Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5, "The Bells" Review



As I sit here to write this review, I remain speechless.

“Why?” I keep asking myself.

“How could writer’s David Benioff and DB Weiss let this happen?”

As Game of Thrones has been racing through to the finish, there has been a serious concern about the declining quality of the show the closer it has gotten to the end. While the first two episodes of the season were of a good to (specially the second one) great quality, the last two have shown a show struggling severely in the writing department. The Battle of Winterfell was a technical marvel but undone by its plot armor and other issues. Last week’s episode hurdled us through sudden out of left field twists and strange character logic that were serious causes for concern to where we were headed.

And now, we have the “The Bells”.

From a technical sense, even more than “The Long Night”, “The Bells” is the peak for Game of Thrones from a directorial and technical sense. The entire siege of Kings Landing was masterfully directed, with Miguel Sapochnick showing an extended level of scale and carnage most movies would even dream of reaching. The carnage was expectedly horrible, putting us on the shoes of the people living their worst nightmare while Daenerys Targaryen, the supposed Breaker of Chains and Wheels, completely went “Mad Queen” on the entirety of the denizens of Kings Landing. The entire sequence was perfectly staged and executed to a level that made the Battle of Winterfell two weeks ago seem woefully inferior. From every level you can look at it, Miguel Sapochnick has absolutely earned its place as a director of spectacle.

However, just like my issues mentioned in “The Long Night”, incredible spectacle does not a great episode make. Even more so than that darkened battle, from a writing perspective, “The Bells” may truly have been the show’s “jump the shark” moment.

If you needed definitive proof as to why going for a shortened final two seasons may have been a mistake, “The Bells” is pretty much Exhibit A. I can kind of see intentions of what writers David Benioff and DB Weiss were going for with what they did in this episode. After close to eight years having us follow Daenerys Targaryen’s journey from sex slave to mother of dragons and savior of slaves and people, it would certainly be heartbreaking to see a character we rooted for turn out to be the actual villain of the story. The tyrant many people feared she would be based on her family legacy. There can be something powerful having the rug pulled from you with that kind of development. Heck, that's pretty much what cemented Breaking Bad as one of the best TV shows in the entire medium.

But making that turn has to be handled with time and delicacy. Based on what happened these past two episodes, that turn wasn’t handled with delicacy at all.

Simply put, an entire series’ worth of character development was immediately thrown out the window once Dany went on her crazy destruction rampage. The reasons for her making that turn are sound on paper. Her confidants have either died (RIP Jorah and Missandei) or betrayed her (RIP Varys) in the last two episodes alone. One of her children got straight up murdered out of left field last week (RIP Rhaegal). Jon Snow spelled his secret as a secret Targaryen despite her begging him not to do it. If someone had a reason to go crazy after all those developments, it was Dany. But it all happened literally in two episodes. Two episodes is not enough for 70+ episodes (basically an entire series) worth of careful character development to be thrown out like this, especially in a series that, once upon a time, was character development above everything. What this did was become predictable shock value, and it may have single handedly pulled an “Old Yeller” on this series.

Everything about “The Bells” wasn’t all bad, though. It sure was impressive how big the death toll of main characters was this episode. After so many complaints about plot armor two weeks ago, this week took out many, many, many big players in one fell swoop. While some deaths weren’t given the level of gravitas they deserved (Varys’ death was swept under the rug too quickly), some deaths like the long awaited Cleganebowl and the last moments from Jaime and Cersei hit quite effectively. It wasn’t a Game of Thrones knife twist, but if this was the way some characters needed to go out, I would say it was a fitting end.

But those moments don’t wash away the disgust at seeing the show destroy itself over pyrotechnics and unearned plot turns. In a vacuum, in spectacle alone and the level of terror conveyed in the destructions, the episode was spectacular. But again, at what cost? Was all this spectacle worth throwing away years of character development, which now leads us to a finale that is so straightforward at best?

Game of Thrones will always have a place in the TV pantheon for the high highs of its early years. But seeing it all end up like this? It’s heartbreaking to see it heading towards an ending that’ll seemingly land with such a spectacular thud based on the decisions made here. It’s been a great ride, but man it’s not hard to be bummed.

Maybe there will be a turnaround next week. But who knows at this point?


Written by Alejandro Segovia.

All opinions expressed are his and do not reflect the entirety of Stat X Media.

TV Scoring rubric:

★ : 1 point  ☆ : 0.5 points

★★★★★: Essential. Excellent episodes. Close to flawless. Transcends any minor flaws it may have. 
   ★★★★: Great/Highly recommended. Great episodes. Some flaws worth mentioning, but nothing to worry about.
      ★★★: Okay/Recommended. Good episodes. Contains things worth watching & experiencing, but flaws can hinder the experience.
         ★★: Caution/Questionable. Mediocre episodes. The flaws start to significantly hinder anything good the episode has.
             ★: Avoid. Bad episodes with nothing redeemable about them (some enjoyment as "so bad its good). Preferably don't waste your time. 


Popular posts from this blog

"Shazam" Review

"Marvel's Spider-Man 2" Review

"Super Mario Bros. Wonder" Review