Game of Thrones 8.05: “The Bells”

As Game of Thrones stumbles to the finish line, I find myself repeatedly coming back to a quote from the series finale of The Office when a profound Andy Bernard says to the camera “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”

Boy, did Thrones have some good days. Ned’s death. Blackwater Bay. The Red Wedding. The Mountain versus the Viper. Hardhome. The Battle of the Bastards. Cersei’s Trial by Wildfire. Hold the Door. I could keep going, but I think my point has been made. Thrones has given us some of the very best and most daring storytelling to ever grace television, and in doing so, it set the highest expectations imaginable.

This entire season has been underwhelming, there’s no denying that. We all came into these last six episodes with sky-high expectations built up over two years of waiting, and we were quickly disappointed. But rather than only focus on the negatives, I want to also discuss the positives, because unlike last week, there were some genuinely powerful moments that won’t soon be forgotten.

Which brings me back to the Nard Dog. The best days of Thrones might be behind us, but there’s only seven more days of Thrones ahead of us too. And I don’t know about all of you, but I don’t want to spend my last week in Westeros complaining about my stay. It’s been a hell of a trip, and even though it’s far from perfect, I’m still not ready to check out.

* * *

The Good

Teased since the very first season when the Hound saved Loras Tyrell’s life after he beat the Mountain in a joust, Cleganebowl finally arrived, and it was executed wonderfully. Things started strong when the Hound finally got Arya to admit that her revenge quest came with a one-way ticket and going any further meant certain death. We’re so used to watching Arya be a badass that when she shows her vulnerability and her age, it’s incredibly difficult to stomach. The Hound told her exactly what she needed to hear, and I got chills when Arya thanked the Hound by his true name, Sandor. The Hound may have been on Arya’s kill list, but Sandor is not, and at that moment for Arya, there was only Sandor.

Moving onto the actual fight, The Mountain versus The Hound was epic, both in its brutality and its setting. The apocalyptic vibe given off by the crumbling tower was perfect and the visceral sounds of each punch, tackle, and slash stood out in an episode filled with terror. The undead Mountain was terrifying, and the Hound’s fit of mad laughter sent chills racing all over my already tense body. At peace with dying and willing to do whatever it took to kill his brother, watching the Hound launch himself into a fiery death was as poetic as it was sad. May he finally find peace… and many pieces of chicken.

 

The Mad

A lot of people are groveling about the sudden turn to madness that Daenerys has taken these past two weeks. Sure, things were rushed along, but the signs have always been there. This is a person who hardly batted an eye when her brother had molten gold poured on his head. A person who took pleasure in burning the woman who cursed Drogo. Who locked her handmaiden in a vault in Qarth. And burned the Masters in Astapor. And crucified more masters in Meereen. And burned the Khals in Vaes Dothrak. And also burned the Tarlys. You’re lying to yourself if you say that there weren’t Mad Queen vibes before now.

So rather than drone on about how rushed everything felt, I would rather talk about our new Mad Queen. It’s long been a common theory that Daenerys would at least try to burn King’s Landing to ash, and as this season progressed, it grew clear that that’s where we were headed. But it’s one thing to theorize that Daenerys will unleash Drogon on the smallfolk of King’s Landing, and it’s an entirely different thing to see it play out on screen. Let’s throw out how we got here and instead focus on what happened once we arrived, because damn did the Mad Queen arrive.

Things started off fine with Euron and his army collectively forgetting how to aim their weapons, allowing Daenerys and Drogon to destroy the Iron Fleet in mere minutes. (As someone who has often choked on the final kill in Halo, I feel for Euron here.)

Next, we progressed to the walls surrounding King’s Landing where—again, conveniently—the soldiers forgot how to aim and Dany was able to make quick work of the remaining scorpions. Pencil in some time to eviscerate the never-actually-important Golden Company and we’ve got a rout on our hands.

At this point, the Lannister army had dropped their weapons and the townsfolk finally listened to that one very loud woman and rang the bells to signal surrender. We should have started to get the wine ready for a mostly-bloodless celebration, but then Daenerys snaps… she snaps hard.

Committed to ruling through fear, Daenerys attacks everything and everyone in her path. Her actions signal to her army that everything is fair game, quickly reminding us that not only are the Dothraki still alive, they’re also savages! Cue the raping and the pillaging.

Meanwhile, Jon Snow and Tyrion look on in astonishment, shocked that the woman who began her morning by executing Varys with dragonfire could ever stoop this low.

What follows next is a gruesome, nauseating montage of death and destruction. Benioff and Weiss may have stumbled in getting us here, but once we arrived, they pulled it off agonizingly well.

 

The Ugly

While I wanted to focus on the good parts of “The Bells,” I couldn’t completely ignore its shortcomings. And nothing came up short more—both in this episode and in the series as a whole—than Euron Greyjoy. Benioff and Weiss turned one of the books’ more memorable baddies into a knockoff Captain Jack Sparrow with an affinity for cheesy one-liners. But in sticking with my plan to only discuss this episode, let’s throw out all of Euron’s past mishaps. Instead, let’s just focus on this episode.

With the scorpion’s power and accuracy nerfed by the mods overnight, Euron stood no chance at killing Drogon and Daenerys. What I wish happened was that Daenerys simply killed him on his boat. Had this been his death, I would have been even happier with the episode. But for whatever reason, the showrunners decided that we needed more of Euron, so after swimming a couple of miles back to shore, it was time for a fight with who else but Jaime Lannister. (I legit laughed when Euron emerged from the water—never a good sign for a prestige drama.)

So now it’s time to fight, and both Jaime and Euron grab their cocks weapons for a duel that nobody asked for and everybody already knew how it would end. By this point, I was genuinely uninterested and debated fast-forwarding. But I’m glad I didn’t because I would have missed Euron’s godawful last line. Seriously, this felt like a bad SNL skit. Good riddance, butt fucker.

Maester’s Musings

  • I want to hate on Jaime and Cersei’s death scene, but I can’t think of a better way to have done it. Their toxic codependency made them destined to die together, especially after Jaime’s about-face in Winterfell last week. For better or worse, they got the deaths they deserved.
  • There is some special place in hell reserved for Sand Snakes and Euron Greyjoy.
  • I may have been Team Littlefinger, but I will certainly miss Lord Varys. The writing of his death scene could have been stronger, but he needed to die. It’s fitting, too, that our Master of Whispers is gone, because on Thrones, subtlety has long been dead.
  • Once again I’m frustrated by the writers bending the show to fit their plot’s needs. Last week, Euron was fighting with an aim-bot couldn’t miss, and this week he could barely fire his weapon. For a show that had been so steady for so long, there are too many inconsistencies permeating from Season 8.
  • Did Cersei forget to invite the archers to the battle? Isn’t that the whole point of having the high ground atop the walls? Lazy writing again.
  • The writers don’t seem to know what to do with Davos. During the fight with the White Walkers, he was kept in Winterfell because he’s not a great swordsman. But this week he’s seen rushing in right alongside Jon.
  • Do we think that was Bran who warged into the white horse that found Arya at the end? If not, that’s some pretty heavy-handed symbolism.
  • I’m always a sucker for Rains of Castamere and I loved that it was the song they decided to play during the closing credits. Does it represent the end of the Lannisters? The Targaryens? Did they just like how it sounded? Find out next week!

One more episode. That’s still hard to comprehend. It looks like the fighting is done, and now we get to watch some old-fashioned politicking. In past years, that would have excited me to no end, but with the show’s recent track record, I’m nervous. Will our northern characters—Bran, Sam, Sansa, Brienne, and everyone else—be called south by their new queen to bend the knee? Will Daenerys line up Sansa and Jon and threaten their lives just as the Mad King did to Ned’s brother and father all those years ago? And if she did, could anyone stop her? She has the Unsullied and the Dothraki on her side, plus Drogon. Would Drogon obey if commanded to kill Jon, a fellow Targaryen? I don’t know, and I also don’t know if Bran is able to warg into a dragon, but I hope we find out. And for Andy Bernard’s sake, I hope there’s one more good old day left to enjoy.

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