* Contains spoilers
There will be no complaining about "not enough deaths!" after Sunday's penultimate episode of "Game of Thrones," like there was after the "Battle of Winterfell." There will be complaining, certainly - it's kind of the main business of watching GoT this final season, and "The Bells" offered plenty to complain about - but if seeing characters we've spent eight years with meet their end is what you were after, this episode left you satisfied. (It will also keep our resident Death Counter Shelly Tan incredibly busy as she tries to tally up all those poor King's Landing commoners who got burnt to a crisp by Drogon.)
The episode started with (most of) us rooting for Daenerys to capture King's Landing and it somehow ended with us feeling sympathy for Cersei and seeing Daenerys do things that not even Cersei would have dreamed of. You could say it was a good twist, or you could say it was just more baffling decision-making. In any case, we've got one more Sunday night left.
Daenerys goes full Mad Queen
The actions of Daenerys weren't completely shocking, because the hints had been piling up fast over the past few episodes. Now, should a few hints over the past couple episodes outweigh the dominant narrative arc of arguably the show's central heroic character that was built up over the past eight seasons? That's a question that only George R. R. Martin can answer. But he wasn't up for answering it, so that means David Benioff and D.B. Weiss got to weigh in and decide that yes, Daenerys becoming a soulless killing machine is the way to go.
The Lannisters stay together
Family is destiny seems to be one of the themes emerging in these chaotic final few episodes. Tyrion remains fully committed to his brother, freeing Jaime after he was captured by Dany's forces on the outskirts of King's Landing before the battle. Tyrion hopes that he can convince Jaime to tell Cersei to surrender before it's too late for them all, but Jaime is unwilling to accept the plainly obvious fact that the battle will be short, decisive and not in his sister's favor. Tyrion's backup plan is to help his siblings escape, making sure a dinghy will be waiting for them outside the secret exit of the Red Keep, where Jaime and Cersei can sail away to Pentos to raise their incest baby.
Jaime and Tyrion share a heartfelt goodbye. "If it weren't for you, I never would have survived my childhood," Tyrion tells his brother. "You were the only one who didn't treat me like a monster. You were all I had." There are tears, there's a hug, and that's the last time they will see each other again.
Watching Drogon destroy King's Landing put Cersei through the ringer of emotions. Our final moments with Cersei show her to be scared and vulnerable in a way we never saw her before.
Is this another example of nonsensical out-of-character behavior in these final episodes, or just someone with the coldest exterior finally letting her guard down right before she dies? I'll give the benefit of the doubt and go with the latter. It's still somewhat shocking for Cersei Lannister, who delivered so many very memorable sharp one-liners throughout the series, to have her final line be "I don't like this."
"Nothing else matters, only us," Jaime tells his sister before everything caves in and they die in each other's arms. There will be plenty of people upset about Jaime's regression and return to Cersei after years of going the other way, but that's actually one of the more believable developments of these past few episodes. Their love was one of the purest on the show.
This battle of the Clegane brothers - Sandor "The Hound" vs. Gregor "The Mountain" - had been hyped for so long and was dutifully squeezed into right before the finale. Would it have been better if it happened earlier and was given a chance to be one of the main plot points of an episode? Maybe. Does it not really matter because the Mountain is just some emotionless killing machine and it was obvious that they would both die when the battle came to pass? Most likely.
Arya somehow survives
Arya rode into King's Landing with the Hound on a mission to kill Cersei, but abandoned that mission on advice of her old friend once they both realized how dangerous it was inside the city limits. The problem was that she realized this way too late and was still left to dodge fire, rubble and stampedes in an attempt to stay alive in the city under siege.
But stay alive she did, albeit much worse for the wear, caked in dust and blood. But emerging from the devastation she finds a white horse in good health and is able to ride out of the city. Hey, it makes as much sense as her sneaking past a few hundred White Walkers and ambushing the Night King. (Remember that guy? Why am I weirdly nostalgic for the Night King? That can't be good.)
Questions for the final episode
How will Jon react to Daenerys killing so many innocent people?
Will Sansa confront Daenerys about her actions, or Jon's parents?
Will Tyrion remain loyal to Daenerys in the wake of her actions?
Have we really seen the last of the great warrior, Harry Strickland?The Washington Post