REVIEW: Game of Thrones – Season 8, Episode 5 “The Bells”


In “The Bells,” Tyrion goes to tell Daenerys about Varys’ plans to betray her. She has Varys executed by Drogon and tells Tyrion that Jaime was captured trying to get to Cersei. She says that the next time her Hand disappoints her will be the last. Tyrion releases Jaime on the condition that he take Cersei and escape to somewhere far away. He also instructs Jon Snow to call off the attack if the bells in King’s Landing are heard. Daenerys and Drogon descend from the skies, breathing fire and decimating Euron’s ship and the entire Iron Fleet. The Unsullied and Dothraki troops (miraculously still alive) cut straight through the Golden Company. Once Dany’s forces are within the great city, the Queen’s Guard surrender and the bell sounds. However, Daenerys sits upon Drogon overlooking the city and decides to pursue fear rather than mercy. Before long, the majority of the citizens and buildings are set ablaze. The city also rages with wildfire, possibly left over from the Mad King. The Hound send Arya away, kills Qyburn, and challenges The Mountain to their long-awaited duel. Cersei runs away. On his way to Cersei, Jaime runs into Euron, and the two do battle. They both take a lot of hits, but Jaime ultimately wins and makes his way to Cersei. The two try to escape the city but the path is blocked, and they’re crushed by the collapsing building. Arya, meanwhile, is just trying to stay alive and escape. She tries to help guide other people out of the city, but they scatter and most die. Arya encounters a white horse, mounts it, and rides away.

Virginia: I honestly feel bad for Varys. I realize that he was technically committing treason, but that doesn’t mean he was wrong. He’s been one of my favorite side characters throughout the whole series. However, this decision on Daenerys’ part makes sense, even if I do question Tyrion’s decision to tattle. Tyrion has, in my opinion, been kind of dumbed down as a character this season overall.

Alex: He definitely has, and Varys has barely been present. His turn in “The Bells” would have carried more weight if we’d seen him slowly change his mind about Daenerys, but as with pretty much everything else this season, it was rushed. I would’ve thought that, even if she ultimately executed him, it would’ve been a more difficult decision. And she very easily tells Tyrion that he’ll be next if he fails her again. They made her turn to a heartless monster happen so quickly, and after several indications that she was regaining her grip, or at least teetering on the edge.

V: Yeah, I have suspected she might go this route for a little while now, but I don’t care for how they did it. I feel like if you’re going to have a heel-face-turn like this, especially with a major character, it needs to make sense. I can accept that she goes crazy and murders people, but I need a reason, some event that pushes her over the edge. Unlike Cersei, Daenerys wasn’t always shown to be evil. So if you’re going to go full cartoon villain, it needs to feel earned. They could even have made Missandei’s death into the straw that broke the camel’s back had they framed it differently. Or honestly, what if Euron or somebody did manage to kill Drogon? If the last of her children were killed, that would be sufficient justification for this development.

A: Right, and their justifications feel like they came out of left field. What’s all this “The fates flip a coin when a Targaryen is born” nonsense? If that were the case, she’d have always been a psychotic despot; as you said, she wasn’t. She was the Breaker of Chains, and she wanted to liberate the oppressed wherever she went. She even got Khal Drogo to start helping the innocent, or at least stop killing them. Now she’s evil because Jon Snow’s friends like him more than they like her and he doesn’t want to have sex with his aunt? There are at least a few important character beats missing there.

V: I’m disappointed with the Unsullied and the Northern troops, too. We’re used to this kind of behavior from the Dothraki, but I thought people like Grey Worm were better than this. What kind of spineless scum attacks an enemy who has surrendered, much less defenseless commoners who aren’t even resisting?

Game of Thrones, The Bells

A: Agreed. They’re the most professional soldiers ever. I can almost understand Grey Worm wanting to kill the soldiers, but I don’t see the others joining in like that. If Daenerys commanded them to, maybe, but she was just going nuts on her own because she looked at a building. They’ve gone beyond her and are tarnishing all of the people associated with her.

V: It was wild too when Jon stopped one of them from raping a common woman. Whatever happens to these people won’t be bad enough. Speaking of which, I think Cersei and Jaime still got off too easy, all things considered. Being crushed by rubble just doesn’t fit all their crimes. They also got to die together, which is more than either deserved.

A: And it’s another thing they rushed, ruining the developments in their stories. Cersei hired Bronn to kill Jaime and Tyrion. That’s just never mentioned? I know they did away with the whole thing in one comedy scene (God forbid Bronn wrestle with it or anything), but now they see each other again and nobody has anything to say about it. It’s okay if they’re still in love (from a character perspective; it’s still messed up), but there has to be at least some mention of everything that’s happened between them. But I agree; I would’ve liked a little more payback in “The Bells,” especially for Cersei. I’m glad she got to see everything she thought she’d won literally crumble around her, though.

V: Yeah, there is some solace in that. It’s just such a bummer that none of the people she’s hurt got a chance to hold her accountable. And I agree about Bronn as well. Why even include the scene where she sends him to kill her brothers if we’re not going to acknowledge it? How does Jaime feel about it? Is Cersei genuinely glad to see him again, or is she just relieved to have someone on her side? “The Bells” would have been much more interesting if they’d delved more into the characters and their perspectives on what’s happening. On the same note, why did they play at developing Jaime for all of these years? They just went back and forth with him, and now, after everything, he goes right back to Cersei. Brienne definitely chose wrong.

A: It’s another example of them rushing to where they wanted to go without doing the work to get there. I’m fine with the idea of Jaime choosing to go back to Cersei, but nothing comes of it. He decides to die a villain because it’s where he’s more comfortable, but it’s not even shown as a struggle for him. The groundwork for this over the entire series has been great, but they just wasted it here. And why is there no mention of Cersei’s pregnancy? Does Jaime even know about it? It feels completely unnecessary given the way things turned out. Since Jaime got there so fast, why not have Brienne follow him to try to save him? “The Bells” could have done something with that.

Game of Thrones, The Bells

V: Jaime knows because before they died, she looked at him and said something like, “I want our baby to live; I want to live” and asked him not to let her die. I agree, though, that it was a pointless subplot. There wasn’t even a confrontation with Euron about the child’s real parentage after Tyrion knew that she was pregnant last week. Does anything matter this season? Is any of this going to amount to something in the end?

A: Evidently not. I don’t know if HBO wanted a shorter season or if Benioff and Weiss requested it, but it was a huge mistake either way. This is sloppy storytelling from a show that, even during its rough patches, always at least felt like it was taking its characters to logical conclusions. To attempt to accentuate the positive, did you like anything about “The Bells”?

V: I really did enjoy the first couple of minutes, in which Daenerys destroys Euron’s fleet, and the army kills the Golden Company. Even then, it feels like the Golden Company was built up for years for nothing, but I’ll take what I can get at this point. It was an effective sequence overall. What was your favorite part?

A: I agree; the battle was too short and one-sided, but unlike “The Long Night,” at least it looked cool, and I was cheering her on when she was roasting actual bad guys. My favorite scene is when Tyrion helps Jaime escape. It’s a beautiful, human moment for both of them. Tyrion loves Jaime so much that he tries to help him escape with Cersei; he’s willing to let the woman who tried to kill him live because he wants his brother to be happy. His line about Jaime being the only one who didn’t treat him like a monster is heartbreaking.

V: That was sad. This kind of ties into what I said earlier, but I don’t feel like the series has done Tyrion justice the past couple of seasons. We have one more week to go, but as of now, I wanted more for him. Lately, he’s just been making mistakes and taking abuse from Dany. On an unrelated note, I can’t wait to hear what Sansa has to say about Daenerys’ actions in “The Bells.”

Game of Thrones, The Bells

A: “Hey, Aegon Targaryen, remember when somebody told you your aunt that you have sex with was crazy? I could’ve sworn that happened one time.” I imagine it will be the Starks having to take her down, which feels so anticlimactic. All the villains were pushovers, and now we’re watching the good guys fight it out among themselves. It feels so pretty and weightless, which I guess is the meaning of the title, but going this far with it makes you wonder what the point of investing in the story ever was.

V: In an earlier season, the Night King and Cersei would have had more tricks up their sleeves. Even as “The Bells” progressed, I kept waiting for Cersei to reveal some horrible surprise she had waiting for our heroes, but instead, she just runs away and is crushed by a building. Obviously, I didn’t want her to win or anything, but seriously, put up some kind of a fight. We’ve been with these characters for the better part of a decade; it feels like we deserve some satisfying resolutions for them. Also, I just about screamed when the Mountain started pushing the Hound’s eyes like he did to Oberyn Martell. Did. Not. Like.

A: I was scared; I didn’t want the Hound to go out like that. Ultimately, though, I was very satisfied with that part. I was glad they didn’t “subvert expectations” and have the Mountain fight, like, Gilly or something. And even though it was sad seeing the Hound die, it fits with what he told Arya about the destructiveness of vengeance. Speaking of which, I loved the scene between him and Arya as well, especially her calling him “Sandor.” It’s frustrating in a way that there are a few truly great moments in “The Bells.”

V: Yeah, because having a satisfying send-off to a fan-favorite character directly before a completely boring one for your most hated villain magnifies the issue. This episode is composed of a few peaks of greatness and a whole lot of valleys of stupidity and boredom.

A: And there’s one more to go. Yay.

Game of Thrones - "The Bells"

Plot - 4.5
Acting - 8.2
Progression - 5.2
Production Design - 8.1
Action - 7.7



A few good moments and some exciting action can't save "The Bells" from disappointing resolutions, unearned character shifts and a general rushed feeling that doesn't bode well for the finale.

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