This episode will surely be one discussed among the fandoms for ages. Between the events that transpired, and how they arrived at them, Game of Thrones‘ “The Bells” is one we will be arguing over for some time. There is a LOT to touch on here so, SPOILERS.
I feel it is important to clarify that while this is probably one of my personal worst episodes of all time, it isn’t because of the events that made it land where it did for me. Instead, my issues with this episode stem from the very out of place, the convenience of everything that happened and how the episode was handled. ANY long time Thrones fan will share my grievances I’m sure, and for those that don’t you have the right to your opinion.
The simple fact is this episode delivered a multitude of fan-service moments, but in a way that felt empty and forced. I personally LOVE that Daenerys went full blown Aegon Targaryen. I’m glad we finally got the Clegane-Bowl. It’s great that we no longer have to worry about Cersei, and it was great seeing Arya choose her life over revenge. What sucks is how all of this happened within an hour and twenty minutes with absolutely 0 build up to that point and how almost a decade of character development for some of these characters was just thrown out the window for the sake of convenience for the story.
This episode could have been a monumental cinematic achievement had they just stuck to the formula that seasons 1-5(6) had established!
Let’s start with the Battle of King’s Landing, or more appropriately, the King’s Landing Massacre. Any fans that worried about who would come out on top were quickly given room to breathe as Danny and Drogon basically single-handedly took out The Iron Fleet AND the Golden Company. It was a shocking moment that could have garnered cheers of joy from fans. However, it all came off as anti-climactic thanks to the show’s commitment to making the Iron Fleet and their ballistas seem like the anti-dragon weapon that no one could get around. That, of course, is thrown out the window here because we only have 2 episodes left and there are a lot of bad guys that still need killing.
Without breaking a sweat Daenerys drops out of the sky onto the unsuspecting fleet. The very same fleet who, in the previous episode, got the drop on her and her two dragons is now reduced to a bunch of play toys for Drogon who can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Danny doesn’t even change up her strategy for Euron. Yet again she just flies straight at him and lands a devastating blow to his fleet. Euron, blinded by a cloudy sky, struggles to hit her or Drogon as they continue to blow his ships out of the water. Euron’s ship is destroyed and he swims to safety.
To solidify her chances of winning, Danny proceeds to fly along the walls of King’s Landing destroying every single ballista the city has. Again, smart, cunning move, delivered in a way that was seemingly out of nowhere, in turn, relinquishing any actual weight the situation had. It was truly a sight to behold, watching Drogon decimate everything that once posed a threat to him, but there was no build up to this moment. Everything we were conditioned to know up to this point was ballistas spell death for dragons. Now, that established knowledge is thrown out the window for the sake of Danny being able to destroy the city on her own. It makes no sense. You can’t have a dragon that can barely escape a single volley of pikes in one scene, decimate that same threat with ease in the next. It’s a hollow victory that is a win for winning sake, not one that feels earned.
After Danny ends her dick swinging, the Bells of King’s Landing ring signaling Cersei’s surrender. The soldiers lay down their weapons, and everyone waits with bated breath to see what the Dragon queen’s next move will be. Again, we are given an empty “surprise” turn of events here. To reiterate; I LOVE that Danny went mad-queen on King’s Landing. It’s a classic Thrones-move, and I commend any series or movie for taking the not-so sunshine and rainbows route. However, EVERYTHING up to this point has Danny pushing for a change in the monarchy. We see signs of her leaning towards the Dark side, but she still continues to push for being a ruler that cares about the people. Literally, last week’s episode has her making decisions based on this long standing resolve. Yet, for the sake of the rushed-as-fuck storyline, this week she suffers the mental breakdown to end all mental breakdowns and torches thousands of innocent women and children.
Had this been a story arc from an earlier season we would have seen behind closed doors conversations where this decision was grounded in discussions and character development. Yes, we all had a feeling this moment was coming, but like the rest of this season, it was a mad sprint to get here, instead of spending the time to show us how she got there. That issue has plagued this season, but this episode capitalized on these kinds of events. Things happened, but there was no build up to them, we’re just supposed to accept the events as they happen and for some reason not care about why this person made this choice. In a show that prides itself on building deep, complex characters it’s an awkward shift to see them not seem to care about anything these people stand for.
The Jaime Lannister stuff is a pile of hot garbage. Jaime is a character, that for me, has had one of the best arcs in the show. He went from privileged and arrogant, to humble and caring. His choice to return to Cersei is whatever, but holy shit I could give a fuck about him and Euron playing in the sand. Especially considering their city was literally burning to the ground around them. Their fight-to-the-death felt extremely out of place. Again, this would have made more sense if the events were given time to breathe. Jaime could have snuck into the city prior to Danny’s attack and run into Euron that way. Simply changing when this fight happened would have made it feel a lot more organic, instead of just a sloppy copy/paste event that needed to be in this episode so they could write Euron off the show.
The handling of Jaime and Cersei’s demise is a bunch of bullshit as well. Killed by structural failure?? Are you kidding me?! Cersei is a vile character that deserved a slow, agonizing, justified death. Instead, like the rest of the show’s more recent bad guys, she is swiftly finished off, because “we have a Targaryen show down to get to in the final episode damnit.” Up to this point, we have barely seen Cersei this season. Now, we get an episode where we think she’ll get some time to shine, but instead, we watch her go out in a very lame way. To end a character we have loved to hate since the very first episode of the show in such a careless, senseless series of events is insulting.
The greatest moment of this episode was, in fact, the show down between the Mountain and the Hound. From the Mountain splattering Qyburn’s brains all over the wall, to the reveal of his zombified face, to the Hound’s selfless sacrifice to end his brother’s reign of terror. Going into this, we knew the Hound probably wouldn’t make it out of this encounter alive. Seeing him go out with a Warrior’s Death was certainly the only way it could have gone down, so at least his character received an honorable exit.
Seeing Jon’s reaction to his men butchering the population of King’s Landing was a solid moment too. The whole realization that men will give in to their darkest desires if given the excuse to do so was a very well done scene. Clearly, he and Danny have some talking to do, and the show is no doubt setting up the obvious encounter between them. Tyrion and Jon both put their faith in a ruler that ended up proving Varys right. It’s an awkward predicament for everyone, and while it might not be what people want to see, watching the show come full circle is bitter sweet. We kicked off with a Targaryen Mad King being overthrown by a Baratheon, now Jon, who is half Baratheon, must make the hard choice to end Danny’s reign of terror before more innocent lives can be taken.
Finally, we’re left with a very symbolic moment. As Arya wakes up from a rough hit to the head, she sees the ruin around her and searches for any survivors. As she walks through the crumbling streets of King’s Landing, she finds a white horse and rides off to safety. In the book of Revelations, Death is said to ride a “pale horse”.
“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.”
This is no doubt a hint towards what Arya is setting out to do. At this point, Danny really doesn’t face any other opposition than those she once called friends. Jon is faced with a hard choice to continue to follow the Queen he bent the knee to, or oppose her decision to massacre thousands of innocents. Clearly, if Jon can’t nut up and end Danny, Arya will gladly step in.
This episode could have been one that was postively received by most. It could have gone down as one of the greatest tv events of all time, really. Unfortunately for everyone, it was a rushed, jumbled mess that gave us a bunch of great moments executed in a half-assed way for the sake of getting things done. The events that happened in the show were ones that felt out of place, not wrong, just not at the right time. With only one episode left, I’ll be going into this series finale with very low expectations.