Game of Thrones usually has a great number of critical reviews but season eight for some reason couldn’t get the formula right. That was until this morning. The fifth episode of season eight, titled 'The Bells,' dropped without any leaks and managed to brutalise our senses at the crack of dawn. After an underwhelming Battle of Winterfell, the makers made up for the loss in faith with an action-packed war sequence.
Episode four ended with Lord Varys putting across a veiled threat to Tyrion, revealing his plans to thwart Daenerys. The Bells carries on from that moment and just when you think the citizens of Kings Landing will be spared from a rampaging Daenerys, Varys’ betrayal is discovered and he’s killed. The episode doesn’t go straight to the battle of King's Landing but attempts to clear out loose ends first, Varys’ betrayal being one of them. Daenerys’ agitation and ruthlessness is exposed in a span of a few minutes as she maintains a stoic face and issues threats.
Political and personal relationships are strained as the power-obsessed Dany considers Jon to have betrayed her. It seems like she’s harbouring hatred on the Starks since Jon has told his sisters that he’s actually Aegon Targaryen. She also notes that the people love Jon more than her, a fact that is making it harder for her to claim the throne. Her decision to choose fear as a weapon to rule over people gives you the creeps, making you wonder if the Targaryen madness is slowly taking its toll on her.
Daenerys’ complete disregard to her promise to Tyrion – that of sparing the citizens of Kings Landing if they surrendered – seemed like an indication that the dragon queen could be another Cersei Lannister. At this point, Dany is no longer the whimpering Targaryen girl who’s used as a sex toy by her brother and passed on to Khal Drogo. She wants that throne, and she wants her subjects to fear her. The constant use of threats (even against Tyrion) to get things done emphasises that point.
Moving to the battle itself, the tactics employed by Team Daenerys seemed well planned and coordinated. We’re guessing that it was Tyrion who did the planning since he knows the layout of his own city. Unlike the instance when Rhaegal was killed, Dany was prepared for the Iron Fleet. She and Drogon made a nosedive from the sky and set the ships on fire. The scorpions attached to the ships seemed too slow to target the flying dragon.
Despite being one of the most breath-taking moments of the episode, this is also where questions are raised. There were plenty of scorpions on the ships and also on the land. Drogon is just one dragon. It seemed incredible that every one of those soldiers managed to miss such large a creature. Their aim isn't exactly bad, and in the last episode, Euron managed to score a 100 percent strike rate on Rhaegal. It is almost as if the showrunners are forcing Drogon to stay alive.
The strategic use of the dragon to attack the Golden Company from where they weren’t expecting was an A+ move. Attacking the enemy from behind and taking them by surprise always wins a lot of brownie points at any war. Kings Landing had some of the best defences and to bring it down required some out of the box thinking – something that was well depicted.
The chaotic streets of Kings Landing during the war looked very real as buildings broke apart and people ran helter-skelter. Jon’s lack of command over the Unsullied was apparent when none of the combatants listened to him and continued to pillage the city. However, the moment the Wildfire started to spark off, the soldiers followed him and retreated. That could go against Dany in the future since her dragon was the one burning things and setting off the Wildfire. She never bothered to ask her forces to retreat, while Jon did. Soldiers remember that sort of stuff. Well done Aegon Targaryen!
The deaths of Cersei, Jamie, the Hound and the Mountain were already predicted by fans and as a result, was expected. The grisly fight between the Hound and his brother was Game of Throne-ish, but the brutality felt exaggerated and unnecessary. Cersei and Jamie, however, died a good death – holding each other, in their own home.
With the battle for Kings Landing done and dusted, there remains the question of who’ll rule Westeros. Jon doesn’t want to, but he’s the rightful ruler. Daenerys is losing her chill and is feeling betrayed by everyone around her. Tyrion helped Jamie escape – a fact that Ser Davos might spill – and that leaves his fate in the hands of Dany. Arya has disappeared with a horse to parts unknown. At the same time, Sansa is not ready to accept Dany as queen. Despite the end of the war, there is enough tension and politics to start another one.