Games of Thrones: I Don’t Even Recognise You Anymore

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Games of Thrones: I Don’t Even Recognise You Anymore

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

W

ell, fuck. Here we are, two weeks after the Battle of Winterfell and somehow the North feels like the safest place in the Seven Kingdoms. While Sansa and Bran Stark work from home in this episode, the Battle at King’s Landing is a visual spectacle right up there with “The Battle of the Bastards” and “The Long Night”. So it made sense to bring back director Miguel Sapochnik for “The Bells”, an episode that was certainly high on scale, but unfortunately fell a tad below mediocre in terms of satisfying character resolutions.

I recall a few years ago during seasons three, four, and five when Game of Thrones cemented its place as a pop culture behemoth. Every moment of every scene of every episode was meticulously broken down and then marvelled at on internet fan forums. The attention to detail, watertight storytelling and above all else, the phenomenal character development, made the show what it is today.

Every character arc on the show felt real, and each time a character acted on its calling – like Jaime Lannister sacrificing his hand to save Brienne Tarth’s honour – it would invoke visceral reactions from viewers. This season, it’s safe to say that feeling has gone down the crapper, and “The Bells” is another reason why. Here’s what went down.

Varys-Kebab

To put it mildly, DB Weiss and David Benioff really screwed the pooch with Varys this season. Remember the Varys of yore? The scheming bald bastard who along with Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish gave us some brilliantly manipulative and astutely executed plays for the throne?

Yeah, this season he’s just a gossip monger who thinks it wise to openly commit treason against his unstable queen. He even blatantly tells her lover/nephew about his nefarious intentions. He might as well have had a noose around his neck when he told Jon, “Men decide where the power resides, whether or not they know it,” because he was pretty much toast by that point anyway. Naturally, Dany ordered Drogon to barbeque Varys alive. Much to Jon Snow and Tyrion Lannister’s horror.

I recall a few years ago during seasons three, four, and five when Game of Thrones cemented its place as a pop culture behemoth.

Sex and the King’s Landing

Many might recall feeling a little icky when they first saw Jon and Dany do the “dance with no pants” at the end of last season. Turns out, that “wait-I’m-boning-my-aunt” feeling finally catches up with Snow in this episode, as he chooses to shy away from Dany’s advances, leaving our poor queen sexless in the city. Now, Jon isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer and his record as a responsible pet owner has been sketchy at best (Ghost deserves a hug, damn it!), but hasn’t anyone told him about the benefits of a good pre-battle boom boom? Did he not see what it did for Arya?

Despite her lack of Vitamin D, Khaleesi’s assault on Westeros was hard to stomach. The Night King and his wights attacking Winterfell looked like SSC kids charging into Essel World in comparison. In fact, Jon and Tyrion’s aghast faces at Aunty Dany’s aggression felt like they’d just realised that the real enemy might have been with them all along.

tyrion

Image Credit: HBO

The Mad Queen

But then again, The Mother of Dragons has shown regular glimpses of her unstable temperament throughout the show. She set ablaze the Dothraki generals who wouldn’t bend the knee, she lit up Sam’s father and brother like fuljharis, and most recently, she acted against her advisors and led her depleted forces from Winterfell to King’s Landing. The seeds of the Mad Queen had long been sown. But nobody was ready for the stomach-churning levels of carnage Dany would inflict on Westeros.

Not only did she make quick work of the Iron Fleet, she almost single-handedly decimated the Golden Compass’ and the Lannister soldiers guarding King’s Landing. In one of the most spine-chilling moments on the show, Daenerys paid no heed to Cersei’s forces’ surrender and proceeded to shower the city’s innocent residents with dragon fire. Even Cersei, who annihilated the sept a couple of seasons ago, was upset.

Hello Brother

But hey! At least we got Cleganebowl, amirite? Game of Thrones’ own version of Kane vs Undertaker has been one of the most hyped potential plot-points on the show. Their showdown looked like something out of a graphic novel, with dragon fire illuminating the sky above them and the city in ruins below as they brawled atop the Red Keep’s devastated stairs. After Qyburn made the fatal mistake of trying to get in between the two, the Mountain promptly snapped his neck and Cersei had to make herself scarce. When his semi-human brother’s mask finally came off, the Hound’s expression was reminiscent of when he spoke of chicken in Season 5, he just wanted to dig in.

In many ways, Cleganebowl was the best part of the episode since it delivered on both spectacle and character redemption arcs. It made absolute sense that The Hound, after realising that his undead brother could only be killed by fire, would take a leap of faith and tackle his brother down into a fiery abyss. Thank you for the memories, Sandor Clegane. Now can we name a KFC bucket after this guy already?!

hound

Image Credit: HBO

Every moment of every scene of every episode was meticulously broken down and then marvelled at on internet fan forums.

Until Death Do Us Part

Almost fatally wounded in a duel with Euron Greyjoy, Jaime hobbles into the Red Keep to seemingly whisk his sister away to some kind of incestuous getaway. But alas! Before they can reach the dinghy down by the beach, the tunnel walls cave in on them in the midst of their final embrace. What. Even?

This Romeo and Juliet-like is not only all-too cheesy and totally unlike GoT but why Benioff & Weiss saw it fit to give Cersei an almost fantasy-like death alongside the one she loved, is something I’m still trying to get my head around.

I Am Not A Lady

Keeping the spirit of inexplicable writing alive, everyone’s favourite Night King killer, Arya Stark, spent much of the episode getting… stomped on by commoners? While Arya trying to save the city folk was believable, the number of times she got knocked around, despite her training as a faceless assassin, was laughable. At this point, we don’t need to spoil anything since Weiss and Benioff are doing a pretty good job spoiling this show anyway.  

However, Arya and a white horse being the only survivors of the carnage at the end of the episode seems to be an obvious nod towards her being Azhor Azhai or the Prince (Princess?) that was promised. Her words to Gendry in the last episode, “I am not a lady,” seem all the more profound now.

arya

Image Credit: HBO

As a Thrones fan, I am still excited for the series finale next week. But it honestly seems at this point that, in its rush to get to the finish line, GoT has become one of those shows that have veered so far away from its roots that it almost seems like a different show altogether now.

Despite some milestone moments, “The Bells” is proof that just like Khaleesi did with Westeros, the show’s writers have no qualms metaphorically burning down decades worth of character development.

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