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Monday, May 20, 2019

Game of Thrones 8x05: The Bells


Opening Credits Map

Last Hearth -> Winterfell -> King's Landing

Who is the tyrant? The tyrant or the tyrant who opposes the tyrant? Beware of those who seek to overthrow oppressors for they just want to be oppressors themselves. Nobody wants to balance the scales they only want to tip the scales in their favor. Do not aid those who fight against injustice and inequality because you don't know what kind of injustice and inequality they will create.

You, on the right side of the scales. Do not help those on the wrong side of the scales for they will simply turn on you the first opportunity they get. And you, on the wrong side of the scales. Be happy. Be happy with your tyrant for they are known and the unknown is much scarier.

Also, bitches be crazy, yo! Amiright?

Dragonstone
Alright, let's get this over with. We start with Varys writing a letter clearly spelling out that Jon Snow is the true heir to the throne though I don't think we know who he's going to send it to? A little girl enters telling Varys she can't do "it" because everyone is watching her. Varys tells her the greater the risk, the greater the reward. I'm not sure what reward she would be in line in for but we'll never find out. The little girl heads back to the kitchen.

Jon Snow arrives at Dragonstone and Varys is there to greet him. Varys tells Jon Snow that Daenerys isn't allowing visitors nor accepting food. If you're following the thread (which I was not) that Varys is trying to poison Daenerys then not accepting food seems wise.

Varys goes on to talk about his fear of Daenerys and brings up the saying that when a Targaryen is born the gods flip a coin. Jon Snow isn't much for "riddles." I fail to see how that saying is a riddle? I guess intelligence isn't high on Varys' list of what makes a good monarch. Anyway, the gist is, Varys wants treason, Jon Snow wants none of it, and Tyrion is watching it all.

Tyrion goes to Daenerys' chambers to snitch. Daenerys is looking haggard and we're obviously supposed to get the unhinged vibe. She cuts Tyrion off and says she already knows Jon Snow betrayed her. Tyrion clarifies that it's Varys who betrayed her but Daenerys lays out that Jon Snow broke his promise and told Sansa about his heritage who, for obvious anti-Daenerys reasons, told Tyrion who, instead of telling Daenerys, told Varys about it. It's all made to seem like a paranoid delusion but she's actually just right on everything. She's even right about what has to be done. Not to spoil where I'm going but while Daenerys is angry and is leaning (and regularly leans) towards the violent solutions there is always logic to what she does.

So, we cut to Varys who hears guards marching for his quarters. He burns the note he's writing and hides his jewelry. Grey Worm and company show up and take Varys to Daenerys who is waiting outside with Jon Snow at her side. Tyrion is there as well and tells Varys he was the narc. Varys says good bye to his friend. Varys then faces Daenerys and gets flambéed by her dragon. I liked Varys but it's tough to totally disagree with what Daenerys did here.

In Daenerys' chambers Daenerys gives Grey Worm Missandei's choker, the only thing she brought with her to Westeros. Grey Worm throws the choker into the fire for dramatic and symbolic reasons. Jon Snow arrives and Grey Worm takes his leave.

Daenerys is mad that Jon Snow told Sansa. Jon Snow tries to alleviate her fears by saying he doesn't want to be king but Daenerys says Sansa told Tyrion for a reason. She knows the secret will get out and everyone loves Jon Snow and she has no love in Westeros. Jon Snow says that he loves her. Danaerys decides it's time get some more of that sweet, sweet Jon Snow action but Jon Snow rebukes her. So Daenerys declares that instead of love she'll have to use fear to rule Westeros.

Another war council convenes. Daenerys is sick of worrying about the innocents and just wants to sack King's Landing. Tyrion does not want this to happen. It is decided that they'll attack but if King's Landing rings the bells, per Tyrion, it will signify surrender and the attack will be called off.

Tyrion is then informed that Jaime Lannister has been taken hostage by Daenerys' army. Daenerys says it seems Jaime hasn't abandoned her sister and this is a new failure for Tyrion's. I'm here thinking Tyrion hasn't failed and Jaime simply wants to stop Cersei but I'd be wrong. Despite Daenerys going "crazy" she's right on almost everything.

King's Landing
The Hound and Arya try to pass through the, I think, the Lannister enemy line to get into King's Landing. A guard stops them but Arya proclaims that she's Arya Stark and has come to kill Cersei. The Hound tells the guard if Cersei dies then there might not be a war tomorrow. The guard decides to turn a blind eye to them because there's no time for dilly dally. This is the second-to-last episode and these two need to be in King's Landing! (Funnily enough, if this scene didn't exist and Arya and the Hound just made it to King's Landing I wouldn't have questioned it.)

Predictably, Tyrion goes to see Jaime. Tyrion inquires on how Jaime got caught and Jaime shows his metal hand. Tyrion says he should've hidden that or something. Jaime says he's never been the sharpest knife in the Lannister drawer. Which is code for "there are only two episodes left so we can't act like actual human beings but just as tools to move the plot forward." You don't see her, but it's obvious Daenerys is taking notes.

Tyrion tells Jaime he needs to go to Cersei to convince her to surrender. Jaime doesn't think he can convince her. Then why is he going to her? Tyrion says he should at least try because it might save the lives of the million people in King's Landing. Jaime said he actually never much cared for the people of King's Landing. Yup, you're missing out on a real winner, Brienne.

So, Tyrion then pleads to Jaime to do it for the life of Jaime and Cersei's unborn child. Tyrion had Davos set up a boat near the secret exit at King's Landing (that Tyrion didn't tell Daenerys about for...reasons). Tyrion wants Jaime to go convince Cersei to surrender, ring the bells, and then hop on the boat so Jaime and Cersei can sail away to freedom together. Jaime agrees.

It's morning and King's Landing is preparing for battle. The armies are marching through the streets while the citizens are fleeing to safety. We see the Hound and Arya as well as Jaime making their way to the Red Keep. Euron's hanging out in the bay and the Golden Company is defending the front gates.

Just as the gates to the Red Keep(?) are closing Arya and the Hound slip in. Many are left behind, though, including Jaime. He raises his metal hand to show who he is but none of the guards see. He finds a back alley to duck into. This would be a suspenseful scene if this show gave me any reason to believe Jaime could actually convince Cersei to surrender.

Euron and his fleet are hanging out in the bay when he hears the sound of a dragon. Daenerys swoops down obliterates the ships. Euron manages to dive into the water before being burned since he has plot armor.

I will give the show credit that Daenerys apparently learned from the last episode. Daenerys appeared to use the sun to be more difficult to see so Euron couldn't get in an early shot in with a scorpion. She also used her aerial agility to avoid any attacks. However, in this entire episode scorpions seemed to reload slower and be less maneuverable and are all around less effective than last episode.

With Euron's fleet destroyed Daenerys swoops over Kings Landing and blasts open the gates of King's Landing from behind; decimating the Golden Army. The Dothraki\Unsullied\Winterfell army pick off whatever stragglers remain and storm the streets of King's Landing. Meanwhile, Daenerys burns the parameter of King's Landing using her speed and maneuverability to destroy the scorpions before they can get a clean shot.

Qyburn enters Cersei's chamber to let her know that all the scorpions are destroyed, the gates are breached, and the Iron Fleet is burning. Cersei is undeterred. She believes the Lannister army will fight harder than any sell swords. (As if the Golden Company had any chance to show grit and determination or the lack thereof.) Cersei says the Red Keep has never fallen and won't fall today.

In the streets Daenerys' combined forces come face to face with the Lannister army. The Lannister army looks around, sees an army in front from them, fire around them, and Daenerys on her dragon above them and this incredibly loyal army who'd fight to death for Cersei...lay their swords on the ground and say "nuts to this!"

The bells ring to signifying surrender. I'm not sure if Cersei ordered this to happen or if someone did so on their own? Do the bells always mean surrender or just this one instance? Regardless, Daenerys and company did it! They took out the Iron Fleet and Golden Company and got King's Landing to surrender with minimal civilian casualties. Despite many reservations within Daenerys' rank this was an unqualified success. So what does Daenerys do? She decides to burn all the citizens of King's Landing alive, innocent or otherwise.

Yup, for no particular reason Daenerys rides on her dragon and starts firebombing the city indiscriminately. Grey Worm sees this and is more than happy to chuck a spear through an unarmed, surrendering soldier. This ignites a battle that really just turns into a slaughter. Jon Snow joins in on some of the slaughtering but, is like, SUPER reluctant about it.

Jaime is headed through the backdoor of King's Landing but Euron is hanging out there because, sure, why not? Euron decides he really wants to kill Jaime Lannister because, sure, why not? Jaime agrees and they sword fight. Jaime ends up getting stabbed in the gut so Euron gets overconfident and does a little trash talk. This results in Jaime being able to crawl to a sword and, despite getting stabbed again, elbows Euron to the ground and stabs Euron in the stomach for a soon-to-be fatal blow. However, Euron is still alive enough to brag about how Jaime is going to die too and he's the one who killed Jaime Lannister. Euron dies with a smile on his face because...we...want Euron to have a happy ending? Sure, why not...

Arya and the Hound enter the Red Keep and take note of the city's imminent demise. Undeterred they both want their revenge but the Hound tries to talk Aria out of it. The Hound says it's too late for him, he's lived his life seeking revenge and he's not going to stop now but look what it turned him into. He begs Arya to just leave, save herself, and not follow in his footsteps. She agrees.

I mean, Cersei's not a skilled warrior or anything. I feel like Arya could hop up those stairs, slit her throat, and escape the Red Keep lickity split. And I thought the Hound had moved beyond revenge as a motive but here we are. The Hound goes up the stairs and Arya leaves, thanking the Hound on her way out.

As the Red Keep is falling apart, the Hound comes face to face with zombie Mountain. They both know what the must do. Both Cersei and Qyburn demand that zombie Mountain stay by Cersei's side but Qyburn just gets his faced crushed by zombie Mountain for his efforts. Cersei decides to quietly excuse herself.

Zombie Mountain removes his mask to reveal that he looks like end-of-life Anakin Skywalker and the he and the Hound battle. They sword fight on a crumbling castle staircase overlooking a burning city. Yes, it's metal. It's over-the-top and superfluous and probably not in the spirit of the Hound's journey, but it's metal. After landing what should be many fatal blows the Hound knows what he must he do. He rushes zombie Mountain and they both fall off the side and into the fires below.

Beneath the Red Keep Cersei is trying to make her escape and comes across Jaime. They have what's supposed to be a heartfelt, tender, incestuous reunion but they're two garbage people so forgive me if my heartstrings are un-tugged.

As they try to flee King's Landing they find the secret exit tunnel has been collapsed due to all the dragon activity up top. They both know they're screwed. Cersei doesn't want to die. Jaime comforts her as the roof collapses on top of them. Status of my heartstrings: Still Un-tugged.

So, a lot of the last third of this of this episode is Arya running with the with random villagers, taking in the devastation Daenerys has wrought, seeing those random villagers burned/crushed/etc., having something fall on her, having her wake up and then doing the whole thing over again. She's our point of view character for the merciless destruction by Daenerys and her dragon. At the end Arya comes across a white horse that has somehow survived this mini-apocalypse. Arya exits King's Landing atop that horse, a visage of death itself.

Other Thoughts
So, yeah, not to repeat what I said (tongue-in-cheek) in the intro but there's a both-sides-ism to this Daenerys story line that not a lot of people are talking about but that I just loathe.

Beyond that, having the man in the story being the level-headed, sensible one while the two women are irrational and vindictive is just not a good look for the show.

But that's me taking this story in the larger context of current societal implications. We can look at this in a vacuum if you'd like. What Daenerys did makes no sense. I know, I know, she's "gone crazy" but this is no brand of crazy we've seen from Daenerys before. If it was Joffrey on that dragon what happened would make sense. But not for Daenerys.

Even if you've gone mad, you still have your own internal logic for what you do. What was Daenerys' logic? The war was won. The people seemed sufficiently fearful of her. Nothing happened in that instance to make her fly into a rage. We've seen Daenerys tend towards violent solutions in the past but those people have always wronged Daenerys and been bad people. She never went after random people in the streets. If Daenerys had flown to the Red Keep and burned it (with Cersei in it) to the ground it might've been excessive and innocents might've been killed but it would've been a fair escalation of how she's been acting. But this? Just burning an entire city to the ground with at least a million people in it after that city had surrendered? It just doesn't track.

And let's talk about Grey Worm for a second. This is a person who was born a warrior slave but was freed by Daenerys to...still be a warrior slave? Has he ever questioned Daenerys? True, he had a choice as to whether or not to fight for her but after choosing to fight for her he has acted as her slave ever since. This much to close to the "happy slave" trope for my taste. The final straw for me was to see him see Daenerys begin her destruction of King's Landing and immediately start slaughtering people along with her without questioning anything. He could've looked on in horror and tried to help people. But nope, he just followed her lead, again. I know he saw Missandei die but our options are either he's a ball of rage that can't control his emotions and will anyone when he's angry or he's a slave who could never think independently. Neither is great. You could speak of the tragedy of a slave who could never truly break free of their bondage but I'd just say that saying a slave is best left a slave because they could never be anything else is a terrible message.

I'll also add that, after the bells rang and Daenerys took flight on her dragon, the next 45-ish minutes was just a completely joyless TV watching experience.

They added voice-overs to Daenerys reacting to Missandei's death. That's right, they shoehorned character motivation in a Previously On. If you're cribbing from Heroes then you know you're in trouble.

In my mind I plotted out how Daenerys and company could lay siege to King's Landing with minimal civilian casualties. To my surprise Daenerys pretty much enacted my plan to a tee! And then she still did what she did...

Why would Davos agree to smuggle an escaped prisoner and public enemy #1 away from Daenerys?

I expected Jaime to tell Cersei about the bells and then for her to use them as some sort of ploy to ambush Daenerys' forces. That might've been good enough impetus for Daenerys to do what she did!

I have to give the casting department credit. I knew almost nothing about the leader of the Golden Company but he looked like such a douche that I wanted him to die.

I think it would've cool if, instead of a white horse, it was Nymeria Aria found and rode out of King's Landing on.

Speaking of Arya, is her character arc going to be, seek vengeance for the near entirety of the series, give up on revenge for 15 minutes, then seek revenge again?

Life has really been getting the way of my reviews. Sorry this is so late! I'm sure all my takes on this penultimate episode will look lame in light of the ultimate episode.

Tyrion: It was me.
Varys: I hope I deserve this. Truly, I do. I hope I'm wrong. Goodbye, old friend.

The Hound: Look at me! You wanna be like me? You come with me, you die here.
Arya: Sandor...Thank you.

Season 8 Totals
Boob Count: 7
Full Frontal Count: 0
Butt Count: 4
Coitus Count: 3
Main Character Death Count: 15 (It might be easier to say who's still alive but here we go...Edd, Beric, Lady Mormont, Theon, Jorah, Melisandre, Missandei, Rhaegal, Varys, Euron, Qyburn, the Hound, the Mountain, Cersei, Jaime (if there were more seasons to go I'd probably go with the "no body, no death" rule but I think those two are goners))

6 comments:

  1. I haven't watched the final episode yet -- hopefully tonight -- so your post still works for me, late or otherwise!

    "I'll also add that, after the bells rang and Daenerys took flight on her dragon, the next 45-ish minutes was just a completely joyless TV watching experience."

    This sums up my thoughts perfectly, and better than I could've done myself. I derived no pleasure whatsoever from that moment on. I just kept checking how much time was left until it was finally over. It was a terrible experience and a waste of nearly an hour of my life.

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    1. Thanks for the positive feed back! Glad to know you're enjoying* my reviews. I get a little worried my rants will start scaring off readers but I probably have already scared off those readers.

      I suppose I should get cracking on the finale. Joy!

      *Or at least finding them cathartic

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  2. I liked Varys but it's tough to totally disagree with what Daenerys did here.

    Yeah, as one of the podcasts I listen to put it, any other king/lord in Westeros would have done the same to someone who did what Varys did. The method of execution may be particularly Dany-specific, but Varys was a traitor (and actively trying to poison her); anyone else would have killed him as well.

    Daenerys gives Grey Worm Missandei's choker, the only thing she brought with her to Westeros

    Which, I mean, we know for a fact is just wrong. It's not like she showed up in Westeros wearing nothing but that choker. She was wearing clothes on the ship carrying her from Mereen to Dragonstone at the end of season 6, at the very least. I assume she probably had a trunk of such similar items as well.

    The Hound and Arya try to pass through the, I think, the Lannister enemy line to get into King's Landing.

    I believe it was the Northern army camped out outside the city walls. All the Lannister forces would be inside the city at this point.

    Funnily enough, if this scene didn't exist and Arya and the Hound just made it to King's Landing I wouldn't have questioned it.

    See, even when they try to head off your nitpicks they just can't win. :)

    Jaime doesn't think he can convince her. Then why is he going to her?

    To be with her when she dies is really all it is, I believe.

    Jaime said he actually never much cared for the people of King's Landing. Yup, you're missing out on a real winner, Brienne.

    Also, that is another thing that is just wrong. Jamie's whole speech to Brienne in the bath at Harrenhal, the big moment of his redemption arc, was all about how he killed the Mad King - sacrificing his reputation and good name, becoming the Kingslayer for all of history - in order to do exactly what Tyrion is trying to do here: prevent the innocents of King's Landing from being burned to death by a Targaryen. It's honestly the thing that bugged me the most about this episode - it's not just badly or underwritten, or out of nowhere, but at odds with what's been established before in a way that completely undercuts the entire point of a significant character's whole arc.

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  3. that Tyrion didn't tell Daenerys about for...reasons

    This didn't occur to me in the moment, but yeah, given that Tyrion knows a secret way into the castle, why not send an assassination squad in to kill Cersei. They wouldn't even need Arya to do it. It wouldn't have even needed to succeed - maybe the Mountain takes out the assassins or something. But it was dumb that the idea was never raised.

    Cersei says the Red Keep has never fallen and won't fall today.

    This is less "the show is wrong" and more "the character is wrong", but it has fallen before. Most notably (for Cersei) it fell to her father, which led to her being married off to Robert Baratheon, thus going down the road that led to her standing in the Red Keep as Dany burns the city, wrongly declaring the Red Keep has never fallen.

    Yup, for no particular reason Daenerys rides on her dragon and starts firebombing the city indiscriminately

    Well, for no particular reason the episode could be bothered to articulate in any fashion beyond the look on Emilia Clarke's face which, I mean, she acted the hell out of it that look, especially since she was essentially sitting on metal saddle staring at a green wall, but still, we kinda needed more than that to sell her decision, you dum-dums.

    the next 45-ish minutes was just a completely joyless TV watching experience.

    Joyless, yeah, but I was still entertained by some of what happened. The Hound/Mountain fight was gonzo, and I legit laughed out loud at Cersei's little slide by the pair of them even if it was stupid, and there was some stunning cinematography in Arya's flight out of the keep, including several long tracking shots involving her going in and out of buildings, that were pretty amazing.

    In fact, I'd argue this whole season is a story of the show being let down by its writing even as it's firing on all other cylinders in terms of its craft. The ill-advised decision to present the early part of the Battle of Winterfell in near darkness aside, the cinematography has been routinely gorgeous, the spectacle (often at expense of other narrative elements) bigger than ever, the sound and music top-notch and picking up much of the emotional slack let down by the writing, and the actors are really giving it their all. Emilia Clarke, especially, is doing a great job of making something out of the almost literal nothing she's given in the script, while Peter Dinklage is selling the hell out of Tyrion's conflict even while the script has made "Cersei loves her children!" his version of Dany's "Where's my dragons?" refrain from Season 2 as he stumbles from one dumb move to the next.

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    1. I suppose I'm always about substance over style. That sounds more elitist that I mean. Once production values and acting reach a certain level for me I have hard to analyzing it. (Why am I a recapper again?) So the acting and productions have certainly reached the acceptable mark for but I'm too distracted by the bad plot/character developments to appreciate those aspects (in-as-much as I ever appreciate those things on anything more than a subconscious level).

      For fairness' sake, I suppose I should say my substance-over-style rule doesn't usually hold for certain kinds of action scenes (sword fights, hand-to-hand combat, etc.). You give me super cool, stylized action scenes and I can enjoy them despite bad plots/characters. That's probably why I'm more forgiving of the Star Wars prequels than most.

      I should also note I accidentally typed Star Wards instead of Star Wars and now I want to watch a movie about Speedy and Robin in space!

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    2. Well, it could be argued that, whether you realize/notice it or not, some of the "style" elements can have substance - playing one character's musical theme over another character's actions can suggest or reinforce a connection between them, the way a shot is constructed can lead you to consider a character as good or bad or manipulate your understanding of them (good guys move left to right, because that's how we read so we associate that direction as being progressive/successful, bad guys move right to left, etc.).

      That said, I'm also pretty terrible at spotting that kind of stuff beyond a general "works/doesn't work" binary, but I'm trying to get better at it, so I get excited when I actually do notice "good" technical stuff and can express why.

      now I want to watch a movie about Speedy and Robin in space!

      Well, shit, now so do I!

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