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‘Game of Thrones’ recap: “The Bells”

Posted/updated on: May 13, 2019 at 5:04 am
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Image courtesy HBO(NEW YORK) — (SPOILERS AHEAD) Last week’s Game of Thrones left us with a lot of questions, mainly concerning an errant coffee cup and the ease of petting a CGI dog. And, oh yes, there was also the question of what happens next with Daenerys Targaryen, now that she’s down to one last dragon and her adviser, Missandei, was beheaded at the hands of the evil Cersei Lannister. We learn that, and more, in this week’s episode, “The Bells.”

We open with Varys writing a letter to an unknown party about Jon’s true heritage as rightful heir to the Iron Throne. When Jon then arrives at Dragonstone, Varys wastes no time telling him that he knows his secret, and believes that he will make a better ruler than Dany, who’s been camped in her chambers without eating or talking to anyone since last week’s losses. Jon, ever the broken record, reiterates that he has no interest in the Iron Throne, and that Dany is still his queen. 

Meanwhile, Tyrion goes to tell Dany that Varys has betrayed her. She insists Jon is the true culprit — after all, he told Sansa the truth about his lineage, even though he promised not to, and Sansa told Tyrion, even though she promised not to. Dany accuses Tyrion of working with Sansa to take her down, which Tyrion denies.

Varys goes back to writing his letter when Grey Worm enters, holding shackles. Uh oh. Varys is brought before Dany, Jon and Tyrion, who tells Varys that he’s the one who ratted him out. Danerys sentences Varys to death by dragonfire, and Drogon obliges. So while we say goodbye to the Master of Whisperers, we at least know that Drogon’s fire breath still works.

Later, Dany and Grey Worm mourn Missandei, and Dany gives him Missandei’s only possession: a collar she wore when she was enslaved. Grey Worm throws it into a fireplace.

The moment is interrupted when Jon enters. He and Daenerys have a definitely not-at-all awkward conversation about Jon’s decision to tell Sansa about his heritage. Dany declares that Sansa betrayed Jon’s trust, and now she knows what happens when people find out the truth about the truth. Yikes.

Dany then admits to Jon that the people don’t love her as a ruler as they love him. She doesn’t have love, she says, only fear. Jon proclaims that he loves her and that she’ll, always be his Queen. “Is that all I am to you?” Daenerys asks. “Your Queen?” Well, she’s also his aunt, but he doesn’t bring that up as they start to kiss. Dany then pulls away, seemingly realizing something.

“All right, then,” she declares. “Let it be fear.” 

In her throne room, Tyrion tries to dissuade Dany from burning King’s Landing to the ground, but she’s not having it. She believes her destruction of the city is a gesture of mercy to future generations. As Dany tells Grey Worm to ready the Unsullied to march to King’s Landing, Tyrion begs that if the city’s bells ring, indicating a surrender, that Daenerys she call off her attack. She nods her head in apparent agreement.

Before Tyrion leaves, Dany reveals that her soldiers caught Jaime, who left the arms of Brienne last week to return to Cersei, trying to sneak them away. “The next time you fail me,” Dany warns Tyrion, “will be the last time you fail me.” 

Jon and Tyrion then rendezvous with the Northern armies. Tyrion finds Davos and asks him a mysterious favor that involves his great smuggling skills. Meanwhile, Arya and The Hound ride past a bewildered soldier, who tries to stop them but is confused by Arya’s declaration that she’s on her way to kill Cersei. 

We return to Tyrion, who, after an awkward attempt at speaking to an Unsullied solider in his native language, is allowed to see Jaime, who’s being kept prisoner — now we know the nature of Davos’ favor. Tyrion tries to convince his brother to convince Cersei to surrender before the assault on King’s Landing begins. Because that’s worked so well in the past.

Tyrion then changes course and advises Jaime to escape with Cersei using a secret tunnel that he’s used in the past, and to ring the city bells in surrender as he does so. After much skepticism, Jaime agrees to this plan, though he points out that Dany will execute Tyrion for this betrayal.

“Tens of thousands of innocent lives, one not particularly innocent dwarf,” Tyrion muses. “Seems like fair trade.”

The brothers tearfully embrace, and Tyrion thanks Jaime for being the only one who didn’t treat him “like a monster.”

King’s Landing prepares for battle. Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet ready their dragon-killing arrows, while citizens are marched into the Red Keep as Cersei watches from her tower. Among the citizens, we see Arya walking alongside a hooded Hound, as well as a similarly incognito Jaime. As people are led into the Red Keep, soldiers eventually stop letting people in. Arya and the Hound make it inside, but Jaime is locked out. 

Our heroes’ army arrives, and Tyrion reminds Jon about the significance of the ringing bells — they mean surrender. In the sky, Euron sees Dany riding Drogon, and the Iron Fleet begins to fire arrows. But Dany’s ready this time, easily avoiding the projectiles and beginning Operation Burn-Everything-to-a-Crisp.

As the armies on the ground silently stare at each other, we hear a mighty roar, and the inside walls of King’s Landing come burning down, courtesy of Drogon. Jon, the Unsullied and the Dothraki company charge in, and the leader of Cersei’s bought-and-paid-for army is killed. Dany’s forces continue to rout the city, killing enemy soldiers with ease.  

Cersei watches the destruction unfold from the top floor of the Red Keep. Her Hand of the Queen, Qyburn, tells her all the arrows have been destroyed, the Iron Fleet is on fire, and the city is breached. Yet Cersei remains defiant, insisting that the Red Keep will hold strong, as it always has.

Jon, Grey Worm and Davos lead their army through the city before coming across the last of the Lannister soldiers. In the background, Tyrion stares at a bell tower that has not yet rung. Dany and Drogon fly above and land on a building as citizens run in terror, including Jaime. Realizing they’ve been beaten, the Lannister soldiers throw down their swords in surrender, and shout to ring the bells.

After what seems like an eternity, the bells finally ring, and it seems that the bloodshed has ended.  But Dany’s rage still intensifies, and she flies Drogon straight toward Cersei. The dragon burns everything in its path as Tyrion looks on in horror.

On the ground, Grey Worm throws a spear into a Lannister soldier, and the fighting resumes, much to Jon’s disapproval. He tries to hold his soldiers back, but can’t stop them.  So much for surrender.

Grey Worm goes on an absolute killing tear, as Jon continues to try and stop his soldiers, who are now straight-up murdering citizens. Jon sees one of his soldiers drag a woman into an ally, and he tries to stop him. When the soldier resists, Jon kills him.

Meanwhile, Jaime finds the secret path that will lead him to Cersei, which is where a still-living Euron washes up on shore. Euron, ever the charmer, decides to tell Jaime that he slept with Cersei, effectively making him her King. He continues to egg Jaime on, and the two start to duel. Their swordplay soon devolves into hand-to-hand fighting, and Euron stabs Jaime in the side with a dagger. He stabs Jaime again as he tries to crawl away, but the Kingslayer is able to recover stabs Euron through the stomach.

Jaime staggers off, greatly injured.  Euron, with his dying breath, shouts “I’m the man that killed Jaime Lannister!”

Meanwhile, Cersei still refuses to leave the Red Keep, but she soon breaks down in tears and agrees to follow Qyburn to another location.

Inside the crumbling Red Keep, we also find The Hound and Arya. The Hound tries to convince Arya to leave, since Cersei is as good as dead anyway.  When Arya ignores him, The Hound shares some advice about the fruitlessness of revenge. After all, he’s sought it his whole life against his brother, The Mountain, who was the one who burned his face. Moved, Arya refers to the Hound by his birth name, Sandor, and thanks him. 

The Mountain, who’s Cersei’s bodyguard, protects her and Qyburn from falling rubble when the Hound arrives, easily dispatching the lesser soldiers. Cersei implores the Mountain to stay by her side. When Qyburn demands that he “protect your queen,” the Mountain immediately kills him, and walks toward his brother.

The two begin to fight as Cersei pushes on forward. The Hound takes several unsuccessful swings before knocking off the Mountain’s helmet, revealing his monstrous face for the first time since Qyburn brought him back from the dead and turned him into a monster.

As they fight, Cersei walks alone through the wreckage when a bleeding Jaime finds her. They embrace, and begin their escape.

Meanwhile, The Hound stabs the Mountain through the stomach, but it doesn’t do much.  The latter throws the former down the stairs, and pulls the sword from his body with ease.

Away from the fight, Arya seemingly feels her friend’s pain, and starts to turn back, walking across many citizens mourning their burned loved ones. She gets caught in a stampede, and as she falls to the ground, we cut to the Hound hitting the deck as well. We keep cutting back and forth as The Mountain beats the Hound and Arya crawls through the panicked masses, seemingly demonstrating a connection between them.

The Mountain starts choking the Hound as the latter stabs his brother fruitlessly with a dagger. He then begins to crush the Hound’s skull is the same grisly manner as he did to Oberyn Martell in season four. The Hound is able to resist and stabs the Mountain through his eye, the blade emerging from the back of his skull.  But that still doesn’t kill the unholy monstrosity.

Cackling with laughter, the Hound tackles his brother and they both explode through a crumbling wall, then fall to their deaths into the fires far below. 

Jon calls for his forces to fall back as Daenerys continues to burn the city and a bloodied Arya wakes up in a haze. A tower starts to crumble and Arya narrowly avoids it, and finds herself in front of a group of citizens. She grabs a mother and a daughter, whom we’ve seen glimpses of throughout the episode, and they run through the streets. The mother falls, and the daughter refuses to leave her. Arya keeps running and dives to the ground as fire surrounds her.

In the underground tunnels, Cersei and Jaime continue their escape. Unfortunately, rubble from the destruction above has blocked their exit. Realizing their fate, a tearful Cersei pleads that she doesn’t want their baby to die.

Jaime holds her face as they look at each other, and declares, “Nothing else matters — only us.”

The remaining tunnels then collapse upon them, apparently killing them.

Arya once again awakes, covered in ash. She walks silently through the city, taking in the destruction. The mother and daughter she tried to save are now charred corpses.

In the middle of the city, Arya sees a lone, white horse. She climbs aboard and rides out of a completely destroyed King’s Landing. 

There’s just one episode of Game of Thrones remaining.  It premieres Sunday, May 19 on HBO.

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