Warning: This contains spoilers for GoT Season 8, Episode 5: The Bells
For the first time since the beginning of this season, I have to agree that the writers of this show have run out of ideas. Hard to admit, but it is the truth. GoT can do no wrong in our eyes, but I think they did this time. I have defended the producers all this while thinking they would give us something splendid to fall back on with the last two episodes. But what episode 5 showed us was that there is nothing to be salvaged from the show.
What were David Benioff and D. B. Weiss thinking?
I am of the opinion that the writers having tethered their creativity to the numerous accolades praising the show for its unpredictability, great foreshadowing and excellent character development, fell into the erroneous thought that the audience would accept anything they are served; that the audience would simmer, say Valar Moghulis and move on. However, they failed to realize that this was a season anticipated for two years. Many re-watched past seasons just to get into heads of Benioff and Weiss and Martins in order to understand their thought process; how they created plots and characters. And having done that successfully, this audience aligned themselves to what would be plausible developments as the show winds to a close.
However, what we have seen is that Game of Thrones is ending abruptly and this had made the writers make many mistakes. So I ask, where is GoT rushing to? We have seen so much rush in the production of this final season that even a coffee cup was left on the table of a scene in a show that was set in a medieval era. We have applauded the attention to details of the GoT crew, but it is sad to admit that there is a subtle weariness and hurry to get the show over and done with.
And it is for this reason we were cursed with a mad Khaleesi in this last episode. We find this disheartening because Daenarys is a character we have grown to love right from the beginning of the show. We have seen the interesting development of her character—from a young, scared virgin gifted to a Khal whom she grew to love, to a fierce leader who still found the cool waters of mercy flowing in her veins despite the fires that raged within. We watched her try to fulfill one goal—defeat evil and embrace good. We even saw this in the early minutes of this episode when she told Tyrion, “Mercy is our strength.”
That is why we were filled with shock and trepidation as she stopped at nothing until she saw King’s Landing levelled to rubbles. We saw the Khaleesi we loved, the Khaleesi who rescued slaves, the Khaleesi who told the Unsullied to spare children and women and kill only slave masters, we saw this same Khaleesi, in a macabre scene, reduce innocent men, women, and children into charred bodies.. And we were forced to compare Daenerys to Cersei, who had been the villain all this while. We were forced to feel a tinge of pity for Cersei as she witnessed all of her life crumbling. This is unfair to the audience. This is unfair to the character, Daenerys.
Benioff and Weiss for the past seven to eight years have shown us how to slowly and subtly develop characters. We have felt contempt grow into pity then love with Theon; Sansa grew from a timid girl to a strong lady with foresight; Jaime had always suppressed his good side with the love he had for his sister, yet we were taken through his dilly-dallying between good and evil till his very end. There were also consistent characters like Cersei, Tyrion, Lord Varys, Jon Snow, and Ramsay Bolton, who remained their true selves till the end. So why play it differently with Dany? Why give us the impression of a consistent character, and suddenly change her arc? Now, I am not questioning a change in arc per se, but this wasn’t done with the same subtlety as we had seen with other characters.
Many would argue that she had said she would burn cities to the ground, but that had been said given a caveat—she would burn cities to the ground if her enemies did not surrender. So why did she burn King’s Landing even at the point of surrender? Why did she give up on a chance to humiliate and kill her ultimate enemy—Cersei? (For a villain, Cersei had an easy, merciful death. What better way to die than in the arms of your lover, with your baby in your belly? Such a romantic a way to die.) Suddenly we get to see unrequited love and the lust for power drastically switch the heroine to a villain. One subtle theme GoT has always portrayed was showing that people could remain their true selves irrespective of history, bloodline, or culture. We see this with Arya, Jon, Theon, and other characters. But when it gets to Dany, we are forced to remember the blood of the Mad King flows in her, despite her attempts to strike a suitable balance between good and evil. It is sad to watch a character we care about end this way.
That aside, can someone please ask Benioff and Weiss why we had to watch the spar between Euron and Jaime? That was such a needless scene!
Then there is also the part where Arya was used as an emotional bait so that the audience could appreciate the havoc Drogon and its rider were causing on King’s Landing. While I understand Benioff and Weiss’ intent, I find Arya’s role unnecessary because even before the focus was on Arya’s escape through tornadoes of fire, I was already screaming, “Please Dany! Stop! It’s enough! Jesus Christ!” And I know this was the same for majority of the viewers. Whether Arya ran through the shadow of death or not, our emotions were already a mess seeing innocents running, yet consumed by fire. The mother and child that bumped into Arya were enough to play the role of emotional bait that Arya was used for. Maybe we have to give in to the speculations that Arya might kill Dany, and so she had to see first-hand what Dany is capable of.
The only scene that did it for me was the battle between The Hound and The Mountain. The showdown begins as The Mountain sputtered Qyburn’s brains to the wall and flung him aside like a piece of cloth. The fear and consequent scampering of Cersei was funny to watch for a character who we have known to hardly show fear. Then, we got to see the beast behind The Mountain, and were amazed by his strength. It was as if Sandor Clegane was fighting a wight that could only be killed with fire. And in that kill lies the satisfying significance of Sandor’s death: dying by fire with the person that made him fear fire in the first place. And that is the sort of thing we are used to seeing with GoT.
It is only best to conclude that this season was rushed. If a subsequent season was to follow, maybe we would have seen a slow, detailed pace of this season. So I ask again, GoT, why the rush? Why are the closing bells ringing a tad too early.