‘Game Of Thrones’ Season 8, Episode 5 Recap: In “The Bells,” Varys, Cersei & Jaime Die As Daenerys Destroys King’s Landing
If anybody ever doubted Daenerys Targaryen’s (Emilia Clarke) audacity and ability to destroy anyone who remotely stands in her path, regardless of collateral damage, Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones reminded us just how fierce the Mother of Dragons can be.
Following Cersei’s (Lena Headey) execution of Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) and Euron’s (Pilou Asbaek) murder of Rhaegal in Episode 4, Dany’s rage and grief grew to an all-time high. Only compounding Khaleesi’s frustration is her learning that Jon Snow (Kit Harrington) broke his promise to her to not reveal his true identity to anyone. After discovering from her Hand Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) that her “Master of Whisperers” Varys (Conleth Hill) was planning on betraying her by helping Jon become the true heir to the Iron Throne instead of her, Daenerys sentences Varys to die via a classic scorching from Drogon.
Jon reiterates to Dany his unwavering loyalty to her and the fact that he still views her as his “Queen,” but the Mother of Dragons doesn’t buy it when she realizes he no longer reciprocates her romantic feelings. Dany is still unsurprisingly upset by the fact that a) nobody loves her or trusts her as much as everybody loves and trusts Jon and b) Jon told Arya (Maisie Williams) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) that he is a Targaryen, and then Sansa told Tyrion, who in turn told Varys.
Meanwhile, Tyrion implores Dany one last time to spare the innocent lives living in King’s Landing during the siege to overthrow Cersei. Tyrion even goes the extra mile by rescuing Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) from captivity and begging him to appeal to Cersei’s humanity and offer her to run away with him to start a new life. As for how to avoid as much bloodshed in the Last War? Tyrion also urges his brother to compel Cersei’s forces to signal their surrender once the Dothraki and Unsullied reach King’s Landing by opening the gates and ringing the bells. A little optimistic Tyrion, but it definitely can’t hurt to try!
Once Dany’s forces make it to King’s Landing, there is a brief moment of silence and tension, just as there was prior to the Battle of Winterfell. Then, Golden Company leader Harry Strickland (Marc Rissman) gets killed in the initial stomping through the gates, and unmitigated chaos ensues.
Not only do Daenerys and her forces storm King’s Landing, but nearly all the civilians living there are killed in perhaps the most brutal genocide on the series to date: Drogon flies and shoots fire from above as hundreds of innocents fall. Jon — being the unwaveringly morally upright guy that he is and visibly upset by all the carnage — desperately urges the troops repeatedly to “fall back,” but Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Co. are too eager to take down the soldiers who defend Cersei.
Cersei finally surrenders when she sees Dany and her dragon growing increasingly closer. She and Qyburn (Anton Lesser) escape as the towers on the Red Keep are burned down and for the first time since perhaps Joffrey dies, we see the Lannister woman in utter grief, bawling her eyes out.
The moral dilemma of the “good guys becoming the bad guys” is interesting in theory, but it appeared to play out in a wildly exaggerated fashion in this episode. The only three scenes that seemed truly captivating were the fight between Euron and Jaime — which resulted in the latter killing the former after a mesmerizing choreography — the fight between the two Clegane brothers, the Hound (Rory McCann) and the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson) — which ends with them wrestling each other off a precipice into a pit of fire — and a brief but touching moment between Arya and the Hound. Sandor urges the youngest Stark girl not to go through with her plan to kill Cersei because she’s just a girl and has her whole life ahead of her, and shouldn’t risk her life over a revenge fantasy.
One can imagine that the Hound really did care for Arya all along, despite his cynical and moody personality throughout the series, but it wasn’t up until this scene that his genuine protection of her is clear and sweet. Arya even thanks Sandor by name before he goes off to face his brother and Cersei.
The Mountain’s quick and cartoonish murder of Qyburn over a command to protect Cersei he refused to obey was oddly funny, while the Clegane showdown was exciting for many reasons, including the call-back to the Season 4 episode where the Mountain killed Oberyn “The Viper” Martell by gouging out his eyes with his fingers. Both Clegane brothers end up blind in what looks like one eye before they tumble to their deaths… incredibly thrilling action.
To all those who were desperately hoping for Cersei to meet her demise — which is likely most fans — the Lannister woman and her brother Jaime both perish after being trapped in the tunnels by all the falling structures. Again, we see Cersei at her weakest, frightened like a small child while Jaime consoles her. As most people pointed out, the incestuous Lannister siblings came into this world together, so it seemed fitting that they left the world hand in hand as well. However, Cersei being physically murdered by anyone — or even dying alone by being crushed under all the rubble — would have been so much more fulfilling.
In the end, we see a dust-covered and bloodied Arya walking through the ruins and devastation caused by Daenerys and her forces and riding out of King’s Laning on a horse, one of the few remaining survivors of the Last War.
The pathos in this episode definitely seemed overdone at many points, but thankfully we still have one more episode left. Who else will die in the highly-anticipated series finale? Will Arya or Jon Snow kill Daenerys? Will Drogon survive? Will Tyrion leave for a distant land to start a new life? Who will sit on the Iron Throne, if anyone gets a chance to? Tune in next Sunday at 9 p.m. EST on HBO to find out!