- The “Game of Thrones” season eight episode “The Bells” has scored a 48% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes so far.
- This is officially the lowest critically rated episode of the show ever, finally topping season five’s “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” as the worst.
- This post contains spoilers for season eight, episode five of “Game of Thrones.”
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The second-to-last episode of a beloved show is always tough – in part because expectations are so high. It’s not the end, but it’s so close to the end that fan emotions are already running high.
The penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” which aired on Monday, seemed to fall below those sky-high expectations from fans and critics, continuing a trend of ever-lower episode ratings among critics with “The Bells” – which is currently ranked at 48% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Based on critic ratings, ‘The Bells’ is currently the lowest-rated single episode of the series
As of Wednesday morning, “The Bells” had a 48% rotten score on Rotten Tomatoes – dragging the series’ overall score down to 91%. That also gives this episode a “rotten” rating, something few episodes of the show have achieved. It’s worth noting that this score will fluctuate and this is the most-accurate score as of this writing.
The episode managed to displease more viewers than season five’s controversial episode “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken.” With 27 fresh and 23 rotten critical reviews, “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” is now the second-worst episode of “Game of Thrones,” according to critics. It sits at a score of 54%.
Other episodes this season have also suffered from low critical ratings. Last week’s episode “The Last of the Starks” holds the next-worst spot overall, and the episode the week prior, “The Long Night,” takes the fourth spot
Reviews of ‘The Bells’ range from ‘the series has been ruined beyond repair’ to ‘Dany got a raw deal’
After Missandei’s death last week – which many critics already felt was poorly handled – the stage was clearly set for Daenarys to lose her mind and seek out revenge in truly epic fashion. No surprise, then, that that’s exactly what happened. While critics generally praised the acting, they mostly felt the plotting was sloppy and unearned.
In a one-star review with the headline “GoT: S8E5 The Bells Review: the series has been ruined beyond repair,” Michael Deacon wrote for the Telegraph,
“Sorry. But no. I just didn’t buy that. Any of it. Firstly, and most annoyingly, Daenerys. Look. We know that her father was ‘The Mad King.’ We know that he turned from benevolent ruler to homicidal despot, and threatened to burn his own people alive. We know that, for the sake of the common good (as well as the Lannisters’ good), Jaime had to assassinate him.
“But Daenerys, turning out to be even worse than her father? No. The writers simply haven’t earned the right to do that. They just didn’t do enough groundwork.”
Over at the Atlantic, Lenika Cruz was similarly disappointed in the episode and wrote:
“The way last week’s episode ended, I had a feeling ‘The Bells’ was going to portray and be a disaster, but the degree to which it did both still left me gobsmacked. This is, in my book, the worst Game of Thrones episode ever – though not in a technical sense, as you pointed out, David. The acting was spectacular. The effects were stunning. But that prowess was in service of a story that was extremely obvious in some ways (Dany becoming the Mad Queen, something fans have predicted for ages) and absolutely illogical in others (Dany burning babies alive mere hours after professing that ‘mercy is our strength’).”
Glen Weldon wrote for NPR,
“So Daenerys took Olenna Tyrell’s advice. She was the dragon, and the dragon was her. She broke the wheel, and then chopped it into bite-sized chunks, and then she lit that sucker on fire.
“I don’t have a firm understanding as to why she destroyed the entire city and not just the Red Keep, but I’m guessing the writers don’t want us to think too hard on that. I think we’re supposed to come away from this episode convinced that Daenerys has given in to her familial madness, that Varys was right about her, that Sam was right about her – and, by extension, that they were also right about Jon Snow.
“So next week, it will come down to Jon Snow vs. Daenerys Stormborn. Targaryen vs. Targaryen. Though whether there’s still an Iron Throne to fight over, or just a melted lump of steel where it once sat, remains to be seen.”
And Ed Power summarized how many viewers might be feeling after Monday night for the Telegraph:
“The bell tolled for us all this week on Game of Thrones as Daenerys was unmasked as the true Mad Queen and the rest of us slouched away wondering how an episode packed with so many seismic happenings – Cleganebowl, Jaime and Cersei dying in each other’s arms – could feel so underwhelming. Have we, the viewers, become mini-Aryas now: deadened within by a season heavy on bombast, low on honestly-won character moments? Would it be easier if we just sat back and enjoyed the Michael Bay-ness of it all?”
But even though reviews were mostly negative, there were still a few things to appreciate about this episode according to critics
Hilary Kelly mused for Vulture,
“We want fitting conclusions for all our favourite characters – but nothing too neat. Every moment now should have resonance – but shouldn’t merely copy what’s come before. ‘Game of Thrones’ should end the same way it did its best work – surprising us. Or perhaps surprising us about the way it’s surprising us. It’s a high standard to live up to. Impossible, probably, after a series that helped break open the idea of what you can do on TV. The most we can hope for is that our characters get the fates they deserve, whether that’s in the hot flames of an enraged dragon or the cold steel of the Iron Throne.”
Over at IndieWire, Steve Greene also viewed the episode as the beginning of a fitting send-off for the series overall.
“Even though there’s only one remaining episode of ‘Game of Thrones,’ there was always going to be a question of how much would be left unanswered when the show cut to black for the last time. Through that lens, it’s hard not to see the series’ penultimate instalment, called ‘The Bells’ as anything but an answer to anyone who would want to see this thread of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ lore to continue. ‘More of this? You’re sure you want more of this?’ Though ‘Game of Thrones’ has never shied away from brutality, much of what remains as the show limps to its final week is charred ruins, a literal scorched-earth sendoff for a handful of seminal series characters.”
Over at Jezebel, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd offered a backhanded compliment of sorts:
“I still greatly enjoyed ‘The Bells,’ the penultimate episode of this last-minute-bungled series, because anytime there’s a lot of killing, it translates to minimal dialogue, a blessing at this point – great-as-ever direction by Miguel Sapochnik, and way fewer lines for [writers] Benioff and Weiss to thickheadedly flub.”
This post has been updated.
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