- Warning: Spoilers ahead for HBO’s “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode five, “The Bells.”
- Daenerys Targaryen’s decision to destroy King’s Landing was a reaction to hearing the bells of surrender ring.
- The episode’s director says she did it because the relatively bloodless coup was not “enough” for her and she felt “empty” in that moment.
- But the way the scene was staged doesn’t make that clear enough, resulting in confusion.
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The pivotal moment of Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” episode came when Daenerys had successfully burned the Iron Fleet, blasted all the outer walls of King’s Landing, and had the Lannister army ringing the bells of surrender. But then she took off on Drogon, and began laying waste to the entire city anyways, killing thousands of innocent people in the process.
But why? What was it that made the Mother of Dragons decide to be “queen of the ashes”?
As explained by the episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik,in HBO’s “The Game Revealed” video, Daenerys set out for King’s Landing with a thirst for vengeance against Cersei Lannister. But when Dany’s own armies won with relatively little bloodshed, she was left disappointed.
“She feels empty,” Sapochnik said. “It wasn’t what she thought it was. It’s not enough.”
So what audiences were supposed to understand in that moment, according to Sapochnik, was that Daenerys is angered to hear the bells of surrender and see the Red Keep still intact and the city virtually unscathed.
She came there to win the war against Cersei, but suddenly realises that alone isn’t enough. She wants to rain fire and blood upon the city.
“Every single thing that’s led her to this point, and there she is alone,” Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys, said in the same video. “We’ve all got this part of us, that part that goes ‘I’m gonna put that chocolate cake down, and I’m gonna walk away.'”
“We come up against those moral conundrums all the time,” she continued. “Not saying chocolate cake is a conundrum, eat as much f—— cake as you want, but those things that you wrestle with in yourself.”
But the way the scene was written and filmed, it was hard for audiences to understand how Dany was feeling
Earlier on the episode, we see Tyrion emphasise the plan to call off the attack if the bells were rung. But Daenerys doesn’t verbally agree to this plan and instead just nods at Grey Worm and reiterates that he should wait for her outside the city.
“You’ll know when it’s time,” she says.
But we don’t know what their plan is, exactly. So when Daenerys blows up the main gate and the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northern troops flood into King’s Landing, was that the plan Daenerys was referencing? Or did she and Grey Worm discuss off-camera how they were going to sack the city regardless of a surrender?
As Daenerys sits atop Drogon, waiting along with Tyrion, Cersei, Jon, and Grey Worm to hear the bells, the Mother of Dragons (er, dragon?) begins to look increasingly upset. But it’s not clear why. She’s just won, hasn’t she? Shouldn’t this be a great, victorious moment?
We now know from Sapochnik and Clarke’s interviews that we were supposed to pick up on how Daenerys was feeling increasingly dissatisfied by the outcome of the battle. But something,anything, to narratively push her over the edge would have helped to crystallize this moment.
Instead, it’s hard to discern her motivation for massacring women, children, and unarmed men by the thousands in the very city she means to rule. Why didn’t she just target Cersei in the Red Keep? It would have helped if there was some interaction between her and the people of King’s Landing before she decided to burn their city to the ground.
And why does Grey Worm seem unsurprised by the change of plan? We know he’s still reeling from Missandei’s death, but it’s jarring to see the typically regimented Unsullied soldier begin killing everything in his path. This again makes us wonder if he and Daenerys talked together about getting vengeance on the Lannister-held city.
For now, fans have to settle with the answers provided by Sapochnik and Clarke. But if you were left baffled by that scene, at least you know you’re not alone.
- Read more:
- 17 details you might have missed on the latest episode of ‘Game of Thrones’
- Watch HBO’s teaser for the final, 80-minute long, episode of ‘Game of Thrones’
- ‘Game of Thrones’ fully leaned into ‘Mad Queen’ Daenerys, and fans are severely disappointed
- Every major character who died on Sunday’s ‘Game of Thrones’ battle in King’s Landing
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