'The Bells' may seem like an innocuous title for a 'Game of Thrones' episode, let alone the penultimate episode of the seasons and series, but one person's reaction to said bells may well have changed the trajectory of this story in untold ways.
Yes, we're talking about Daenerys, and yes, we're not happy about it.
While we knew that the siege of King's Landing was always going to be brutal, we never quite expected 'Game of Thrones' to be quite so vicious in its script-flipping and showing us just what our heroes look like when you look at things from the perspective of the oppressed and/or soon-to-be barbequed.
Usually on 'Game of Thrones', said heroes are threatened and attack/retaliate and the violence is unfortunate but necessary, and we witness a triumph that feels earned, if not also justified.
It's something that 'Game of Thrones' has shown us a lot, with Daenerys' taking of the Unsullied and overthrowing of Slaver's Bay, and with Jon's fights in both the Battle of Castle Black and the Battle of the Bastards.
This time, however, director Miguel Sapochnik and showrunners and episode writers David Benioff and Dan Weiss let us see exactly what it was like to be an innocent casualty in the Game of Thrones. And when a Targaryen is going full 'Fire and Blood', it's probably the most brutal that the game can get.
This brutality is something that's been noticeably absent from the recent horrors on the show (or maybe have we just become numb to them thanks to nine years of steadily increasing violence). The Night King was a serious threat and he and his army of the dead murdered hundreds of thousands for his cause, but for all his murdering, at least there wasn't much raping and pillaging from the OG Mr. Freeze.
To briefly recap what happened this week, Varys got busted for betraying Daenerys after Tyrion snitched and met a fiery end courtesy of one very emotionless 'Dracarys'. Jon still can't suck it up and do some lying to make things okay with Daenerys (he draws the line at getting heavy with his aunt, which is fair but dude, you just saw her burn someone alive, close your eyes and think of Ygritte) which sets her down the path of ruling by "fear".
Everyone then headed to King's Landing for a hoedown throwdown (except for Sansa, who wisely stayed put in Winterfell), with Tyrion setting a captured Jaime (he's really good at getting captured, isn't he) free so he and Cersei can escape in a rowboat (keep having those good ideas, Tyrion). All the while, the Hound and Arya are making their way to the Red Keep to kill the Mountain and Cersei respectively, while Daenerys and her forces, including Jon, Grey Worm and Ser Davos, prepare to attack the city and force Cersei to surrender. Tyrion made Daenerys promise that if they could force the Lannister forces to surrender and ring the bells and open the gates to let the civilians out to escape, she'd stop fighting.
Unfortunately, while the titular bells do ring, the Mother of Dragons leans into her justified rage and rather unjustly continues the assault on the capital, resulting in all hell breaking loose and more than likely sealing her own fate come next week (but we'll get to that).
What that means for Jon and Arya is chaos and more chaos, mixed in with a lot of bloodshed and eye-opening realisations that maybe this isn't the Queen they should be fighting for.
All this happens and we haven't even mentioned Cleganebowl! Yes, the long-awaited brotherly showdown that's been years in the making finally happened, and while it may have been a bit blockbustery (literally), we have to admit that the OTT backdrop of a burning and collapsing Red Keep really did make of a worthwhile payoff after all that waiting. Thank you, Sandor, you really were one of the shining lights of the episode and series.
Unfortunately the same can't be said for the departure of two linchpins of the series, Jaime and Cersei Lannister.
Yes, the first Queen of the Seven Kingdoms and her "stupidest Lannister" brother bit the dust as King's Landing came crumbling down around them, an end that feels both deserved and infuriating in equal measure.
Jaime, for all his flaws, went on possibly the most surprising character arc of the series, going from incest-loving pusher of children from high windows to evolved free man who finally seemed to be making the right choices. That is until the writing decided that he didn't deserve a happy ending and so sent him straight back to his murderous twin sister, undoing all that growth in the process.
Cersei, meanwhile, a character we've grown to loathe and respect (each being stronger on different days), barely spoke 10 lines this episode, and, as fans on social media were quick to point out, was taken out by the least satisfying of materials - brick. Nine years of conniving and backstabbing, of playing a contributing role in almost every plot thread, and she finishes a lacklustre season by crying into Jaime's arms. It's not the way we imagined this lioness going, but maybe the indignity of an ignoble death is what the worst of the Lannisters deserves.
Thankfully for Stark fans, both Jon and Arya made it out of the episode but not without Jon putting a mark on his back and Arya adding a name to her list.
Grey Worm was none too impressed with Jon's calls to fall back when Daenerys continued her attack on the city and we have a feeling that's going to come back to bite him hard next week. Having had his eyes opened to the extent at which his queen will go for "her" throne, can he still claim that he wouldn't do a better job as a ruler?
And pragmatist Arya, who last week was upfront about needing the Dragon Queen to win their battles, will be changing her tune having barely survived the destruction of the city. In possibly the most stressful sequence since Battle of the Bastards, Arya Stark stumbled and coughed her way out of King's Landing while innocent people were crushed and burnt alive around her, escaping in the end only thanks to dumb luck and a stray horse.
Which just leaves us with a new power-mad queen, a doubting rightful heir, and one very vengeful assassin with a chip and a half on her shoulder.
What could go wrong?
- We're usually not fans of head-splats but Qyburn's goodbye was probably the most satisfying of the entire series.
- Euron, we barely knew you but congratulations on going out in style. Or at least believing that you were the man who killed Jaime Lannister, but we guess those bricks stole that from you too.
- "Fucking die!" - the quote we didn't realise we were internally screaming along with the Hound until he said it.