Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review: The Bells

Unfortunately, Jaime is off during this on his own very unsatisfying arc’s conclusion. Last week, I’d wrongly assumed he was planning to kill Cersei and was doing the generic bit of bad writing where he lets Brienne down gently on his decision to do so in order to prevent her joining him. As it turns out, he really did run back to Cersei. This I struggle with being Martin’s choice more so than I do Daenerys’ bloodthirst. Would Jaime really throw away his entire character arc? If so, like Dany’s heel turn, it wasn’t written in a satisfying fashion, especially since last week’s episode (which more and more I’m coming to disdain in retrospect) set-up that collapse of character in a single, rushed, and poorly conceived scene.

Be that as it may, the irony is if I remove the failures of last week, I see the cleverness in his and Cersei’s final fate. Not the Euron Greyjoy stuff, because this fight sucked like everything else involving Euron and should’ve never seen the light of day. But ignoring what is easily the worst scene of the night where Kraken boy wasted valuable screen time dying when he should’ve just gone down with his ship—and barring the one hilarious moment of Cersei realizing that standing around for Clegane Bowl is a fool’s errand and quietly escorting herself out the door—the Lannister twins’ fate is well served by anti-climax. We all wanted to see Jaime kill Cersei. Or Tyrion. Or Arya. Seven hells, just let the dragon eat her! But when it feels like the world is ending, it suddenly becomes pointless. Benioff and Weiss spell it out in a speech by the Hound, but it was already clear when she saw Dany burning a path of fire down her city’s streets that Cersei is doomed. Suddenly it becomes irrelevant who kills her.

I know that many will take umbrage over the fact that Cersei’s death was by design a disappointment, but to me it is one of the episode’s strongest elements. Other than the Mountain and the Hound, which plays out like a Metal band’s album cover, nothing in this series happens like it does in the storybooks. Neither Robb or Catelyn, or even Arya, avenge Ned Stark’s death. Joffrey is poisoned at his own wedding by unknown forces and dies a pathetic child in his grieving mother’s arms. Arya and Jon likewise fail to avenge the Red Wedding by getting its chief mastermind. Rather Tywin Lannister is murdered by his son while taking a crap on the privy, not even being allowed to pull his pants up before the God of Death collects its due.

I wanted Jaime to kill Cersei. Instead he attempts to save her and winds up being as feckless at that as he was at getting inside the Red Keep in time. He and Cersei die like their oldest son, meek and pitiful as they hold each other in front of a deadend. Noticeably, he has his hands around her neck. Is this the prophecy Maggy the Frog foretold, which suggested Cersei would die with the “valanqor” killing her with his hands around her throat? Technically no since Maggy specifically said the little brother (and Jaime is younger than Cersei, if by a few minutes) would strangle her to death. But the valnaqor prophecy was never actually stated the show. The flashback to Maggy only predicted the death of her three children and a younger queen casting her down, all of which came true. It’s clear now that Benioff and Weiss left out that bit of prophecy on purpose, but how this will differ then from Martin’s ending, and how much this angers fans, will be discussed until the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

Nonetheless, I appreciated Cersei and Jaime’s meager death. While we got fan service with Littlefinger and Ramsay’s demises, history is littered with its villains committing suicide in bunkers or dying of natural causes. Cersei and Jaime died, and with the world falling apart, does it really matter who gets the credit?

The Hound is right before committing to the most fan service-y moment in Game of Thrones history. With a dragon burning the Red Keep to the ground, our previous grievances of who gets to kill who seems awfully petty. Mind you Sandor Clegane goes on to embrace his own pettiness, but he knows doing so is a nihilistic choice. Given we’ve already seen one beloved character give in to nihilism, it was almost therapeutic that Arya Stark did not follow Sandor up those stairs. Although what was waiting up there was the most epic showdown match since the Red Viper fought the Mountain in another bit of thwarted expectation. Still, it’s nice to know five years later that Oberyn Martell definitely killed Ser Gregor Clegane in their duel, because this Franken-monstrosity proves more unkillable than a zombie.

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