Ironic that I keep thinking of this phrase, one that I heard often in my childhood. Ironic because “The Bells” aired on Mother’s Day, and this was my mom’s phrase anytime we took the easy way out, which I will admit, as kids, was often, but also ironic because that’s exactly what Game of Thrones did in this episode, took the path of least resistance.
The easiest path. The most predictable one. The one I hoped this show, the one that billed itself as groundbreaking, as the show that would subvert the genre, was going to avoid.
But then again, this week I wasn’t shocked at what I was seeing. “The Last of the Starks” prepared me. This week all I am is sad. Sad at the lost possibilities, sad at the way “The Bells” destroyed character arcs that were seasons in the making, and sad at how I cannot even appreciate the victory over Cersei, which has been eight years in the making.
If there’s anything to be rescued from this episode – and maybe from the show – is this: No matter what GRRM and the Game of Thrones showrunners tried to tell us, this was always the story of the Starks. No one else. And if you happened to be a fan of one of them, then it seems like you, at least, might have a chance at a happy-ish ending.
However, if you’re not, then I guess this is where I say at least we have fandom, and amazing, wonderful artists and writers who will find a way to fix it, even if they don’t get the label canon.
So, let’s go into “The Bells” and discuss how, after this ending, we might have to turn the phrase “jumping the shark” to “pulling a Game of Thrones“:
THE MAD QUEENS
The funny thing is that, in her final moments, Game of Thrones allowed us a glimpse of humanity that had been missing from Cersei for at least the last few seasons. That is, of course, understandable, everyone fears death, and if she was indeed pregnant – which at this point I have no reason to doubt – then of course she feared death not just for herself. Jaime said it right: Cersei has always, always done her best and worst in the name of her children.
I don’t remark on this because I find it strange that Cersei’s last moments showed her human side, but because I find it hilarious in a haha I laugh so I don’t cry way that just as Game of Thrones was humanizing Cersei, it was dehumanizing Daenerys.
Look, everything that happened at the beginning, up to when Daenerys decided to burn the city to the ground, was understandable. Daenerys was mad, and she, like Grey Worm, was acting out of righteous anger and a desire for revenge. Cersei certainly deserved what was coming for her, and so did Euron. The rest, the rest was …well, what the previous episode had already set up, the coin landing on the side of madness when it comes to Daenerys.
And again, this isn’t a OMG SHE’S A WOMAN HOW DARE YOU MAKE A WOMAN A VILLAIN kinda thing, this is a YOU DIDN’T FREAKING SET THIS UP RIGHT kinda complaint, I promise. For 7+ seasons Daenerys was a kind, just ruler, and even when she went a bit overboard, it felt like she had a reason to. She certainly never seemed the type to, you know, lose it and burn everyone and everything to the ground.
Which is why the whole “struggle” for power doesn’t work at the beginning of the episode. We love Jon, and we trust him, but we have no reason to want him on the throne more than we do Daenerys, and Varys saying so isn’t a reason. And yes, Daenerys hands us a pretty damn big one at the end of the episode, but to that I just have to say: how freaking convenient.
Look, as always, it isn’t about what a show does – it’s about how they do it. This ending for Danerys could have felt earned, and there was a way to set up everything, from Jon’s lineage reveal to Daenerys losing it in a way that would have had us rooting for what I imagine will be the inevitable conclusion – Jon killing Daenerys.
This just wasn’t it.
WHERE’S MY JAIME LANNISTER?
Not here. This isn’t him. Is he back in the North with Brienne? Or is this what the writers have always thought of him? Was his whole redemption arc a “twist”? Do I just have to swear off show-Jaime and declare book-Jaime the one and only from now on?
The show has, admittedly, bungled his redemption arc over and over again, with the rape they didn’t think was rape, the whole going back to Cersei, and even the fact that it took him literally seeing the army of the dead to come to his senses. But the first three episodes of season 8 seemed to bring back the Jaime he was always meant to be, so like I said in my last review, we played ourselves and expected better.
I can’t even muster the rage I know I should feel at this, because a part of me is just …empty. I’ve gone through the stages of grief much quicker in regards to this show than I have with Avengers: Endgame, I’m not going to lie. There I’m still stuck in anger, here I’ve moved right ahead to acceptance.
Let’s not mince words here, though, Jaime was done dirty, his fans were done dirty, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau – who nonetheless managed a hell of a performance – was done dirty, and worst of all, the show managed to throw away seasons and seasons of setup to, eh, give Lena and Nikolaj a chance at a final scene together? Have someone else running around the Red Keep so our attention would be diverted?
Who the hell knows? I’m not even sure the writers know, because they didn’t exactly have him expressly state WHY he was doing what he did, he just went ahead, dumb decision that made no sense after dumb decision that made no sense, no explanation needed! Which is pretty much the Game of Thrones season 8 mood anyway, let’s do whatever, assume people understand our reasoning, even if we could have made our reasoning obvious with, you know, better storytelling, and call it a day. We’re Game of Thrones, after all. We don’t need to explain shit.
Eh, newsflash, you do. And all of the shit you have done this season would have been better served by 2-4 more episodes of you know, exposition. It would have still been a shitty ending, because this is, objectively, a shitty ending, but at least it would have been one that made sense.
Game of Thrones threw us a bone this episode by not killing Arya, because hey, if we’re gonna fuck everyone else up, at least we’re gonna make sure you ALL know that the Starks were always the only characters you should have been rooting for.
To be fair, the Arya story is the only one that sorta makes sense, because they’ve set up every stage of it correctly. Yes, Arya has been consumed by revenge, so much that she’s lost sight of everything, even life. Yes, Arya faced the Night King, and that could have been the thing that got her to this point, but while Cersei was still around, while that final name on her list was still alive, Arya didn’t feel like she could move on. All of that is understandable.
As it’s understandable that something would jar Arya, would remind her that there’s still a life out there to be led. She might not want to be a lady, but there’s a lot between lady and killer, she could find many things to be, and more importantly, she wouldn’t have to be alone.
But of course, this is Game of Thrones, so when a character learns a lesson, that lesson has to be re-learned, over and over again, till it freaking sticks, and that’s what the final sequence with Arya running away is. That, and of course, it’s all about giving us one win as they make Daenerys go mad and drop a rock on Jaime (and Cersei).
And hey, I’m not going to say I’m not glad Arya might get a happy ending. She deserves it. But so do a lot of characters who aren’t gonna get one, so…
Things I think I think:
- Nothing infuriates me more than episodes where characters have to act stupid for the plot to work.
- Stupid AND out of character.
- In fact, it seems like the only person acting in character in this whole thing is Jon.
- Well, and Davos.
- Emilia Clarke rarely gets credit for her role on Game of Thrones, and to be fair, she hasn’t had to do anything too hard, acting wise so far. This episode, however, she does a beautiful joy of showing us broken Dany, and if the transformation even remotely works, it’s because Emilia is giving it 120%
- It must be pointed out that, for book readers, Daenerys’ transformation makes more sense. She is, after all, a POV character in the books, and we’ve spent a LONG time in her head. The show, however, prioritized shock over, you know, laying the proper groundwork for you know, THIS.
- And the same thing could be said about Jaime’s arc, at this point Book-Jaime is frankly a different, MUCH BETTER character.
- Sansa, you should be glad you were nowhere around here for them to ruin your character even further.
- Did anyone care about the Clegane Bowl? Anyone?
- Peter Dinklage and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau gave me all the feels in their one scene together, a really hard thing to do considering how stupid the situation they were in was.
- So, all in all, kudos to these actors. They’ve done the best they can with literal nonsense.
- For the rest, well, there’s fanfiction!
Agree? Disagree? Share with us in the comments below!
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.