Season 8, Episode 5 - ‘The Bells’



As a visual spectacle, it was great to see, but unfortunately it falls short and is just too rushed.




We use a simple “out of 5” rating criteria for all reviews.

2 out of 5 is OK.

- 2 out of 5 is OK. It might have some half decent ideas, but the execution misses the mark and falls short.

Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones brought us the long foreshadowed skirmish in Kings landing. It was largely an impressive spectacle of sheer colossal proportions. When watching this episode and others like it within the season, it’s easy to see why the showrunners deferred season 8 by 2 years as opposed to the usual 10 month wait between seasons. The acting was on point as always, the on screen interpretation and horror of war was depicted particularly well with the pace of the episode being near perfect.

However the episode, or in fact this season, is far from perfect in many other ways and here’s 5 reasons why last night’s episode let down the series.

1. Character deaths (spoiler free)

In short, some were brilliant and long awaited, that had been foreshadowed much to fans tantalizing excitement for many seasons. On the other end of that spectrum, some were rushed, badly written and not even particularly well thought out given how critical some of these characters have been in since day one. This point has always been marmite in a fantasy universe that invests heavily in character development. This has ultimately lead to an arousal of genuine emotion from the fan base over the years, when a much loved character meets a particularly abrupt and dissatisfying end. On the flip side, some are terribly satisfying, others like in seasons gone by are pointless and serve as nothing but crude plot advancement. Whereas others are shown for the sake of violent spectacle for which the show has a particular reputation for.

Don’t listen to Thanos! He can’t be trusted! - Ed

2. Rushing the plot

Whether it’s the aging actors, or the showrunners themselves who ultimately want to go off and produce other projects, this episode, like all of the season, and previous season before it, just seems overly rushed. The battle for Winterfell, like last night’s episode, was an impressive spectacle. They capture the horror of battle very, very well. They are also, for the most part, brilliantly directed and the CGI is to a high cinematic standard. However, the way we arrived here is not to an even remotely impressive standard. Season 8 should have been a full 10 episode run focused on the long night. The descending darkness of winter coupled with the progressive threat of the Night King, playing out one battle at a time finishing the season with the battle for Winterfell. Season 9 should then have been another full season focusing on the fight for the throne.

Instead, what we have is effectively 2 seasons on x6 fast forward with plot holes that would make any council gleeful at their track record of road maintenance. In short there could have been so many more events transpire as the story line progressed. Not having any book source material to draw from is not a good enough excuse when you have the author effectively on speed dial. As George R R Martin has stated himself, if he had his way the show would have run for another 5 seasons.

3. Daenerys loses her shit for the right reasons in the worst possible way

The words of house Targaryen certainly came to fruition last night in that if there’s one thing the viewer experienced, it was fire and blood. In the last few episodes our lovable mother of dragons has lost those closest to her, the ones who would always council against the violent urges she clearly always had as a power figure. With all of them gone and Tyrion by her side, in addition to her betrayal that was played out in last night’s episode, she’s unchained. This is not to say I do not understand how she got there, any rational person would. All of those she loved gone, some ripped from her In the worst possible way, the way she grew up effectively alone whilst subjected to abuse and in exile. Grief is a powerful entity that can often move people to commit acts of atrocity. Last night however her character went beyond that. The character we knew and came to admire over many seasons is gone, lost to a rage fuelled by grief and betrayal.

The bells had been rung, the enemy surrendered with a fair amount of damage and death dealt out already. Nonetheless the devil on her shoulder victorious, she burns everything and everyone in sight. People rarely commit genocide “just because” and to visualise on screen purely for the sake of swift plot advancement seems both meaningless and lazy. Imagine how better the battle could have played out if some rationale, thought, or logic was applied to her rage and pursuit of Cersei. Ultimately her character arc was always likely to end with her perpetrating the villain, quotes taken from her throughout the shows history confirm her potential as a maniacal ruler. “I was born to rule the seven kingdoms, and I will”. This was also fairly well showcased when she openly called for John and the North’s blind loyalty upon their first meeting during season 7, citing his ancestral family’s oath made to her own ancestral family over 300 years previously in “perpetuity”. Why you ask does all this make her a villain? Because hers is the worst type, the ones who believe they’re justified in everything that they do.

She is still not a nice person. - Ed.

4. Absurd military tactics and onscreen inaccuracies

This one, I have to say, is pretty personal. After the Battle of Winterfell you literally only see the main heroes along with about 15 – 30 other soldiers left standing after the melee with the dead, the shot pans out and clearly there’s no one outside the walls either. So how... now bear with me, does Daenerys still have a standing army of thousands of soldiers? Let alone an army large enough to siege a city of 1 million + citizens. Some people may think this over analytical or even downright nerdy but regardless of your perspective it literally doesn’t make any logical sense. Another huge tactical error is why the golden companies’ fresh troops are positioned outside of the walls to face down the invading forces and not behind trenches or even the 50 foot walls directly behind them where they could be appropriately covered by archers/ballista support instead of hitting their own men when the battle commenced. These same errors were made during Episode 3 as pretty much every tactical move they made during that episode would make even the bluntest, amateur tactician want to explosively rage quit.

5. Plot armour

Not unique to Season 8, or any other fantasy TV series/feature length film to be honest. A unique ability for certain characters to walk into scenarios that would almost certainly end in death. These characters are somehow able to come out the other side completely and miraculously unscathed, solely due to their importance in terms of the advancing storyline. People wouldn’t survive if a mass body of fire was projected at them in normal conditions. They would blurt out a Wilhelm scream and swiftly depart this mortal coil.

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