Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Recap: The Bells

What. The hell. Was. THAT?

I-I don’t even know what to say here. I feel kind of like the fandom has just been punched right in the face. Hell, not even just the fandom, anyone who’s ever watched the show. Anyone who’s invested any time and mental effort in keeping all these people and their stories straight for the past seven seasons. This was a total middle finger to all of us. I’m so confused, and pissed off, and just plain over it now. I hope George R R Martin’s as angry as the rest of us are. I hope he sets this right in the books. If he does, I might actually go back and try reading them again (I got about 1 2/3 books in and had to stop because I just couldn’t cope with all the rape.)

Sorry folks: this is going to be a messy recap, because I’m still kind of processing all of that. I may never stop. Or I may just give up trying because clearly the writers have.

Death Roll

We’ve reached a point now where it’s easiest to name the characters who haven’t died, so here we go:

To the best of our knowledge, the following characters are still around:

Arya

Jon

Psycho Dragon Lady (not Daenerys, who has apparently been replaced by some mass-murdering nutjob)

Davos

Tyrion

Grey Worm

I…think that’s it. Aside from those who didn’t make the trip down to King’s Landing, obviously. So, we still have Yara, Brienne, and Sansa and there’s still some hope for humanity, maybe.

Burn, baby, burn

Ok, so the first person to throw themselves off their character cliff is Varys. I’m guessing he’s trying to avoid the battle at King’s Landing altogether, so as soon as Jon arrives Varys greets him and, right out in the open, in full view of anyone who might happen to be watching, suggests Jon make a play for the throne after all. Jon, of course, turns him down and just keeps robotically going on about how Dany is is queen. He seems to have gotten the idea that loyalty and swearing one’s fealty means absolute, mindless devotion forevermore.

Tyrion watches this exchange from afar and immediately goes to Dany and tattles on Varys. Dany’s pretty wrecked after losing Missandei. She’s not eating, she looks like hell. So she’s in just the right headspace to sentence Varys to death without in any way verifying that Tyrion’s even telling the truth about him.

She also has a talk with Jon that boils down to:

‘I told you not to tell your sister your secret, didn’t I? And now look what’s happened. I told you so.’

‘Loyalloyalloyalloyal. Don’t want throne. Repeat.’

‘K. Wanna have sex?’

‘Not really. Feels gross now. But still loyal! Totally loyal!’

‘Nobody loves me. Guess I’ll just have to work the fear angle.’

The night before the battle, Jaime is captured trying to slip past Dany’s army. When Tyrion hears of it, he makes some arrangements with Davos, then goes to Jaime and urges him to escape, grab Cersei, and sneak away with her to a new life in Pentos. Like Cersei’s going to agree to that, right now. And why is Jaime still trying to get back together with her? What happened to his character development?

Right, none of that matters anymore. Jaime agrees and the brothers have a tender moment, knowing there’s no chance they’re ever going to meet again in this life.

Tyrion also makes one last-ditch attempt to avoid wholesale slaughter, by begging Dany to call off the attack if the city rings its bells and surrenders. She agrees.

The next day, the last of the civilians are brought into the city before the gates are shut and locked. A few more are let into the Red Keep before it, too, is locked down. Arya and the Hound manage to make it in, but Jaime (dressed like an escapee from Assassin’s Creed, which just makes me laugh because it’s so stupid) doesn’t make the cutoff. He hurries off to find another way in.

The Golden Company emerges from the city and lines up just outside the walls opposite the bay. Facing them are the remaining Dothraki and Unsullied. Grey Worm has orders to wait for Dany’s signal. The Golden Company has no such orders and yet just stands there waiting for something to happen instead of engaging the enemy. Then again, maybe they realise it’s better to stand your ground and let the enemy come to you rather than just charging off towards them to be slaughtered.

On the other side of the city, in the bay, the Iron Fleet waits. Euron squints at the sky and sees Dany emerging on Drogon. Now, remember how last week he rather easily managed to take out Rhaegal with his giant scorpion? Apparently that weapon is now somewhat useless, because he fails to hit Drogon at all, can’t seem to get the thing properly engaged, and is helpless when Dany Dracaris-es the entire fleet. Seriously, she wipes the whole thing out in about a minute.

She then hits the city, frying all the defences and soldiers on the walls.

Turns out, the signal for Grey Worm to act is an enormous fireball bursting through the city wall behind the Golden Company, followed by a rampaging dragon. A lot of the Company is taken out by fire and chunks of wall, and the Unsullied and Dothraki make short work of the rest.

Up in the Red Keep, Cersei watches this chaos unfolding from afar, the smirk finally wiped off her face. But she still seems to think they have a chance, even after Qyburn reports that the fleet is gone, the scorpions all destroyed, and the Golden Company decimated. They still have the Lannister soldiers, though, and she’s sure they’ll fight better than sellswords ever could. Qyburn quickly agrees, because he’s her Jon Snow: just going along with whatever she says or does. Because that’s the sort of adviser you want at your side in a crisis.

Dany continues riding through the city, taking out soldiers, defences, and buildings. It’s insane. This dragon is basically a fantasy version of a nuclear weapon. It seemed like the show was making an effort to make the dragons seem somewhat fallible, but apparently Drogon is the magical one you just can’t take down. But he can take everything else down. This whole fight is so absurdly one-sided it’s actually boring. I can’t believe I’m saying this (especially considering the carnage), but I’m bored by this whole thing. There’s no drama or tension if one side so very clearly has all the advantages.

Jon and Grey Worm lead the army into the city, where they encounter the main force of Lannister soldiers. But the soldier in charge (presumably) takes one look at the dragon, and the army in front of him, and seems to decide, ‘I didn’t sign up for this.’ He throws down his sword, followed immediately by all the others.

And so we think, oh, ok, great! Listen, the bells are ringing! They’re surrendering! It’s been a long and brutal road, but maybe we’re going to get to the end of it with some sort of hope, or, you know, character moments that actually make some sort of sense. Maybe Westros can come back from this!

But hahaha, say the writers and creators of this shitshow. Apparently Dany is just going full Aerys now, and has decided that if the people won’t love her, she’ll just make them hate her. She takes off on Drogon and begins razing the city, full-on going after civilians.

Yeah, that’s right. Daenerys, the great liberator, the breaker of chains, the woman who always showed kindness and mercy to the innocents, who locked her dragons up in a dungeon for a while after they killed a child is now just burning a city to the ground for no reason at all, and running down innocent men, women, and children as they flee for their lives. I don’t mean they’re just collateral damage–she’s actively targeting them as they run.

Oh, and it gets better: when Grey Worm sees her doing this, he grabs his spear and kills one of the unarmed Lannister soldiers in front of him. And then the rest of the army jumps in and starts slaughtering. And I really do mean slaughtering. Just in case we may not catch it, they film some of this in slow motion, so we get the full blood spray effect. It’s like a bad knockoff of The 300 (fun fact! Lena Headey was in that too!)

I just… I can’t. I don’t even know what’s happening here anymore. I feel like I just wandered into a completely different show. I could maaaaaaybe see that Daenerys would do this, if it seemed like she was going after the soldiers, but she’s not. She and her army are actively going after ordinary people. I’m not even sure I buy that Grey Worm would do this. Yes, he and Dany are both really upset about Missandei’s execution, but I’m still not sure that’s enough to justify this. It doesn’t feel right for his character at all. This is… beyond insane. And it makes almost no sense.

Meanwhile, Jaime has found his way to the Red Keep’s secret exit, where his escape boat is waiting. He’s going to use this route to get inside, but first he’s set upon by Euron, who’s somehow managed to escape the burning of the fleet. The two men fight, and Euron manages to stab Jaime in the kidney or thereabouts before Jaime delivers a death blow to Euron. Finally. Piss off, Euron.

(And may I just say how incredibly disappointed I am that Yara never reappeared? I thought for sure she’d come in to play some sort of role in this pivotal battle. After all, it’s not as if she doesn’t have a bone to pick with Euron, and I’d have really liked to see the two of them face off. Alas, she seems to have been consigned to the wings of this drama.)

Arya and the Hound have made it into the Red Keep, which is starting to collapse thanks to the dragon laying waste to it. The Hound wants to go after his brother, and Arya wants to kill Cersei, as she’s been planning to do for, what, a decade now? Many, many years, at least. But at the last second, the Hound tells her not to worry about it. She should just turn back and not die today. And Arya… agrees.

I can’t even, you guys. What the hell were the last seven seasons for? Why did we spend all that time at the House of Black and White, watching Arya go blind and learn to be some crazy face-swapping super assassin if she’s just going to crap out at the last second? Why? WHY?

Arya will spend the remainder of this drama just running through the streets of King’s Landing, miraculously avoiding getting barbequed, getting some other people killed, and gaining only a TV-star-friendly scratch on the cheek.

The Hound, on the other hand, actually does get to have the big showdown he’s been wanting all these years. Cersei has finally been persuaded to come off the balcony and head for the relative safety of… somewhere else. On the way down the stairs, accompanied by Qyburn and Ser Gregor and a few guards, they meet the Hound. The Hound takes care of the guards, who thoughtfully attack him one at a time, and then it’s just Clegane vs Clegane. Cersei orders Gregor to come with her, and Qyburn tries to second that, but Gregor just tosses Qyburn onto a pile of rubble, killing him.

Cersei runs off, and we can finally get Cleganebowl, an event which I understand a lot of people have been looking forward to. Me, I could take it or leave it. But I know a lot of people were excited for this, and they must be pissed off now.

Honestly, I found this as unsatisfying as everything else this episode. Gregor can’t be killed. Honestly, he can take a knife right through the skull and keep going. So, basically, we just end up watching the Hound get tossed around a lot. And we’re back to the problem of a one-sided fight: it gets boring really quickly. It’s edited interestingly, cutting between these two fighting and Arya getting beaten up by rubble and such, but ultimately it’s kind of dull. Until, finally, the Hound grabs his brother and throws the pair of them off the Red Keep, way, way down into the fires below. Hopefully that’ll kill Gregor.

Cersei makes it downstairs and runs into Jaime, who is either superhuman or in this world a shot to the kidney is just a flesh wound. Any hope we all have that Jaime would finally do the right thing and kill his villainous sister, thus completing his character arc, is utterly dashed when he hugs and comforts her instead. Sure, why not? Who’s expecting anything, anymore?

The two of them rush down to the secret exit, only to find it now blocked by rubble. As the castle rocks and rumbles above them, Cersei weeps that she doesn’t want their child to die, and that she doesn’t want to die. Jaime embraces her, and they remain clasped together as the castle collapses on top of them. Yup, that’s how we lose our big bad: shaky foundations.

And, outside, Dany continues rampaging around while Tyrion walks into the city and looks alarmed. Jon, having made a token but unsuccessful effort to stop his own army from engaging in an absolute holocaust, frowns a bit. Davos frowns a bit. As the whole city collapses thanks to the dragon fire and the wildfire that’s now erupting all over, Jon calls for his forces to fall back, lest they fall victim to Dany’s insanity as well.

And that’s where it is: almost everyone’s dead and Dany’s gone completely batshit insane. Characters that have been building up to a defining moment have just wrecked it. Arya turned into a scared child, instead of the battle-hardened badass we know she is. Dany, well, we all know what happened there. Jon went from fairly able commander at Castle Black to absolutely bloody useless down south.

Ugh. This was bad. It was well shot and all, but from a storytelling perspective, it was terrible. Just terrible. I… ugh. I can’t. I’m not spending anymore time on this. I’m done.

See you next week for the finale of this disaster.



2 thoughts on “Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Recap: The Bells

  1. I was raging the whole time. People are saying that the signs were there that Daenerys was going to go insane but come on. Maybe if we had time to really flesh out those signs, not in one episode! And I’ve always rooted for her so this was so disappointing.

    And yes! I was super bored watching this! I fast forwarded through most of the carnage because no thanks, I don’t need to see all the death and destruction that was honestly too gratuitous after a certain point. The battle started pretty awesomely, with Daenerys torching the iron fleet and the soldiers on the walls. But then it was crap crap crap.

    Jon Snow is such a useless bag of nothing. It really is his fault all this happened, ha.

    Jamie’s arc was especially bad because we had to see the whole thing with Brienne last week. Being with another woman who loves him convinced he has to go back to his toxic crazy sister? K that’s great. All of that was so unsatisfying. I’m not going to lie, seeing them reunite was emotional because these actors sell it, but their deaths was just oh whatever. Everything was anticlimactic after Dany went insane.

    Oh well. One more to go and I have no hopes for it.

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