Game of Thrones S08E05: The Bells – The Mis-match of the Mad Queens

While I’ve been scoring this season of Game of Thrones highly (although I have outlined many problems the show has been guilty of), there seems to be a big argument online that season eight might be the most disappointing season of television ever. That’s a huge statement, especially considering I’ve enjoyed it despite its obvious flaws, but as I said last week, endings are hard. They are especially hard when you have run out of material to adapt just over halfway through the process.

Game of Thrones belongs in a special place within the TV cannon especially when it comes to how fandom has grown through technology and literacy in the form of narrative storytelling. No matter how it ends, Game of Thrones has been a cultural landmark that has had Star Wars levels of fandom. The X Files was the first show to gain a major audience through message boards, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the most analysed show of all time (I myself have written about both), and Game of Thrones: with its subversions of normal fantasy genre staples, and excessive and random body count has grown and progressed in the era when social media platforms like Twitter, Reddit, and Tumblr grew in tandem. This has led to so many fan theories about the show, how it’s going to end, how will survive, and how could each character die.

Not that I’m blaming the fans, I love a good fan theory myself, but this has made season eight almost impossible to enjoy for certain people because their version of events was better. I myself got all excited about how no one seemed to click about Winterfell’s crypt being full of dead Starks which the Night King could use as an advantage only for it to happen with very little effect or fanfare. Arya gave Sansa a bloody dragonglass dagger, she could have had some cool scenes where she used it to protect people in the crypt, but instead, we got a lot of Jon and Dany flying around, and the Night King just strolling through the place. Season eight has had some serious problems of pacing, character motivations, a reliance on shocking moments over cohesive storytelling, and Euron, and that’s because the creators seemed to have put themselves in this corner where they just want to be done with the show. HBO would keep this cash cow going forever, and George R. R. Martin has said his version of the show would last at least five more seasons. But they got the Star Wars job and gave themselves six episodes to wrap up this sprawling story. As much as I’ve enjoyed most of this season, six episodes are not enough.

The Bells itself has already become yet another chapter in this divisive season, mainly for the manner of Cersei and Jamie’s death, and the destruction of Kings Landing caused by mad Dany. I get Why people have a problem with both of these plots, especially considering Dany and Cersei didn’t have any real confrontation. So, let’s start with what certainly appears to be the death of Cersei and Jamie. Cersei’s entire army, then her city go up in smoke because Dany actually thought to plan this battle, which puts a new light on Cersei’s preparations. There was the Iron Fleet, the Golden Company, the Lannister army, all equipped with giant crossbows, but Dany has faced most of these enemies before, and she has paid the price for it, so, because of her losses, including a huge chunk of the Dothraki, the Unsullied, two dragons, Jorah, Missanndei, and all of her Westeros allies, it makes sense that Cersei would be arrogant enough to think she could win, and Dany be angry enough to become her father’s daughter.

Back to Cersei and Jamie, since the main complaint I’ve seen is that the prophecy told to young Cersei by the witch suggested that one of her brothers would kill her. Except THAT PART WAS IN THE BOOKS AND NEVER EVER MENTIONED IN THE SHOW! Though, technically, Tyrion can claim an assist. I myself, after I got over the fact that Cersei really didn’t seem to be lying about her pregnancy, thought that both Cersei and Jamie’s deaths were poetic. After all, they died in the room that served as a mausoleum to the fall of the last Targaryen empire, with the daughter of the king Jamie killed to save the people of Kings Landing reigning fire on those very citizens.

Let’s talk Dany, and this supposed heel-turn into the Mad Queen. This storyline is definitely the victim of pacing as Dany only got to Westeros at the beginning of the two shortened seasons. I agree that there have been some jumps with her character, but this was always in her. Year after year we have seen Dany kill people, though they haven’t been innocent bystanders until now. As I said last week, Dany has lost nearly everything: two of her children are dead, Jorah and Missanndei, and Tyrion has let his emotions about his own family get in the way of being a good Hand. Then it turns out that she doesn’t even have the strongest claim to the Iron Throne. Now, this is where I can see people’s frustration, because I share it too. Dany turning bad, or making this huge unforgivable mistake is an interesting place to take her character (if we didn’t have only one episode left), but Jon is a boring male character that the Realm (represented by our dearly departed Varys) would prefer on the throne. The fact that Dany just fulfilled her fathers wish of “Burn them all!” isn’t going to help matters.

8/10 – I’m conflicted about some of the choices of The Bells, especially concerning Dany, but the episode itself was quite stunning in execution. The actual battle plan was smarter than against the White Walkers, the performances were excellent, the visual effects and cinematography were stunning (especially since I was actually able to see it), and the stunt work. Clegane Bowl did not disappoint. Also, Arya as our eyes on the ground, trying and failing to save people was fantastic, even if her plot armour is made of Vibranium at this point.

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