Spoiler alert: Do not continue reading if you haven’t watched the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones.
After all this time and all these seasons, Queen Daenerys’ descent into uncontrollable wrath isn’t surprising, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t profoundly disappointing.
Instead of defying her Targaryen family’s reputation and continuing to be a cunning, merciful queen, Dany’s eight-season story arc went up in flames (literally) and rained down the ashes of the hopes and dreams of Game of Thrones fans everywhere.
The people of King's Landing rang the bells and Dany became a dragon on Sunday night’s penultimate episode.
Here’s what we thought of “The Bells.”
What’s your tweet-length reaction to Sunday’s episode?
Mark Bergin: Toronto Raptors forward Kawhi Leonard won “Game of Thrones” on Sunday night with the first-ever Game 7 buzzer-beater in NBA history.
Chelsea Tatham: “I am Daenerys Stormborn and I will take what is mine with fire and blood.” At least she kept her promise.
Burn them all
Bergin: Imagine what Dany could have done with more than one dragon! This was one of the most brutal Game of Thrones episodes to date.
Something that drove me nuts in Sunday’s episode is Dany burned King’s Landing row by row like if you were mowing the lawn. Once getting beyond the archers at the walls of the castle, couldn’t Dany have ridden Drogon up to the Red Keep to incinerate Cersei Lannister once and for all?
Perhaps it’s the show’s indication Dany has lived up to her family’s reputation by going full Mad Queen or Queen of the Ashes. However, the only purpose of her devastating the innocent lives at King’s Landing was to avenge Missandei’s death and to have someone throw her from power in the series finale.
Also, after having two of her dragons killed, how could Dany go into battle without any dragon armor? She has Gendry at her disposal. It wasn’t needed, but Gendry could have easily made Drogon something to deflect the Lannister arrows.
Tatham: The only reason the writers made Daenerys snap in the 11th hour is so they could easily push Jon Snow onto the Iron Throne. And no matter what you think about this plot twist’s cliches and sexism, Dany’s descent into brutality and madness just doesn’t make sense.
Dany has endured eight seasons of literally crushing setbacks alongside (also, literally) dragon-sized triumphs. She was sold by her own brother, watched her first love die a horrible death, plunged herself into his funeral pyre and emerged unscathed with three baby dragons, outwitted and outplayed countless leaders before even getting to Westeros and helped successfully conquer a literal army of the undead.
Then, her undoing came with the death of her closest friend at the hands of Cersei? Sorry, I don’t buy that. That also does a huge disservice to Missandei.
The seeds of Dany’s undoing have been planted since Season 1. She’s always been vain, ruthless and unequivocally convinced of her own excellence. Dany may not be the Mad Queen we wanted, but she’s the one Westeros deserves.
As the bells rang out in King's Landing, signally the fall of the city to Dany’s forces, Dany rides Drogon back and forth, lighting up citizens and soldiers alike in a blaze of horrifying dragon fire. Why? It’s not clear. As Mark said, she could have just destroyed the Red Keep with Cersei inside and left the innocent citizens alone.
She wanted the Iron Throne so she could make Westeros a better place for all its citizens. She may have finally won the war against the Lannisters, but now she has to face those who think she’s unfit to be the queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
None of it makes sense, but at least there is only one episode left.
The end of their reign
Bergin: First of all, how was Jaime still standing after surviving at least two deep stab wounds from Euron Greyjoy?
I’m no expert in the art of storytelling, but shouldn’t Cersei and Jaime have survived for the series finale? The series began with the two siblings/lovers.
Tatham: Jaime is an absolute garbage character. He has been since the beginning.
For a couple of seasons, he appeared to have redeemed himself. But alas, he’s just another weak man who is truly hateful for no apparent reason.
As Jaime and Cersei try to escape through a secret passage under the Red Keep, Jaime sees their way out has been blocked by falling rubble. Cersei breaks down and screams that she doesn’t want to die and wants their baby to live. They both realize it’s the end of the line and are crushed under the falling castle as Jaime holds her.
The end of this gross relationship between Cersei and Jaime ended the way they wanted, but not in the way they deserved. I guess if Jaime and Cersei were going to be killed in any way, it would be by their own undoing.
Bergin: Before the Clegane Bowl, Game of Thrones finally gave us the heartfelt moment viewers have clamored for between the Hound and Arya Stark. It probably saved Arya’s life.
The Mountain had a moment of his own when he decided to disobey Cersei and squash her “yes man” Qyburn as if he were molding cookie dough. It was my favorite moment so far this season.
Also, this shot is epic! I truly didn’t understand how the Mountain didn’t die with a knife through the middle of his head, but this was an epic battle.
Tatham: These scenes were probably the most satisfying of the entire episode, aside from the dragon obliterating the gate into the Red Keep and the cheesy Golden Company of sellswords.
The Mountain was as gross as I imagined under his armor and The Hound achieved what he set out to do all along: kill his brother. The only snag was that his brother was already dead, so Sandor Clegane had to get crafty.
And by craft I mean tackling him off the side of a crumbling wall, plunging them both into a pit of dragon fire.
A solid ending for both characters.
“I’m going to kill the queen”
Bergin: I know Arya Stark proved her value in the Battle of Winterfell and she wanted to kill Cersei, but I think she still fulfills her promise to kill the queen. Instead of Cersei, she will go after Daenerys Targaryen.
Remember Melisandre aka the Red Woman’s prophecy that she will kill people with brown eyes, blue eyes and green eyes. Also, Arya is quoted several times saying “I’m going to kill the queen,” but doesn’t always specify that she’s going to kill Cersei.
Tatham: That’s a fair theory. At this point, it makes perfect sense that Arya will now try to kill Dany, especially since it would put her beloved brother Jon on the Iron Throne instead.
Arya literally had buildings fall on her as Drogon ravaged King's Landing, but she was one of the very few who made it out alive.
Arya is going to make Dany pay for what she did to the city, and that’s probably how the show will end.
RIP, Euron Greyjoy and Lord Varys
Bergin: Am I the only one who will miss Lord Varys more than Euron Greyjoy? The crazy pirate uncle died thinking he was a king and the father of Cersei’s baby.
I admire his false confidence, but he was a crutch the show relied on too heavily these last two seasons.
Also, was Cersei ever actually pregnant?
Tatham: After all the crazy, vengeful monarchs he’s served and all the life-ending secrets he’s kept and spread, Varys’ undoing comes when he dealt his final hand in the game of thrones. His plan to de-throne Dany and push Jon into ruling went horribly wrong very fast.
It’s a bit of a meh ending for a character I never quite figured out over the eight seasons. But it did serve a purpose – showing what Dany will do to those who betray her.
Also, bye, Euron. I doubt anyone will miss you.
How will the Starks, Tyrion and whoever else turn on Dany? Clearly, they will be outnumbered and Dany still has Drogon.
Can Tyrion show his face to Dany again? Even if Jaime’s body is never found, the Unsullied were holding Jaime in captivity. How else would Jaime have gotten free?
What did Ser Davos smuggle into King’s Landing for Tyrion? Was it Jaime Lannister once Tyrion set him free or something else?
What was the green fire shown periodically in King’s Landing while Dany and Drogon burned everything to the ground? It reminded me of the Battle of Black Gate. Does Tyrion have something up his sleeve?
Why did Dany decide to burn King’s Landing down against the advice of Tyrion and Jon Snow? Other than “it’s what Targaryens do” and plot convenience, it just feels lazy.
Tatham: No questions. Just some penultimate thoughts.
In a perfect world, George R. R. Martin would have already finished the Song of Ice and Fire book series. In those, the author would have plotted Dany’s descent into madness over hundreds of pages. Seeing her turn sadistic and cruel in just a few episodes after eight seasons shaped her into a hero feels rushed and entirely unnecessary.
But hey, it seems like a great time to start re-reading the books and pestering Martin to FINISH THE SERIES ALREADY.
To end on a positive note: The episode was beautiful – cinematically speaking. “The Bells” really showed the breadth and density of the capital city in a way we’ve never seen before. In the midst of a dragon raining down fire, the city streets turned into a claustrophobic maze of fire, ash and bodies.
One of the most incredible visuals from this episode: Arya and a white horse standing as the lone survivors surrounded by the smoking rubble of the city.
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