I’M FREAKIN OUT, MAAAANNNN
I’M FREAKIN OUT, MAAAANNNN
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)

I suppose it should not be a surprise that two guys who added rape scenes to a pre-existing storyline would default at the last minute to truly obvious, reductive hysteria tropes about a woman who, thus far, they have painted as a hero (to the point of truly obvious, reductive white savior tropes). That said, 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 Benioff and Weiss to thickheadedly flub.

If you are enough of a masochist to have watched the creators’ commentary after the episode, you saw that Benioff and Weiss (I refuse to call them “D&D,” they could never) really felt that Daenerys’s descent into madness was earned, which is typical man shit. Perhaps it was always predestined that she would become the Mad Queen, but the character development in Seasons 5 and 6 has been so choppy and absurd that Sunday night’s episode felt like a rude fluke.

Of course Daenerys, Breaker of Chains, is going to be feeling fucked up in the game: She just saw her best friends die, especially her number one homegirl Missandei, whose head was lopped off while she was cuffed, when ending her slavery was the exact reason Daenerys evolved to this point. Meanwhile, the man she loves, dum-dum Jon Snow, couldn’t suck it up and get it in with his hot ti-ti he’s supposedly in love with, EVEN if it’s for the benefit of all Westeros? He is supposedly Mr. Preserve This Country but he’s too stuck on his own mythology and Northern social norms to take one for the team? You did not mind boning when she was handing over all her goddamn dragonglass for free, how bout that!!!

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But Daenerys was clearly having a major depressive episode—couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t leave her room—for extremely obvious and justifiable tangible reasons, and perhaps some undiagnosed chemical ones; hey, I’m not a doctor, I have just been there before and can relate immensely. So the idea that she would have gone from the state where you don’t even have the fortitude to change your goddamn clothes directly to “I AM GOING TO COMMIT GENOCIDE BECAUSE I HATE MY ENEMIES” is not just absolutely banal and lazy, it’s completely cliché and embarrassing on the part of the writers, who, let me reiterate, were David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, (maybe) First of Their Names and Mucker of Scripts. The fact that she did so because some BELLS were converging upon her to make her Go Crazeeeeeee was absolutely absurd and I cannot!

When u get the script
When u get the script
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)
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Seriously, the bells shit? I fell the fuck out. Drogon has just handily scorched the entire Golden Company, the Iron Fleet, and every scorpion-weapon meant to kill him. Her army, having already lived through a literal fucking zombie massacre and hasn’t slept a wink (ACCORDING TO LAST WEEK’S SCRIPT), is witness to the remaining Lannister army throwing down their swords. The whole of King’s Landing is screaming “Ring the BELLS,” which if you watch this show with closed captions, you will have noticed that there were about 170 lines in the script of people going “RING THE BELLS!” And when the bells ring, it becomes a freakin’ after-school special from 1972, in which Dany finally loses it, screws up her face, and decides to, yes, COMMIT A LITERAL GENOCIDE. Clamoring bells made her snap, though as my mans said, “Bell ringing is never good for someone who hasn’t slept in five days.” The best thing to say about that scene was that you coulda worn it to the Met Gala, cause it was Camp.

The best thing about this episode was characteristically excellent direction by Miguel Sapochnik, who said in the after-show that he and the special effects team were modeling the destruction of King’s Landing after the firebombing of Dresden during World War II, another genocide by people who positioned themselves as the good guys. The perspectives were excellent: Jon stunned to inaction, watching his own army participate in the senseless murder of civilians; Arya running around a burning city, attempting to help, before taking her horse to the old town road and whatnot. If anything was going to reverse Arya’s killing gene, it was certainly this, seeing the aftereffects of senseless murder, but jury’s still out whether she is Azor Ahai (or if the showrunners even know what that is). The Mountain and The Hound’s fight scene was as epic as it could have been, and Grey Worm’s freak-out made sense along the lines of the vengeance theme—he wants revenge for Missandei, and is cold and dead inside without her. Honestly, same. I’ll reiterate: At least there was very minimal dialogue.

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When u get the script
When u get the script
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)

Also, have you guys seen Pompeii, starring Kit Harington as a commoner? I’m going to spoil it for you: It ends with Kit and the woman he loves kissing as they are engulfed by a volcano, turning to ash-mummies of the sort currently existing at Pompeii. It is hilarious. I like to think that Sapochnik saw that film, which is really funny (and campy), and decided to have Jaime and Cersei die similarly in homage to a Thrones star’s extracurricular flop. Pretty good shit.

Deaths: Millions of innocents. Varys by fire, making Melisandre’s cryptic comment to him last season that he’d die in Westeros make more sense. (Love that he went mask off, croaked without a peep.) Ultimate fuckboy Euron, in crispy clean Rick Owens, staring at the sky and cheesily screaming that he killed Jaime Lannister (you definitely didn’t). Captain Whiteman, leader of the Golden Company, plus the entirety of the Golden Company. Qyburn, in a satisfyingly abrupt thud, courtesy the zombie Mountain. Stanky The Mountain, festering, along with our beloved Hound, in the long-anticipated Cleganebowl, rather panderingly to fans but truly satisfying nonetheless. Perhaps Jaime and Cersei in a deeply unsatisfying rain of bricks, though I am still of the belief that Cersei might have survived, because they can’t do the show’s most powerfully vicious woman like that, can they? I guess they probably can, because they’re dumbasses. My soul, after realizing that the finale is both written and directed by Benioff and Weiss. Good god.

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Boners: Yeah right!

When u get the script
When u get the script
Screenshot: Game of Thrones (HBO)

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DISCUSSION

It seems I’m one of the only people who still likes this show now, because apparently the idea that a show whose only long-running theme that rulership by birth is destructive at best and when led by ill rulers is horrifying in totality, ending with yet another ill-ruler with a longstanding history of barely-constrained cruelty, “divine rule” beliefs, and zealotry turning out to be a monster doesn’t fit the show.

This being the show where the first king we meet launched a rebellion because he creepily obsessed over a woman who never loved him, our first hero (his Hand Ned) literally tells a woman “I’ll put a death warrant on you and your kids because my violent friend should know you cheated on him when he cheated on you hundreds of times” and we’re meant to feel sorry for him getting beheaded, Renly (who was probably the best candidate for the Throne in the history of the show) launches an illegitimate claim and dies as a result, Stannis like Ned believes in White/Black thinking and ever-increasing Divine Right beliefs that sees him burn people alive including his own daughter, Tywin being a steady hand that also steadily oversaw the sack of KL before the show began, Robb launching a war for “honour” only to then break his own word and see the North effectively slaughtered, and Jon Snow flips between Targy like outbursts and Stark White/Black thinking.

None of the principal characters of noble birth on the show who remain of nobility are heroes, they were never meant to be heroes. At best some have been flawed but people you could root for and others using the aurora of respectability or heroism to hide their true selves, tricking viewers like the show’s fictional masses into believing you should root for them. Daenerys Targaryen had a list of cruel behaviour and war crimes before this episode that stretched a mile long. She happily watched her brother die, had people locked in a vault to suffer a slow death, burnt countless people alive, had people crucified and fed to her dragons because they were from the same class that owned slaves and/or ran the Sons of the Harpies when we never have any proof these people actually committed crimes or even took part in slavery, and wanted to have her dragons burn down the cities which returned to their old ways once she “freed” them. This is the person who talked about “breaking the wheel” and establishing a new fairer world… yet lived in a giant pyramid amid luxury while she tried to enforce a military occupation of a city she understood nothing about and had just up-ended society in which as a result descended into anarchy and deaths of countless civilians.

Why is it such a shock that this person who’s constantly talked as though she was personally betrayed because the people of Westeros wouldn’t bow to her, effectively a foreigner at the head of a foreign army, the moment she appeared and waiting to betray her again in favour of Jon would slaughter a city, when the likely thought process she has is that they deserve it when they could’ve surrendered months ago without her armies (and now friends) dying? They should’ve just understood she’s their “rightful” queen and would always win and surrendered, as though the common folk of Westeros have any power.

As for the allied armies sacking the city, what did people think was going to happen? Two armies who zealously follow the orders of their leader (a leader who’s given the signal to keep attacking) and another an undisciplined army of levies facing a defenceless city of supposed riches? For most of humanity’s history this is what happened and this is probably one of the few times people have actually been exposed to that on screen. Armies would murder, pillage, and rape their way through cities they conquered. The show told us this would happen back in S2 if Stannis won, and now Dany and Jon have won it does happen. The victorious armies took what they wanted and once again, as the few sane characters left warned, it was the ordinary people who suffer.

We can talk about rushed sequences, and the show condensing plotlines down to fit the run time. But can we stop pretending like any of this wasn’t visible a mile away on a show that’s a fictionalised history of medieval Europe, one of the most well-documented periods of brutality and cruelty in history.