s undone by her own hubris every time, and this was no different. Tyrion gave her multiple chances to surrender and save herself, her child, and the citizens of King's Landing. She refused and responded by killing Missandei. Qyburn told her to abandon the Red Keep earlier in the episode when things were looking bleak. She waited for the tide to turn and it never did. It’s her fault and it caused her demise. RIP Cersei Lannister, I loved to hate you. Lena Headey, you’re incredible.
“...And behold, an ashen horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death.” - Revelation 6:8
The remainder of the episode is really just Arya avoiding and escaping various levels of peril. It was really cool/shocking/horrific to see the city burn from her perspective, and you can see how it’s affecting her. Here’s a person who has killed countless people seeing the horrors of war for really the first time. The Great War doesn’t really count because the enemy was already dead, but these are innocent civilians who are dying by the thousands. I said her conversation with Sandor was the final phase of her humanization but it really may be witnessing the burning of King’s Landing from the ground that really brings her back around while at the same time giving her one last name to check off her list.
This season has been good folks. There’s been one real miss of an episode and that was episode 4. Provided they nail the finale, I think time will look upon this season favorably. Once you all get a chance to let everything sink in, go back and watch and I guarantee you’ll feel differently. Every week there are so-called experts picking this show apart with a microscope, looking for any flaws they can find, and it’s affecting the overall viewing experience for a lot of people, including myself. This season hasn’t been without its flaws, some bigger than others, but to say this season hasn’t been good is crazy to me. So far it’s probably somewhere in the middle of the road as far as Game of Thrones seasons go. Definitely better than 5 and 7, notably worse than 3, 4 and 6. I’ll find its place in the middle with seasons 1 and 2 once the season ends. The Bells was a movie. Miguel Sapochnik is a gotdamn genius. Somebody get this guy a movie deal, PLEASE. On the first watch, I didn’t know what to think, but once I let everything sink in and watched it again and again, I loved every second. I don’t know where I’ll rank it all time just yet, but it’s up there for me.
One more episode left. I’m excited, but I’m also dreading the end of my favorite show. I’m gonna miss Game of Thrones more than you know. I won’t get too sappy here, but next week Imma cry all over this damn page. Get ready.
Once again, thanks for reading. I truly appreciate all the support and feedback I get for these. I want to start writing about other things too. Other shows, sports, movies, whatever. If you have any suggestions of what else I should write about after this is over, let me know. Questions, comments, complaints? You know where to find me.