The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, entitled ‘The Bells’ brought with it drama, intrigue, stress, controversy and last but not least, chaos. From start to finish, fans like you and I were on the edge of our seats waiting and wondering what would happen next. Well, be careful what you wish for, eh?
Let’s get into it.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD
The scene opens up to Varys in his chambers at Dragonstone. One of his little birds brings him news, or rather, no news since security has tightened up at the castle. Daenerys, after everything is running a tight ship. The Unsullied are hyper-aware of everything. Including the master of whispers minions. Something Varys is now hyper-aware of as well.
Cut to the beach, Jon arrives and still holds the title of Lord of house coochie-whipped. Varys, without preamble, gets straight to the point. Tells him he knows Jon’s secret, that it’s valuable information and can save lives. Jon can save lives too if only he says yes to the throne. Again, Jon repeats what he’s repeated since season 2, he doesn’t want power–never has, never will. Varys reminds him, what he wants doesn’t matter. Guess Daenerys was right.
Stubbornly Jon shuts it down again, maintaining that Daenerys is his queen. Oh, that Stark loyalty, smh.
Enter the war chambers of Dragonstone, Tyrion enters approaching the queen. He stops right in front of a gargoyle of a dragon skull, almost as if it’s eating him… The photography is impeccable, as is the blatant foreshadowing for what’s to come here. What comes after is Tyrion’s last-ditch attempt to have meaningful council with Khaleesi. But the minute he opens his mouth, it’s plain to see that plan is going nowhere. Daenerys knows she’s been betrayed on all sides. The first culprit named? Jon Snow. Instantly, Tyrion [and the audience] scream ‘no, it was someone else!’ Varys, Tyrion echoes. Snitches ‘R’ Us. Singing like a bird. Can I just say this is backstabbery at its finest. Way to pay back someone who literally saved your life. Varys helped you get out of King’s Landing when your father was ready to murk you on trumped up charges, and this is how you repay him? What a sell out. Moral of the story? No good deed goes unpunished. But Daenerys rebuttals, Jon Snow she says again.
She’s not wrong.
Jon did betray her. Passively if not actively. Which sometimes is worse. Because of Jon not being able to keep a secret [something that was never fair of Daenerys to ask, mind you] he set this whole sick train in motion. Doomed to derail. The train? Daenerys’ sanity, but we’ll get to that in a second.
Tyrion says his intentions were good, but we all know where the road to good intentions leads. He’s attempting to placate her. To calm her. He knows she’s growing dangerous and he’s scared. Sansa made he and the rest of us realize this last episode. Speaking of Sansa, Daenerys lays much of the blame on her. Says that if Jon hadn’t confided in the other woman closest to him, Tyrion wouldn’t know and Varys, in turn, wouldn’t have become the wiser either. Again, Daenerys is spot on. Her mind is made up. She says a literal ‘fuck you’ to Tyrion, his intentions, and his efforts to snitch/half-heartedly defend Varys.
“It doesn’t matter now.”
When she turns, you see how haggard she’s become without Missandei’s assistance. You see the bags under her eyes from her crying. Daenerys looks the part and with every close up the audience’s fear levels go up by 1000. The panic rises incrementally when the menacing dissonance of her theme song, courtesy of Ramin Djawadi looms. The music in this series has always done what dialogue has failed to do. Make us feel. We know what’s coming.
Varys learns in the next shot when he burns the parchment he means to send off to god knows where. It’s night. The Unsullied pull up. Grey Worm at the front, looking thoroughly intimidating. You can see he’s all business this episode. Varys is taken to the beach of Dragonstone where’s he’s parked right in front of Khaleesi, Jon at her left [consort position]. She doesn’t have many words for Varys. She’s frankly tired of speaking. Tyrion approaches Varys and boldly tells him he was the Judas. At least he had the sack to be real and not act like a coward. Stabbed him in the front instead of the back, I guess. Varys resigns. Says his goodbyes, prays he deserves what’s coming– that he’s wrong about Daenerys’ mental state and he really is a conniving creep.
Before we’re able to process any more of Spider’s words, Daenerys keeps the promise she made to him in Season 7. Sentences him to die and once she does, Drogon’s figure breaks out from the darkness behind her. This was excellent execution by Miguel and his team. You can really feel the foreboding and the calm menace they’re going for here. Not only that, it’s almost as if she and the dragon are blended attire-wise. The way he creeps behind her welds them together as a unit, so the audience really gets the idea that it’s not the dragon killing Varys, it’s literally Daenerys, as Drogon is simply an extension of herself.
Varys burns and they cut to Tyrion’s face. You can feel his guilt seep from the television screen. They want us to know who’s responsible, good intentions or not. The scene ends on Jon– and finally, we get his point of view after 6 episodes of nada. He’s starting to realize that fear that Tyrion’s felt and the echoes of Varys’ warnings while he watches him turn to ash.
Speaking of ash, we see Jon and Daenerys’ relationship wither and die in this next scene. To be fair, they really haven’t had much of a relationship since they hit the north, the next torpedo to their little fairytale? The truth of Jon’s paternity. This is the very fact Dany brings up the moment she speaks. Never one for mincing words, she gets straight to the point.
“What did I say would happen if you told your sister.”
Jon repeats what he’s told everyone since season 5. I don’t want power, never have and it’s not starting now. Dany, of course, doesn’t care. She doesn’t care much for taking full responsibility for what we just saw her do either. She brings Jon’s attention to Sansa, saying that it was she who did this. She was the catalyst. She betrayed Jon’s trust and therefore is equally to blame for Varys’ demise. The look on her face just screams: “don’t judge me, she started it!”
Khaleesi then lets out a poorly veiled threat, telling him Varys’ death should be a reminder that she’s not to be fucked with. Her defense mechanism is fear. Or rather, casting fear on her rivals. She knows it, and the people do too. So she concedes that she’ll never be shown any love on this continent. That Jon’s privy to all of it. You go Jon Coco! And none for Gretchen Targaryen. It’s all very Viserys-esque circa season 1. Jon tries to persuade her [weakly I might add] that that’s not the case. He ‘loves’ her and she’ll always be his queen. At this point, it all sounds very mechanical and a tactic used to calm ‘the dragon’. Can’t help but feel uncomfortable at what comes next because what does Dany do? The old classic: confirm through physicality. She tries to kiss him.
The only problem is, Jon hasn’t been into it since Sam dropped the bomb. Not to mention he’s probably not in the friskiest of moods after witnessing BBQ a la Varys. Daenerys doesn’t take the rejection well. At all.
“All right then, Let it be fear.” She whispers scathingly, pulling away from him. You don’t like the look on her face. A woman scorned. The writers are giving us sprinkles of Robert Baratheon’s bitterness. She can’t be loved back, so what?
I. Declare. War.
Tyrion unsuccessfully attempts one last effort to dissuade Khaleesi from honoring her house motto, but her mind’s made up. She then confirms that they’ve captured Jaime on his way to Cersei. Yet another bad look for Tyrion as it seems everything he does resembles machinations of a turn-coat. Feels like borrowed time with him and to be frank, Daenerys’ expressions towards him are severely lacking any affection. Every word she says to him seems filled with disdain. Disappointment. She doesn’t trust him.
Well… can’t blame her at this point because Tyrion is using an emotional compass as opposed to a tactical one now. He’s blinded by his affection for his family. Something that’s never died. Unfortunately, this affection is in direct opposition to Daenerys’ interests. But who cares! Because plot, right? Tyrion enters Jaime’s tent after getting past a suspicious Unsullied troop. After a brief back and forth, Tyrion realizes the clock is ticking. Options for a happy ending are slim for everyone but it’s Tyrion so he can’t help but try. He tries to return the solid to Jaime and set him free. Tells him to start a new life in Pentos.
Shaking my head the entire time, watching this. When will he learn?
The sweet and bitter moment that follows where Tyrion admits Jaime single-handedly made his childhood bearable, can’t really make up for the man’s disappointing lack of logic. His blind faith in those who don’t deserve it. At this point, we understand Jaime’s character, he’s not getting on that boat. Cersei is more important and that’s always been the case.
Enter the port of Kings Landing the scene opens up to a would-be serene shot of a bell hanging from an ivory tower. Euron’s Iron Fleet comes into view, readying their Scorpions. Lannister army men line the battlements around the city prepared to attack. The townsfolk shut their windows in preparation for the coming siege, it’s pandemonium and the frantic energy of the city makes you feel dread that inevitably follows. Djawadi does an excellent job utilizing the score here, adding the dark heartbeat of the drums behind every shot. They come to a crescendo as the Hound and Arya make their way into the city, hooded. All black everything. They march through the bacchanal, looking very Assassins Creed. Audiences worldwide probably squealed with glee at this, in one closeup it’s confirmed that Cleganebowl and queen slayer mean business about their long laid out goals.
Another hooded figure is seen slipping past the Golden Company’s infantry, Wouldn’t you know it, it’s Jaime. [Line face] Another L, Tyrion. He didn’t listen. No one ever listens to you, smh.
Enter Captain Strickland at the front lines of the city, he’s in plain sight of Daenerys’ army. Jon, Tyrion, and Davos wait on a hill overlooking it all. Tyrion confirms to Jon that once the bells are rung, the city has surrendered so it’s safe to stop the fighting.
Making plans out loud never did anyone any good in this show and I’m certain that fact won’t change here.
The chaos all but begins when the gates of the city close, pretty much sealing the fates of those left outside. Jaime is among them, trying to using his prosthetic as a ticket in. No dice, they [the soldiers at the gate] can’t hear him.
Pan to the bay and an eerie calm looms over the ships. The camera closes up on Euron who’s looking to the sky, trying to make something out among the clouds.
He finds out.
Because next thing you know, a shriek rips through the air and red and black scales speed their way downward. Drogon rips through the sky almost as fast as his dearly deceased sibling [RIP Viserion] and begins dropping bombs. Light’s up the fleet with dragon fire and torches all the Scorpions while he’s at it.
Daenerys smartened up, I will say. No, she didn’t put armor on old boy but she decided to use the sun as her backdrop [blinding her enemy] & cloud cover to her advantage. She’s using a mixture of stealth, intelligence and spite to overwhelm her enemy. Dodging every shot thrown at her. Too bad the men at the gates don’t have the same energy, they get lit up like a Texas BBQ when she blasts through the front lines, leaving a hole so wide the Dothraki, Unsullied, and Northmen easily charge through no holds barred.
Men are literally stopping, dropping and rolling in an attempt to extinguish themselves. Those who wish they were lucky enough for a quick roast get the other end of the spectrum, a spear through the back courtesy of Grey Worm. Such is the fate of Captain Harry Strickland who falls victim to a very Vlad-the-impaler montage at the hands of our salty soldier. Yeah, it’s clear no mercy will be spared here. Sidebar, shout out to the actor who played the captain of the notorious sellsword army. Got three scenes just to go out before the battle pops off. Rough times my man.
The Dothraki, true to form decimate their opponents on horseback. Good to see not all of them ate it during the Winterfell calvary charge. We hit the high tower and Cersei looks over the carnage quite unbothered. That changes rather quickly when Qyburn shows up to be the bearer of bad news. He informs her the Scorpions? Bodied. Iron Fleet? Bodied. Golden Company? Well… you get the idea. She just won’t seem to accept that the tide has turned. She’s holding on to all hope that the soldiers can handle it, even though they’re cooking at the front lines as she speaks. She doesn’t believe a word she’s saying. Neither do we when she makes the claim that the Red Keep has never fallen and will not today. Again, making bold statements like that, ON SCREEN, only confirms that the very opposite will happen. Looks like she and Tyrion have more in common than she thought.
Back at the Gates, or rather what were the gates, the squad pulls up. Grey Worm, Jon, and Davos lead the pack, slicing and dicing while they march through the city. It’s a sick shot, the three of them. Grey Worm is bloodthirsty at this point. All business. Since Missandei’s death, he’s got no ties left to the world. Someone with nothing to lose is dangerous and we see his fury plain and clear. They stop in front of a pack of Lannister men. Neither seems to be backing down. They size each other up while the rest of the city runs in terror as Daenerys lands Drogon.
They’re terrorized. They realize there’s really no defeating her as Drogon screeches at them menacingly. That’s when the only other person [besides Sansa and Varys] with any intelligence on this show uses their head. The leader of the army throws down his sword in surrender. Jon looks relieved. No more fighting.
Ah, alas, victory.
The confirmation of their triumph rings out as the bells begin to sound.
Ahhh.. the bells. What happens next team, will go down in cinematic history. It’s a homage to Poe as the bells crescendo. They grow louder and louder as does the dark heartbeat from a few scenes earlier.
The most eye-grabbing thing though? The close up on Daenerys’ face. We as an audience finally get to see her up close, and the mixture of emotions playing across her features spells so much out it’s hard to know where to start. Grief, rage, hate, exhaustion. Sidebar, Emmy noms all around for Emilia Clarke’s impeccable acting here. You can’t help but feel the madness and rage bleeding through the television screen. But the bells are sounding. The war is over. Her work here is done, right?
The bells. Ahh, the bells. They do something to her. They seem to short circuit every last ounce of self-control she has. She’s glitching. That in tandem with her staring at the Red Keep–the epicenter of all her family’s troubles and it all comes to a head. Cersei did this. This is what happens to people whose limits are constantly tested.
And like the late great Heath Ledger’s Joker said: “As you know, madness is like gravity…all it takes is a little push.”
Daenerys lets out an anguished sob and makes it personal. It’s personal now.
Tyrion watches in horror as the image from her prophetic vision comes alive– Drogon banks over the city and carnage ensues.
Missandei’s last request honored. Dracarys on you, Dracarys on your cow. DRACARYS.
The city goes up in flame, very reminiscent of Cersei circa project Sept. I have to give a shoutout to Miguel Sapochnik again for this one. We know dragons are powerful but I think many of us don’t appreciate the devastation they’re capable of until we see things like this. Drogon’s firepower literally causes earthquakes. One blast and he levels the city. Torching houses, carriages, and last but not least? Thousands of innocents.
The nuke going off gives signal to the rest of Khaleesi’s forces to rain hell on those who remain. Grey Worm pulls a Night King and throws a Steph Curry. Impales yet another Lannister soldier with his handy dandy spear.
And Jon… Ahhh Jon. Lord of House coochie-whipped, first of his name realizes at that moment, he fucked up. He stares in disbelief as the city begins to fall around him. The city he helped Daenerys sack. He tries to get his men to fall back, but no reason can be found in the madness. The Northmen take a page out of the Dothraki handbook and begin to pillage and rape. It’s CHAOS. The good guys have now become the bad guys. There’s nothing to lose. Jon feebly tries to hold his men at bay, much to the chagrin of Grey Worm who is uncomfortably suspicious of KiTN at this point, but heads need to roll so he lets it go in favor of his killing spree.
I told you the boy gets busy. He and the Unsullied are Unstoppable. They’re in machine mode. Beast mode. And in the words of the great GRRM himself, war does have a tendency to bring out the beast in men. Anyone can die.
This sad truth is revealed as men children and women go up in smoke. Mother’s are being decapitated, Children are being ravaged. The PTSD will be real. Hope they have some gold to pay for those psych visits to the Westerosi ER. Oh wait, Daenerys burned all the gold last season torching the Reach.
Jon saves a woman from being raped by his own man, one of the only honorable thing’s he does this episode. Speaking of lack of honor, the next scene enters Euron and Jaime. Oh my god, not now GoT, we’ve got bigger thing’s to worry about! But plot, so I have to comment. Euron makes a cheeky comment about stealing Jaime’s girl. They fight, It’s very machismo and trust a low down dirty pirate to throw a cheap shot in, cause next thing you know, Jaime’s shanked. Undoubtedly in a vital organ because it’s the penultimate episode and we have to mirror Ridley Scott’s Gladiator.
It looks all bad for Jaime, he’s out like a light and Euron begins to taunt him, cause it’s… Euron. He can’t help himself. One thing I can say is there’s some consistency in the world or at least in the world of thrones because what does Euron do? The ultimate sin. Plays with his food. No lessons were learned from Oberyn I see. This turns out to be his undoing because Jaime, one hand and all returns the favor. Shanks him through the gut. Leaves him to die. He then ends it all with the corniest of lines
“I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”
Ugh, god. Anyway, Dany’s still torching shit, that includes the red keep. It’s holding out long enough to keep a roof over Cersei and her squad’s heads. Arya and Sandor make it into the keep and The hound decides this is the time to pull out the daddy hat. Tells Arya that he wants her to choose a path different from him. He’s resigned himself to the office of revenge and he knows it only ends one way. A path he doesn’t want her to follow. He knows killing his brother is his destiny but death doesn’t need to rule her life the way it’s consumed his.
They say their last farewell, but not before Arya thanks him. For everything. It’s here the audience realizes the finality of the moment.
Cleganebowl is in full effect come the next scene because Sandor finally finds his brother. Cersei makes a pathetic attempt to assert her authority, Qyburn tries to cosign but pays the price for this, getting his head hulk-smashed. A fitting end, Dr. Frankenstein. Not all toys are to be played with.
They duke it out. It’s epic. Jabs left and right, body slams. The WWE has nothing on these two. Sandor stabs and shanks, punches and Kimbo slices. But it’s no dice. The monster Qyburn created is virtually an immovable force. He almost pulls an Oberyn 2.0 on our boy Clegane Jr. but that’s the thing about hate. It gives you this strange energy. This weird resilience. It’s what the Hound’s been living off for 8 seasons. This is the very energy that brings him to his final decision. They need to go out together. Sandor bullrushes Gregor through a wall of falling brick and they both fall to their death in the fires below.
This is the one scene the entire episode that made me cry. This was probably the best-done sequence, to be honest. It felt like a true grudge match, and Sandor went out like the ultimate G. RIP my man, you were a real one.
Back in the streets, Jon still attempts to get his men to fall back. He can barely see through the fire and carnage. Arya’s blinded too, she’s suffocating from the smoke and ash in the air, it’s like Pompeii revisited. Vesuvius, A.K.A Dany has erupted. Full mad queen. Arya realizes ‘burn them all’ wasn’t just some tall tale Old Nan used to tell, it’s staring at her in her face. Along with the petrified citizens of the city. Like the true GOAT she is, she opts to do the right thing. Spike Lee would be proud. She tries to guide them out of the madness, but Daenerys gets to them first. Roasts a little girl and her mother just as Arya tries to rescue them.
Rescue missions are in full effect as Jaime tries to get Cersei and himself out of the castle. The walls are literally closing all around them and Cersei has a full meltdown. Goes out like the coward she is. Blubbering, whining, pleading to her brother that she doesn’t want to die. That she wants her baby to live. Boo hoo, bitch, the witch done told ya, gold will be their shrouds when a younger and more beautiful queen comes to take all you hold dear. This, of course, is the only piece of prophecy that the writers will let us witness. No Volanqar theory come to fruition here folks. Jaime consoles her, cementing the fact that he was a scumbag after all. Cersei and he die together due to faulty infrastructure just as he tells her: all that matters in the world is them.
This is by far the most disappointing scene in the entire episode. No, not Daenerys torching civilians. We got many mad queen hints since the beginning of this series. Her break was bound to happen. But this. 7 Seasons. 7 seasons and 5 episodes of build-up, hype, character development. Gone. Gone in the span of 3 minutes. Now, the writers may think that we the fandom are perhaps a tad bloodthirsty. That we’re only happy if people are being butchered. But I beg to differ. It’s not that we need to see blood and gore. It’s that we want to see a clean wrap up of characters and the storylines we’ve stayed dedicated to for almost a decade. After all Cersei has done, it’s almost as if she won. She never bows or kneels to her enemy. She doesn’t suffer. And when she does meet her end, she gets to do it with the love of her life holding her, validating every horrible move she’s made to get them both to that place.
The last scene opens up to Arya, camouflaged in ash. She’s beaten, bruised and if logic was applied here, undoubtedly dead. But true to Scorpionic form, she rises from the ashes. Phoenix shit. Seriously, this girl should have died 30 minutes into the battle. At this point, the girl has got the infiniti gauntlet of plot armor here. Way too many close calls. What waits for her is a white stallion. How? How with all the burnt corpses that surround her, is this horse standing in the middle of the rubble INTACT? We’ll never know because of course, plot. So we take it for what it’s worth and watch her as she has a Michaelangelo like introduction to Spirit, Stallion of the capital–riding off through the flames and into the credits.
So there you have it, team. Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5, the bells. The last episode before the final 90 minutes of TV’s most epic series ends forever. If you’re still in one piece after this, kudos to you. Kudos to all of us who’ve faithfully followed this series for as long as we have. Though many moments during this episode fell short for me, I do have to commend HBO and their team for pulling out all the stops with editing and directing. I don’t really know where this will go or what will happen next. So many things seem more confusing than before. One thing’s for sure, I put money on the fact that the bloodshed doesn’t stop or end here.
Take a peek below to see what the final installment of this saga will bring us next week.
And for the last time, Valar Morghulis.