** SPOILER ALERT: This article recaps and discusses important plot points from the episode. **
Before the game of thrones is over, Daenerys Targaryen lets fire and blood rain over King's Landing.
But it is far from glorious.
In the penultimate episode of the entire series, "The Bells," director Miguel Sapochnik returned to the helm after his stint on "The Last Night" (a.k.a. The Battle of Winterfell). An action-packed, often gory spectacle, this week on Game of Thrones depicts the fall of King's Landing in the hands of the wrathful Targaryen queen.
In the fall of King's Landing, many things happen. Prophecies, visions, and long-held theories come to pass (although not exactly as you had imagined it). More character arcs come to their conclusion. A queen makes her final descent into tyranny and madness.
Daenerys, Queen of the Ashes
In her vision at the House of the Undying, Daenerys sees the Iron Throne sitting in its ruined hall as it snowed through the destroyed ceiling. But that wasn't exactly snow.
"I'm not here to be Queen of the Ashes," she once said, yet here she was, saying with steel-cold resoluteness: "Mercy is our strength. Our mercy toward future generations who will never again be held hostage by a tyrant."
Cersei Lannister tried to make a final stand with Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet and the Golden Company. But all of that was for naught as the Mother of Dragons, astride Drogon (the last one, RIP Rhaegal and Viserion), swooped down and let hell rain upon the city her ancestor Aegon the Conqueror built.
The city bells rang, which should have signalled a surrender. Cersei's Queensguard have put down their swords, and there was hardly any resistance at all.
Yet Daenerys rejected her Hand Tyrion's advice to minimize bloodshed. Her pent-up rage led her to go for the nuclear option with her winged warhead, taking thousands of innocent lives on the way to Cersei's Red Keep.
Here was the Breaker of Chains, the once beloved "Mhysa (mother)" across the Narrow Sea, suddenly committing genocide. With this appalling deed, she showed that the blood of Aerys the Mad King and other mad Targaryens before her truly has been running in her veins.
In George RR Martin's A Storm of Swords, Ser Barristan Selmy was reminded of a past Targaryen king's words: "Madness and greatness are two sides of the same coin. Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods toss the coin in the air and the world holds its breath to see how it will land" (In the HBO version, it is uttered by Varys).
At the beginning of the episode, we saw a distrustful Daenerys isolating herself on her family home of Dragonstone. "I don't have love here. I only have fear," she told Jon Snow, whom she considers to have betrayed her.
Recall Maester Aemon Targaryen's words in season 5: "A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing." Although Jon is Targaryen by blood, he grew up under Ned Stark and is also undeniably a Stark.
Showrunner DB Weiss explained Daenerys’s thinking in a post-episode featurette: "She sees the Red Keep, which is, to her, the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago. It’s in that moment, on the walls of King’s Landing, where she’s looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her when she makes the decision to make this personal."
We can't say there wasn't any groundwork throughout the entire series for this turn of character, but was it too drastic or unconvincing?
The rains weep o'er Cersei's halls
Last week on Game of Thrones, Jaime had decided to ride south to join Cersei, and on the way, he was taken prisoner as he attempted to cross the Targaryen line.
Tyrion, returning a favor Jaime had once granted him, unshackled his brother and urged him to help Cersei escape and start a new life across the Narrow Sea. Embracing Jaime, he bid him farewell: "You were the only one who didn't treat me like a monster. You were all I had."
Daenerys just gave him a free pass after telling Varys about Jon's Targaryen heritage, and this could prove to be yet another bad decision that could have her lay down the law and burn him to smithereens.
Meanwhile, as the Targaryen queen wreaked havoc on King's Landing, Cersei obstinately stood watch from atop the Red Keep. When she realized that their doom was certain, she broke into tears, once again showing that aspect of her reminding us of her humanity: being a mother, fearful for her own and her child's life.
"Nothing else matters. Only us," Jaime comforted his beloved sister as the ceiling caved in on them.
We thought the sibling-lovers had such profound differences that any reconciliation was improbable. Jaime had a long redemption arc, while Cersei was thought to be the big villain – a tyrant who must be overthrown. Yet here she is, reunited with Jaime as the Red Keep collapsed around them – dying together as they came into the world.
"Jaime and Cersei’s story was one of a deep connection torn asunder by the harsh realities of the world, as well as of one person listening to their moral compass while another shattered it," wrote Vox's Zack Beauchamp. "If anything, it would have made sense for Jaime to kill Cersei, not try to escape with her."
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Lena Headey, who played Cersei, weighed in on her exit: "I think the biggest surprise is he came back for her. Cersei realizes just how she loves him and just how much he loves her. It’s the most authentic connection she’s ever had. Ultimately they belong together."
"The more [Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and I] talked about it, the more it seemed like the perfect end for her,” she also said.
What about that valonqar theory? While Maggy the Frog's prophecy to Cersei was depicted a few seasons back, the bit about the "younger sibling" was left out in the HBO version: “When your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you."
"Prophecies are dangerous things," Melisandre once said, and Cersei did die with Jaime's hands around her throat – lovingly comforting her to the tune of "The Rains of Castamere."
The epic showdown between the brothers Clegane, Sandor (a.k.a. the Hound) and Gregor (a.k.a. the Mountain), finally happens – on the steps of the Red Keep as it crumbles down to the ground.
Given the history of that big burn on his face, it's easy to see that Sandor had always loathed his elder brother, and Gregor did, too. Getting to face his brother in battle was revenge for the Hound, and after convincing Arya to escape for her life instead of exacting revenge on Cersei, he bumped into Ser Gregor, "Hello, brother."
The Mountain was by now, of course, an Emperor Palpatine-looking monster of Qyburn's making. Not only did he disobey his queen and Qyburn's earlier commands, he was also indestructible even though he was impaled by the Hound's sword.
There was one way left to kill him. Sandor hurled themselves off the castle and into the flames below – something he had feared his entire life.
Varys' last game move
By next week, we might see a movement against the new Mad Queen, and it was Varys who helped sow the seeds of the imminent uprising, as well as doubt into know-nothing Jon's mind.
The Master of Whisperers was spreading the word about Jon actually being Aegon Targaryen, son of Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark. An act of treason to Daenerys, the Spider, of course, was torched by Drogon after Tyrion ratted out his old friend.
After seasons of political machinations, the cunning spymaster revealed his loyalties to be to the realm and its humble folk. But also having worked toward a Targaryen restoration (from the very start), he was able to see Daenerys as unworthy for the Iron Throne.
With this, he rallied behind the Targaryen whose claim is not better simply by laws of succession, but because he's generally not an ultraviolent tyrant. With some prodding, Jon might just go up against his aunt/lover, and maybe at least one copy of that letter the Spider was writing about Jon/Aegon could turn up in the right hands.
Didn't he say, "The greater the risk. The greater the reward?" Maybe his execution wouldn't have been in vain.
The final episode of Game of Thrones will air on Monday, May 20, airing at 9 AM in the Philippines exclusively on HBO and HBO GO with a primetime encore telecast at 10 PM.
Maybe by then, we'll find out what that white horse meant – symbolic or otherwise. – Rappler.com