6 Takeaways from Game of Thrones: Season 8, Episode 5

May 13, 2019

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The horrific fog of The Last War hangs heavy over a lot of us today. I'm not surprised that the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones was named "The Bells," since Tyrion said "the bells" approximately 15 times in 10 minutes: that's the lack of subtlety that this final season has become known for, sadly. This is a great thread explaining how we got here, from a writing perspective. But honestly, this is the show we've always known, set in a world that's been cruel and unfair from the moment a little boy was pushed out a window. To paraphrase Ramsay Bolton, if we thought this would have a happy ending, we weren't paying attention. That doesn't make it hurt any less. 

1) "They ruined her," I yelled at my TV when Dany turned Drogon's flames on the people of King's Landing. I desperately wanted the Targaryen coin flip to go the other way. Yes, Dany said way back in Season 2 that she would take what was hers with fire and blood - and there was a lot of both before last night - but there was so much good in her too. Poor Dany has lost so much on her journey to the Iron Throne, and she wasn’t wrong about any of the things she told Tyrion OR Jon. She's been lied to and betrayed. She feels alone in a land that doesn't love her. ​And when Jon couldn't - or wouldn't - make the choice to love her the way she wants, then fear and rage took over. Those bells were a call for mercy, but it's not the kind Dany is capable of giving right now. We'll see what else that costs her.

2) When Tyrion gave up Varys to be executed, we still had hope that the Spider was wrong about Dany. Those were the days. Now we're left wondering if any of his messages about AeJon made it out of Dragonstone, and to whom they were sent, and if it will even matter. Varys saved his life once upon a time, but Tyrion chose his queen. Except when he chooses releasing her prisoner, his brother. (And what happened the last time Tyrion tried to tell someone he loved to escape King’s Landing for a new life in Pentos? Oh Shae.) The brothers really did love each other. That goodbye made me feel things. “Tens of thousands of innocent lives. One not particularly innocent dwarf. Seems like a fair trade,” Tyrion says. Now that he has failed Dany for the last time, and none of those lives were saved, what happens to him?

3) Let me get irrational for a second with this takeaway: I was so wrong about Jaime going back to King's Landing to kill Cersei, and I'm mad about it. Mostly for my ego, but also for Brienne, who deserved better, and for Jaime himself, who made it thisclose to redeeming himself. I mean, in this very episode, Jaime fondly recalls how Cersei used to call him the stupidest Lannister. Theirs has always been a toxic relationship, based on what feels familiar and safe in a time of uncertainty, even if it's not. It seems so obvious that the twins were going to die together, but "not like this" indeed. Cersei wasn't visible enough in this season for me to feel anything about her sadness at never meeting their last child. And if I never hear "Rains of Castamere" again it'll be too soon. Grumble.

4) If only Arya had stuck around for a few moments, she could have gotten the drop on Cersei as the queen caaaasually slipped past Clegane Bowl. I wish that the Hound could have learned the lesson he left her with, that no one really wins a fight for revenge. I resent being reminded of Oberyn's death, one of the most truly horrifying we witnessed, and I may have rolled my eyes when it was fire that ended what fire started. (See above paragraph about subtlety.) But Qyburn’s death was truly unexpected so there's that. 

5) As jarring as it was that we went from the scorpions being unstoppable dragon killers to snapping like kindling in a campfire, it was also satisfying to watch Dany destroy her enemies' defenses in such an orderly fashion. For a brief moment, when the Lannister swords dropped, I hoped that would be all the fire and blood we saw that day. But it was never going to end like that. You can’t usher in an era of peace riding on a flamethrower. Maybe Dany wanted to raze the city in front of Cersei, to take away her loyal subjects like Cersei took away Missandei. Maybe she just snapped under the weight of all her loss, even as victory was in her grasp. But we know this: "The Last War" was horrifying, brutal, ugly, and preventable...

6) ...so now it seems it's up to Jon, who remains stubbornly black and white in a world full of gray, to decide how the show ends. I don't know how things will play out between him and Dany, but I hope with all my heart that he rejects the Iron Throne and destroys it after all this. The Game is the most toxic relationship of all, and the only winning move is not to play. Destroy the objective, and no one else has to die for it. Throw the Throne in the fires of Mount Doom, FroJon Baggaryen. Maybe get your loyal friend Sam to help. And then, how about a nice game of chess?

Final thoughts: does a pale horse with a pale rider mean Arya's gonna kill a queen after all? Euron was useless, and good riddance. And Ser Davos needs to start gambling, because surviving yet another battle makes him the luckiest man in Westeros. 

Need more laughs with your Game of Thrones recap? How about our most recent episode of Sock Puppet Theatre?