Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5 - Was it Really THAT Bad?

Game of Thrones Season 8, episode 5, "The Bells" was heavily criticized by some. But is that criticism fair?
Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5 - Was it Really THAT Bad?
Emilia Clarke as the Dragon Queen in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5, photo credits HBO

Game of Thrones' season 8 has only one more episode to go. Episode 5, 'The Bells' is being heavily trolled and criticized for ruining plotlines and some have even gone to the extent of calling it the 'worst episode ever'. There is also the much-proven tv legend that last seasons of generally favored and critically acclaimed television series often are patched together because they're trying to do too much: satisfying fans and giving them what they expected from their characters, giving the characters the justified ends and not leaving too many open-ended questions for the plot arcs to seem ridiculous for the viewers. Very few series have been able to justify all of that and justify all of that well. Most, it has been seen, have squandered.

The last season of Game of Thrones was released two years late which already makes fans antsy and overly critical. Rightly so, because the series itself is filled with various legends within legends that needed a revision, if not a sooner subsequent season. Invested as we all are in the outcomes of our favorite characters, it is a constant struggle to keep track of their motivations. The first season of the first episode aired in April 2011. Eight years and about forty thousand characters later, there has to be more to your investment than 'oh they got squished by a wall'.

So it is understandable where most of the criticism comes from: high and long-standing expectations. And unless there was some utter brilliance at work (which, let's admit, in this last season hasn't really been visible - except for that one highly powerful moment where Arya kills the Night King), there was no way the showrunners could have delivered on such a huge promise.

That does not excuse some of the painful shortcuts that existed in the past episode to explain the end of the characters. Cersei Lannister dying in the arms of Jaime Lannister may be okay for a romance novel but not for Game of Thrones, no. The death should have been painful and not merciful. Regardless of how sympathetic the showrunners wanted us to be to their love and longing and the fact that Cersei was with child, there was far too much history and madness that Cersei had caused for her to die without closure for all those feelings the audiences had harbored for her. The Dragon Queen's descent into madness also seemed hurried. Not unexpected but somehow forced and weakly designed. The Stark women not liking Daenerys and Jon not returning her love may have been okay for a young woman who wasn't so weatherbeaten by the woes of the world but not for Daenerys. She had the psychopathic element, as told by Benioff in Inside the Episode, but that never really surfaced in the earlier seasons as it did suddenly in the fifth episode of the last season.

Perhaps the most satisfying theme of the episode was how the showrunners exposed the human face of war. As they showed the destruction that Dany was creating not from fantastic fire shots from above but from the ground where Arya was struggling to keep herself alive, it created a strong argument against the havoc that was borne out of Dany's rage. There can be many philosophical arguments about love and hate and power and ambition - but none were as profoundly explained in this episode than Arya's survival within the destruction of the city.

The last episode airs next week and there is a good chance Arya will be the one to kill Dany and Jon will be assisting her and will eventually sit on the Iron Throne. But would he also fall into the trap of power, ambition and madness? We were made to believe that Dany was a good queen, would have been a good ruler, but Missandei's death and Cersei killing off one of Dany's dragons was what it took to turn into the Mad Queen. What would it take for Jon to become a hopeless despot? Or will the show eventually tell you that some people can't be broken and madness is hereditary? We'll just have to wait to find out.

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