There’s a lot to unpack after last night’s explosive, fiery, thrilling, confusing, but ultimately satisfying episode of GoT, titled simply, The Bells so forgive me if I dispense with the pleasantries (hello, blog, I’ve missed you, it’s been too long, etc.). As with a lot of episodes in the penultimate and now final season they have been thoroughly exciting and mostly unexpected but as the credits rolled my brain would click back on and I would think, ‘Now…wait a minute… that didn’t make any goddamn sense,’ and I was afraid this would be the case with last night’s offering but after a second viewing I can safely say, yes, I think Game of Thrones has stumbled out of the wilderness and found the path again, if only for the time being. If the rumors about the finale are true then I think it’s important to reflect on the show after its finally satisfied and immediately before it pisses everyone off again, and for me personally, I enjoy writing about a thing I like a lot more than complaining about a thing I don’t. So. Here we are.
I really didn’t like any of this last season up until this point. It’s been stupid, unbalanced, illogical, and a complete waste of 8 years of spectacular character development and build up, just so that it could ‘subvert’ our expectations (re: David and D.B. have been completely held up by GRRM and they don’t really care if anyone knows it or not). So now that that’s out of the way here’s where the show found it’s footing again. I know a lot of people are upset that their beloved Mother of Dragons has gone full on psychopath, laying waste to King’s Landing and butchering thousands of innocent civilians but I’d make the case that our platinum pixie queen has been a little bit touched for awhile now but we made excuses for her because her atrocities were perpetrated against the slavers of Meereen and their ilk and were in the guise of rescuing the downtrodden. Okay.
But she still did those things. She still cut off people’s heads and lined the roads with them on pikes. She burned to death surrendered foes when it had no real strategic benefit other than to freak people out. And worst of all, she seeks to rule. She wants to be in charge because she wants it, there is no liberation of Westeros that was necessary, no oppressed people. Maybe the Lannisters were assholes and some how relocated King’s Landing to the desert for some reason, fine. But as badly written as she now has become there is a sort of interesting and, I’d say, almost compelling aspect to her falling out with Jon Snow. On the other side of the Narrow Sea she was the most popular girl in school, she got used to the fawning and the adulation only to be met with skepticism and distrust in Westeros. She has said before that her father was rightfully deposed because of his insanity but it doesn’t really seem like she believes that given how adamant she is to return Targaryen rule and her insecurity with Jon’s popularity. Granted, this would have been better developed over, say, half a full season or so instead of two episodes. There was almost a decent arc but David and D.B.’s rush to get out the door has spoiled that so it is what it is.
To say Jon Snow is now probably the most underwritten character all of a sudden is painful to admit. There is so much screen time in The Bells dedicated to Jon staring wistfully off-camera that I kept wondering if he’d just forgotten his lines and Miguel Sapochnik thinks he’s so dreamy to hell with it, use the footage. Also if I can have a word with Jon for a second, “Hey, buddy. I know this is none of my business and all and it’s totally too late after Varys basically called it and y’all were like, naw, she’s good. But this is kind of your fault. There’s still time, I know it’s the last episode and she’s basically confirmed everyone’s worst fears of her return, including ol’ Bobby B who everyone thought was a dick for trying to assassinate a widdle baby but damn if we all don’t have egg on our face on that one, amirite? Heh. So what I’m trying to say is that you can still help by being a good guy and taking one for the team. How is that? By performing you big dumb idiot. Your incredibly hot aunt with a dragon and a family history of mass murder wants a little loving, you make like she’s the ‘winter’ in the Stark family motto, know what I sayin’? It’s not like you haven’t already rang that bell, my friend, don’t get all shy all of sudden. Jon’s awkward rejections of her is what finally triggers the Dark Side and I think he deserves a little blame for not recognizing an obvious and easy ‘yes, dear‘ moment. It’s almost like he’s never had a girlfriend before.
To get back to the episode, it was refreshing to experience some complexity again, something that is not a constant black and white, good v bad, living against the dead fantasy trope. Like the Battle of the Blackwater years ago there are good guys and bad guys on both sides again. There’s pathos for a lot of the characters involved once more, the stakes have returned! Mostly. I’d also like to make special note of The Golden Company, thank you so much for your contribution to the Game of Thrones saga! Let’s go to the highlight reel….What’s that? Highlight reel isn’t playing?……Oh, there is no highlight reel. Okay, well, thanks Golden Company! I hope the trip out was enjoyable and that you didn’t bother… with return tickets.
Arya. First time around I was a little bit pissed off at how pointless her whole journey was, strutting into the Red Keep with basically a name tag on that says ‘Hi, My Name Is – ARYA STARK HERE TO KILL CERSEI’ instead of utilizing her stealth assassin skills and ability to wear people’s faces. Jaqen must be rolling his…or possibly someone else’s eyes in total frustration at how much she has disregarded her training. But she gets there and Sandor (touching that she called him by his name) tells her to scoot, skidaddle, go back the way we came, what do you think you’re some gladiator bad-ass dead set on exacting your revenge? I learned it from watching you. So she does and then gets caught up in the aftermath of Dany’s rampage and, again, I didn’t understand the whole point of her being there except to be an excuse for more destruction-porn. I mean, it’s a beautiful sequence, particularly at the end but I didn’t understand the purpose of it until a second viewing, and it’s this: Arya has been thinking she’s hot shit since she wiped out House Frey single-handed, an event that has yet to come up beyond a passing mention from Jaime a season ago, like, seriously, has no one noticed the newspapers piling up on the front porch or the complete absence of a military presence on one of the most important strategic locations in Westeros, the Twins, the bridge that connects the North and the South that cost Robb Stark his entire campaign all because of the Florence Nightingale Effect?…
(takes a breath)
Arya has been thinking she’s hot shit since the Frey’s and now she’s a Night King Killer on top of that and, all due respect and disregarding the awful writing, she totally is. However, this whole sequence served to humble our salty, needle-wielding assassinette. She has seen some shit, to be sure, but she’s a long way from seeing it all. This is war. Real war, not an American Gladiator style chase through the streets of Braavos. And now Arya has seen about the worst of it, as deglamorized as it can get and it’s an interesting choice to explore this kind of horror through the eyes of what has been one of the toughest characters in the show.
As for Greyworm, Jon, and Davos, man, that was about some level 50 characters showing up in a level 12 zone and straight up pwning newbs (really Google Chrome? You accept ‘pwning’ as a word but not ‘newbs’, weird). Let me get a potentially unpopular opinion right out there, right away: I have no problem with Greyworm and the Unsullied and the Dothraki and the remaining Northern Armies cutting the Lannister armies down, unarmed or not, look upon the field where I harvest my fucks and behold, see that it is barren. Up until this point the Lannisters have been the biggest bunch of lying, cheating, stealing sons of bitches in the whole of Westeros, just scumbags and douchebags, the whole lot of them. So for them to finally see the tables turned, to see them suddenly call timeout and expect everyone to start playing by the rules again now that they aren’t calling the shots, no deal, guys. This one’s for Lady Olenna, you motherfuckers. Truman Capote once wrote or said in his odd voice that the problem with living outside the law is that you no longer have protection of it. Now House Lannister has learned that lesson and are on the verge of being wiped out entirely if not for Tyrion.
Cersei Lannister. You know a character is well written and portrayed when you sincerely hate them and not just in the sense that they are annoying (EURONGREYJOY) as shit. It’s how I felt about Jon Bernthal’s character in The Walking Dead, I really hated the dude and couldn’t figure out why the other characters put up his crazy-ass. Then he gets killed off and suddenly there was this big hole in the show, I realized that even though he was a dick he was a fascinating dick (new band name, claiming it) and was the only character that was moving the plot along. Cersei, by all means, deserves the same credit. She’s been at times pitiable, loathsome, genuine, hateful, vindictive, clever, and a dozen other things without ever really being difficult to understand. I’d argue she’s been the most consistently written character in the whole show, start to finish, and the only one who really is playing, no cliche intended, the eponymous Game in Game of Thrones. everyone else gets distracted or misled but she’s had her eyes on the prize since minute one and although it was a little anti-climactic, I thought her end was suitably tragic.
So it’s all over in a week’s time and that’s okay, I’ve honestly been checked out since the Battle of Winterfell. Once that disappointment settled in it became easier to just relax and watch the fireworks. At this point complaining about logical inconsistencies and bad stratagem (Cersei used ‘A BATTERY OF LAND AND SEA BASED BALLISTAE…..it was not very effective) is just peeing in the ocean. Someone asked me recently if I’m bummed out about Game of Thrones ending and Avengers: Endgame all closing out massive nerd franchises around the same time and the truth is I couldn’t be further from it. Because of the popularity of GoT fantasy on television, big budget television, is now a real thing. Amazon is moving forward with a prequel series to Lord of the Rings as well as developing a show based on Robert Jordan’s fantastic Wheel of Time books. And the Avengers will be back, they are practically a mint for Marvel to print money from so this is a good time. Sometimes the old needs to be burned down and cleared out in order for the next generation of stuff to come through. Just like King’s Landing. And maybe Dany was just clearing out all those leftover Wildfire caches. Maybe that’s it. Thanks, Dany! See you next week.