There is only ONE WEEK LEFT until we find out who will take the Iron Throne (though it all looks a bit grim from here…). Sarah McDuling, Booktopia’s resident Game of Thrones lover and spoiler enthusiast, recaps Season 8 Episode 5, “The Bells.”
If you’ve missed our previous recaps, you can find them below:
- Episode 1: Winterfell
- Episode 2: A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms
- Episode 3: The Long Night
- Episode 4: The Last of the Starks
HERE BE SPOILERS! You have been warned…
Okay! Well. That was certainly an episode of television, wasn’t it? I have many thoughts and feelings (mostly all good!) but I think I will save them for the end of the recap. For now, let’s go ahead and dive right in…
Varys is being tricksy
We open with Varys who is writing lots of treasonous letters and employing more child spies. It seems he is back to his old tricks, scheming and plotting against people. This time it’s Daenerys he is plotting against. Of course we knew this was coming because he basically announced his plans to Tyrion last week. Ahhh Varys! He used to be such a crafty mastermind. Now he just goes around declaring his secret schemes for all the world to hear! Like so many of our beloved characters this season, Varys seems to have had a personality transplant. (Or maybe a lobotomy?)
Next up we see Jon arriving at Dragonstone. Varys meets him on the shore and proceeds to tell him all about his new Top Secret Plan to plot against Daenerys (facepalm). Varys really seems to have forgotten the basics of how to be a successful spymaster. He tells Jon he is totally anti-Daenerys now and very much pro-Jon. Varys says Jon will rule wisely and well. Jon doesn’t want to hear it because like he has said eleventy-million times before, he doesn’t want the Iron Throne. Meanwhile, Tyrion is spying on them. He has overheard the whole conversation and naturally runs straight to Daenerys to tell her everything…
Daenerys is being sad and staring at the ocean
She also has messy hair and dark circles under her eyes now, which I guess is the show’s way of telling us she is about to turn into a mass-murdering psychopath? Tyrion is all “Varys doesn’t like you anymore.” And Daenerys is all, “This is definitely Jon’s fault, but you are also to blame for spilling secrets to Varys!” She points out to Tyrion that he was totally manipulated by Sansa Stark, which is very true. Queen Sansa definitely used some Littlefinger style mind games on Tyrion last week because she is the only one left in the game who seems to know what she’s doing. If this show doesn’t end with Sansa as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms I’m going to be displeased (something I never thought I would say back in season one). At this point, she’s really the only one I’d trust to rule.
Varys is executed by Dragon fire
This is a sad end for a character who has been manipulating and backstabbing all the way back since the very beginning of this show. But it’s also pretty inevitable, considering this political mastermind chose to broadcast his decision to plot against the Dragon Queen and then just decided to hang around at Dragonstone, writing a bunch of letters and waiting to get caught.
You really brought this on yourself, Varys. Goodbye!
Daenerys and Greyworm mourn Missandei
Greyworn is clearly done with the softer emotions in life. He finally found love, after a lifetime of suffering and torture, and then he had to watch his love get beheaded by The Mountain. He has every right to be pissed. After mourning with Daenerys he tosses Missandei’s slave collar in the fire and leaves. As he walks out, Jon shows up for an argument/make out session with his queen/aunt. Daenerys is very mad at Jon for telling his sisters about his secret identity. She then makes a speech about how Jon is beloved in Westeros whereas Daenerys is only feared. John says “I love you!” and then follows that up with, “You will always be my queen.”
Daenerys is pleased to hear this and kisses him. Alas, Jon isn’t into it. He clearly hasn’t changed his stance vis-a-vis incest. Daenerys pulls away from him and with a very chilling expression says, “Very well. Let it be fear.”
And now it’s time to find out why this episode is called “The Bells”
We cut to the Dragonstone throne room which, let’s be honest, has always looked like it was designed by Satan. Daenerys is sitting on the throne, looking appropriately cold and evil and channeling some major “Queen of Hell” vibes. Things aren’t looking good for King’s Landing. Daenerys is “breaking bad” in a big way and things are probably about to get very violent very quickly. There’s a very good reason the Targaryen family motto is Fire and Blood.
Tyrion begs Daenerys to consider all the innocent people in King’s Landing. She isn’t much in the mood for considering innocent lives. He explains that when the city rings the bells (episode name check), it means they are surrendering. He asks her to listen for the bells and if they ring then it means she has won and can therefore stop destroying the city. There is great emphasis placed on the importance of the bells. No-one needs to die after the bells ring… provided Daenerys keeps her cool.
Jaime Lannister has been captured (again)
We cut rather abruptly to King’s Landing. The Good Guys (AKA The Northern Armies and the Unsullied, plus a handful of Dothraki) have left Dragonstone and are now setting up camp outside the city. This has been done seemingly in a matter of minutes, but then time means nothing in Westeros anymore. Journeys that used to take seasons now happen in seconds because we only have two episodes left. We don’t have time for things like timelines or a cohesive plot!!
Tyrion finds out his brother Jaime has been taken captive. Again. He was caught trying to sneak into Kings Landing to (for some baffling reason) reunite with his evil twin sister/ex girlfriend. Even though he had a perfectly amazing new girlfriend back in Winterfell but whatever.
(I’m not bitter.)
Arya and The Hound are here!
Speaking of the nifty time travel powers now available to everyone in Westeros… remember how Arya and the Hound left Winterfell last episode? They have now arrived in King’s Landing! It’s wonderful to see them but I can’t help feeling annoyed that we will never get to see any of their journey together. I bet there was so much great snarky banter on that road trip. Sigh.
Arya announces her intention to kill Cersei in a funny scene with a bumbling young soldier and then it’s back to the Lannister brothers again!
Tyrion and Jaime have a beautiful scene together. I may never understand why, after seasons of careful character development, Jaime randomly decided to go straight back to his evil twin. Why build a character up for an epic redemption and then just abandon it at the eleventh hour?
Tyrion releases Jaime and tells him to go rescue Cersei because… I honestly have no idea why. Maybe when all is said and done, family matters more to Tyrion than anything else? Maybe he’s thinking of his unborn niece or nephew? Anyway, he urges Jaime to get Cersei out of King’s Landing and hilariously suggests that they jump in a rowboat sail away together. He also thanks Jaime for looking out for him when they were young. It’s incredibly touching.
“You were all I had,” says Tyrion as he hugs his big brother for what is probably the last time.
The Army of Good Guys arrives at King’s Landing
The Northern Armies and The Unsullied (AKA The Good Guys) are lined up outside the city walls. The Bad Guys (AKA The Golden Company) march out to meet them. Meanwhile, Arya and The Hound are already inside the city, striding purposefully through the crowded streets. The Hound is wearing a hood by way of disguise. Arya is too cool for disguises. Her whole attitude pretty much screams “I am Arya “Night Kingslayer” Stark… come at me!”
And here’s Cersei!
Everybody’s least favourite Queen is standing at her balcony, looking fierce in red and gold and smirking in a way that makes me want to punch her.
We cut to hordes of innocent people rushing to seek shelter in the Red Keep. The gates get rudely slammed in their faces because Cersei is the worst person ever.
Meanwhile, Jaime is in the crowd, waving his golden hand around and trying to get recognised – presumably so that he will be captured and taken to Cersei. Honestly, looking back over the years, Jaime Lannister has easily spent 85% of his time being captured and held captive. This is very on brand for him.
Daenerys Stormborn and Drogon descend on Euron Greyjoy and his ships like a mighty fire breathing reckoning. This scene is OUT OF CONTROL! This is a true Targaryen reign of fire and it is amazing. All the giant arrows are burned to ashes. All the ship are burned to ashes. Many soldiers are burned to ashes.
We cut to the armies of The Good Guys and the Bad Guys. The Bad Guys are led by that random nameless guy who is in charge of the Golden Company. I’m sure he has a name, but he literally just showed up a few episodes ago and I don’t think he’s has ever had a single line of dialogue so I’m going to go ahead and call him Nameless.
Just as the armies of Good Guys and Bad Guys are getting really good at glaring silently at each other, a sudden burst of dragon fire erupts through the city wall and completely wipes out the Golden Company. In one fell swoop they are all burned to ash! And then the army of the Good Guys advances and poor old Nameless is trampled to death!
Daenerys is definitely winning the war
And Cersei is in major denial about it. We see her talking to Qyburn who is all, “Hey this looks pretty bad for us, maybe we should run?” But Cersei is all “The Red keep has never fallen.”
Meanwhile, the Army of Good Guys has made it into the city now. We see Jon and Greyworm & Co. running through the streets until they come up against some more Bad Guys. (Is this the Queen’s Guard, or the Lannister army? I don’t know and I’m too stressed to care right now!!)
Daenerys flies Drogon over to perch on what reminds of the city wall. The Bad Guys basically gulp in fear and throw down their swords. They have surrendered. Why aren’t the bells ringing??
Meanwhile, Tyrion is wandering aimlessly through the battlefield having Deep Thoughts. Jaime is searching for Cersei. The Star of the Seven theme song is playing (the same haunting violin music that played when Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor in season six). What in the name of seven hells is about to happen here? Why aren’t those bloody bells ringing??
Enter the MAD QUEEN!!!
The city has surrendered. Daenerys has won … but she doesn’t look happy. Nope, she looks insanely furious. Apparently she’s not pleased by the idea of winning the war with minimal civilian casualties and with the city virtually intact. Nope, not our Daenerys! In what seems like a simultaneously very predictable and yet also somehow horribly sudden plot twist, Daenerys Targaryen goes full blown MAD QUEEN. Casting a murderous glare towards the Red Keep, she launches Drogon into the air and the battle is back on with a vengeance. I will now commence screaming and hyperventilating for the rest of the episode.
As soon as Daenerys goes MAD QUEEN it’s like a signal for everyone to go berserk. Greyworm takes one look at the soldiers who have surrendered their swords and you can see him thinking, “Yeah nah. I think I’m just gonna go on a killing rampage now.”
Greyworm hurls his spear at an unarmed soldier and all hell breaks loose. Pretty much everyone is “choosing violence” now, in a big way. The Good Guys have becomes the Bad Guys and the former Bad Guys are rapidly becoming dead. Those that aren’t burned alive by dragonfire or crushed by falling debris are being slaughtered by Unsullied and Northern soldiers. And it’s not just the men being slaughtered. The former Good Guys are running wild like rabid beasts, killing everyone in sight. Even innocent and unarmed civilians. Even children. No one is safe.
WHAT AM I WATCHING RIGHT NOW???
Cersei is crying!
Poor Cersei. She’s finally out of denial and into the stage of grief. Amazingly, we see tears rolling down her cheeks as Qyburn convinces her that the battle is lost and she needs to run.
Jaime and Euron fight to the death and honestly, good riddance to both of them
Jaime is running into the tunnels that lead beneath the Red Keep when who should stroll out of the ocean but Euron Greyjoy! They immediately start bickering like school boys and pretty soon it’s a full on fight to the death. They stab each other approximately 37 times until both are mortally wounded. Jaime walks away from a dying Euron who proclaims, “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister!” Of course, he’s also a man who was killed by Jaime Lannister but whatever – as far as last words go it’s a stylish exit for Euron. The horny pirate king is finally dead, hooray!
GOLDEN MOMENT ALERT!
And now we come to what I feel is the best character moment of this episode. The Hound and Arya have reached that room in the Red Keep with the map painted on the floor. I’m sure it has a proper name, but I will henceforth refer to it as Map Room. The Hound tells Arya to let go of her thirst for revenge or else she will end up just like him. It’s too late for The Hound to change, but he wants something better for Arya. He convinces her to give up her quest to kill Cersei before he leaves to go kill his brother. As he departs, Arya calls out to him…
“Sandor, thank you.”
My heart!!! This was such a great moment I burst into a spontaneous round of applause!
And now, after seasons of anticipation, welcome to Cleganebowl!
Qyburn, The Mountain and Cersei are fleeing down a flight of stairs when they come face to face with The Hound. Cersei commands The Mountain to protect her. By way of reply, the Mountain glares at her with his repellent red zombie eyes. Qyburn demands the Mountain obey Cersei. By way of reply, the Mountain smashes Qyburn into a wall, crushing his skull. Qyburn is dead! And then, in a moment that is sure to become an overused gif, Cersei cuts her losses, awkwardly sidesteps The Hound. and makes the world’s speediest getaway.
CLEGANEBOWL IS ON!
Back in the Map Room…
Cersei and Jaime are reunited. I can’t talk about this in detail because I’m still mad at Jaime for abandoning his redemption arc and breaking up with Brienne. BAD MOVE JAIME! I suppose he’s going to bleed to death soon, but until that happens I reserve the right to hold a grudge.
Cersei notices Jaime is mortally wounded and then the Lannister twins run off together.
Back to Cleganebowl!
The Hound isn’t doing too well. The Clegane brothers engage in an epic fight while in the background you can see Drogon flying around, wreaking havoc on the city. For some reason, during the fight The Mountain becomes horrifyingly shirtless and we see that his bloated undead chest is lacerated with stab wounds and seeping with putrid looking pus.
(Argh, my eyes! Will I will ever be able to unsee this??)
Next we cut to Arya running through the burning streets of Kings Landing as buildings explode all around her. What proceeds is a very tense series of scenes cutting between Arya’s fight for survival and Cleganebowl. It’s brilliantly done. The tension and drama are reaching peak levels. The Hound is getting badly beaten. Arya has fallen to the ground and is getting trampled. The Hound is smashed into a wall. Arya is helped to her feet by a kind woman (it’s the woman from the precious mother and daughter team that we have seen a few times in this episode and who are clearly supposed to represent all the innocent souls who are dying because of our old friend, the MAD QUEEN).
The Hound stabs the Mountain a bunch of times and I start yelling at the top of my lungs “OMG JUST CUT OFF HIS HEAD PLEASE!” but the Hound can’t hear me because he’s busy having his eyes gouged out.
And then in an absolutely amazing scene, the The Hound charges at The Mountain. The brothers smash through a wall and fall to their mutual deaths, disappearing into the flames below. It is breathtaking and so much better that I ever imagined Cleganebowl would ever be! This whole episode is so damn EPIC in scope it’s impossible not to be impressed with the action sequences.
The destruction of King’s Landing continues…
The city lies in ruins and Daenerys shows no sign of stopping her murderous rampage any time soon. Jon calls for his soldiers to fall back. Arya stumbles through the dusty rubble and runs into a group of civilians – including the precious mother and daughter team from before! She convinces everyone to run with her. Two seconds later the precious mother is slashed through the back by a passing Dothraki and the precious daughter will not leave her mother’s side. Arya tries really hard to help them but then a burst of fire knocks everyone off screen. And oh my God, if that was Ayra Stark’s death scene then I am going to go full blown MAD QUEEN on the people who make this show. No-one will be safe from my righteous fury if Arya is dead!!!!!
Back to the Lannister twins/lovers…
Jaime and Cersei have made it to the dungeons where all the dragon skulls are kept. Cersei is very upset. It’s actually quite satisfying to see how terrified and miserable she is. She knows it’s the end of the line for her and Jaime. She wants her baby to live but really… too bad! If she wanted her baby to live then she probably shouldn’t have executed our beloved Missandei and provoked the violent rage of a mad dragon queen!
After some tears and incestous kisses, the Red Keep collapses on top of the Lannisters. Jaime and Cersei die in each others arms. I guess there’s some dramatic irony in that, but I really was hoping to see Arya strike that last name off her Murder List.
And now we have come to the end…
In the last scene of the episode we see a battered and bleeding Arya Stark who is mercifully not dead! The Night-Kingslayer is stumbling through the rubble that was once King’s Landing as smoke billows and ash falls from above. She sees the bodies of the precious mother and daughter, both killed by dragon fire. They died embracing each other and their charred bodies look like something straight out of Pompeii. I won’t lie… the sight really got to me. It’s official. I think I hate Daenerys now!?!
Arya sees a white horse standing eerily alone in the empty ruins. In a beautiful and surreal moment, she approaches the horse slowly and takes hold of it’s reins. We then we see her riding off down the burning street like a valiant hero. She is presumably going to kill Daenerys now and I can only salute her because after what we’ve just seen, Daenerys needs to die ASAP.
And that’s a wrap on Episode Five! ONLY ONE EPISODE LEFT!
FIRST OF ALL, I have Some Thoughts…
With one episode to go, we have a brand new villain! And it’s our very own Mother of Dragons!!
I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, no-one can really argue that this is out of character for Dany. We have seen her make some questionable decisions in the past while she was busy conquering multiple cities and ruthlessly destroying her enemies. She is a Targaryen, after all, and madness runs in her blood. This is actually a pretty brilliant ending for her character and yet… I’ve always loved Daenerys so it’s hard to see her become such an outright villain after watching her triumphant rise to power over eight seasons. Is having a volatile temper, a violent streak,and a family history of madness really enough to warrant this deep dive into mass murder? Apparently so! Losing two of her dragon children, as well as her Jorah and her Missandei, coupled with betrayal on all sides by her trusted allies (not to mention breaking up with her nephew/boyfriend)… well, it’s enough to drive any Targaryen into a killing frenzy. And given that this show has always been grim and shocking and unkind to our favourite characters – this ending has George R.R. Martin written literally all over it.
Game of Thrones has never given us want we want. It has always famously defied expectations. This ending makes perfect sense but still… something about this season just feels clumsy and poorly executed.
Can someone explain to me why the final season of the most popular show in the history of all time had to be squished into 6 episodes? I feel like I’m watching what could have been the best season of television EVER, except that it is streaming in fast forward! I don’t disagree with the way the plot is unfolding, per say. It’s dramatic and tragic and totally epic. But the pacing is completely bonkers. The characters have all become time-travelling chameleons who do or say whatever is required to keep the plot racing along at breakneck speed. Honestly, Season 8 is giving me whiplash. It’s still highly entertaining though. I was on tenterhooks for the entire episode and once again loved every second!
Best Dressed: This doesn’t sit well with me but it has to be Cersei. Her military style red and gold gowns this season have been so awesome. And even though I still hate her with every fibre of my being, I have to admit she looked very stylish in this episode. Rest in eternal torment, Cersei! I hope it hurt when The Red Keep landed on you!!
Golden Moment: Arya and the Hound’s final scene together is one of my favourite scenes in the entire show. I’m so glad that during this madcap hyperspeed race to the finish line of this show, they still found time for this beautiful moment.
Predictions: Who the hell knows? The heroes became the villains in this episode. All bets are off for the future. Anything could happen, but I suppose someone will have to kill Daenerys now. It will probably be Jon, (though I hope it will be Arya). After that, I guess someone will need to rule Westeros? My vote is with Sansa. Love live the Queen in the North!
Burning question: Is the Iron Throne even still a thing? Did it get crushed when the Red Keep collapsed? And if there is no Iron Throne anymore… does this mean everyone can just stop fighting and go home?
A Game of Thrones - The Story Continues
George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series has set the benchmark for contemporary epic fantasy. Labelled by Time magazine as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world, Martin has conjured a world as complex and vibrant as that of J.R.R. Tolkien, populated by a huge cast of fascinating, complex characters, and boasting a history that stretches back twelve thousand years.
Three great storylines weave through the books, charting the civil war for control of the Seven Kingdoms; the defence of the towering Wall of ice in the uttermost north against the unearthly threat of the Others; and across the Narrow Sea the rise to power of Daenerys Targaryen and the last live dragons in the world...
About the Contributor
Sarah McDuling is Booktopia's Category Manager for Children's and Young Adult Books. She has been in the bookselling game for almost a decade and a dedicated booklover since birth (potentially longer). At her happiest when reading a book, Sarah also enjoys talking/writing/tweeting about books. In her spare time, she often likes to buy a lot of books and take photographs of books. You can follow her on Twitter and Instragram @sarahmcduling
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