Title: Game of Thrones: “The Bells” Review
Release Date: May 12th, 2019
(This review will contain Game of Thrones spoilers. So, if you have not seen the latest episode, I cannot recommend you read any further. Also, Game of Thrones is a show with a ton of characters and developments throughout. Although I will talk about most of these major developments, this will not be a scene for scene review)
At this point, I think you are going to absolutely love Game of Thrones season 8 or despite its very existence. The creative decisions made this season have been divisive among fans from “The Long Night” being the one and only battle against the White Walkers to Dany’s growing insanity. So, full disclaimer, I believe this is an outstanding final season for the hit HBO series. It is also fine if you think otherwise. Do I have a few complaints? Sure but overall, I’m happy with the direction the series has taken us so far. It has all been leading up to this siege of King’s Landing. And it was worth it.
If you’re a huge Dany fan, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably hated this episode. Which is completely fine and I sympathize with you there. If her descent into madness wasn’t so excellently well-handled, I would be right alongside you with my pitchfork at the ready. Emilia Clarke was amazing this week and conveyed this shift in personality to perfection. This may have actually been her best work on Game of Thrones yet. She just had this look of someone who has snapped throughout the entire episode.
From the moment she stepped foot on Westeros, something began to change for Dany. Scratch that. Ever since she aligned herself with Jon Snow to risk her army in a fight against the undead, she has pretty much lost everything close to her. Jon has, in her mind, betrayed her trust by telling Sansa and Arya about his secret. Although Varys got the worst of it, she definitely holds a grudge against Tyrion for spreading that secret. Each of these events led to her eventual breaking point.
Here’s how I saw it. The siege of King’s Landing came to easily for Dany. The Northern and Unsullied forces decimated troops on the ground and Drogon cleared out anything out on the sea like it was nothing. Dany wanted revenge for everything she’s lost and this easy battle wasn’t satisfying enough. Couple that with the “Targaryen Madness” taking over (which was beautifully set up by Varys early on in the episode) and it was inevitable to happen one way or another.
Westeros’ history has repeated itself this season, albeit a lot quicker this time around. The White Walkers returned, they were fended off, a battle for King’s Landing ensued, and there was a mad ruler involved that had to be stopped. It’s a nice touch as it points out that this has happened before and someone has to eventually break this cycle.
A lot of people died this week, which raised the stakes even higher heading into the finale. “The Long Night” had a few big deaths but “The Bells” had far more important characters meeting their bitter ends. Varys has been around since day 1 and has tremendously impacted Tyrion’s character. His death was foreshadowed last season by the Red Woman but that didn’t make any of his scenes this week any less painful to watch. His final words to Tyrion were heartbreaking, as he accepted that he is dying due to his friend’s betrayal and hoped that he was ultimately the bad guy in the end. It’s a tragic situation really because he was 100% right all along. I’m assuming we’ll get an answer next week on who Varys sent that letter to, declaring Jon Snow as the rightful heir of the Iron Throne.
If I had one major complaint this week, it would have to be with everything at the end surrounding Cersei and Jaime. The lead up to this was perfect. Jaime leaves Winterfell, seemingly on his way to kill Cersei. He gets captured by Daenerys. Tyrion gets to repay his debt to Jaime by freeing him and saying a final goodbye (which was my favorite non-action scene of the episode). Switching over to King’s Landing, we see Cersei’s confidence slowly crumble down throughout the siege. I thought this was to all setup Jaime becoming the Queenslayer, killing his sister out of mercy before Dany ever got the chance. Instead, Cersei and Jaime both get crushed by the imploding building. It’s pretty underwhelming considering how much development both characters have had over the past 8 seasons.
Also, Euron is a terrible character. This isn’t a fault of actor Pilou Asbæk at all. He’s hilarious and does his best with the script. But, he’s by far the most underdeveloped main villain in Game of Thrones’ history. I can accept him teleporting at will and being an excellent shot. However, I can’t accept that he survived Dany’s almost perfect attack on his fleet and actually went on to provide the killing blow on Jaime Lannister. Yeah, I know I’m a little biased since I’ve talked about how fantastic Jaime’s character has been over the years but Euron has always seemed to be this walking plot device for the writers to plug in whenever they need someone to have any resistance. For him to make it this far in the story and actually deal killing blows on 2 major characters (including Rhaegal), it is a little annoying. And not in a good way.
Luckily, we also had the highly-anticipated Cleganebowl and it totally worked on every level. The Hound and The Mountain were never going to survive their encounter here and their fight showcased this. It was brutal, intense, and best of all, highly entertaining throughout. The Hound has been terrified of 2 things in his life. Fire and his brother. It was fitting to see him, in a last-ditch attempt, propel his brother right into his fear. I’m just ecstatic that we didn’t see The Mountain turn Sandor into a rotten watermelon as he did with The Viper.
Arya, Jon, Tyrion, and Davos all saw first hand what Dany’s regime will look like and I’m guessing we’ll have one final battle next week to officially decide who will end up on the Iron Throne. Jon has finally seen Dany’s true colors and will hopefully be motivated to take the throne for the good of the people. After thinking about it, there may not be an Iron Throne to take anymore. Going into “The Bells”, I thought Sansa owed Jon an apology for going against her oath. Now, I’m actually thinking Jon is the one who needs to redeem himself. He messed up and trusted the wrong person. The same can be said for Tyrion, who got one of his closest friends killed earlier in the episode for betraying Dany. They put all of their faith into Dany as the rightful Queen. Now, it looks like next week is going to be Jon and Tyrion rushing to fix their mistake before more people die.
As for Arya, I’m intrigued to see where her character goes. The Hound snapped her out of the suicide mission they were on and she was seemingly going to try and actually live her life. Daenerys torching all of King’s Landing and killing hundreds in front of Arya most certainly postponed those plans. Sidenote: How awesome were those one-shot scenes with Arya? It was just a front row seat to all of the carnage and turmoil Dany caused.
I don’t think Arya will be the one to kill Dany but she is definitely going to have a crack at killing Drogon.
Verdict: “The Bells” was one hell of a penultimate episode for the series, even with a few hiccups along the way. As Game of Thrones reaches its end, we finally see all of our surviving characters slide into place. Jon Snow is set up to be the hero of the story who’s mission is to kill the woman he loves and save Westeros. Daenerys has turned into what she hates. A tyrant who will continue the trend of murder and hopelessness in Westeros. It’s an excellently well-done turn that not everyone will be on-board with. For me, Game of Thrones has delivered in one epic final cliffhanger heading into their grand finale next week.
- All of the scenes that involved Arya
- Daenerys' turn into the Mad Queen
- Dany's vision of King's Landing from season 2 came true, just not how we thought it would
- Tyrion and Jaime's final scene
- Varys' final scene
- Great performances from Peter Dinklage, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Lena Headey, Emilia Clarke, and Maisie Williams
- Jaime and Cersei's deaths were underwhelming
- Euron is just the worst
- How can this all be resolved next week?