Winter is here: The final season of “Game of Thrones” is one of the most highly anticipated television events of the last decade. Follow our columnists as they explore students’ weekly reactions as an iconic era of pop culture comes to an end. Beware, spoilers lie ahead in this special editor’s take.
Jet fuel may not be able to melt steel beams, but dragon’s breath can apparently crumble castles.
In a fire-filled blaze, the show’s penultimate episode aired Sunday night, serving up everything short of oblivion. With Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei’s (Lena Headey) much-awaited showdown, King’s Landing finally tested its impenetrable history during the season’s fifth episode, “The Bells.”
Gossip tends to get around in Westeros, and Daenerys quickly discovers that her advisor Varys (Conleth Hill) has swapped allegiances to support Jon Snow (Kit Harington) as rightful heir to the throne. His betrayal is met with fire, as the queen sentences him to death by dragon – the first of thousands to meet such a fate.
After suffering heavy losses in the prior episode, the fiery Mother of Dragons decides to burn the city in order to free the people from Cersei’s tyranny. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) begs Daenerys to consider calling off the attack if the citizens surrender, which they would signal by ringing the city’s bells. Of course, the gracious Breaker of Chains agrees to the idea of not slaughtering every man, woman and child in King’s Landing. A queen needs people to rule over, after all.
But then the fight begins. Arya (Maisie Williams), the Hound (Rory McCann) and Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) are already deep within the city on clashing missions as Drogon, the only remaining dragon, single-handedly wipes out the Iron Fleet, the city’s gates and hundreds of soldiers. Piece of cake.
Jon and his men charge alongside the Unsullied, making short work of city guards left and right. As Cersei looks on, her city surrenders and the bells begin to ring. The battle seems to be over – men drop their weapons and the onslaught comes to a halt.
The daughter of the Mad King, however, has other plans, and she launches Drogon into the air. He sweeps above the buildings, raining fire on screaming civilians and leveling the city. Audiences have watched the newly envisioned Mad Queen slowly loses her initial drive throughout the season, with power and pain increasingly blinding her from her main goal: to free Westeros from a power-hungry queen, Cersei.
Kristin Snyder, an assistant Arts editor and second-year English student, said the series could have approached Daenerys’ season-eight character arc more tactfully, but it does follow the personality shift hinted at in prior seasons.
“She’s clearly following her father’s footsteps where he became the Mad King and clearly she’s going to become the Mad Queen,” she said. “It’s just to show that absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Throughout the rest of the episode, the monster flies across the city, commanding her dragon to burn even the Red Keep into ashes. As civilians die left and right – both from the dragon and at the hands of pillaging soldiers – blood gushes in gallons. The horrendous sound of pooling and splattering blood permeates multiple shots, enhancing the gruesome nature of the post-surrender attack. Daenerys ends up responsible for slaughtering men, women and children en masse – with many, many of these senseless deaths shown on screen. She effectively becomes a tyrant of equal stature as Cersei.
Gabriel McCarthy, an assistant Sports editor, said Daenerys’ impulsive nature throughout the episode spoke volumes, as did her exhausted appearance and sunken eyes.
“I think we are used to seeing Emilia Clarke’s character always composed in many moments, especially recently in the season, so seeing her appear physically disheveled and on the edge of losing it was powerful,” said the second-year English and history student.
And the incestuously obsessed Jaime runs into Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek) on his way to the Red Keep. The latter manages to stab the kingslayer twice before he meets his own inevitable demise via skewering – even with one hand, Jaime beats his opponent down in hopes of saving Cersei. He somehow hobbles all the way into the keep, where he eventually finds his sister/lover/queen/baby mother. In quite the somber – if anticlimactic – death scene, the two hold each other as the building crumbles down from overhead.
So if the building just collapsed around Cersei, does that mean Daenerys just destroyed the very throne she hoped to sit on? It doesn’t seem to matter, as both Jon and Arya seem livid at the destruction the Khaleesi’s dragon caused. The question of their loyalty to the dragon queen is thus raised, and their disgusted expressions seem to be an answer.
Arya, midescape, almost dies a handful of times due to falling rubble, dragon fire and murderous Dothraki. But she does not go down in King’s Landing, and instead rides out of the leveled landscape on a Dothraki horse before the credits roll.
Coming on the heels of a yawn-inducing fourth episode, “The Bells” caused an exciting shift that effectively nullified any legitimate chance of Daenerys ruling Westeros. With one tyrant dead and another stretching her wings, the battle for the throne now seems to have much fewer pawns – and only one queen left on the board.
As for Arya’s incomplete prophecy, however, she has shut brown and blue eyes forever. All that’s left is green eyes – and she may be looking at you, Daenerys.