- Warning: Spoilers ahead for the “Game of Thrones” season eight, episode five, “The Bells.”
- From where Varys’ “little bird” has been seen on the show before to the meaning behind Arya’s new white horse and two important visions that came true, read all the best details you might have missed on Sunday’s “Game of Thrones” episode.
- Visit INSIDER.com for more stories.
HBO’s hit drama series debuted its penultimate episode, “The Bells” on Sunday evening. From Daenerys Targaryen’s sharp turn toward a dark path to the epic “Cleganebowl” fight and deaths of Cersei and Jaime Lannister, it was a packed 80-minute episode.
Keep reading for a look at the most important details you might have missed on the latest episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Even before the episode began, the “previously on” segment had a series of important context clues.
Signalling the dark turn the Mother of Dragons was about to take, the showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss selected a set of seven lines from previous episodes that all showed the internal conflict plaguing Daenerys.
The pieces of dialogue were all centered on the tormented Targaryen legacy.
We heard quotes from Dany’s best advisers over the years as well as a few choice lines spoken by her enemies or, in the case of Aemon, relatives she never met.
Here’s every line and the episode it was pulled from:
- “Every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin.” – Cersei Lannister (season two, episode seven)
- “The Mad King gave his enemies the justice he thought they deserved.” – Barristan Selmy (season five, episode two)
- “Children are not their fathers.” – Tyrion Lannister (season seven, episode three)
- “Be a dragon.” – Olenna Tyrell (season seven, episode two)
- “You have a gentle heart.” – Jorah Mormont (season two, episode five)
- “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.” – Aemon Targaryen (season five, episode five)
- “You don’t want to wake the dragon, do you?” – Viserys Targaryen (season one, episode one)
The opening credits changed ever so slightly again.
In tradition with this season’s ever-changing opening credits, the gates of King’s Landing got a small upgrade for the start of “The Bells.”
Two small scorpions (those massive, dragon-slaying crossbows) popped up on either side of the main gate. Those didn’t appear on last week’s episode, “The Last of the Starks.” Now that Daenerys destroyed them all, we’re sure the credits will change yet again for the finale.
The episode formally starts with Varys writing a letter about Jon Snow’s real identity.
As revealed on last week’s episode, Varys had every intention of killing Daenerys and placing Jon Snow on the Iron Throne in her stead.
His letter is reminiscent of the correspondence Ned Stark sent to Stannis Baratheon back on the first season. That letter, detailing how King Joffrey was Jaime and Cersei’s bastard born of incest, was part of the inciting incident for the War of the Five Kings.
Here’s part of what Varys’s letter said: “…is not the only Targaryen left. Rhaegar and Lyanna […] their son lives still – hidden by Eddard Stark. His name […] and he is the true heir to the Iron Throne.”
But who did Varys send the letters to?
The question of how many letters Varys managed to get out from Dragonstone, and who those letters were sent to, could have great consequences for the finale of “Game of Thrones.”
The “little bird” Varys was using to try to poison Daenerys was a familiar face.
Varys called her “Martha” and reminded her that “the greater the risk, the greater the reward” she would get for her spying efforts.
Martha was next to Varys in the crypts during the Battle of Winterfell.
When the Night King reanimated the dead Starks buried in the crypts, Tyrion and Sansa ran past Varys hiding in a corner with a group of children. Martha was among them, though at the time we didn’t know she was one of his “little birds.”
When Varys was outed by Tyrion and burned alive for his betrayal, the scene mirrored another Dragonstone execution.
Daenerys used Drogon to kill Varys, as she promised him she would back on the second episode of season seven.
“And I swear this,” Daenerys told Varys. “If you ever betray me, I’ll burn you alive.”
Varys was killed in the same place where Stannis and Melisandre once burned people alive for not believing the Lord of Light.
Like Daenerys, Stannis Baratheon believed that he was destined to rule the Seven Kingdoms and that the Iron Throne was his by birthright. He turned out to be woefully mistaken and died after losing everything he loved.
Will Daenerys meet the same fate? Or are their chosen paths different enough for her to avoid this parallel?
Cersei stood in the Red Keep, surveying the sacking of the city, in a familiar spot.
This location, in Cersei’s castle chambers, is precisely where she stood on the sixth season finale when she blew up the Sept of Baelor with wildfire.
But that time, she was victorious.
Cersei was overconfident heading into the fight against Daenerys Targaryen partially because the odds were on her side, but also because the most recent time Cersei was besieged by enemies she had managed to blow them all up in one fell swoop.
Small caches of wildfire exploded throughout the city as it burned. These hark back to Dany’s father, the Mad King.
We know from both Jaime and Tyrion Lannister’s earlier storylines on “Game of Thrones” that the Mad King had stores of wildfire placed all around King’s Landing.
Though it’s possible Cersei also had new wildfire booby traps created, it’s likely that Daenerys inadvertently set off her own father’s stashes of wildfire, drawing a thematic link between the two destructive Targaryens.
This shot of Drogon’s shadow passing over King’s Landing came straight from Bran Stark’s vision on the fourth season.
Fans had been hoping to see this moment of a dragon flying over King’s Landing come to fruition ever since it was foreshadowed back on season four.
Here’s what that shadowy scene looked like when Bran saw it:
On season four, episode two, “The Lion and the Rose,” Bran Stark touched a weirwood tree and had a series of important visions. Not only did he see this future moment, but that was the first time we saw the Night King and another key motif.
Bran also saw this scene of snow falling in the throne room.
Some fans previously wondered whether this scene showed ash, and not snow, since the roof of the Red Keep appeared blackened and destroyed.
It could have been both, but part of it is most certainly snow based on the texture and the way the material is falling in the scene. Plus Emilia Clarke herself referred to it as snow on the season-two DVD-commentary version of the episode.
We long believed this was foreshadowing of Jon Snow’s Targaryen parentage and claim to the Iron Throne.
Daenerys had the same snowy vision on the second season finale.
When Daenerys entered the House of the Undying, she saw a vision of the Iron Throne for the first time in her life. She reached for the throne’s snow-covered armrest but pulled away when she heard her dragons crying.
Though we certainly saw ash falling in King’s Landing after Daenerys’ attack, the weather forecast for the finale looks snowy to us, so we might see actual snow inside the Red Keep next Sunday.
Daenerys was in a new costume for her attack on King’s Landing, and it fully embraced her dragon-like side.
The upper sleeves of her metallic blackish-purple gown have a scale pattern. Combined with her deep-red sash, this is one of the most Targaryen-themed looks she’s ever worn on the show.
Seems as if Daenerys finally took Olenna’s advice (which we heard in the opening segment) to “be a dragon.”
After Daenerys heard the bells of surrender and opted to continue attacking the city, we never saw her again — only Drogon.
The episode’s director, Miguel Sapochnik, said in HBO’s “The Game Revealed” segment that Daenerys pushed forward with the slaughter in part because the surrender felt too easy. She and Grey Worm came for blood, wanting to avenge Missandei and her other fallen followers.
“She feels empty,” he said. “It wasn’t what she thought it was. It’s not enough.”
Once Daenerys decided to continue punishing the city, she vanishes from the episode’s perspective. We only see the dragon and destruction – never our Mother of Dragons herself.
When Sandor yelled at Arya, telling her to look at him, it was a direct parallel to his season-two moment with Sansa.
As Sandor tried to persuade Arya not to follow in his vengeful footsteps, he became angry and spooked her into paying attention.
“Look at me! You want to be like me?” Sandor asked Arya. “You come with me, you die here.”
When he last yelled at a Stark girl, Sandor was scaring Sansa during the Battle of Blackwater.
Back then he was trying to get Sansa to flee King’s Landing with him, claiming he would help her. But Sansa refused and could barely look Sandor in the face.
“The world is built by killers, so you better get used to looking at them,” he told her.
Seeing Sandor Clegane’s relationship with both Stark daughters come full circle was a poetic ending to his story. While he once fled King’s Landing after seeing a battleground ablaze, this time he helped get Arya Stark out to safety and dived headfirst into the flames.
The way Sandor killed his brother was yet another reference to a Stark-related scene.
Sandor had a tough time killing his undead brother, the Mountain. But Sandor finally got a leg up on him when he stabbed the Mountain through the eye with a dagger.
That’s how Arya once threatened to kill Sandor.
“Someday, I’m gonna put a sword through your eye, and out the back of your skull,” she told Sandor Clegane.
All these years later, Sandor turned this threat into a reality against his brother and then threw himself headlong into the fire he feared for so long. Perhaps, in that final moment, he was thinking of Arya Stark.
Cersei was standing in the same spot she last saw Jaime when he found her in the Red Keep.
This emotional reunion was made more poignant for Cersei because it happened in the place where she thought she lost Jaime forever.
Cersei’s toxic relationship with Jaime almost came to a permanent end on the seventh season finale.
Horrified by her indifference toward the threat of the Night King, Jaime walked away from Cersei on the seventh season finale. And though he had a brief time of happiness in the North with Brienne, Jaime returned to his “hateful” twin and lover in the end.
During their final moments alive on the show, a new piece of music played.
The composer Ramin Djawadi combined the Lannister theme song, “The Rains of Castamere,” with the memorable piano-based “Light of the Seven” (from the sixth season finale when Cersei blew up the Sept of Baelor).
A longer version of this mashup also played over the end credits for the episode.
By the way, Jaime got his death wish.
Back on the fifth season, Jaime told Bronn he wanted to die “in the arms of the woman” he loved.
While some (us included) may have hoped this really meant Brienne, in the end, Jaime died holding his twin sister, Cersei.
Their fates seem intertwined in the book series, too.
In George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series, both Jaime and Cersei say they will die together.
“I cannot die while Cersei lives,” Jaime thinks to himself in the third book. “We will die together as we were born together.”
Their deaths also seem tied to a prophecy revealed in only the books called “The Valonqar,” one that was omitted from the show. You can read all about that particular twist here.
Arya barely survived all the destruction wrought by Daenerys, and at the end of the episode she found a white horse.
White horses are often associated with triumph and heroics in mythology, like Gandalf’s Shadowfax in “The Lord of the Rings” movies or Pegasus in Greek mythology.
But the New Testament’s Book of Revelation also tells of a coming apocalypse heralded by a “pale horse, whose rider is Death.”
Arya is the “Game of Thrones” character most directly associated with death, which could be bad news for Daenerys.
Much of the last section of “The Bells” seemed designed to show us how horrified Arya was by Daenerys’ actions. She did travel south to kill “the queen” after all – could her target have changed after the events of the episode?
The horse has yet another meaning. The little girl Arya failed to save was holding a small white horse.
Arya was saved by this mother during the chaos, and she later tried and failed to return the favour. When Arya saw the young girl’s blackened white horse still clutched in her incinerated hand, she cried. The white horse Arya rides away on is a symbol of her new motivations.
For more insights like these, preorder “The Unofficial Guide to Game of Thrones” by Kim Renfro here.
- Read more:
- Watch HBO’s teaser for the final, 80-minute long, episode of ‘Game of Thrones’
- ‘Game of Thrones’ upended a deadly book-only prophecy, but another key piece of foreshadowing came true
- Director David Nutter reveals a key reason why Jon Snow didn’t at least pet Ghost goodbye
- Every major character who died on Sunday’s ‘Game of Thrones’ battle in King’s Landing
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