The Bells opens up at Dragonstone a couple of weeks after the ending to the previous episode just before Jon’s arrival. We learn that Daenerys has been refusing to eat and is distraught over the deaths of Rhaegal and Missandei. We see Varys writing a letter about Jon’s true parentage. When Jon does arrive Varys is the one to greet him, telling him that he should rule, and would do so wisely and well. Tyrion watches this, and informs Daenerys of his intentions, leading to his arrest by Grey Worm. When Varys is brought before Daenerys, Jon, and Tyrion, Tyrion confesses that he sold him out, to which Varys responds that he hopes Tyrion was right to do so, before Daenerys has Drogon burn him alive. Later Jon comes to Daenerys, where they talk about her reputation in Westeros. She says that because she isn’t loved she will have to rule through fear, but Jon responds that he loves her and she will always be his Queen. However he cannot respond when she asks if that is all she is to him.
As they plan their attack Tyrion petitions Daenerys not burn the city because of the innocents people who live there. Daenerys says Cersei wants to use their mercy against them, but their mercy will actually be for the descendants of the those who survive, who won’t ever be held in a tyrants grip again. Tyrion begs her that if she hears the bells of surrender ringing to call of the attack. She doesn’t answer, but instead informs him of Jaime’s capture attempting to get into King’s Landing, before warning him that if he fails her again it will be the last time.
As Jon and Tyrion arrive at their army’s camp Tyrion asks Davos to use his skills as a smuggler for a favour. Later he visits Jaime, freeing him, and begging that if he has to go back to Cersei, to convince her to leave the city and ring the bells of surrender. They have a moment of brotherly bonding, where Tyrion says he was the only reason he made it thought his childhood, as he had no one else. Meanwhile Arya and The Hound leave intent on killing Cersei and The Mountain respectively.
As the battle preparations begin Euron waits with the Iron fleet. We see that Arya and The Hound as well as Jaime have made it inside King’s Landing. Jaime however is shut out of the gates to the Red Keep, and realises he must find another way inside. Daenerys begins by attacking the Iron Fleet, this time taking them by surprise and burning their ships, casting Euron into the sea. After removing a number of the Scorpions lining the walls she destroys the main gates of King’s Landing from the inside, destroying much of the Golden Company and leaving the way clear for her army to charge through. Whilst Cersei believes that the Red Keep will stay standing her men throw down their arms, and after a tense standoff the bells begin ringing to signal their surrender.
However enraged by her losses, and having already declared that she must rule through fear, Daenerys ignore these and begins attacking the city where the bulk of the Lannister army is stationed, slowly making her way towards the Red Keep. Grey Worm also attacks the surrendered Lannister men, and while Jon tries to order the North Men to stay back the surviving Dothraki and Unsullied begin slaughter anyone they see.
Jaime attempts to sneak into the Red Keep via the secret passage Tyrion arranged for him to leave by, however he is attacked by Euron. After Euron stabs Jaime twice in the sides, Jaime delivers a killing blow. The Hound and Arya are also into the Red Keep, but as it begins to collapse from Daenerys’ attacks The Hound warns Arya that if she continues on her revenge mission she will die, despite the fact that Cersei will most likely die anyway. Arya thanks him for everything he did for her before they part ways.
The Mountain protects Cersei from the falling debris of the Red Keep when The Hound arrives. Despite Cersei’s orders to protect her the hatred between the Clegane brothers comes through as he instead murders Qyburn when he orders The Mountain to obey. After Cersei leaves the much anticipated Cleganebowl begins. Whilst The Hound appears to get the upper hand, managing to remove The Mountain’s helmet, and stab him through the stomach, none of this appears to have any affect. After The Mountain beats The Hound brutally he begins to crush him up against the wall. The Hound repeatedly stab his brother, with none having any effect until he gets an eye. This forces The Mountain to drop him, giving the Hound a chance to tackle him sending both through a collapsing wall, sending them to their deaths.
Meanwhile Jaime finds Cersei leading to an emotional reunion. They flee through the secret passage Jaime entered the keep by, looking to make it to the boat Tyrion provided. However the exit from the Red Keep is blocked by falling rubble leaving them with no way out. Now that all hope is lost, Cersei breaks down, repeated exclaiming that she wants them and their baby to live. Jaime comforts her, bringing her into an embrace before the ceiling collapses down on them.
A lot of this is intercut with Jon ordering his men to retreat beyond the city walls, and Arya experiencing the devastation bring brought upon the city, and the episode ends with her finding a Dothraki horse, and using it to escape
Well there’s really only one place to begin on this episode, Daenerys. It has been widely agreed that she was going to go Mad Queen on everything before this episode started, but many people have been unhappy with the pacing of her arc and feel that it has been rushed. I have to say that I don’t agree with that at all. In Season 1 she had Mirri Maz Duur burned alive. Back in Season 4 she crucified 163 people despite the protestations of Barristan Selmy, an act that helped incite riots and rebellion in her city. Oh and let us not forget that she has a habit of burning those who have surrendered, as with The Tarly’s in the previous season. In fact has she ever shown mercy to those who have surrendered to her? If she has it’s not often.
We have also heard for several season now Tyrion and Varys discuss that their job was to keep Daenerys’ worse impulses in check, something they have only managed every now and again, whilst also constantly having to bargain for their lives, even as two of her most trusted advisors. To have lost Jorah, Missandei, and Rhaegal in such a short time push Daenerys over the edge, something that many of us having been picking up on for a long time. I think her turn made perfect sense, but maybe that is because Daenerys has been the villain in mind since she crucified 163 who were at her mercy leading to a wide scale rebellion against her rule. But I can understand why the fans of her character are upset. I have to say though, that Emilia Clarke’s performance in that moment was fantastic, and that is not something you’ve heard me say too often about the show.
However one thing that didn’t make any sense, was where they went with Jaime’s character. I held off on condemning his decision to leave Winterfell last week to see where they were going this week, and it turns out that they were just going to completely unravel his arc throughout the Series entirely. It made little sense to have him just go back to Cersei, aside from giving Cersei the chance to say goodbye before their deaths. And I’m happy that Cersei got such an emotional death, she’s been my favourite character on the show since Oberyn died in Season 4, so I’m glad the show didn’t revel in her death like I thought it might. Lena Headey once again proved that she is the best actor on the show in my opinion with the Lannister twins’ death scene, even if it didn’t make any sense for Jaime narratively.
The scenes with Varys at the start of the episode were in short, terrible. That felt like the writers not really being sure how to get rid of him in that moment. Him openly accosting Jon with the idea of being King in plain view of everyone didn’t make much sense, and nor did Tyrion being the one to sell him out. Whilst his actual death was beautifully shot, I can’t say this was the show’s finest hour.
The other big moment was Arya and The Hound and their respective revenge quests, including the CLEGANEBOWL GET HYPE. Before that though we got another controversial scene between Arya and The Hound, where The Hound talks her out of blindly seeking revenge at the cost of her own life. I’m honestly a little indifferent towards this one, I see what both sides are saying, but I don’t think Arya choosing to survive knowing that the person she wants revenge on will almost certainly die anyway is an invalidation of her character by an stretch, and I thought that The Hound’s speech to her about not becoming him was fantastic. And then we got the CLEGANEBOWL GET HYPE (sorry guys) and it was pretty brutal. The reveal of The Mountain’s face since Qyburn’s experiments was truly horrifying, and whilst it may have got a little lost amid the scale of everything that was happening it was well executed by director Miguel Sapochnik.
And speaking of Sapochnik, after disappointing me slightly with The Long Knight, he didn’t in The Bells. His direction was incredible, and supported by stunning cinematography. Much like in The Battle of the Bastards he captures the horrific nature war so well. Arya was really our eyes into the devastation that was being unleashed onto the city by Daenerys and it was hard to watch. I do love that the show has never shied away from showing how horrible war always is. And underpinning this with Ramin Djawadi’s incredible scores again elevates everything. The tension as the Bells ring out, and Daenerys makes her decision to ignore them, is powerfully raised by Djawadi’s music, as are the horrors in the aftermath.
I know this episode is going to be, and indeed already is, hugely divisive, but personally I liked a lot of it, once we got into the battle. The build up to it was marred by strange choices with Varys and Jaime’s characters. But once the spectacle got going I was in. As I said I’ve been long anticipating Daenerys going heel, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to me and didn’t feel out of nowhere, and the technical aspects of the episode were so incredibly well done. I’ve been saying to some of my friends for a while that however the show ends it was going to disappoint about half the people who watch the show, and it appears to be doing just that.