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Fantasy-Faction Game of Thrones Discussion: Season 8, Episode 5 – “The Bells”

Episode five saw the fall of one evil queen and the rise of another. Cersei finally died at the hands of Daenerys, along with a city full of innocent civilians. Almost as surprising as Dany’s descent into full-on mad Targaryen mode was the way she so casually obliterated the Iron Fleet that had forced her to abandon her allies and flee in the previous episode. In the course of the episode a lot of key characters, both loved and loathed, met their final ends. In many ways this episode was as epic and spectacular as the Battle of Winterfell and it has incited at least as much rage amongst the fanbase, if not more.

The Recap

The episode started with the Northern forces arriving to bolster Daenerys’ army. Varys tried to convince Jon to claim the Iron Throne and apparently was trying to poison Daenerys before she could fulfil her true Targaryen potential.

Tyrion confessed his suspicions of Varys to Dany, revealing in the process that Jon Snow had let slip his true identity to Sansa Stark. An angry and paranoid Dany stated that Jon had betrayed her, threatened Tyrion and executed Varys with dragonfire.

Jaime had been captured by Dany’s forces as he attempted to reach King’s Landing. Tyrion risked everything to free his big brother, sharing a tearful hug with him before sending him on his way. Tyrion accepted that this would probably lead to his own execution, but hoped Jaime could convince Cersei to surrender and flee, saving the Lannister baby in her womb and the many thousands of innocents in Kings Landing. He told Jaime to have Cersei open the gates and ring all the bells of the city to signal her surrender.

Meanwhile Arya and The Hound strolled through the lines and into Kings Landing without any trouble, both seeking vengeance.

As more and more refugees fled into the city, the gates of the Red Keep were closed against them. Arya and The Hound got inside but Jaime was stuck outside.

A still confident Cersei watched smugly from her tower as battle was joined by air, land and sea. In stark contrast to the previous episode, The Iron Fleet and its scorpions proved no match for Dany and Drogon. They flew down out of the sun and burned the entire fleet to cinders before moving on to the scorpions on the walls. With the Greyjoy forces annihilated Dany took out the much-vaunted Golden Company in a matter of moments and burned enough of a hole in the city’s defences that her army was able to break through and enter Kings Landing.

Jon Snow managed to hold Dany’s forces back for long enough to allow the Lannister soldiers outside the keep to surrender. Cersei refused to believe that she had lost and made no attempt to ring the bells. Her surviving forces took surrender into their own hands, dropping their swords and ringing the bells.

A furious and blood-mad Dany seemed, perhaps, to be on the brink of accepting this surrender. But her rage proved too strong and she unleashed a rain of fire down upon the city, massacring citizens and soldiers alike. Grey Worm, who may be the only person more devastated by the callous execution of Missandei than Dany, took the cue to join in the slaughter. Jon’s forces were swept along in the rampage, despite his best efforts.

Jaime found a back entrance to the Red Keep but ran into Euron Greyjoy, who insisted on fighting him because of reasons. Jaime eventually dispatched the mad Greyjoy, taking a couple of stab-wounds in the process but managing to walk them off.

As the Red Keep crumbled beneath Dany’s onslaught The Hound convinced Arya to give up her quest for vengeance. He then intercepted a fleeing Cersei and her remaining guards. The Mountain defied Cersei and murdered Qyburn when they tried to prevent his final duel with his brother. A gruesome and savage brother-on-brother battle followed, with Dany’s draconic devastation as the backdrop. The Hound won on points, inflicting at least a dozen wounds that would have been fatal to someone who wasn’t undead. The Mountain just refused to die, until Sandor rushed him and they tumbled off the side of a ruined stairwell and fell to their deaths in the burning city below.

Jaime reached Cersei and had an emotional reunion with her. Followed by an even more emotional death scene as they were trapped together in the catacombs of the Red Keep and crushed to death by falling masonry.

As Dany destroyed more and more of the city, Jon led the army back out beyond the walls and to safety.

A traumatised Arya tried and failed to save some of the fleeing citizens. She managed to survive herself, despite being repeatedly knocked over, bloodied and almost buried in ash. When the dust finally settled Arya awoke to find a white horse, which she promptly rode out of the city.

The Discussion – AKA Hot Takes on the Burning City

A good number of character arcs got resolved in this penultimate episode, though not to everyone’s satisfaction. Commenters were annoyed at the way that Jaime threw away his redemption to die with his sister instead of killing her and that Arya gave up on revenge. There was a general feeling of dissatisfaction with the speed at which certain arcs were resolved and with inconsistencies and logical flaws in the narrative.

The group was annoyed that the Golden Company proved to be non-entities. Notice was taken of the way the Iron Fleet was obliterated by one dragon after defeating two dragons and a fleet not long before. I agree with that point and with those who felt that Euron Greyjoy’s death was a bit shoe-horned in. There was brief mention of how Varys’ plotting caught up with him to easily, though he managed a touching farewell with his friend and ultimate betrayer, Tyrion. (Tyrion’s last scene with Jaime was rather beautiful, a high point of the episode for me.)

Some people clearly did enjoy some bits of this episode. A high point was the battle of the Cleganes, which was suitably epic and ended how most people expected.

Arya emerged as a very popular character, and many are now looking at her to save the Seven Kingdoms once again.

The most discussed event was the burning of Kings Landing by Daenerys. This turn to the Dark Side shocked many and will probably continue to divide the fanbase for years to come. Some fans expressed great disappointment at what they saw as a misstep in the arc of a beloved character. Others proclaimed their utter vindication in disliking Dany from the start.

Personally, I think that although this arc didn’t work it could have. Dany had suffered enough shocks and losses to justify becoming this mad and bloodthirsty. Over the course of this season she has lost:

  • Her former Hand, protector and most loyal servant.
  • Two of her ‘children’ (aka her dragons).
  • Her legitimate claim to the throne.
  • Half her army.
  • Her sense of being adored and worshipped by those around her.
  • Her BFF.
  • And the recently acquired one true love that she lost a dragon, a knight and half her army for. Not only has Jon refused to carry on committing aunt-cest with her but he is now the greatest living threat to her rule and far more popular with the people than she is.

If we’d been given more time with Dany as she turned on her Westerosi advisers and shared revenge fantasies with Grey Worm then I could have accepted this turn of events. We know that Missandei wanted the city or at least Cersei to burn in revenge for her own death, and it would have been nice to see Dany talking about that. However, as presented this plot arc felt a bit thin and very much unearned to me and to plenty of other Factioners.

That being said, I think the burning of Kings Landing makes a lot of sense in terms of the series’ themes. It was a great spectacle of course and showed off a very impressive special effects budget. It also followed one of the trademark patterns of GoT: it did the most traumatic thing possible to the fanbase.

Just like the Red Wedding, the torture of Sansa and Theon, the deaths of Ned and Catelyn Stark and so on, the showrunners did terrible things to characters we cared about. Dany bucked the trend by surviving, this time. But she is no longer the people’s hero or the audience’s darling.

Yes, many people already disliked Dany. But many more loved her. She was the beacon of truth and justice that shone across the Narrow Sea while all the filth and wickedness of Westeros went unpunished. As all the torturers, sadists, backstabbers, rapists, smarmy hypocrites, ruthless powerbrokers and child-murderers did their worst we could take comfort in the thought that, one day, Daenerys Targaryen and her dragons would arrive and there would be a reckoning. And we were right, but now that triumph has turned to ashes, much like the inhabitants of Kings Landing.

We can’t forget that the book series Game of Thrones is based on is called A Song of Ice and Fire. We have seen the carnage that ice can wreak upon the inhabitants of Westeros. This episode showed us what fire can do. Fire is as destructive and amoral, perhaps even evil, as ice and the Seven Kingdoms were not made safe when the Night King fell.

But that’s just my opinion.

A. M. Justice ran two polls about this episode. The first was everyone’s take on Dany as a ruler before the episode started.

Overall the Factioners were marginally in favour of Dany’s rule, though very few people thought that she was without fault. Not many people thought that she was actually evil, but most believed that she wasn’t a good ruler yet. Dany was definitely still a fan and Factioner favourite going into this episode.

The second poll came after the episode had aired.

While a lot of people expressed dissatisfaction with Dany’s turn to the dark side in chat, the poll suggests that a lot of Factioners believed that the showrunners had done enough work to earn this plot twist. An almost equally large faction of Factioners were still ready to beat the show with the now familiar ‘you have ruined this show by rushing it’ stick, however.

And rightly so! Let’s look at some predictions for this episode.

Drunken Wildling Award for the Oddest Prediction

Michelle Matias I don’t know… I had a GoT dream last night – all the major characters survived and Cersei had septuplets. Worst episode ever.

A. M. Justice Sept-a-mom! Interesting that she had seven babies.

Awesome Award for the Prediction Everyone Wished Had Come True

Rhonda Graser Gendry creates armor for Drogon. Jamie kills Cersei.

William Jason Campbell How awesome would this be!!!??!!

Krista Heiser I would love Drogon in armor. That would give me all sorts of warm fuzzies.

Rhonda Graser Who better to make it too? Gendry is talented!

Elizabeth Dukes This is my favorite theory ever.

Susan Mercer I’d love to see an armored Drogon. The Hound is going to face off against the Mountain before anyone gets close to Cersei, I think.

Three Eyed Crow Award for Scarily Accurate Predictions

No one got everything right. So here are the bits that they got spot on.

William Jason Campbell Jaime and Cersei somehow die together??? Maybe only Tyrion left after????

Krista Heiser The fate of the Iron Throne will not be determined as I think this episode will deal with the battle for King’s Landing and Cersei’s demise.

A. M. Justice I agree.

A. M. Justice The Hound and Mountain will kill each other. I predict Cersei will be dispatched in this episode.

Bluseph Walker Both the Mountain and The Hound are dead because there’s no winner in that fight they kill each other.

Sarah McGinn I agree except that I think that the final tussle for the throne will be saved for the last episode. Episode five will have the Mountain vs The Hound – both will die. Jon vs Dany in the very last episode.

Gogs Herriott Dany and Jon will clash, the war will be won in a way that one of them disagrees with and the episode will end with her declaring him an enemy making her the final antagonist of the series. (Jon didn’t actually clash with Dany but she did say he’d betrayed her and he certainly didn’t seem happy with his current loyalties by the end of the episode!)

Emily Irish Ooo… Hadn’t thought of this but I like it!

Abby Goldsmith Meanwhile, Daenerys is fuming. She’s all, “Where is Varys? I will have him burned alive!”

Daenerys uses her dragon to burn innocent people to death. Jon Snow does very little. He looks uneasy.

The Hound confronts his brother. It’s Clegane-bowl. The Hound wins for a second, but the Mountain is undead and surges up.

On to the Factioners’ responses to the episode itself.

Dark Side Daenerys: Reactions to Dany’s War Crime

Sarah McGinn I’m trying to figure out if I feel better or worse thinking that Dany was just acting as a ruthless dictator securing her power versus having a psychotic break…

GinaMarie Vick I don’t think she was having a psychotic break, and if she were it’s a cop out. She’s got an evil streak in her. She thinks she’s owed the throne. She’s just not sweet. She’s power hungry.

A. M. Justice I’ve been thinking on the whole issue of whether Dany’s turn into crazytown was sufficiently developed, and I’ve decided the fact people are arguing so much over it suggests…it was. There was evidence on both sides right until the moment it happened, and that’s why it’s inspiring such vigorous debate. No matter which way it had gone, there were people who would be glad and those who were ready to announce, “I knew it!” or “I told you so!” and there were going to be others who screamed, “Noooo! How could she do that?” On the other hand, my personal view is that the turn was grossly underdeveloped onscreen.

Marty Mazzocco The scope and utter efficiency of Dany’s brutality was stunning. She razed King’s Landing to the ground with zero f*cks given. Not an auspicious start to her reign.

Linda Åkerman I really hope Arya will kill Dany. I never liked Dany, I stopped reading the books because I hated her. And Arya was so horrified. I did feel that it fitted Dany too, of course she would kill thousands of innocents. She only wants her vengeance.

Clegane Bowl: The Mutual Destruction of The Hound and The Mountain

LM Towton My favorite moment? Not a lot, unfortunately. Cleganebowl, I suppose. Though, I feel that with more episodes/time it could have been… more.

Rhonda Graser Clegane Bowl! Yesss.

Greg Thompson My favorite moment was realising I liked The Hound and didn’t want him to die.

Best Brooding Buddies: The Finale of Arya and The Hound’s Relationship

Marty Mazzocco Arya and The Hound – her calling him Sandor just showed how much affection these two had for each other. He saved her (hopefully) from the same path.

Arya Is the Hero We Need

Linda Åkerman [My favorite moment was] Arya giving up her plan that easily, and I guess Arya looking at the scene around her, that toy horse. I felt it shaped her.

Christopher Deal [I predict] Arya kills Dany and that’s all I can guess for now because so many of my predictions have been wrong.

Elizabeth Dukes My favorite moment was honestly when Arya walked away from her vengeance. I always hoped that she would find a greater purpose.

Vidhya Aravind My favourite moment was when Arya gets out of there at the end on the horseback.

Sarah McGinn Definitely Arya riding off on the horse. Her name was Death and she was astride a pale horse, which leads me to… Arya will kill Dany for sure and everyone will be relieved. Jon will finally be convinced he needs to rule to stop another butcher coming to power.

Alas Poor Varys

S.D. Howarth Quite subtle the inference of Varys poisoning Dany. Nice touch.

Lynn Fowler There were not a lot of favorite moments. Tyrion telling Varys he was the one who betrayed him and Varys accepting that with grace made an attempt at redeeming Varys’ pointless death.

The Disappointed and the Disillusioned

John Kang Genuinely surprised that Daenerys destroyed the city after the Lannister troops had surrendered. That the vaunted Golden Company were taken out with little ado. That Jaime really did go back to Cersei. None of these surprises are good.

Susan Mercer I was surprised that no one killed Cersei. I wanted someone to actually murder her. I’m disappointed and surprised that Jamie went back with the sole intention of saving her.

Elizabeth Dukes I was genuinely surprised that they threw Jaime’s redemption arc in the trash. I was disappointed that Dany plunged into burn-y madness, but that was at least hinted at.

Vidhya Aravind What surprised me is how easily Cersei was defeated. After all the build-up it just fizzed out in the end…

Lynn Fowler What genuinely surprised me was the lukewarm, pathetic way characters of strength, determination and fortitude were killed off. It seems as if the recent character deaths have mostly been apologetic in nature by way of the “this is how s/he would have wanted to die” trope.

S.D. Howarth I expected a bit more with a couple of endings, and some characters were easily swayed which has already been commented on. That feeling of being rushed remains.

Sarah McGinn I was surprised that Dany went rogue. I was hoping against the crazy Targaryen theory. I was also surprised that Jamie didn’t kill Cersei. Well I guess he did lead her down to dungeons but that feels like a stretch of the killed by her younger brother prophesy.

A. M. Justice I was really hoping against the crazy Targaryen theory too. It felt sort of cheap to me, especially when we already had a crazy, cruel female tyrant on the Iron Throne.

Lynn Fowler I think the show has to end with strong, sane, competent women ruling some of the seven kingdoms, or a decent woman ruling Westeros. Otherwise, the takeaway is going to be that women are too emotionally volatile to rule.

Phantom Pregnancies, Superfast Travel and Everyone’s Forgotten How to Strategy: Inconsistencies and Issues in this Episode

GinaMarie Vick Eh – what I want to know is why Cersei wasn’t showing her pregnancy yet? She should have been.

A. M. Justice I know, right? Heck, that kid shoulda been born already. It’s supposed to take 3-4 months to travel from King’s Landing to Winterfell and people have been back and forth multiple times. In fact, how much more dramatic would it have been had Cersei been in labor?

LM Towton Drogon suddenly being able to dodge every-bloody-thing? Makes Rhaegal’s death last week even more pointless (except as a means to make Dany “mad”).

S. D. Howarth No ditches, ramparts, stakes, traps. Seems a bit lame to allow an army to rock up to the wall or give confidence in the twangers downing the dragons. You don’t form an empire by being nice, but she could have saved 15 minutes and toasted Cersei. Create a firestorm ringing the houses and the city will burn. Toast the tower and sit with marshmallows.

Greg Thompson Easy death for Cersei and how the dragon managed to take every scorpion out without a hit, while his mate got hit with every bolt fired last week.

Greg Thompson And yeah, once the scorpions were down, why not just go straight to Red Keep and burn it instead of killing thousands, same as how the battle of Winterfell was ridiculous, and Daenerys lost a dragon and her mate last week, because the storytellers are trying to wrap it all up.

If they’d been sensible at battle of Winterfell, based on the way that dragon kicks ass, there was no need for anyone to die, then a huge army would’ve turned up outside Kings Landing, and two dragons circling, defenders throw down and walk off, far too easy, so the producers or writers or whatever, stick some shit battles in to take us to the final point they want to be at, as opposed to the place we would be at if there were proper military commanders in place

What People Actually Liked!

Susan Mercer I did like seeing Drogon destroy the fleet, and Cersei’s slow realization that she was finished. I’m glad the Hound killed the Mountain.

How Will It All End?

Marty Mazzocco Sansa and Tyrion rule together. This show has always hinted at social justice reform. The old ways need to be swept away to make way for a more enlightened ruler BUT that will come at a ruthless price. Blood will need to be shed to bring peace.

Linda Åkerman But now Dany hates Sansa so she will send someone to kill Sansa. Arya will kill Dany. And look, Jon was the only one left standing so he will rule, reluctantly, but as a good ruler. The end.

LM Towton Jon kills Dany, doesn’t take the throne, leaves for a what’s left of the Wall. Tyrion made his last mistake; Dany will sentence him to death but he won’t die because of the above.

Elizabeth Dukes I predict that Dany will kill Arya, and that will push Jon into being willing to overthrow her

Vidhya Aravind I think that Jon will kill Danny at the end… Or it will be Arya…

Lynn Fowler Predictions – D&D have killed a lot of interest in the spin-offs with their bungling of the final season. Otherwise… Nobody kills Daenerys. She has Sansa killed, then she takes her Unsullied and her Dothraki back to Essos to reclaim her thrones there. Jon accepts the crown of Westeros long enough to restore the Seven Kingdoms. Arya becomes the Queen in the North. Asha/Yara rules the Iron Islands. Jon returns to Castle Black.

Sarah McGinn Hopefully Sansa as Queen in the North…

Lynn Fowler I think Daenerys will at least try to kill Sansa.

Greg Thompson Arya is going for Daenerys, Jon is realising she’s a fruit cake, and one or both will kill her, the North will rule. Although hoping for Giants’ Bane to make an appearance too.

A. M. Justice I would love for Tormund and Ghost to come down from the North to help Jon.

Susan Mercer I think Grey Worm is going to tell Dany about Jon telling his men to fall back. She will take that as treason and try to have him killed. Then you will have wolf vs dragon. Jon will kill Dany, and it will destroy him. He’ll walk away from it all to live in the North with Ghost and leave each Kingdom with its proper sovereign ruler.

Sarah McGinn Oh, having Jon kill Dany would be a great twist and elevate him from wet blanket.

Contributors

Linda Åkerman, Vidhya Aravind, William Jason Campbell, Christopher Deal, Elizabeth Dukes, Lynn Fowler, Abby Goldsmith, Rhonda Graser, Krista Heiser, Gogs Herriott, S.D. Howarth, Emily Irish, A. M. Justice, John Kang, Michelle Matias, Marty Mazzocco, Sarah McGinn, Susan Mercer, Greg Thompson, LM Towton, GinaMarie Vick, and Bluseph Walker

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