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Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 is The Bells.
It starts with Varys, writing letters about Jon's Targaryen identity.
He's spreading the word and getting support for Jon to be King.
Varys speaks with Martha, one of his spies or little birds.
Apparently, she and Varys are trying to poison Daenerys . So Varys is betraying Daenerys, and now supports Jon.
Varys tells Jon that he would be a good king , which might not be true.
Jon is good at leading and fighting, but he has no experience with southern politics – with
council meetings, plots and intrigue.
Jon is a lot like his uncle Ned – an honourable honest northman.
And Ned only lasted a season in the capital before he was outplayed and killed.
Jon only lasted as Commander of the Night's Watch for a season before he was killed.
Meanwhile Daenerys has been learning to rule for eight seasons.
So why is Varys so sure that Jon would be a better ruler?
Varys says “every time a Targaryen is born, the gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath” .
It's a common saying, because while some Targaryen kings have been wise
and good, others have been violent and cruel, like Dany's father the Mad King.
Varys is worried that Dany might snap and burn King's Landing . As it turns out, he's
right, but up until now, Dany's been very reasonable in her conquest of Westeros.
She tried all of Tyrion's stupid plans to end the war peacefully, and she came north
to save the world from white walkers, when she could've just taken the Throne.
She's doing all the right things, so why is Varys is so certain she's nuts that he tries to poison her?
Varys had once supported Viserys Targaryen, but Daenerys is too crazy for him?
In the books, Varys has totally different motivations, that make a lot more sense – go watch that video.
But here, he supports Jon over Daenerys.
Jon says he's loyal to Dany, that she's his queen.
But Varys says “Men decide where power resides” . This refers to Varys' riddle in Season 2 .
The idea is that kings and priests and money only have power if people believe they have power.
Jon sees power in Daenerys, but he could choose to see power in himself.
Tyrion finds out about Varys' betrayal and tells Daenerys . And Daenerys is unsurprised,
she's numb to any more loss.
She had begged Jon not to reveal his identity, but he told Sansa, and Sansa told Tyrion,
to Varys, who used it to betray Daenerys . All of her allies have failed her.
Missandei Rhaegal and Jorah are dead.
Dany feels there is no one she can trust – like everyone's against her, no matter what she does.
Daenerys executes Varys, and he calmly accepts his fate.
He was willing to risk his life for the sake of the realm.
Tyrion tells Varys that he snitched on him to Dany . Tyrion feels guilty for betraying
one of his only friends. They say farewell, and Dany burns Varys alive, just as she promised
she would. Daenerys and Grey Worm grieve for Missandei.
Grey Worm throws her old slave collar into fire – Missandei's last word was dracarys, which means dragonfire.
So Dany and Grey Worm will express their grief in fiery violence.
Daenerys confronts Jon for telling Sansa about his identity, even though she begged him not to.
Can Daenerys rely on her lover Jon?
She kisses him, but he pulls away.
He was disturbed to see her burn Varys, so Jon's not too keen on macking his aunt.
With even Jon rejecting her, Dany feels that no one in Westeros loves her.
She decides to use fear to take power. Dany decides to attack King's Landing.
Tyrion warns that that would kill thousands of innocents , but Dany says that's worth
it if they can remove Cersei.
And that's not an unusual attitude in Westeros.
When the lords make war, common folk die.
Like, twenty years ago, the Lannisters killed many innocent people in King's Landing removing
the Mad King . But Tyrion hopes for Daenerys to take the capital peacefully – he says
if the city bells ring, that means they've surrendered, so the attack can stop.
Dany agrees, but she's clearly keen for fire and blood.
Arya and the Hound pass through the war camp.
Arya says she's going to kill Cersei.
If she mentioned that earlier, Daenerys could have held off the attack.
There'd be no need for battle and no dead civilians if Arya snuck in and killed Cersei.
But Arya's too edgy and cool to share her plans with Jon.
Tyrion frees Jaime – he was captured by Daenerys trying to get to Cersei .
Tyrion wants Jaime to convince Cersei to surrender, so that the people of King's Landing won't die.
It's funny that Tyrion is trying so hard to save these people, when in Season 4,
he said wanted to kill the people of King's Landing . In the books, Tyrion's still in
this dark, vengeful place, but in the show, Daenerys has changed Tyrion's worldview,
inspired him to believe in a better world.
Jaime doesn't believe in a better world.
He says he never cared about the people of King's Landing – which is weird, because
Jaime once killed his king to save the people of King's Landing – to stop the Mad King from burning the city.
Maybe this is just Jaime using his Kingslayer persona again.
He's acting cruel and careless to hide how conflicted he really is.
Over the last eight seasons, Jaime's grown beyond that Kingslayer persona.
He left Cersei and risked his life to fight for the living with Brienne.
But now he's suddenly regressing back to the selfish person he used to be.
Tyrion gets Davos to put a boat outside the Red Keep so that Jaime and Cersei can escape.
Jaime once saved Tyrion's life, so now Tyrion tries to save his. The brothers have a heartfelt farewell.
In the capital, Cersei prepares to defend her Throne.
She brings common people up around the Red Keep – thinking that Daenerys won't wanna
hurt innocent people . The Golden Company, and Euron's fleet are defending the city, until Daenerys attacks.
She flies down from above, with the sun behind her, and wipes out the entire Iron Fleet,
even though the Fleet has dozens of scorpion ballistas . Last episode, Euron hit the dragon
Rhaegal with three scorpion bolts.
Daenerys and Drogon couldn't handle just eleven of Euron's ships.
This time, Euron has over a hundred ships, and Daenerys destroys them all.
She also burns the dozens of scorpions on the city walls , and not one scorpion bolt hits.
The scorpions went from a huge threat to a non-issue in one episode.
The same thing happens with the Golden Company.
Cersei went to a lot of trouble to hire these guys, borrowing money from Iron Bank, having
Euron ship them cross the sea.
Cersei says they're “the most powerful army in Essos” . But Daenerys wipes them
out before they can do anything.
Her soldiers attack, and quickly overwhelm the Lannisters.
So the show leads us to believe that we'll get a big epic battle between the good guys and bad guys.
But the show subverts that by having Daenerys easily stomp Cersei's army.
It leads us to question whether Dany and Jon really are the good guys.
A lot of these shots echo the Battle of the Bastards, except now Jon is on the other side.
And it gets worse from here.
The Lannisters surrender, and the city bells ring.
So Daenerys achieves the impossible.
She takes the capital with very few deaths.
She can just go to the Red Keep, arrest Cersei, end the war, so Dany can take the Throne
as a peaceful queen, a liberator and protector of the people.
This is what Daenerys always wanted, but when it happens, she doesn't feel happy.
She only feels grief and anger. She's lost Missandei, and Rhaegal, and Jorah.
Everyone's turned against her, despite all her sacrifices.
She feels alone , and overwhelmed, and she snaps . She burns the city and the innocent people in it.
She spends the rest of the episode systematically destroying King's Landing.
By the end, most of the city is afire, and there are a million people in there.
So Daenerys kills hundreds of thousands of innocent men women and children, not for any strategic
reason, but because she's angry.
And sure, maybe she's inspiring fear to force people to follow her. But it's clear
from the scene, and from interviews with actors and showrunners, that this isn't a political
calculation, this is an emotional outburst that leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.
This is more death and destruction than anyone has ever caused in Game of Thrones.
Tywin and Cersei and Ramsay never killed hundreds of thousands of civilians.
Only the white walkers are that bad – so Daenerys is arguably as evil as the Night King.
He brought an apocalypse of ice, now she brings an apocalypse of fire – which nicely sums
up the Robert Frost poem that inspired this series – the world could end in ice or fire,
either would suffice. So there is meaning here – it's about how human conflict is
just as destructive as magic white walkers – like, the humans defeated the zombies,
but turns out that humans were real monsters all along.
It's kind of a cliché, but author George Martin always said that Thrones isn't about
good guys and bad guys , it's about “the human heart in conflict with itself” . Human
nature is what destroys King's Landing, so this disaster does fit with the themes of the series.
But how does it fit Dany's character?
Is she really this evil?
Daenerys has always struggled to balance violence and vengeance against peace and compromise.
She wants to be a fair ruler, but sometimes she gets angry, and does violence that isn't politically smart or just.
Like in Season 4, she crucified a hundred Masters . In Season 5, she fed Masters to
her dragons, even though she said some might be “innocent” . And in Season 7, she burned the Tarlys.
Some of these might be justifiable, but they were killings motivated by anger, a Targaryen urge for fire and blood.
And Dany's often wanted to go further, to let her dragons loose and to burn all her enemies.
In Season 2, she threatens Qarth, saying she'll “burn cities to the ground” . In Season 4,
she decides to kill every Master in Yunkai , and in Season 6, to kill the Meereenese,
to “return their cities to the dirt” . Both these times, Daenerys' advisors convince
her not to wipe out cities.
Jorah and Tyrion “check her worst impulses” . So in Season 8, when Jorah's dead, and
Dany's lost faith in Tyrion, there's no one to hold her back.
She expresses her grief and rage in fire and blood.
When Aegon the Conqueror's sister died, Aegon burned every castle and keep in Dorne,
the civilian deaths were “uncountable” . This is what Targaryens do, this is what
dragons represent – destruction, fire, fury.
But why would Daenerys attack civilians?
Part of what defines her as a character is her sympathy for the common people, for the weak and innocent.
Cause as a child, Daenerys herself was treated as a slave.
Abused by her brother, sold to Drogo, used and raped.
So as soon as she starts getting power, she uses it to protect the vulnerable.
She saves Lhazarene women, she protects her khalasar.
She spends three seasons liberating slaves.
Daenerys once locked away her dragons to prevent them from hurting kids.
So, angry or not, murdering hundreds of thousands of innocents goes against one of the foundations
of Daenerys'character.
If this happens in the books, we might see a more gradual progression into this violence,
so we can better understand why she does this.
Or the situation could be different, like maybe Dany will only kill the people at the
Red Keep, who are in the way of the Throne.
Or she could will accidentally burn the city, by setting off this wildfire – the wildfire's
left over from when the Mad King tried to burn the city, so Daenerys is unknowingly
ignites her father's legacy.
Whatever her reasons, Daenerys has become what she came to destroy – she's queen
of the ashes, a bringer of death, a tyrant.
Grey Worm sparks violence on the ground, attacking the Lannisters who'd surrendered, to avenge the death of Missandei.
And the Stark soldiers join in.
They also have reason to hate the Lannisters – Lannisters killed their beloved Ned and
King Robb, and gave the North to the brutal Boltons.
Thousands of northmen died in wars against the Lannisters, so now they get revenge.
It's a bit like in the books, when northmen march against the Boltons, and a northman
called Big Bucket Wull says “Let me bathe in Bolton blood before I die”.
There's a tradition in the north for older northmen to get themselves killed before winter,
so that their families have one less mouth to feed . Many the northmen who came south
with Jon might not be planning to return.
So it's no surprise that this becomes a bloodbath.
Jon watches in horror as his men slaughter and rape civilians.
In Season 3, Jorah says “There's a beast in every man, and it stirs when you put a
sword in his hand” . We like to think of the northmen as good guys.
But the story shows how even people with good intentions can become monsters in war.
Arya and the Hound reach the Keep, and the Hound tells her to turn back.
Arya wants to kill Cersei and finish her death list.
But the Hound tells her not to become like him.
The Hound's been obsessed with revenge all his life – ever since his brother the Mountain burned his face.
That anger and bitterness is why the Hound is so lonely, cynical and unhappy.
If Arya kills Cersei, it'll only take her deeper into violence and alienation.
The Hound says if she stays here, she'll die – she could die literally from the collapsing
castle, but she could also die metaphorically, if her humanity is consumed by violence and
hate – like how Meera said that Bran “died”.
So Arya chooses life, and turns back from the precipice.
She thanks the Hound, and calls him Sandor, his real name . It's a final moment of human
connection between Arya and Sandor Clegane.
So Arya turns back, but the Hound thinks it's too late for him.
He goes and finds his brother.
These two have wanted to kill each other for years, and here at
the end of the world seems as good a time as any.
Qyburn orders the Mountain to stay, but he disobeys, and kills his creator.
Remember, the Mountain had been all but dead when Qyburn raised him as a zombie man with
some mix of science and necromancy.
Qyburn is like Dr Frankenstein, and the Mountain is his monster, so it's neatly poetic for
Qyburn to be killed by his creation.
We see the Mountain's face is all rotted, and no matter what the Hound does to him,
he won't die.
Cause Gregor is already dead – the brother who burned Sandor is long gone, all that's
left is a walking corpse.
This shows the pointlessness of and emptiness of revenge.
The Hound will never find happiness by killing a dead man.
But the Hound feels this can only end with death, so he takes the Mountain down with
him, pushing him through a wall into the fires below.
Fire is what started their beef when Gregor burned Sandor – and fire is only thing that
could kill the undead Mountain.
So the brothers burn together.
Jaime tries to reach Cersei by a passage to the Red Keep, but he's stopped by Euron.
Euron survived Dany's attack on his fleet, and he rises from the sea – the ironborn
have a ritual of drowning themselves then being revived – “What is dead may never die”,
“But rises again, harder and stronger” . Euron starts a fight with Jaime – they've
been rivals for Cersei's love since last season.
Jaime kills Euron, but Jaime's badly wounded, so Euron's happy that he's the man who
killed Jaime Lannister . Euron in the show is a simple man with simple goals.
He wanted to be a king, to fuck the queen, and to kill Jaime – and with that done, he dies content.
Jaime gets to Cersei, and the twins embrace as the world falls down around them.
They try to escape, but their passage is blocked by rubble.
Cersei had stayed defiant while Daenerys burned the city, but now she breaks down and cries
for the life of her baby and herself, cause deep down, Cersei's only human.
Jaime tells her that she and him are the only things that matter in the world , just as they said in Season 1.
And then the roof collapses and they die.
This is a poetic end for Cersei.
She's crushed beneath the Red Keep, the symbol of the power that she wanted so badly
that it destroyed her.
Cersei could have saved herself at any time in the last couple seasons.
But Cersei couldn't let go of power, and so it collapsed upon her.
Cersei's pregnancy plotline went nowhere – all that stuff about whether Jaime or
Euron was the father, and whether the baby would make Cersei cooperative…
Maybe the showrunners thought that a baby would humanise Cersei, as though the motherhood
is the only relatable aspect of Cersei's deep complex character.
In the last two seasons, Cersei did very little but get pregnant drink wine and die.
Jaime's death makes him a failure.
He tried to redeem himself, and to be a better man, with Brienne, but he couldn't escape
Cersei, and dies with her.
Jaime changes so much throughout his arc, but he ends up dying in the same place he began.
Maybe this is realistic.
Some people don't change.
The showrunners say Jaime's love for Cersei is like an addiction , and sometimes addicts relapse, and overdose.
But you've gotta ask, what's the point of the last eight seasons of Jaime's arc
if he abandons all his growth to die with Cersei?
Jaime dies with his hand on Cersei's neck, which evokes the valonqar prophecy from the
books, which hints that Cersei will be strangled to death by Jaime. It may be that in the
books, Jaime will kill Cersei before he dies.
That way, Jaime could overcome his darker half before his death.
In Season 5, Jaime said he wants to die “In the arms of the woman” he loves . Some fans
hoped that that would be Brienne, but – turns out it was Cersei.
The prophecy of Maggy the Frog said that Cersei would be cast down by someone “younger”
and “more beautiful” . Cersei thought that meant Margaery – but turns out, it's
Daenerys, bringing the Keep down onto Cersei.
Also, Daenerys could fit the Dothraki prophecy of the “The stallion who mounts the world”,
and tramples nations in to dust . So Season 8 does fulfil some of the series' prophecies and foreshadowing.
While the city burns, Arya sees the devastation on the ground.
She trained for seasons to be a servant of death.
But now she sees how horrible death can be – with hundreds of innocents suffering and screaming and grieving.
A common woman helps Arya – a moment of hope in the darkness.
So Arya tries to save the woman and other civilians – they just end up dying anyway,
but the point is that Arya is trying to help people instead of just killing for once.
After the devastation, Arya rises from the ashes, and cries over the bodies of the people she tried to save.
The visuals evoke Pompeii, and 9/11, and the bombing of Dresden.
Ash rains down like nuclear winter – author George Martin says his dragons are like nukes.
Arya sees a horse – the only other living creature among the death.
The horse is white with red blood, just like a weirwood is white with red sap.
So this could connect to the old gods – some fans think this horse was sent by Bran with his warging powers.
Or it could connect to the Book of Revelations, in the Bible, where a pale horse means death.
But Arya strokes the horse, we hear its breathing and see its face.
Arya rides it out of the ruins, away from the death and destruction – Arya and her horse represent life.
But overall, this is a very dark episode.
Hundreds of thousands are killed by the woman we thought was a hero.
Jaime fails to become a better man, and dies with his hateful sister.
All of Jon's heroism, and Varys' scheming, and Tyrion's supposed intelligence did nothing to prevent disaster.
Is Game of Thrones really this bleak and nihilistic?
Thrones author George Martin says his “worldview is anything but nihilistic” . Thrones is
full of death and darkness, but the darkness is there to better show the light of human struggles against darkness.
“Men's lives have meaning, not their deaths” . And yet this episode has little but death.
There's a sense of inevitability.
Varys talks about Targaryen madness, as though Daenerys was destined to repeat her father's sins.
Jaime just accepts that he could never be better than the hateful man he was.
The Hound basically commits suicide by Mountain.
It's as though all these character's hopes and growth were for nothing.
The dream of a better world is ash.
What was the point of this story if it ends with just failure and death?
The Thrones books always have some sense of meaning against the darkness.
Their ending will be bittersweet, not just bitter.
If Thrones is to be true to its source material, and to rise above empty nihilism, it needs
to show some hope in the series finale next week.
There are many great Game of Thrones YouTube channels, and a bunch of them just wrote a
book together about how Thrones became so popular and so meaningful to so many people.
It's called “The Thrones Effect: How Game of Thrones Conquered Pop Culture”.
It's written and read by all these Thrones channels including History of Westeros, Got Academy,
GrayArea, and more, and you can get it on audiobook for free today by signing up for a trial with Audible.
Members get a book each month, and if you cancel, you keep the books.
So go and support some of the best voices on Thrones online, and hear new perspectives on the story.
Sign up at audible.com/asx.
Thanks for watching.
The final Q&A livestream in at 10:30 Eastern time Sunday night.
Thanks to the Patrons, including Sam Lundin of House Vimbly, first of his name, Lord of
Union Square, and Protector of the Realm.
Thanks to Peter Meehan, Jury, Arsh Jhaj, Emily McNally, Bloody Tyrant, Nikos Moraitakis,
Trace Mychal, Joel Soucy, Max Bichel, and Galdin8.
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Game of Thrones S8E05 Explained

324 Folder Collection
Jerry Liu published on August 12, 2019
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