Season 8, Episode 5 “The Bells”
The director of this episode, Miguel Sapochnik, is the Mariano Rivera of the show. When he directs an episode, he saves everyone from sloppy pacing and questionable storylines with the beauty of the images and by making everything look epic. We open at Dragonstone with Varys furiously writing letters to be sent out that tell of Jon Snow’s true identity. You can’t see everything but you can see “Rhaegar and Lyanna” “Ned Stark, “last Targaryen” on the scroll. He’s interrupted by a knock on his door. It’s a little bird who works in the kitchen who Varys has been trying to use to poison Daenerys, making good on the loaded look that he gave Tyrion in last week’s episode when Tyrion asked, “what will you do?” They’ve been unsuccessful because the queen will not eat. She hasn’t left her chambers or seen any visitors Varys tells her they will try again at suppertime.
Next, we see Varys greet Jon Snow as he arrives on the beach of Dragonstone. Varys basically makes his plea here for Jon to take his place as the rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms questioning Dany’s temperament and mindstate and praising Jon’s. Jon refuses him and repeats his loyalty to Queen Daenerys. Tyrion is watching all of this from the distance.
Inside, Tyrion goes to see Daenerys who looks a hot mess. He approaches carefully and she already knows what he will report, someone has betrayed her. But her guess as to who it is– Jon Snow, catches Tyrion off guard. No, it was Varys he tells her. But Dany does the math that Jon told Sansa of his true identity who told Tyrion who told Varys and gets back to the same conclusion. Her deductive skills are impressive but also underneath what she is saying is her questioning the loyalty of everyone who knows this news. Why would Sansa calculate that Tyrion would share this information unless she knew he was ready to go behind Dany’s back? Tyrion says it’s his job to know the threats that make her vulnerable but Daenerys rightfully asks why he shared the information with others first?
Later that night Grey Worm and some of The Unsullied come and seize Varys from his chambers. He knows it is coming and takes off his rings and burns the last scroll he was writing. We’re left to wonder how many of those he sent and who they went to via Raven Express.
Tyrion admits to Varys that Tyrion is the one who snitched on him. Varys is executed on the beach by Drogon, Tarly style. His last words to Tyrion are that he hopes that he deserves it and that he is wrong about Daenerys. You’re not wrong, homie and that makes it worse.
Jon goes to visit Dany in her chambers where she is meeting with Grey Worm. Grey Worm is with the shits now, there’s no more warmth in him. He’s lost the love of his life. He exits the room when Dany says she wants to speak to Jon, subtle shade, because this layer of formality and security between Jon and Dany shouldn’t exist. Dany asks immediately “what did I say would happen if you told your sister?” Jon responds, “I don’t want it and that’s what I told him.” Dany’s right though, this information has taken on a life of its own now that he shared it. Sansa is a politician and she will use any advantage she has in the game now. Dany is upset that all she has in Westeros is fear and not the love she was receiving in the cities she ruled in Essos. Jon again declares his loyalty to Dany and his love but when she starts to get romantic he is not enthused at the thought of getting it in with his aunt. After feeling Jon pull away from kissing her you see the last bit of warmth leave her face. She says, “alright then, let it be fear.”
That same night in the Dragonstone throne room Dany, Tyrion and Grey Worm make final preparations for the attack on King’s Landing which will begin tomorrow. Tyrion believes that they will win easily and is intent on keeping Dany from burning the city to the ground unnecessarily. Dany believes that Cersei senses weakness in her and will use civilians as shield to stop her attack is insulting. Challenge accepted, she seems to indicate. Tyrion is alarmed by her seeming nonchalance about thousands of civilian lives and pushes Dany to relent and say she will accept a surrender without destroying the city if the Lannister army surrenders quickly. “Just listen for the bells, that will signal their surrender” he tells her. As Tyrion exits Dany stops him and informs him that his brother Jaime was stopped trying to get past their lines. It seems Jaime hasn’t forsaken Cersei after all. Another miscalculation by Tyrion. Dany warns him “the next time you fail me will be the last time.”
Tyrion meets with Jaime where he is being held prisoner. He has made plans for Davos to smuggle a small boat to the beach under the Red Keep. Tyrion frees Jaime and tells him to find his way to the lower levels of the Red Keep to the beach where he will find the boat. He tells Jaime to sail with Cersei to Pentos and start over. Jaime doesn’t think the plan will work but Tyrion tells him with certainty that Cersei cannot win and their only choice is to escape. Tyrion tells Jaime he wouldn’t have survived childhood if not for his older brother. We get a tearful embrace from the Lannister brothers as they say goodbye.
Finally, day breaks and we see a shot of a bell in King’s Landing again reminding us of Tyrion’s message about surrender and mercy. The camera finds Euron’s navy docked and his men notching scorpion bolts. All the ships have scorpions on their bows. Inside the walls, archers are readying themselves and civilians are scrambling for shelter and safety. We’re being reminded of the real cost of this war. Jaime is hooded and making his way towards the gate of the Red Keep but it is closed before he gets through. The Golden Company is outside the city walls. Across the field from them are the united Northern army, Unsullied and Dothraki forces. The tension is thick. Tyrion reminds Jon Snow that if he hears the bells that means surrender and that the Starkgaryen forces should stand down. Okay, we get it. The bells are the crypts of this episode.
We flash back to Euron who looks up in the sky and sees a shadow in the clouds. Drogon is flying down like a bat out of hell with Dany on his back and he attacks Euron’s navy with a fury. The scorpion bolts can’t catch him in what starts the ridiculousness of this episode. There are dozens of scorpions mounted on the ships who are anchored at sea, ostensibly waiting for this very moment and more scorpions on top of the walls of King’s Landing. For some reason nobody can hit Drogon. It’s like they were surprised to see him. Drogon’s fire cuts through the ships and the castle mounted scorpions like a hot knife through butter and he kills many soldiers while at it. This action is all at the back end, port side of the city which would make you think it’s near the Red Keep where Cersei is. Couldn’t Dany have just gone right to the Red Keep at this point? Instead she flies back to the front entrance of the city. Moments later Drogon blows a fiery hole through the front wall from the inside knocking out many of the Golden Company soldiers who are on the other side of that wall waiting for the attack to come from the soldiers in front of them. They didn’t expect the castle to be taken from inside. That signals the Northern Army to attack and they easily run through what’s left of the Golden Company. We see Grey Worm take out Captain Strickland of the Golden Company as he runs from the entire northern army in a scene that is supposed to evoke Jon standing up against the Bolton forces in the Battle of The Bastards. The CGI in that moment was awkward. The soldiers chasing Harry Strickland looks to be in an entirely different place in terms of lighting than Strickland. The Northern army are making mincemeat out of whoever they encounter and soon we see a standoff between Lannister soldiers and our hero forces. The Lannister soldiers all drop their swords and we hear people in the streets screaming “ring the bells.” We hear the refrain echo through the streets all the way back to Cersei who is in the window looking over the city, much the way she did when she blew up the Sept of Balor but this time she is not smiling. She looks to be in shock. She’s still thinking they have a chance although Qyburn tells her that shit isn’t looking good at all. Dany has landed Drogon on a rooftop not far from where Jon, Tyrion and Grey Worm are standing with their forces. Dany’s face is a little blackened from the smoke because she clearly wanted all the smoke today.
Finally, we hear the bells ring and Cersei closes her eyes. She knows she has lost.
Tyrion is relieved. This has been a quick victory as he hoped. Beers back at his place after everyone gets cleaned up? We look to Dany who is going all Winter Soldier on us as the bells ring. She’s gasping, crying, recalling all that she has lost as she eyes the Red Keep in the distance. She has officially lost it, it’s all in her face. She flies off towards the Red Keep. In that moment we’re all thinking if she’s going to fry Cersei it will be unnecessary, but satisfying. That’s not what she does. She starts raining fire down on the city streets on soldiers and civilians alike. No, Khaleesi! Tyrion’s face is a mask of horror and Jon’s is as well. Upon seeing Dany set it off, Grey Worm throws a spear into the chest of one of the Lannister soldiers who has surrendered. This signals the other soldiers to keep attacking. Jon is commanding his forces to stop but many of them are caught up in the bloodlust ripping through Lannister men and civilians alike. We see Grey Worm take notice of Jon telling his men to stop fighting and he seems like he wants to confront Jon. No time to settle the beef now though, as Grey Worm is too busy murdering his way through his grief to stop and square up with Jon. Look for that to be settled next week.
Qyburn convinces Cersei that it’s time to abandon the Red Keep and that Maegor’s Holdfast would be safer. He takes her hand and the two of them, guarded by The Mountain, leave the Red Keep.
Jon kills one of his own soldiers who is attempting to rape a woman in the streets.
Jaime has finally made his way to the Red Keep finding his way down by the beach. He’s met by Euron who was blown from his ship by the dragon but has survived, this shows how close Dany was to the Red Keep in her initial attack and makes everything just a tad bit sillier. Why didn’t she just chop off the head of the snake right after she destroyed all the scorpions? Cersei was right where she was! Anyway, Jaime tells Euron they must save the queen but Euron laughs at that and for some reason wants to fight instead of escaping. Jaime and Euron go at it on the rocky shore with Euron seeming to get the best of Jaime, stabbing him deep in the side twice with a short sword. Jaime survives and stabs Euron in the gut. Euron lays on a rock seemingly dying but he’s happy. “I got you. I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.” But Jaime is walking off under his own power as Euron is saying this and nobody will know because nobody else is there. Weird dialogue.
Arya and the Hound have arrived at the Red Keep. The castle is starting to crumble but Arya wants to forge her way ahead and find Cersei. The Hound stops her and tells her she should go home. She ignores him but he grabs her arm. “Do you want to end up like me?” he asks. We’ve seen his character do quite a few noble things starting with defending Ser Loras against The Mountain during the joust in season 1, saving Sansa from being raped by the men during the riot in King’s Landing and all the times he defended Arya during their time traveling North. But we’ve also seen him do hateful vicious things like killing the butcher’s boy, and attacking and stealing from the man who fed Arya and The Hound who he decided were too weak to live. The Hound is a character who we might have seen become a noble night but he’s fueled by his demons and the hatred stems from The Mountain burning his face as a boy. He’s never been able to shrug off that cruelty despite the good he has seen and the good he has done. We saw how uncomfortable the merriment made him at Winterfell after they survived the battle with the dead. The character’s struggles are one of the most fascinating parts of the series. The bitterness inside him ultimately led him back to King’s Landing to face off with The Mountain. Characters being true to their nature is a big part of this episode which makes the ending that much more frustrating.
We finally got the highly anticipated Clegane Bowl. It was beautifully set up. The Hound is heading up a spiral staircase as Queen Cersei and her Kingsguard head down. Some of them are wiped out by falling bricks as Daenerys has Drogon destroying everything in sight and the remainder are easily dispatched by The Hound until all we have left are Cersei, Qyburn and The Mountain. “Hello big brother” The Hound says and The Mountain stares a hole through him. Cersei, still in danger as the building is coming down all around them, demands that The Mountain get her to safety. He gives her a chilling glare through those dead bloody eyes and starts toward The Hound. Qyburn makes the mistake of thinking he can control the monster he created and order Ser Gregor to obey his queen and The Mountain crushes his skull crushed against some rocks for his trouble. So long Qyburn, you were highly entertaining as Cersei’s mad scientist for the last several seasons. Cersei walks right past the The Hound, who is laser focused on The Mountain, and descends further into the lower levels of the Red Keep. She winds up in the room with the painted map of Westeros on the floor where she sees Jaime. Cersei is scared shitless by this point. We’re setting up for a nice death here. Is Jaime going to kill that ass?
We flash back to Arya in the streets of King’s Landing who is seeing all the damage that Daenerys and her rabid soldiers are doing and all of the civilians being massacred. There was a beautiful edit of The Hound getting tossed around by The Mountain and Arya getting tossed around by the crumbling city. Miguel Sapochnik is amazing at weaving images. Arya is trying to get people to safety and the city is not letting her and The Hound is trying to take down the Mountain with the same lack of success. The Mountain at various points in the fight:
- grabs and holds the blade of The Hound’s sword while The Hound is snatching it away without as much as blinking even though his hand is being shredded.
- has a sword shoved all the way through his torso and out his back without any reaction.
- is stabbed by a knife in the neck multiple times and doesn’t seem to notice.
- gets stabbed in the eye with the blade going through the back of his skull and pauses to remove the knife like one would do with a splinter.
I get that he was brought back from the dead by Qyburn but he was still a sentient creature. He wasn’t just wandering around aimlessly unable to think. How does one get stabbed in the brain and treat it as a mild inconvenience? Seeing him get impaled through the chest and then the brain without any real reaction took away from the moment. Something should have slowed him down. We were told he was a monster but I didn’t realize he was a walking corpse with a brain. After getting his ass kicked by this zombie The Hound stays alive long enough to drive The Mountain through a wall where they both fall to their deaths in the fiery hell outside the castle. Salute Sandor Clegane. We wouldn’t be here without you taking care of Arya on the road. You may have been more bad than good, but your good was really important.
Jaime and Cersei hug as Cersei fully realizes her plans were maybe not that well thought out. Maybe you should have killed everyone when you killed Missandei and they were all just standing around. The castle is crumbling around them. Jaime tries to take her out of the Red Keep via the passageway that Tyrion told him about but it’s blocked by rubble. Cersei cries that she doesn’t want to die. Jaime is true to his nature. He loves Cersei and he snaps her out of it with his patented “nothing else matters, only us” line that we’ve heard before after their kids died and we see them embracing as they are consumed by the rubble and… wait a minute is that it? That’s how Cersei dies?!! No the fuck it isn’t! We spent 8 seasons building up an intense hatred for this sadistic, selfish, hateful, incestuous, Joffre birthing, city bombing bitch and we don’t get to see someone slit her throat or see her get burned alive by a dragon? I don’t know if the writers fell in love with Lena Headey and couldn’t bear to watch her suffer but the show owed everyone a much grander death than that for arguably the chief antagonist of the series. Joffrey got gruesomely poisoned, Ramsay was fed to the same hounds that he terrorized people with, The Night King was stabbed by in the heart by a ninja, Littlefinger had his throat slit with the same dagger he used to sow chaos, Tywin Lannister was killed by his despised “son” while he was on the shitter… but Cersei goes quietly under a pile of rubble in the arms of the man who loves her? Where’s the poetry? Of all the poor storytelling choices that have been made this season that’s perhaps the most egregious one. Cersei deserved to be executed. George RR Martin is rolling over in his grave. Wait, he’s still alive and almost definitely writing a much more reasonable ending than this tripe? Okay, okay… (deep breaths.)
The Hound has reminded Arya who she is. She is a fighter for justice, not just vengeance. She is trying to save a woman and her daughter who are our avatars for civilians in the city The mother saves Arya from being trampled. It’s the same mother and daughter we see earlier not make it through the gates of the Red Keep before they close. Arya barely escapes as the mother and daughter who refuse to leave each other are turned into piles of ash by Drogon. Arya is knocked out in the chaos but when she comes to she sees their bodies and the body of a Northern soldier who has also been reduced to ash. Arya is bloodied and bruised but she sees a white horse all alone who has managed to survive while everything else is dead around them. Arya comforts the horse as she approaches it. Then she mounts it and rides off down the street and out of the chaos. The white horse was supposed to embody death “behold a pale horse and his name who sat on him was death” is a quote from Revelation and it seems to signify what Dany’s fate will be next week.
Back to Danykin Skywalker… this episode was ultimately about Dany embracing the dark side, inhaling all the betrayal, loss and hurt that she’s experienced and exhaling fire. I just can’t buy it. We’ve spent 8 seasons building her up as the main heroine of the show, she was juxtaposed as the southern version of Jon Snow. We’ve seen her free slaves and promise that slavery would never return to Mereen, even though her ultimate goals had nothing to do with Mereen. We saw her allow a son to bury his father after hearing him plead that his father wasn’t a cruel master to his slaves, because she was merciful to people even when she hated the crimes they were attached to. She paid a poor farmer for the loss of his child when the child was killed by one of her dragons because even though a dragon is wild you must protect the people they can hurt. She locked the dragons, her children, away beneath a pyramid rather than see them hurt more innocent people. She asked another Khaleesi to trust her rather than allow Daario or Jorah to kill the girl when she was held with the other widows of the khals at Dosh Khaleen. She forgave Jorah for betraying her to King Robert. She outlawed the fighting pits in Yunkai because she thought it was too savage and that life was too precious to risk so arbitrarily. She later reinstated the fighting pits because she was thoughtful enough to listen to counsel. She was not unhinged and she was not callous, until suddenly, she was. She lost a dragon saving the North from The Night King and another dragon because she didn’t face the threat of the Lannister army quickly enough. Both dragons were ultimately lost in service to the needs of others. Daenerys wasn’t the Mad Queen and I don’t think they sowed enough seeds to have us believe this was going to come out of her when she was on the doorstep of power. Even last season she was going to let the Iron Islands be free if they promised to stop raping and reeving, but now that’s what she is allowing from her own soldiers? The character has been through trying times before but has maintained her sanity. She was hot tempered but not insane.
Had she been double-crossed by a fake surrender– which is what I thought we were building to in this episode- I could see that causing her to break from who she was. A bold-faced betrayal by Tyrion to have the Lannisters attack the Northern and Unsullied forces after getting everyone to believe that they had surrendered would have been a shock to viewers and something that understandably pushed Daenerys past her breaking point. Or one last hidden scorpion inside the Red Keep that fired at Drogon after all was quiet because Tyrion had made another mistake and I would have believed that she snapped… but that’s not where we went. Her chief complaint since she arrived at Winterfell in the first episode of this season was that she wasn’t loved. Now when presented with a choice between:
a) winning over the hearts and minds of the people who would have seen her be merciful or
b) destroying a city and killing a bunch of innocent people—innocent spokes in the wheel she wanted to break
She chose carnage?
When we first hear the bells Dany and Drogon take flight and they’re seemingly headed straight towards Cersei in the Red Keep ready to send her to seven hells. It would have been a vicious statement, considering the Lannister army had surrendered, but a fitting one because Cersei deserved to die a nasty death and Dany needed to obliterate an enemy who deserved it. It would have been a dragon move. From the point that Dany decides in mid-flight to make a detour and burn the city the character arcs for Daenerys and Cersei detour from what we had been taught they earned.
Only one more week to see where everyone ends up. Who will sit on the Iron Throne? It seems that Danykin Skywalker has won even though she’s no longer the Dany we rooted for. Will she take out everyone who knows Jon’s secret now that she has gone over to the dark side? Jon will not be able look her in the eye knowing how much he hated everything he saw her do. What will that mean for him? Does Tyrion have one more clever moment left in him? We still have things to settle and we have an assassin who can wear other people’s faces who will be lurking in the crowds.
AMAZON’S “CARNIVAL ROW”
Just three episodes in and Carnival Row has me hooked and mesmerized by the sheer amount of work Amazon Studios has put into making and building a world set in a Victorian fantasy wonderland. It may feel familiar and even remind you of majestic scales seen in Harry Potter or even The Lord of the Rings but make no mistake this series stands on its own and will be the model other similar fantasy tales are told.
Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world!
Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world!
You also get hints of Sherlock Holmes from the many British actors the show puts on display. This world not only houses humans but it also features Fauns aka Critch or Puck. Which are humans with horns attached to their heads and goat legs for…. well legs of course. The second tier of creatures are the Fae who resemble humans at first glance but instead have wings on their backs. They are a non-violent group who fled their homeland from outside invaders. They’re also called Pix. The last group of other worldly beings are called the Pact, who are no friends to the Fae. I hesitate to enter spoiler territory as the reveal of what these creatures are can be seen early in the series.
The story is essentially a civil war among three groups of people and conflicts with the overpowering government in place. Mix that with the ongoing tensions of humans and creatures attempting to live in “harmony” in one land and you have yourself an amazing story relevant to our current state of disarray in this country.
Leading the cast are actors Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne who wonderfully steer this complex interweaving beautiful fantasy world in the right direction, each playing characters opposite of each other but also having their own past backstory of fighting together in a war as well as a blossoming romance between them. Enough so to make their current situation even that more appealing and engaging.
If that’s not enough there is a serial killer prowling about the city disfiguring their prey in a grotesque inhumane fashion. Another character worth mentioning is the actual city where most of the story takes place which is called the Burge. The city is brimming with life and cracks of danger lurking in each corner. Just the lighting alone from street lamps illuminating light in the dark noir city alley ways instantly puts you in that time period, not to mention the costume details of key characters. Amazon studios really delivered an amazingly realistic looking world. All worth investing your time and attention in to.
THE BEST PLAYER IN BASEBALL
It’s a Friday night and i’m finishing up some work waiting for a friend. So I click over to the Angels Seattle game and the first thing I see is the entire Angels team adorning the number 45, the number worn by their fallen teammate Tyler Skaggs who died of unknown circumstances. However there was something else that I came to realize while watching. Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!
The man delivers something productive practically every time I see him play. Whether i’m watching at the stadium, in an airport or at home. He’ll surely be diving in centerfield to rob a hit, stealing a base to get in scoring position or driving himself in with a 400 foot home run. His impact is beyond REAL!
If you haven’t seen him play, I suggest you catch it while you can. This level of excellence doesn’t come too often and you wouldn’t want to regret missing it. Let’s put it this way, Mike Trout signed a 12 year contract for…wait for it….$426.5 Million dollars plus a 20 million dollar bonus. And guess what? He’s not overpaid! The dude is really that good.
Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!
Mike Trout really is one of the best baseball players i’ve ever seen!
If you don’t believe me, just peep the stats. Coming into his 9th year in the league, the former rookie of the year, 2 time MVP (finished second 4 times) and 8 time all-star has been averaging 38 home runs, 101 rbi’s and a batting average of .306 per season. This is a Lebron in a lifetime type of talent with a lot more in the tank to go.
It may come as a surprise to the casual sports fan since Mike isn’t in every other commercial like most superstar athletes. But to baseball aficionados out there, this isn’t really a revelation at all. They’re just praying the Angels get some more talent around him to showcase those skills to the world or just trade him to the Yankees. I’m pretty sure New York can find a way to make some room for him.
WHEN THEY SEE US
When They See Us could have easily been called When They Hate Us. The reenactment of the level of vitriol and disdain towards the lives of these children of color served as a harsh reminder of the reality we still reside in. This series is grueling, alarming and absolutely necessary for every truth seeker to watch. The ability to share our stories and provide our perspectives is a powerful tool that hasn’t always been readily available to us. But times have changed and Ava DuVernay masterfully utilizes her platform to highlight the humanity behind these victims turned heroes.
The performance of the entire cast will garner a considerable amount of attention during award season. From the dynamics of Antron McCray’s (Caleel Harris/Jovan Adepo) relationship with his father (Michael Kenneth Willams) to the strength of faith illustrated by Yusuf Salaam (Ethan Herisse/Chris Chalk) and his mother (Aunjanue Ellis), the brilliance of acting is in heavy abundance. In particular Jharrel Jerome’s heart wrenching transformation into Korey Wise has audiences around the globe streaming much more than video.
Growing up as a 14 year old child in New York City during 1989, it was nearly impossible not to be affected by the pageantry of this case. Meeting up with groups of friends, parental concerns and police interactions were brought to the forefront in daily life. This could have happened to anyone including myself. The thought of being presumed innocent before proven guilty was never a concept my peers and I ever thought applied to us. The only goal was survival and to accomplish it as best as you can.
Unfortunately these kids were caught in the malicious plan of destroying black lives before they had the chance to begin. The true animals at large dealt them a fixed hand and discarded them with the expectation of never to be heard from again.
However they stayed true to themselves with the ideology of survival and persevered to expose the evil that men do. Thank you exonerated 5!
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