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  • Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 is The Bells.

  • It starts with Varys, writing letters about Jon's Targaryen identity.

  • He's spreading the word and getting support for Jon to be King.

  • Varys speaks with Martha, one of his spies or little birds.

  • Apparently, she and Varys are trying to poison Daenerys . So Varys is betraying Daenerys, and now supports Jon.

  • Varys tells Jon that he would be a good king , which might not be true.

  • Jon is good at leading and fighting, but he has no experience with southern politicswith

  • council meetings, plots and intrigue.

  • Jon is a lot like his uncle Nedan honourable honest northman.

  • And Ned only lasted a season in the capital before he was outplayed and killed.

  • Jon only lasted as Commander of the Night's Watch for a season before he was killed.

  • Meanwhile Daenerys has been learning to rule for eight seasons.

  • So why is Varys so sure that Jon would be a better ruler?

  • Varys saysevery time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath” .

  • It's a common saying, because while some Targaryen kings have been wise

  • and good, others have been violent and cruel, like Dany's father the Mad King.

  • Varys is worried that Dany might snap and burn King's Landing . As it turns out, he's

  • right, but up until now, Dany's been very reasonable in her conquest of Westeros.

  • She tried all of Tyrion's stupid plans to end the war peacefully, and she came north

  • to save the world from white walkers, when she could've just taken the Throne.

  • She's doing all the right things, so why is Varys is so certain she's nuts that he tries to poison her?

  • Varys had once supported Viserys Targaryen, but Daenerys is too crazy for him?

  • In the books, Varys has totally different motivations, that make a lot more sensego watch that video.

  • But here, he supports Jon over Daenerys.

  • Jon says he's loyal to Dany, that she's his queen.

  • But Varys saysMen decide where power resides” . This refers to Varys' riddle in Season 2 .

  • The idea is that kings and priests and money only have power if people believe they have power.

  • Jon sees power in Daenerys, but he could choose to see power in himself.

  • Tyrion finds out about Varys' betrayal and tells Daenerys . And Daenerys is unsurprised,

  • she's numb to any more loss.

  • She had begged Jon not to reveal his identity, but he told Sansa, and Sansa told Tyrion,

  • to Varys, who used it to betray Daenerys . All of her allies have failed her.

  • Missandei Rhaegal and Jorah are dead.

  • Dany feels there is no one she can trustlike everyone's against her, no matter what she does.

  • Daenerys executes Varys, and he calmly accepts his fate.

  • He was willing to risk his life for the sake of the realm.

  • Tyrion tells Varys that he snitched on him to Dany . Tyrion feels guilty for betraying

  • one of his only friends. They say farewell, and Dany burns Varys alive, just as she promised

  • she would. Daenerys and Grey Worm grieve for Missandei.

  • Grey Worm throws her old slave collar into fireMissandei's last word was dracarys, which means dragonfire.

  • So Dany and Grey Worm will express their grief in fiery violence.

  • Daenerys confronts Jon for telling Sansa about his identity, even though she begged him not to.

  • Can Daenerys rely on her lover Jon?

  • She kisses him, but he pulls away.

  • He was disturbed to see her burn Varys, so Jon's not too keen on macking his aunt.

  • With even Jon rejecting her, Dany feels that no one in Westeros loves her.

  • She decides to use fear to take power. Dany decides to attack King's Landing.

  • Tyrion warns that that would kill thousands of innocents , but Dany says that's worth

  • it if they can remove Cersei.

  • And that's not an unusual attitude in Westeros.

  • When the lords make war, common folk die.

  • Like, twenty years ago, the Lannisters killed many innocent people in King's Landing removing

  • the Mad King . But Tyrion hopes for Daenerys to take the capital peacefullyhe says

  • if the city bells ring, that means they've surrendered, so the attack can stop.

  • Dany agrees, but she's clearly keen for fire and blood.

  • Arya and the Hound pass through the war camp.

  • Arya says she's going to kill Cersei.

  • If she mentioned that earlier, Daenerys could have held off the attack.

  • There'd be no need for battle and no dead civilians if Arya snuck in and killed Cersei.

  • But Arya's too edgy and cool to share her plans with Jon.

  • Tyrion frees Jaimehe was captured by Daenerys trying to get to Cersei .

  • Tyrion wants Jaime to convince Cersei to surrender, so that the people of King's Landing won't die.

  • It's funny that Tyrion is trying so hard to save these people, when in Season 4,

  • he said wanted to kill the people of King's Landing . In the books, Tyrion's still in

  • this dark, vengeful place, but in the show, Daenerys has changed Tyrion's worldview,

  • inspired him to believe in a better world.

  • Jaime doesn't believe in a better world.

  • He says he never cared about the people of King's Landingwhich is weird, because

  • Jaime once killed his king to save the people of King's Landingto stop the Mad King from burning the city.

  • Maybe this is just Jaime using his Kingslayer persona again.

  • He's acting cruel and careless to hide how conflicted he really is.

  • Over the last eight seasons, Jaime's grown beyond that Kingslayer persona.

  • He left Cersei and risked his life to fight for the living with Brienne.

  • But now he's suddenly regressing back to the selfish person he used to be.

  • Tyrion gets Davos to put a boat outside the Red Keep so that Jaime and Cersei can escape.

  • Jaime once saved Tyrion's life, so now Tyrion tries to save his. The brothers have a heartfelt farewell.

  • In the capital, Cersei prepares to defend her Throne.

  • She brings common people up around the Red Keepthinking that Daenerys won't wanna

  • hurt innocent people . The Golden Company, and Euron's fleet are defending the city, until Daenerys attacks.

  • She flies down from above, with the sun behind her, and wipes out the entire Iron Fleet,

  • even though the Fleet has dozens of scorpion ballistas . Last episode, Euron hit the dragon

  • Rhaegal with three scorpion bolts.

  • Daenerys and Drogon couldn't handle just eleven of Euron's ships.

  • This time, Euron has over a hundred ships, and Daenerys destroys them all.

  • She also burns the dozens of scorpions on the city walls , and not one scorpion bolt hits.

  • The scorpions went from a huge threat to a non-issue in one episode.

  • The same thing happens with the Golden Company.

  • Cersei went to a lot of trouble to hire these guys, borrowing money from Iron Bank, having

  • Euron ship them cross the sea.

  • Cersei says they'rethe most powerful army in Essos” . But Daenerys wipes them

  • out before they can do anything.

  • Her soldiers attack, and quickly overwhelm the Lannisters.

  • So the show leads us to believe that we'll get a big epic battle between the good guys and bad guys.

  • But the show subverts that by having Daenerys easily stomp Cersei's army.

  • It leads us to question whether Dany and Jon really are the good guys.

  • A lot of these shots echo the Battle of the Bastards, except now Jon is on the other side.

  • And it gets worse from here.

  • The Lannisters surrender, and the city bells ring.

  • So Daenerys achieves the impossible.

  • She takes the capital with very few deaths.

  • She can just go to the Red Keep, arrest Cersei, end the war, so Dany can take the Throne

  • as a peaceful queen, a liberator and protector of the people.

  • This is what Daenerys always wanted, but when it happens, she doesn't feel happy.

  • She only feels grief and anger. She's lost Missandei, and Rhaegal, and Jorah.

  • Everyone's turned against her, despite all her sacrifices.

  • She feels alone , and overwhelmed, and she snaps . She burns the city and the innocent people in it.

  • She spends the rest of the episode systematically destroying King's Landing.

  • By the end, most of the city is afire, and there are a million people in there.

  • So Daenerys kills hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children, not for any strategic

  • reason, but because she's angry.

  • And sure, maybe she's inspiring fear to force people to follow her. But it's clear

  • from the scene, and from interviews with actors and showrunners, that this isn't a political

  • calculation, this is an emotional outburst that leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

  • This is more death and destruction than anyone has ever caused in Game of Thrones.

  • Tywin and Cersei and Ramsay never killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.

  • Only the white walkers are that badso Daenerys is arguably as evil as the Night King.

  • He brought an apocalypse of ice, now she brings an apocalypse of firewhich nicely sums

  • up the Robert Frost poem that inspired this seriesthe world could end in ice or fire,

  • either would suffice. So there is meaning hereit's about how human conflict is

  • just as destructive as magic white walkerslike, the humans defeated the zombies,

  • but turns out that humans were real monsters all along.

  • It's kind of a cliché, but author George Martin always said that Thrones isn't about

  • good guys and bad guys , it's aboutthe human heart in conflict with itself” . Human

  • nature is what destroys King's Landing, so this disaster does fit with the themes of the series.

  • But how does it fit Dany's character?

  • Is she really this evil?

  • Daenerys has always struggled to balance violence and vengeance against peace and compromise.

  • She wants to be a fair ruler, but sometimes she gets angry, and does violence that isn't politically smart or just.

  • Like in Season 4, she crucified a hundred Masters . In Season 5, she fed Masters to

  • her dragons, even though she said some might beinnocent” . And in Season 7, she burned the Tarlys.

  • Some of these might be justifiable, but they were killings motivated by anger, a Targaryen urge for fire and blood.

  • And Dany's often wanted to go further, to let her dragons loose and to burn all her enemies.

  • In Season 2, she threatens Qarth, saying she'llburn cities to the ground” . In Season 4,

  • she decides to kill every Master in Yunkai , and in Season 6, to kill the Meereenese,

  • toreturn their cities to the dirt” . Both these times, Daenerys' advisors convince

  • her not to wipe out cities.

  • Jorah and Tyrioncheck her worst impulses” . So in Season 8, when Jorah's dead, and

  • Dany's lost faith in Tyrion, there's no one to hold her back.

  • She expresses her grief and rage in fire and blood.

  • When Aegon the Conqueror's sister died, Aegon burned every castle and keep in Dorne,

  • the civilian deaths wereuncountable” . This is what Targaryens do, this is what

  • dragons representdestruction, fire, fury.

  • But why would Daenerys attack civilians?

  • Part of what defines her as a character is her sympathy for the common people, for the weak and innocent.

  • Cause as a child, Daenerys herself was treated as a slave.

  • Abused by her brother, sold to Drogo, used and raped.

  • So as soon as she starts getting power, she uses it to protect the vulnerable.

  • She saves Lhazarene women, she protects her khalasar.

  • She spends three seasons liberating slaves.

  • Daenerys once locked away her dragons to prevent them from hurting kids.

  • So, angry or not, murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents goes against one of the foundations

  • of Daenerys'character.

  • If this happens in the books, we might see a more gradual progression into this violence,

  • so we can better understand why she does this.

  • Or the situation could be different, like maybe Dany will only kill the people at the

  • Red Keep, who are in the way of the Throne.

  • Or she could will accidentally burn the city, by setting off this wildfirethe wildfire's

  • left over from when the Mad King tried to burn the city, so Daenerys is unknowingly

  • ignites her father's legacy.

  • Whatever her reasons, Daenerys has become what she came to destroyshe's queen

  • of the ashes, a bringer of death, a tyrant.

  • Grey Worm sparks violence on the ground, attacking the Lannisters who'd surrendered, to avenge the death of Missandei.

  • And the Stark soldiers join in.

  • They also have reason to hate the LannistersLannisters killed their beloved Ned and

  • King Robb, and gave the North to the brutal Boltons.

  • Thousands of northmen died in wars against the Lannisters, so now they get revenge.

  • It's a bit like in the books, when northmen march against the Boltons, and a northman

  • called Big Bucket Wull saysLet me bathe in Bolton blood before I die”.

  • There's a tradition in the north for older northmen to get themselves killed before winter,

  • so that their families have one less mouth to feed . Many the northmen who came south

  • with Jon might not be planning to return.

  • So it's no surprise that this becomes a bloodbath.

  • Jon watches in horror as his men slaughter and rape civilians.

  • In Season 3, Jorah saysThere's a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a

  • sword in his hand” . We like to think of the northmen as good guys.

  • But the story shows how even people with good intentions can become monsters in war.

  • Arya and the Hound reach the Keep, and the Hound tells her to turn back.

  • Arya wants to kill Cersei and finish her death list.

  • But the Hound tells her not to become like him.

  • The Hound's been obsessed with revenge all his lifeever since his brother the Mountain burned his face.

  • That anger and bitterness is why the Hound is so lonely, cynical and unhappy.

  • If Arya kills Cersei, it'll only take her deeper into violence and alienation.

  • The Hound says if she stays here, she'll dieshe could die literally from the collapsing

  • castle, but she could also die metaphorically, if her humanity is consumed by violence and

  • hatelike how Meera said that Brandied”.

  • So Arya chooses life, and turns back from the precipice.

  • She thanks the Hound, and calls him Sandor, his real name . It's a final moment of human

  • connection between Arya and Sandor Clegane.

  • So Arya turns back, but the Hound thinks it's too late for him.

  • He goes and finds his brother.

  • These two have wanted to kill each other for years, and here at

  • the end of the world seems as good a time as any.

  • Qyburn orders the Mountain to stay, but he disobeys, and kills his creator.

  • Remember, the Mountain had been all but dead when Qyburn raised him as a zombie man with

  • some mix of science and necromancy.

  • Qyburn is like Dr Frankenstein, and the Mountain is his monster, so it's neatly poetic for

  • Qyburn to be killed by his creation.

  • We see the Mountain's face is all rotted, and no matter what the Hound does to him,

  • he won't die.

  • Cause Gregor is already deadthe brother who burned Sandor is long gone, all that's

  • left is a walking corpse.

  • This shows the pointlessness of and emptiness of revenge.

  • The Hound will never find happiness by killing a dead man.

  • But the Hound feels this can only end with death, so he takes the Mountain down with

  • him, pushing him through a wall into the fires below.

  • Fire is what started their beef when Gregor burned Sandorand fire is only thing that

  • could kill the undead Mountain.

  • So the brothers burn together.

  • Jaime tries to reach Cersei by a passage to the Red Keep, but he's stopped by Euron.

  • Euron survived Dany's attack on his fleet, and he rises from the seathe ironborn

  • have a ritual of drowning themselves then being revived – “What is dead may never die”,

  • But rises again, harder and stronger” . Euron starts a fight with Jaimethey've

  • been rivals for Cersei's love since last season.

  • Jaime kills Euron, but Jaime's badly wounded, so Euron's happy that he's the man who

  • killed Jaime Lannister . Euron in the show is a simple man with simple goals.

  • He wanted to be a king, to fuck the queen, and to kill Jaimeand with that done, he dies content.

  • Jaime gets to Cersei, and the twins embrace as the world falls down around them.

  • They try to escape, but their passage is blocked by rubble.

  • Cersei had stayed defiant while Daenerys burned the city, but now she breaks down and cries

  • for the life of her baby and herself, cause deep down, Cersei's only human.

  • Jaime tells her that she and him are the only things that matter in the world , just as they said in Season 1.

  • And then the roof collapses and they die.

  • This is a poetic end for Cersei.

  • She's crushed beneath the Red Keep, the symbol of the power that she wanted so badly

  • that it destroyed her.

  • Cersei could have saved herself at any time in the last couple seasons.

  • But Cersei couldn't let go of power, and so it collapsed upon her.

  • Cersei's pregnancy plotline went nowhereall that stuff about whether Jaime or

  • Euron was the father, and whether the baby would make Cersei cooperative

  • Maybe the showrunners thought that a baby would humanise Cersei, as though the motherhood

  • is the only relatable aspect of Cersei's deep complex character.