Warning: Very confusing spoilers for the latest episode of Game of Thrones below!
You know what? I'll just come right out and say it — this season of Game of Thrones has been an utter and complete disappointment. Although I know that showunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss can't please everyone with their story choices (and should never be expected to bend to the will of fans), I've found myself overwhelmed lately as I've watched beloved, intelligent characters act in ways that are completely foreign to their personalities and do things that make little to no sense.
Season eight's fifth episode, "The Bells," takes the most disconcerting plot twists yet. From anticlimactic deaths to battle tactics that would make even the most cursory Game of Thrones fan shake their heads, the entire episode is a confusing mishmash of bad decisions. Ahead, I'm breaking down the most egregious.
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Tyrion has always made a point of highlighting his intelligence, noting that even though he doesn't have the physical strength of his enemies, he has more than enough cleverness to make up for it. So . . . um . . . where the hell is that version of Tyrion? The Tyrion we've grown to know and love over the last eight years? Because I have to imagine that that Tyrion wouldn't have sold out Varys, one of his few remaining friends, to Daenerys in such casual fashion. After all, Varys was only acting for the good of the realm — he could see that Dany was about to embark on a path of fiery destruction, with the innocent citizens of King's Landing paying for her fury.
To be fair, if Varys was indeed attempting to poison the dragon queen, then Tyrion's act of betrayal would make a bit more sense. But we have to imagine that he would have been able to figure out a way to either smuggle Varys out, or discuss what the Master of Whisperers was doing before it was too late. As it stands, Tyrion's decision comes off shortsighted at best and cruel at worst. The only silver lining is that, by the end of "The Bells," the look on Tyrion's face as he stares out into the smoking ruins of the city makes it clear that he's flooded with regret for his continued faith in Daenerys.
In last week's episode, "The Last of the Starks," Daenerys is caught off guard by Euron's Iron Fleet on her way to Dragonstone. As a result, Rhaegal is shot down after getting pierced by multiple spears launched from Euron's handy collection of massive wooden crossbows (known as Scorpions). Although I'm elated that Drogon makes it out of the following episode alive, it's bizarre to see him and Dany effortlessly dodge and weave around Euron's Scorpions this time around, with the airborne spears not even coming close to hitting them.
So, what's the deal? Did all the soldiers in Euron and the Golden Company's armies suddenly forget how those XXXL crossbows worked? Did they all go blind? Or just completely forget how to aim? Daenerys approaches the fleet of ships in the same exact fashion as before — i.e. flying directly at them — so it's odd that 1) not a single one of the weapons comes close to hitting her or Drogon, and 2) that she is easily able to swoop down and light her enemies on fire. Why couldn't she have done that last week, taking out Euron's fleet before the hubbub at King's Landing? Something isn't adding up.
For all the buildup about the Essos band of sellswords joining Cersei's cause, the army actually has remarkably little impact during Daenerys's siege of King's Landing. Like, so little impact that Dany and Drogon blow them all to smithereens in a matter of seconds, and the stragglers are picked off by the Unsullied and Dothraki forces charging into the gates immediately after. There isn't some grand, near-death fight between Harry Strickland and Jon Snow, or even a little hand-to-hand combat between him and a vengeful Grey Worm. It seems strange that the show wasted time on them at all at the beginning of the season, though I guess I'm still grateful for all those elephant memes.
As you'll recall, Daenerys decides to have the Dothraki be the first wave of offense against the White Walker army in season eight's third episode, "The Long Night." And, in a terrifying sequence, we watch as hundreds of them charge into the darkness across the battlefield, swords blazing, only to be extinguished in a matter of seconds by the tidal wave of sentient, murderous icicles heading their way. Only a very small handful of them are able to escape and come riding back led by Jorah.
And then, because apparently the Dothraki are able to magically rise from the dead without the assistance of the Night King or Qyburn, they're all suddenly back in action in episode five, ready to lay waste to King's Landing at Dany's command. It's a problem that could've easily been fixed by Dany briefly mentioning something like, "Oh, thank god I held back that giant chunk of the Dothraki army from fighting the wights that night," or, "A bunch of the Dothraki went on a quick snack run during the Night King's arrival, but they're back now." But, uh, she didn't. So here we all are, confused as ever.
Since Cersei is well aware that Daenerys has the power of a fire-breathing dragon on her side, wouldn't it make sense that she'd decide to take out as many men as she could, instead? There have been multiple discussions about how the Lannister army and the Golden Company outnumber Dany's crew and the North. Why wouldn't the evil queen order her men to attack the smaller enemy force that arrives outside the gate of King's Landing, rather than having each army just stare at each other, waiting for a big ol' dragon to come flying in and f*ck sh*t up? Surely Cersei's army would've had an easier time going head-to-head with their foes before they were charbroiled by Drogon.
Fans of George R.R. Martin's novels have repeatedly pointed out how different this character is between the page and the screen, going from a calculating villain to Jack Sparrow Lite. In the show, not a lot about Euron makes sense, which is cemented during his final moments in "The Bells." After surviving a disastrous attempt to shoot down Drogon, he swims ashore and comes upon Jaime trying to sneak into the Red Keep. Instead of . . . I don't know . . . joining Jaime to go protect Cersei (who he thinks is the mother of his child, FYI), Euron decides to swagger over and taunt Jaime about who's been sleeping with the queen. And then try to kill him for . . . clout? Because he's bored? Because he's a lunatic? Again: nothing about this character makes sense. This was merely a lazy way to "dramatically" kill him off and make Jaime's mission a little harder (I guess?), which in turn only made me wish Euron died in Drogon's fire, instead. Good riddance.
When Jaime reunites with Cersei at the end of the episode and they die in each other's arms, I said, out loud, "You've GOT to be KIDDING me." That's how shocking and upsetting it was to see the redemption arc that the series has been building for Jaime dismantled in a single episode in such careless fashion. What was the point of having him strike up a (brief) romance with Brienne? Why did he ride North to defend the living? Why did he make such a show of abandoning Cersei in the first place? In the end, like most of the other storylines discussed in this post, this proves to be a colossal waste of time when he seemingly gets a brain transplant and flip-flops on his entire plan out of nowhere.
Yes, Jaime has always had an unhealthy addiction to his sister/lover/mother of his children. Game of Thrones has shown that time and time again, proving repeatedly that their relationship is nothing but toxic. She's his addiction. It's because of how well the writers have fleshed out the insidious, cyclical nature of their bond that makes Jaime's choice all the more disappointing.
His final scene with Cersei in the crypts beneath the Red Keep has a sheen of tragic romance to it; two lovers dying in each other's arms, unable to see anything other than their love and desire for each other. ("Nothing else matters. Nothing else matters, only us.") This is a grave disservice to Jaime, who we've seen pull himself out of his familial addiction and rise above, proving to those around him that he's truly a man of honor. In the last handful of seasons we've witnessed Jaime evolve into a new character entirely, one worthy of praise. Why would the showrunners have given him such a lame, unfulfilling death? Have we been watching different shows?
Cersei has carved out a spot for herself as one of TV's greatest villains. From the very first episode, she's confident, cunning, ruthless, and power-hungry. She has no qualms about stabbing someone in the back or destroying lives, so long as it protects her children. She's evil, yes, but she's a delight to watch — few women on TV have been allowed to be this vicious, this powerful, this bloodthirsty. (And all while sipping wine on a castle balcony.) The Night King might have been the show's flashiest big bad, but Cersei was always going to be the most challenging piece to knock off the board.
Taking all that into account, why — WHY!!!! — did David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decide that her final seconds should be spent weeping into Jaime's shoulder as they're buried in rubble? We didn't get to see her clawing for life until the end, or even a final confrontation between her and Daenerys. (Can you even imagine the high-quality burns they would've exchanged?! I feel denied!) Instead, Cersei spends much of the episode drinking from her goblet and passively observing the chaos in King's Landing from high above in her perch.
Sure, that can be chalked up to a queen in denial that she's finally been bested. Maybe. But the way she dies? A sniveling, scared shell of the fierce lioness who used to fight tooth and nail for her kids (including the unborn baby in her stomach)? No way. The person we see buried alive in the crypts isn't Cersei. Not by a long shot.
Since we're on the topic of Cersei's exit, can we talk a bit about why Dany never has Drogon fly her up to the Red Keep where Cersei is watching? The fact she chooses to burn the city and its inhabitants alive rather than using Drogon's fire to take out Cersei is absurd. Daenerys has mentioned over and over again that they need to work together to rip Cersei's hold on Westeros out by the roots. You can't tell me that she suddenly decided the evil queen wasn't the real threat, and that it was actually the innocent people living in the city who deserved her wrath instead. That's nonsensical, no matter how "mad" you think Dany is. She could've easily flown up there, had Drogon take a quick bite out of Qyburn and the Mountain, and then gotten some searing last words in before roasting Cersei like a marshmallow. That is the type of ending Cersei deserved.
OK, fine — maybe Arya's reason for living has since shifted now that she's reunited with Sansa, Bran, and Jon and rediscovered the importance of family. But for the majority of her life, she's been fueled by pure, unadulterated rage, and the promise of one day getting her revenge on behalf of the Starks. Cersei has always been at the top of her infamous kill list, and so I'm sure I'm not the only fan who was itching to see her have some sort of confrontation with the Lannister queen. But, just like a potential showdown with Daenerys, Cersei slips out of the castle without so much as a word.
As for Arya, she's quickly talked out of her mission to kill Cersei by the Hound. Even though she journeys all the way to King's Landing with him from Winterfell. Even though they manage to make it through the fleeing crowds and falling rubble. Even though they come within spitting distance of Cersei. Am I happy Arya turned around and left, and therefore wasn't inside the Red Keep when it fell? Yeah. But do I think Arya actually would have abandoned the mission that's kept her going all these years after a few kind words from the Hound? Abso-freakin'-lutely not.