Game of Thrones continued to march to its conclusion with the fifth episode of Season 8, “The Bells.” And it was exhausting.
In a good way, though. It was mentally exhausting, emotionally draining, and immensely satisfying. And it left just enough unfinished business to make next week’s series finale positively must-watch.
In other words, it was everything the preceding four episodes were not.
We begin with the “previously on” teaser, and it rather poignantly closes in on the last shot of Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) from Episode 4. As we push in on her … angry face? Is that what that is? Anyway, the shot is overlaid with quotes about the Targaryen dynasty from throughout the series.
Looks like it’s Mad Queen time.
We begin with Varys (Conleth Hill) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) on the shores of Dragonstone discussing the state of Dany’s mind, which we covered at length last week.
Varys is worried that Dany is going to torch King’s Landing, and Jon is resigned to his queen doing whatever she’s going to do. The Spider tries to hint to Jon that he would be a better ruler than Dany. He also mentions that the sky is blue and that water is wet.
Jon, however, isn’t convinced of the wetness of water and brushes off the advice.
Inside the castle, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) brings news to Dany, who looks like she hasn’t showered in about a month. He tells her that Varys knows that Jon is a Targaryen. The Dragon Queen’s distrust in Tyrion grows, as she takes him to task for taking secrets from Sansa (Sophie Turner).
Consequences And Planning
Later, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) brings Varys to Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys, and things don’t look promising for our favorite eunuch. He and Tyrion share one last goodbye, and Daenerys (apparently freshly-showered) condemns him to death by dragon fire.
Jon looks less than impressed and more than a little worried.
After the eunuch barbecue, Dany gives Jon a hard way to go about telling the secret of his parentage to Sansa. Jon, for approximately the 4,324th time, tries to assure her that he doesn’t want the crown.
In the Dragonstone throne room, Tyrion tries (again) to talk Daenerys out of burning King’s Landing. The queen tries to justify her plan by the fact that it will make life easier for future generations. In a last ditch effort, Tyrion makes one final plea: If King’s Landing rings the bells to evacuate the city, call off the attack. Daenerys agrees.
But before he can leave, Daenerys informs her Hand that Jamie (Nikolai Coster-Waldau) was stopped trying to get through the Targaryen lines. She warns him that his next failure will be his last.
The Hound (Rory McCann) and Arya (Maisie Williams) arrive as the Unsullied prepare for war. Arya mentions simply that she’s there to kill Cersei (Lena Headey).
Tyrion goes to an imprisoned Jamie with a plan to have Davos (Liam Cunningham) smuggle Jamie into the city to try to get Cersei and their unborn child out of the city before Drogon torches the place. Jamie leaves with instructions to make sure the city bells are rung.
They share what, by all appearances, is going to be their last goodbye.
King’s Landing – The Last War Begins
In the Red Keep, the Lannister army readies for battle while Euron (Pilou Asbæk) does the same on the bay. The Hound and Arya sneak into the city amidst the chaos of the citizens’ scramble for safety. Jamie, in the worst disguise ever, brushes past the assembled soldiers and makes for the gate.
The Hound and Arya are the last ones through the gate, but Jamie isn’t able to make it through.
Drogon and Dany get to work torching the Iron Fleet, and Euron orders a barrage of scorpions, all of which the dragon is able to evade. The soldiers at the gates launch their own scorpions and eat dragonfire as a reward. Dany torches the gates from behind, and her army invades King’s Landing.
The remainder of the Dothraki lay waste to the Lannister soldiers while the Northmen and Unsullied pick the bones. I’ve never seen so many people on fire at once.
Inside the castle, Qyburn (Anton Lesser) informs Cersei that all of the scorpions and the Iron Fleet have been burned to dust. As is Game of Thrones custom, talking sense gets Qyburn nowhere, and Cersei holds steadfast.
Both armies prepare to rush one another, but the arrival of Drogon spurs the Lannister army to throw down their swords, leaving Cersei and the Red Keep seemingly defenseless.
The Mad Queen
Jamie makes a mad dash for the city bells and rings them to signal the city’s surrender. The people of King’s Landing are safe, and all is right in the realm. Peace reigns etern- no. No, not at all. You guys know this is Game of Thrones, right?
Dany pilots Drogon straight through the city and torches soldiers and innocents alike on the way.
Outside, Jon is trying to contain his fury, but Grey Worm doesn’t bother. He, the Unsullied, and the Northmen slaughter the remaining Lannister soldiers, and Jon contemplates his poor life choices.
Davos tries to get some of the remaining peasants to safety, but it doesn’t matter. Dany’s soldiers are now just killing indiscriminately. Jon observes the carnage and continues to do not a whole lot about it. The last straw for him is seeing one of his soldiers try to rape a peasant woman, and it finally starts to dawn on him that this isn’t cool.
On the beach, Jamie tries to make his way to Cersei and the Red Keep through the back, but Euron intercepts him and challenges him to a fight. They go at it as Dany begins to lay waste to the Red Keep, tower-by-tower. The two wind up on the ground scrambling for Jamie’s dropped sword, and Euron runs Jamie through.
Game of Thrones Presents Clegane Bowl
Qyburn begs Cersei to seek refuge elsewhere in the city in Maegor’s Holdfast, and she finally relents.
Back on the beach, it turns out that the Kingslayer is especially hard to kill. While Euron gloats, Jamie keeps crawling for his sword. Euron slows him down with a dagger to the side, but Jamie manages to get his weapon. He stabs Euron and leaves him to bleed to death.
Euron accepts that he’ll die but takes solace in the fact that he dealt Jamie a mortal wound.
Arya and the Hound continue to make their way to Cersei. He convinces Arya that Cersei’s going to die no matter what and to abandon the most important name on her list. She thanks him one last time, but he presses on with the intention of dispatching with his brother, the Mountain (Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson).
He intercepts the queen, Qyburn, and the Mountain trying to make their escape. For the first time, the Mountain ignores a command from Cersei and kills the crap out of Qyburn. He makes a B-line for the Hound, and after Game of Thrones teased us for seven years, Clegane Bowl is ON. Both of them ignore Cersei as she makes her way to safety.
Jamie finds Cersei at last, and it’s just the sweetest reunion of two horrible, horrible people that anybody has ever seen. He carries her off to safety while the Cleganes battle on upstairs.
The Hound manages to run the undead Mountain all the way through, and it doesn’t even make him flinch. Frankenmountain strips his armor off and walks toward a beaten Hound, ready to finish his brother off. He throws the Hound literally from pillar to post, but the younger Clegane won’t die.
The Mountain begins to crush his skull, but the Hound manages to stick a dagger through his big brother’s face. This also doesn’t make him flinch. In a hail Mary, the Hound tackles the Mountain through a wall and they both plunge into the dragonfire below.
The Queen Is Dead
Wildfire begins going off all around, and Jon orders a retreat from the city while Dany just keeps burning anything she can see.
Arya wakes up in the burning, ashen ruins of the city and manages to survive a bell tower collapsing right behind her. She finds her way into a huddle of survivors and tries to lead them to safety, but the Dothraki hack and slash everything in sight. She’s forced to leave the survivors behind.
In Maegor’s Holdfast, the only way out has collapsed to rubble, and Jamie and Cersei realize they’re trapped. Cersei laments that she and the baby are going to die, and Jamie tries to reassure her as the holdfast collapses around them. And they leave the world as they entered it: Together.
Arya, with the ash of the city and its inhabitants raining down, is shell-shocked. She surveys the devastation and looks up to see a single horse wandering in the debris. She mounts it and rides away.
The war is over, Cersei is dead, and Dany is insane. Despite all of the Earth-shattering events of the episode, though, there are still questions remaining.
Come back next week for the series finale of Game of Thrones and find out where the dust will settle on the Seven Kingdoms.
The final episode of Game of Thrones will air Sunday, May 19, on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.
All images courtesy of HBO.