The Game of Thrones Awards, Season 8, Episode 5: Queen of the Ashes

The B&N Sci-Fi and Fantasy Blog

Greetings, and welcome! My name is Ben, and you have stumbled upon the ONLY Game of Thrones recap on the entire internet. Week to week I will be breaking down each episode of season  8, giving out highly prestigious awards, and wrapping everything up with a haiku.

Season 8, Episode 5: “The Bells”

A few minutes into “The Bells” I remarked aloud, “Huh, Dany sure looks like she’s about to kill a bunch of people.”

Well, let me correct my phrasing. What I meant to say was, “Dany sure looks like she is going to kill all the people”.

Welcome to Barnes and Noble’s coverage of the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones!

I have been beating a dead horse (there are definitely a few of those around during this episode) about the show’s weird pacing over the last few seasons, and that point was comically exaggerated by Lord Varys’ demise-by-montage at the start of the episode.

This was arguably the most careful and intelligent character on the roster, a man who has served a handful of subpar kings and managed to bite his tongue and wait for the right moment to act to help serve the realm, and he’s front and center on the beach telling Daenerys’ most committed ally that they should maybe try a coup? And a few minutes later, he’s being executed? Of course Jon Snow wasn’t going to turn him in, because… honor or something? But the damage was already done. Still, while the plotting was not particularly strong, the moments Tyrion shared with the Spider before his dragon-y death were compelling.

In many ways, the opening served as a microcosm of the season so far: there have been a lot of fantastic small moments, though perhaps compromised by a larger disregard of the characters and stories that got us to this point in the first place.

In terms of sheer spectacle and drama, there is still a lot to like about this episode. From a visual standpoint, Drogon decimating King’s Landing is the kind of spectacle that Game of Thrones was made for. I’m not sure if the writers intentionally were leading us to believe that the bells triggered Daenerys’ descent into madness, but I think it would be a clever choice if that was the idea—those same bells rang when her family was being destroyed in King’s Landing, and the attack against them didn’t stop either.

For many, the Mother of Dragons’ heel turn feels rather sudden, but I would argue that those people haven’t been paying attention. Her lack of patience and penchant for violence has been hinted at for several seasons now. If you think back to the time we spent with her in Essos: how many times was she coached to try diplomacy over fire despite her immediate impulses? And I don’t think that it’s a stretch to say that the journey across the sea—being met with resistance and mistrust be her allies; watching those she trusts most die or betray her; seeing her dragons die; almost getting killed by zombies— has taken a massive toll on her mental health. She had been conditioned to think for her whole life that when she returned to Westeros everyone would lay out the proverbial red carpet, and the reality has been quite a bit different.

The show seemed to suggest that hearing the bells ringing signaling the city’s surrender drove Dany over the edge and led her to burn it to the ground, but her arc is much more satisfying if you ignore all the “mad queen” nonsense and just consider it a strategic decision. Dany chose fear. We may not think it was the right decision, or a good one, but she chose the hell out of it.

And while watching innocent people be slaughtered isn’t my favorite past time, that Grey Worm and company chose to follow Dany’s lead and sack the city made sense to me, and was a good example of proper storytelling. The Unsullied are trained to follow their leader and little else, and did anyone forget about some of the Dothraki’s more… questionable impulses? These aren’t necessarily good people, these are people who were briefly allied to a part of a good cause because of circumstances. That cause has shifted, and so have they.

I feel less conflicted about one aspect of this episode, and if you’ve read any of my past recaps, you should already know what it is: we experienced @$&%$ #CleganeBowl, folks!

The Hound versus The Mountain delivered almost everything I wanted from that much-anticipated battle. The fact that Cersei’s hold on Gregor wore off (peace out, Qyburn) when confronted with the chance to murder his younger brother provided a thrilling start the festivities. Also, nice to see your face again, big bud! And by “nice” I mean… gross—Cersei’s Hand was a master as getting Ser Gregor up and moving, but he still looked as dead as he almost was.

The matchup was booked like a pro wrestling bout, with the hero getting in some shots early, being dominated by his opponent in the middle stages of the fight, and then tackling the villainand sending him into the burning rubble below. Hmmm, actually, I don’t think I’ve seen a lot of wrestling matches end like that. Regardless, that’s a hell of a way to end a sibling rivalry. In a season where some character arcs have failed to offer satisfaction, this was the exception—I can’t imagine a better end for the Hound.

But before all that happened, Sandor’s scene with Arya was another standout moment of the episode, as he convinced her to value her life over her mission. Cersei has been on Arya’s list longer than any other character, but as he points out, being consumed by revenge isn’t a pretty sight. As strong willed as Arya has been in the past, I struggle a bit with the idea that she’d come this far only to abandon the assassination attempt, but he did make a pretty convincing case that the queen was going to wind up dead either way.

And speaking of Cersei’s demise, I have a feeling her final moments will stand with the more controversial parts of the episode. I will start by saying that the plot gymnastics the writers have had to pull off to—both convince us that Tyrion would commit treason against his chosen queen in order to save Cersei of all people and to get Jaime to Cersei’s side for this final showdown—have been a bit tiresome. Why have Jamie abandon his sister in the lead-up to war just because said war is now happening (even if he did get to make a pit-stop to kill Euron Greyjoy on the way, thank the gods)? I know what they were trying to do—illustrate Jamie’s one true loyalty is to his twin—but it felt entirely too rushed and, frankly, unconvincing. Nevertheless, I suppose it fits that the Lannister twins got to leave the world the same way they came into it—together. Cersei wasn’t a good person, or even close to it, but while most would say she doesn’t deserve sympathy, Game of Thrones has always been a better show when it allows us to feel sympathy for the worst villains just the same.

I’m curious what next week’s episode is going to look like. Is Daenerys gonna be like, “Remember when I said I didn’t want to rule the ashes? Whoops, LOL!” How many people are left in Westeros to be ruled, anyway? Like 48? Will Lady Stoneheart make a last-second appearance just to spite you all for giving up on her?

Return next week for my coverage of the series finale! Because no one else on the internet will be talking about it.

A few random thoughts:

—Is this the episode with the highest body count of named characters? Varys, Jamie, Cersei, The Hound, The Mountain, Qyburn, and Euron (yaaaay!): is that everyone?

—While I don’t mind the way that Cersei died, did anyone else think it was a bit weird that she and Qyburn had no plan in place for this attack?

—Real talk: why has Tyrion been just the worst strategist in the world for the last few seasons? Releasing Jaime in the hopes that he’d be able to talk Cersei into surrendering was so stupid on so many levels, I could filled the entire preceding blog post with that rant.

—Arya riding off on a white horse at the end gave me some weird “Bruce Willis already dead” vibes, but I think the show might finally be done killing Starks. We’ll see.

—Tyrion trying to talk to the Unsullied in Valyrian, only to be reminded that they speak the common tongue, reminded me of some of my unfortunate attempts to order food while overseas.

—Was Euron’s “I killed Jaime Lannister” moment the worst thing ever, or only the second-worst thing ever? These are the only acceptable choices.

—Do dragons run out of fire at some point or…?

Quotable Quotes

“It was me” —Tyrion letting Varys know who sealed his fate

“Nothing else matters, only us” —Jaime with a nice callback to earlier seasons, just before he died

Awards!

—The “Most Valuable Murderer of the Week” award goes to Drogon. Really put out some good numbers.

—The “Most Ridiculous Fan Theory of the Week” goes to the baby dragons idea that circled the internet all week. We aren’t adding any more characters from now on, people. We are only killing them off by the thousands!

—For the second-to-last time we dust off the coveted, “We Miss You and Wish You Weren’t Murdered in Horrifying Fashion” award, and hand it to… Viserys Targaryen? Yes, Dany’s older brother may have been a jerk and a weasel, but even his transition into power would have likely been smoother than Dany’s.

And Now, a Haiku by Bran Stark

I too hate spoilers
Did not want to break the news
That the queen is nuts

What did you think of the penultimate episode? Let us know in the comments!

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