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Game of Thrones: “The Bells” Review

The Bells (2019) - Emilia Clarke

‘The Bells’ Rings in a Fiery Mother’s Day in Westeros

SPOILERS FOR THIS EPISODE OF GAME OF THRONES DOWN BELOW

Well, that’s a Mother’s Day we won’t forget. Game of Thrones has had its fair share of “bowls.” Bastard Bowl 2016 was perhaps the series’ crowning achievement post-Season 5. And Cleganebowl remains a fan’s dream. But it was inevitable for Cersei (Lena Headey) and Dany (Emilia Clarke) to clash, minus the physicality. Dragons, Unsullied, Lannister troops and thousands of innocents aren’t exempt. The Bells is the final stop before the series’ finale next Sunday. There’s plenty of plot lines that go out in a blaze of glory, more or less.

The majority of The Bells highlights the attack on King’s Landing. However, the episode opens with closure for Varys (Conleth Hill). Last week, the spymaster realized he bet on the wrong horse. Like many in Dany’s entourage, he’s leaning more towards Jon (Kit Harington) as the ideal ruler. Of course, she might as well steal dialogue from Star Wars‘ Emperor Palpatine. “That’s treason then.” Dany warned Varys last season what would happen if he turned on her. Drogon pretty much burns one of the best players in the game alive. Maybe Varys and Littlefinger will conspire in the Game of Thrones afterlife. Who knows?

Jon’s still playing the idiot week after week. You might as well turn both “You’re my queen” or “I don’t want it” into a drinking game. Though, I do have to give Jon credit to not giving into any more Targaryen incest. A wise decision? Probably not, considering Dany’s mindset. It just adds more fuel to Dany’s fire. At least his Stark moral compass is outweighing his Targaryen half. It’s the last time the two cross paths in this episode. The remainder of the episode is a fiery free-for-all in the action department.

From there, it’s all about overthrowing Cersei with the least amount of casualties. Sure. Dany’s out for blood in The Bells. Nothing’s held back, even if bells signal surrender. Euron’s fleet and the Golden Company are both quickly destroyed. If there were elephants, the battle would’ve been more hard fought. #WhereAreMyElephants. Dany makes waste of King’s Landing before even heading straight for Cersei. The collateral damage is uncalled for, but we’re in the full “Mad Queen” mode. While it might seems it a flip of a switch, it’s been building up for a while. Dany doesn’t have those checks and balances anymore to curb her Targaryen impulses. Even though Season 8 has been rushing towards the end, there’s still an understanding of Dany’s collapse. This isn’t Anakin Skywalker turning from Jedi to child murderer on a dime. The seeds are evident.

Like The Long Night, The Bells is a relentless battle episode. The only difference is the “protagonists” are on the offensive. There’s no sense of worry that Dany or Jon will die in this episode. The same can’t be said about other characters. Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) finally takes out Euron (Pilou Asbæk), despite being mortally wounded. Of course, he finally finds his way back to Cersei as they die beneath the crumbling Red Keep. Valonquar prophecy means nothing. Cersei’s been shortchanged all season. And somehow, you actually feel sorry for some of the most detestable characters in all of Westeros. Ironically enough, Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) allowed the reunion to happen, freeing Jaime from Dany’s forces. Guess family means more than it did in Season 4.

The Bells is oddly paced. Tyrion is missing halfway through the episode without reason. And when Dany’s not burning everything down, the narrative shifts to other confrontations. Cleganebowl is finally paid off. It was well worth the wait, despite some obvious green screen and lighting snafus. Meanwhile, Arya (Maisie Williams) attempts to avoid being killed by the dragon’s terror. There’s countless near-death shots, offering the most tension out of the entire episode. While many deaths were just shrugs at this point, Arya’s fate seemed uncertain until the final shot. Fortunately, her demise is “not today.” Though, with the deaths piling up in The Bells, she’ll never get that 100% revenge achievement.

The Bells would mean so much more if Season 8 was allowed to breathe a bit more. Mayhem trumps character moments for 80 minutes much more than the Battle of Winterfell. One can hope the finale will stick to that landing a bit better than the previous two episodes. It’s a decent penultimate episode that doesn’t deserve any shame bells ringing.

Next Week’s Preview:

7
Good
Written by
Matt Marshall has been reviewing films since 2003, starting with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King." He specializes in home media, including 4K UHD, Blu-ray as well as box office analysis. He has a B.A. in Communications/Journalism from St. John Fisher College and resides in Rochester, NY.

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