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Season 8, episode 5 (2 updates)



Ken Ilgunas and David Dalton are reviewing each episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. Check the “Game of Thrones” category to list all of these posts.


David:

Mornin’, Ken …

We just watched, I believe, the most extraordinary television episode ever made. It wasn’t just the spectacle, which topped all the previous accomplishments of this series. It also was the drama. In the middle of all that destruction and death, it was the fates of our beloved characters that kept us mesmerized.

I miss Varys already. The Hound did not deserve to die either, but at least he took his monster brother with him into the flames. So much for wondering whether Jaime would save Cersei or kill her. Instead he arrived just in time to die with her. Good riddance to Euron. Qyburn deserved a slower death, but as expected he was killed by one of his own creations.

You know how much I have wanted this series to follow the trajectories of classical storytelling, with a satisfying and irony-free ending in which, on the whole, good triumphs over evil. With one episode remaining, we are on course for that. There was no way that Cersei was going to go down easy. She got her just deserts (with an enormous amount of unjust collateral damage). Much justice was done in this episode, yet much injustice was done in the process. At least three of the remaining characters — Jon, Tyrion, and Grey Worm — are greatly disturbed by this injustice. The camera spent a great deal of time on the suffering of the innocents, about which Tyrion and Varys had worried so much. Injustice and cruelty on that scale do not bode well for Daenerys. Grey Worm’s troops could have gone to the Red Keep and captured Cersei. But Daenerys wanted total destruction. She will have to pay.

And though we are on course for a classical ending, it’s not at all apparent how that will be achieved. Since dying in dyads seems to be the new thing, it’s conceivable that Jon could die with Daenerys, or that Tyrion could die with her. It’s possible that Daenerys will abdicate the throne, recognizing her own unsuitability, and cede the throne to Jon, because she knows that Jon is loved and she is not. But I think we should believe Jon when he has said so many times that he does not want the throne. And yet, how could Jon go on living and not accept the throne, since by the rules it is his?

As for the throne itself, I wonder if it isn’t safe to suppose that the throne was destroyed and will never be used again. That probably bodes well for the future of the Seven Kingdoms. I expect the capital to move — to Winterfell. Was that snow falling in the final scenes, or ashes? When a heroine gets up from the rubble and storms away on a white horse, what can that foreshadow other than last-minute matters of urgent justice? Both Jon and Arya appear to have rethought their lives while Kings Landing burned. The setup for the final episode is as near-perfect as any mortal writer could make it.


Ken:

Morning David,

GoT’s episode scores on Rotten Tomatoes are getting progressively worse. At this time, the latest episode, “The Bells,” is less than fifty percent “fresh.”

This is a bit surprising to me because I thought “The Bells” was exceptional. Spectacular even. I agree with you that this might have been the finest hour in the history of television.

That said, I think some of the criticism is probably valid, centered on the question of the Mad Queen: Was Dany’s descent into madness true to her character? But the fact that we’re asking this question is partly what makes it so exceptional. Her turn was both a surprise and a reasonable outcome. It is Martin at his best. Or Martin at his almost best.

If you think her turn was too abrupt and too out of character, I can see why someone might hate this episode. Frankly, I don’t know. Just an episode or two ago she seemed well adjusted. And she has been a beloved character for eight seasons, freeing slaves along the way, who has always done well to manage her worst instincts. So maybe it seemed a touch unpleasantly random. I get that. That said, I respect the hell out of Martin for creating such a naughty story: We watch a young and charming idealist build power for eight seasons and then, at the last moment, she turns everything to ash. No other writer would be so bold. This defies all the norms of classic storytelling.

Maybe it could have been foreshadowed better? Maybe we should have seen more of her madness before she did what she did? One episode she’s fighting alongside Jon in the north and she’s clearly got all of her wits. A few days later her hair is a mess, her eyes are wild, and then she’s burning a city alive? I’m thinking that maybe her descent into madness could have been a bit more complete.

I suppose we also have to ask the question: What’s in this for Dany, the breaker of chains? Why is conquering Westeros so important if you’re just going to burn it to the ground? Why not take the remains of your army back to Essos, where you’re loved?

I ask these questions because I’m wondering if there was a point to what just happened. Is this her breaking the wheel? Is this her ending tyranny? Did these people need to die and did the city need to burn for, as she says, the future generations of Westeros? Why does she even care about the future generations? I suppose the ultimate question is: Is there a larger point to her destiny (that doesn’t even factor in her own wellbeing)? Or is Martin saying that there is no such thing as destiny, and that Dany’s story is the story of a ruthless conquistador, who wrongly thinks they’re fighting for a higher purpose, when they’re not…

If there is a point, maybe “The Bells” lays the groundwork for a more peaceful empire, even if her life must be sacrificed along with the thousands of innocents in their crisped hovels and charred alleyways. Maybe this is just me trying to twist the narrative into what feels right and expected and narratively-coherent. But maybe Martin is saying “nonsense” to all of that. Maybe he’s still breaking with the traditions of classic storytelling. And I love him for that; even he’s not leading us to a place where we can satisfyingly watch, in the last moments of the show, the king and queen united, and the kingdom at peace, just as the curtains close.

I’m eager to discuss this more, but a few stray thoughts for now…

– Sandor Clegane has long been my favorite character. His last moments with Arya were touching, and his death with his brother, though hard to watch, seemed like a proper end to his character. The makeup, costumes, and setting design (which too often go unnoticed) were top notch. These were like two gods duking it out on the peak of Olympus. To use an overused word, it was epic. He died with his vital life force: revenge, plunging her brother, and himself, into the flames that made them who they were. Without his death, there may have been nothing to keep him going and nothing to feed his better instincts.

– I thought Jamie and Cersei’s deaths were beautiful.

– One quibble with your review. I do not think Grey Worm was disturbed by the injustice, but that he was complicit in it. I believe it was him who hurled the spear at the Lannister army that’d already surrendered. He let his mid-battle bloodlust get the best of him.

– I would be very upset if the Iron Throne was melted off camera. That’s a hugely symbolic moment that I hope they’ll show us next week.

– Very fascinating theory about Winterfell being the new capital. It’s not a great port city or well positioned, but why not? Does Sansa somehow get to be queen? I don’t see how that’ll work. But you’re right to imagine a whole bunch of successor scenarios, and dyads dying together.

– I thought the whole episode was a visual and cinematic spectacle. The camera work, the flames, the defenses, the rubble… It was a visual feast, but in a more honest way than what we saw in the zombie battle episode. Here, we saw pain, devastation, rape, murder, bloodlust. We saw the worst instincts of mankind. Has GoT said anything more honest?

– I think that is probably the last we’ve seen from Arya, unless it’s an image of her getting on a boat and sailing away. It was a fitting and beautiful end to her story.

– Emilia Clarke’s acting was outstanding. The best we’ve seen from her. Give her an Emmy.

– I don’t think it was in Missandei’s character to yell, “Dracarys!” in the last episode. Why is a former slave telling Dany to kill a whole bunch of innocent people? Where does Missandei’s rage come from? She was taken fairly in battle and given a swift death. It would have been more in character to tell Grey Worm and Dany that she loves them in her last moments. And that would have given Dany more reason to do what she did.

– Will Dany snap out of her murderous delirium, and say, “What have I done?” Or is she the Mad Tyrant from now on?

– What’s to be done? Tyrion and Jon and the rest are appropriately horrified. Will Dany take a sword in the back? By whom? I think the conventional storytelling arcs, if they’re to be trusted, has the Mad Queen going down and the Just King taking her place on the Iron Throne. That would be the end that most satisfies the typical consumer of Western storytelling. But at this point it’s fair to say, “Who the hell knows.”


Update 1:

David:

I’m so glad we agree on the quality of this episode. As for the progressively worse reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, that is very interesting. All I can suggest is that it’s what I call “vindictive” reviewing, which I often see in Amazon book reviews that take a stand on a controversial subject. To a vindictive book reviewer, if you don’t like the book’s message, then it must be a bad book. By now, I suppose, so many people’s pet ideas have been frustrated that they’ve gotten vindictive because they haven’t had their way. Maybe that’s an advantage of my easy ability to suspend disbelief. I just go with it and don’t complain very much. Not that I would do that with just any author. But I trust Martin.

To follow up on some of your observations:

— If Daenerys is mad, it comes and goes. We’ve seen this before, as when she crucified the slave traders in Meereen. Though it was cruel overkill, that was an act of justice. As for the innocents inside the walls of King’s Landing, surely Cersei deserves some of the blame for that. She brought them inside to use as shields. It’s not that I’m apologizing for Daenerys. I’m only thinking of how, in Game of Thrones, there is never a sharp line between good and evil (except maybe for Jon). As for the state of Daenerys’ soul, much depends on what she does next.

— That Sansa could end up as queen surely is a possibility. That the next king or queen should be loved seems to be a rule. Sansa is loved, though not as much as Jon is loved. As for the other rules of succession, one rule surely must be noble blood. In addition to Daenerys, that would leave Jon, Sansa, Arya, Bran, and Tyrion, and maybe Yara as candidates. If Martin or HBO violate the rules of classic storytelling, it’s even possible that we don’t even end up with a winner. Instead we end up with a failed state, and winter coming. Yikes.

— That Arya’s storming away on a white horse was the last we’ll see of her makes sense. But what would she do? Wander, with winter coming on? I think she sees Winterfell as her home. She loves her siblings. Surely she will return there. The opening scenes of the next episode could be in some unexpected place, as part of the endplot. But I’m guessing that we’ll go to Winterfell next.

Having said that I trust Martin and willingly suspend disbelief for him, it would be a huge blow to my psyche and to my sense of story if we get a twisted ending with whiffs of nihilism and more injustice and unhappiness than I can stomach. Still, it’s a great credit to Martin as a writer that with an hour to go, anything could happen.


Ken:

Scanning the reviews, it appears the biggest gripe is about Dany’s unearned turn from idealist wannabe queen to genocidal nutcase. They have a point. All of a sudden she becomes her crazy father, even though she hasn’t exhibited any real symptoms. I think we have to ask ourselves if this is indeed truly bad storytelling. You’re right that she’s judiciously executed others (usually individuals or slaveowners in small groups), but never have we seen her kill innocents, and I don’t think Cersei can take any of the blame for that. The battle had been won. Soldiers were surrendering and the bells were ringing. The people weren’t at all being used as shields. Dany had gone full-on crazy. No one can be on Team Dany anymore, and that’s got to be very hard for fans. She might be able to make a better decisions after she wakes from her bloodlust, but I don’t think there’s anything to be salvaged. Even kind gestures will not change the fact that a beloved character’s soul has turned rotten for good.

I don’t think you’re appreciating the gravity of her crimes. I suppose I’m suggesting that the criticism of the episode isn’t entirely vindictive and that there are reasonable complaints. I loved the episode, but it might have been a bit more logical if we’d seen her turn foreshadowed better.

I’ll say it again, though: this was a magnificent episode. I’ve had my issues with the show, as you know. I thought the writers committed a dereliction of duty by failing to bring cosmological closure to the White Walkers. I thought there’s been a few too many cheesy action scenes. The last two seasons have been out of pace with the rest of the series. I thought the political machinations (so clever at first!) have gotten dumber over the seasons. I could go on. But I think this episode makes up for missteps. I think the show has found its footing for the finale. GoT is not perfect, for all the reasons I’ve shared these past few weeks, but at this point it knows where it’s going and is poised to conclude grandly.

— I think you’re right about Dany coming to her senses. Perhaps abdication is her way of regaining a tiny bit nobility after her genocide. Giving the Throne to Jon and heading back to rule Essos would be for the greater good, but I’m doubtful it ends that cleanly.

— I could be wrong, but I do think that that’s the last we’ll see of Arya. She’ll be a better sort of Clegane. A knight errant, but one who’s not driven by hatred or revenge. I do not think she’ll return to Winterfell. She said as much to Clegane on their path to King’s Landing.

— Care to make any predictions of where everyone winds up? Mine:

Bran crawls into a Weirwood tree and lives among its roots.
Dany gets murdered.
Grey Worm dies defending Dany.
Jon‘s the reluctant king with Davos as his hand.
Sansa either becomes Jon’s hand or rules as warden of the north.
Tyrion dies. I’m not sure where he belongs…
Brienne is the captain of the King’s Guard.
Bronne? No idea.
Arya sails off the west coast into waters unknown.
Sam becomes grand maester of Citadel.
Yara is never on camera again.

Who am I forgetting?


Update 2:

David:

If it turns out to be true that Daenerys has succumbed to the Targaryen madness, then I think I’ll continue to be the contrarian here and say that it was decently foreshadowed. In researching the history of the Mad King, this turned up:

“The Mad King was obsessed with it. He loved to watch people burn, the way their skin blackened and blistered and melted off their bones. He burned lords he didn’t like. He burned Hands who disobeyed him. He burned anyone who was against him. Before long, half the country was against him. Aerys saw traitors everywhere. So he had his pyromancers place caches of wildfire all over the city. Beneath the Sept of Baelor and the slums of Flea Bottom. Under houses, stables, taverns. Even beneath the Red Keep itself.”

―Ser Jaime Lannister

Did you notice how, as King’s Landing was burning, there were bursts of green fire here and there? That, I would assume, would be leftover caches of the Mad King’s wildfire, connecting lots of dots.

This is not looking good for Daenerys. I feel for the fans who loved her. She is very likeable, when she isn’t cruel. If there was a last straw that tipped her over the edge emotionally (and there were many recent provocations including the murder of Missandei and Varys’ treason), then I’d say it was her last scene with Jon, in which she realized that she had lost him. Jon might have been her last connection to a world of good.


Ken:

Indeed, there’s plenty of foreshadowing to draw from. She’s mercilessly burnt many and it’s in her DNA. But she’s also amazingly resilient. At the end of Season One, she’d lost her man, all the Dothraki, even the clothes she wore. All she had was Jorah and few Dothraki stragglers (and three baby dragons). Yet she believed in herself and prevailed. I don’t know if it’s right that her recent losses merit her complete plunge into madness. Yes, she’s lost a lot. (Jorah, Missandei, two dragons, half an army, and a romance with Jon). But she still had a lot! (Friendship with Jon, a dragon, half an army, various cities to the east under her influence, her health, her youth, etc.) There is nothing about King’s Landing or the Lannisters that should summon the degree of rage she exhibited, at least on the surface level. (I’m open to hear deeper, more psychological explanations tying in her unusual relationship with Westeros as her birth country, not to mention her murdered parents or messed up family life.)

I see this all as a healthy debate and I’m definitely not firmly on the critics’ side; I merely think such criticisms (at least as we’ve framed the debate) are healthy literary criticisms. I think I would only argue, as Josh has articulated for me, that we needed to see more psychic breakdown between the zombie battle and the King’s Landing battle.


11 Comments

  1. Josh wrote:

    It’s taken me all morning reading and thinking about this episode to decide where I land on it. A few notes:

    -Euron, apparently the only surviving Iron Born, randomly ending up on the shores next to Jamie for a battle that I didn’t care about was one of the worst scenes of the entire 8 seasons.

    -I loved Tyrion and Jamie’s final scene.

    -I thought they did a fair job of addressing the threat of the scorpions and completly neutralizing them by having Drogon take the attack to them with such speed that they couldn’t move the devices fast enough to counter him.

    -I like how the Golden Company was a force to be reckoned with. And then it wasn’t.

    -I was disappointed by the Hound’s death. I appreciate the symbolic importance of how he and the mountain died, but just didn’t feel as much as I think I should have for the death of perhaps my favorite character on the show. Perhaps it was just the intensity of this episode, but I felt more for Jamie and Cersei then the Hound.

    -This was indeed Emilia Clarke’s best acting but she’s still a silver medalist in my view. Lena Headey is an amazing actress that has done a marvelous job with a complex character. I found myself feeling for Cersei all over again, hoping she made it to the boat. I loved how they portrayed her emotional journey throughout this episode, and Headey rose to the occasion again.

    As for the big topic of Dany’s journey to the Mad Queen… I’m with David on this and not at all agreeing with the intense criticism from the general public and critics that is getting thrown the show’s way for this. For one, I think its foreshadowed and developed plenty for all 8 seasons. Dany’s bloodlust is never hidden, and this includes several instances when she is killing innocent people. She has her dragons roast and eat a Mereen noble (who she herself admits may be innocent). This shortly after she crucifies hundreds of them on the road to Mereen, and its later said that at least one of them was innocent. She’s now lost the people closest to her and is surrounded by people who she doesn’t trust. I can find some common ground with Ken that the writers could have done a better job showing us this spiral between the Battle of Winterfell and razing of Kings Landing rather than doing it with makeup. But I dont think it so far out of character that it was a necessity.

    I’m sure the ending of GoT would be more enthusiastically received if it had a Marvel Comic ending –obvious “good guys” triumphing over obvious bad guys. To hell with that. This is the kind of reflection of reality that feels true to me, and I’m glad they took this route. Dany has been a fan favorite because she’s been ruthless for the “right” reasons. She’s been our bad guy – the one who’s actions we overlook because of the ends. I love that they continued to find shades of gray between good and bad throughout this series.

    I’d like to see the show stay on this line – Dany implementing her vision of a “merciful” new world that she used to justify the atrocity – to balance the last episode’s portayal of Dany with more gray. That’s the ending I would like to see.

    I’d also endorse and ending where, as Ken put it, “there is no such thing as destiny, and that Dany’s story is the story of a ruthless conquistador, who wrongly thinks they’re fighting for a higher purpose, when they’re not…”.

    I suspect we won’t get that, rather a successful effort to remove her. I remembering Jon’s words from last season, which was something like “if you use them (the dragons) to burn cities and melt castles, you won’t be any different, just more of the same”. I doubt he will stand by Dany after this episode.

    Monday, May 13, 2019 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  2. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Josh… You should be blogging with us! You and I are on the same wavelength with Daenerys. I just said similar things about her in an email to Ken. After Ken replies, that will be included in Update 2.

    Monday, May 13, 2019 at 11:57 am | Permalink
  3. Ken wrote:

    Some responses to Josh…

    I didn’t mind the Euron scene. There are countless implausible scenarios just in this episode. (Jaime escaping the camp; Arya being granted access; the Hound somehow making it into the keep; the list goes on…) I didn’t mind the set up to this fight. I was glad to see Euron go and I’m happy Jaime got to do the honors.

    -The Lannister brothers scene was well done. I don’t think there was one bad scene in the whole show. In fact it had a polish that I’d never seen in a GoT episode and which may surpass even the best films. The lighting and camera work was just amazing. Just to mention one: when Tyrion was telling Dany about Varys, they were in a dark room with just some light on Tyrion’s face. You could see how expressions were full of fear. I suppose this is what I mean by polish; it didn’t seem like it was filmed in an overly dressed up studio.

    -The Hound death hit me hard. I thought that whole scene was spectacular. The Mountain’s patented eye-crushing maneuver was hard to watch, but it all felt right. It was easily the hardest death for me since Jon Snow died at the end of Season Five.

    -Nothing to disagree about with regards to Lena Heady. Her breakdown in the King’s Landing dungeon was heartbreaking.

    -I have a few more words on the way about the Mad Queen debate in the next update. I’m happy to continue that debate but I think we’ve all covered the basics.

    -Care to make some character by character predictions?

    Monday, May 13, 2019 at 5:27 pm | Permalink
  4. Josh wrote:

    I have found more value in reading your thoughts on Dany than listening to the general public’s and critics’ reactions. Perhaps it’s because you still loved the episode and are simply noting flaws rather than being emotionally turned off by the thought of someone you once admired committing an atrocity.

    As for predictions, I looked back to my pre-season 7 predictions which I had long forgotten about. I nailed one: King’s Landing being totally destroyed. I missed on most of them though.
    My preferred ending would be to see Dany assert her rule over the 7 Kingdoms and cast a new vision in the final episode. History has a short memory of crimes committed by victors and I’d love to see her establish a reign that makes people forget about the atrocities she committed. I can’t imagine that will happen though.
    I do think Dany will die in the episode. Dany can’t be defeated in a battle, so it’ll have to be an assassination. Arya is an obvious candidate but I think her moment with Sandor last episode may mean her days of revenge seeking are over. Out of everyone, I’m sure she survives the season – maybe sailing West of Westeros.
    I’m wondering if Tyrion is still able to stay close to Dany (a big if considering he freed Jamie and is appalled by Dany). If he does stay close to her, then I’d predict that he follow in his brother’s footsteps and become the Queenslayer.
    I don’t see Jon becoming King. We could come full circle with Gendry ending up on the throne. I’d guess we will end up with no ruler: with Kings Landing (and perhaps the Iron Throne?) being destroyed, it provides an opportunity for a new ruling system to be implemented, with the seven kingdoms being broken up. Sansa gets her wish of a North ruled by the North. Bronn may even end up ruling the Reach (how the hell is he going to play into this?)
    The problem with any of my predictions is that I can’t figure out what happens with Jon. There is a scene in “The Bells” where Gray Worm is watching Jon try to hold his troops back. I imagine that was included so a conflict can arise between Gray Worm (and Dany?) and Jon early in this episode. Jon turning on Dany seems like the obvious course of action. I’m not sure if I think Jon will make it out of this episode alive, but he will certainly play a central role. Perhaps he asserts control over the dragon after Dany dies and melts the throne in a symbolic act? He seems like an obvious choice to sacrifice himself for the greater good as well.

    Do you two care to make predictions?

    Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 1:03 pm | Permalink
  5. daltoni wrote:

    Hey Josh… I read somewhere (or saw a headline, anyway) that said that some fans are working up a petition to demand that HBO remake *the entire season* to change the Daenerys situation. This strikes me as sublimely weird. Don’t they get that it’s just a story and that stories are not a work of democracy? I also saw a reference somewhere to how Martin never would have done it that way, and that the unpopular Daenerys turn-of-events is a gross error by HBO. How can people think that they know HBO’s ending is different from Martin’s?? My guess would be that the HBO writers are fully aware of how Martin intends to end the series and that the contract required it. On the other hand, I also can see how Martin would want to be able to say that there are surprises in the next two books. Martin’s probably in a pickle now!

    I have not been thinking too much about predictions. Mostly I’ve been grieving because there is only one more episode. But I think I agree that Daenerys will not survive the next episode. Wasn’t Varys trying to poison her in episode 5? What was he writing? Why did he take off his rings? It’s possible that Varys set something in motion before he died and that Varys will knock off Daenerys post mortem.

    I love your idea of Jon inheriting the dragon!

    Thursday, May 16, 2019 at 1:29 pm | Permalink
  6. Ken wrote:

    A few more stray thoughts, some based on recent comments…

    -Could Arya be dead? No one was there to witness her get on the horse, and the whole thing just seemed like her going into the afterlife. In any case, alive or dead, I think it was an elegant send off to her character and I think it’s the last we’ll see of her.

    -If Dany is still possessed, might it be rational for her to take off on her dragon to burn Winterfell and her, at present, #1 rival, Sansa? The only way to defend against such an attack is for Bran to warg the dragon and kamikaze itself into the ground.

    -I think, David, you need to prepare yourself for the possibility of that whiff of nihilism, or something worse. I think there’s a strong possibility we’ll see more justice brought to Westeros, but we can’t undo the genocide and there is the possibility of Dany simply reigning as an empress without penalty.

    -Might we get one of those finales where we see everyone twenty years in the future, like “Mad About You”?

    -Tyrion will have to pay for going behind Dany’s back to release Jaime. I don’t think that offense can be forgotten, especially if he was already forewarned about future blunders. He might escape and own a tavern on a different continent, or someone, such as himself, might assassinate the queen.

    -I agree that Jon and Grey Worm are going to have a chest-to-chest stare down match. I think it’s fair to be critical of the show for including Grey Worm in Dany’s homicidal madness.

    -Ha, I don’t mind the petition to HBO. I know you disagree, David, but I share many fans’ opinions that the dialogue and plotting has significantly decreased in quality these past two seasons, so I don’t think their objections are solely about Dany’s somewhat out-of-character turn. Obviously the petition is tongue in cheek.

    -Varys was definitely trying to poison Dany’s food with the help of little Martha. He was probably writing to the remaining lords of Westeros that Jon is the true king. (I could make a bit of the writing on the scroll out.) It’s unclear if he was able to air-mail those out, but I think it can be assumed that some made it out.

    -I’ve listed my predictions in “Update 1,” but I have little confidence in them. I just don’t see Dany remaining on the Throne. Her death has always been prophesied, so that’s a strong possibility, but as to how and by whom is unclear, as is who sits on the throne. My fantasy roster for my dreamteam court would be Jon-king, Sansa-hand, Davos-whisperers, Tyrion-coin, Sam-Grand Maester, Yara-Master of ship, Brienne-Kings guard commander.

    Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8:06 am | Permalink
  7. daltoni wrote:

    Ken: You’re scaring me! The idea of a nihilistic ending, or jumping 20 years into the future, is terrifying!

    I’m going to dig in my heels and have faith that Martin and HBO will stick with classical Aristotelian storytelling. The series has plentifully supplied us with all the Aristotelian ingredients — plot, character, melody, diction, spectacle. Lots of spectacle. But the one ingredient that we have not yet had, and that we must have, is catharsis. All the buzzing and complaining and vindictive reviewing that we’re getting right now expresses the intense collective need for catharsis. To put people through what this series has put us through and not give us catharsis at the end would cause a crisis in public mental health. People would start jumping off of buildings. Marriages would fall apart. Pets would go hungry. 🙂 Between the next-to-last episode and the last episode, people are exactly where they ought to be at this point in the story — abandoning all hope of a satisfying cathartic ending.

    Consider me doubled down. I predict a catharsis so cathartic that people will feel OK even about Daenerys. We will cry for days, not in frustration, but sad, satisfied, and edified. That’s what stories are for. Many a writer has tried to improve on classical storytelling. None has succeeded, in my opinion. And those who have tried can go pound red-hot rocks in hell. Martin wouldn’t dare.

    Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink
  8. Josh wrote:

    Stray comments…

    I’m with David on the HBO petition.

    I’m definitely frustrated that they gave Bran all these abilities and he uses precisely zero of them. Having him destroy the dragon would be a fitting use… maybe an episode too late? He will warg into it to save his sister but not an entire city?

    Grey Worm’s background is messed up enough that him going off the deep end seems appropriate.

    I’d like a slower paced finale to this show rather than a frenetic series of events. I’m not sure I will get that as quite a but ould happen in the last episode.

    In the end, I’d argue GoT is really about the Starks. Seeing the “Last of the Starks” rise seems like a likely ending.

    Friday, May 17, 2019 at 10:24 am | Permalink
  9. Natalie Greenfield wrote:

    I might be entering dangerous territory by commenting as one of the critics of this episode but I’m going to dare. I don’t consider myself a vindictive reviewer and I don’t need to like a story’s message to find value in the story. I also don’t need an ending in which the good guys triumph over the bad guys. Madness isn’t what I hoped for Dany’s character but I actually think the arc is really interesting. It gets people questioning what can cause a person to go mad and brings up all kinds of ideas related to power, loss and revenge. So my issue with the episode isn’t that Martin and/or the show’s writers had Daenerys go mad, it’s that having her massacre innocents like that was not believable for the character we’ve been watching for 8 seasons, and nothing happened that could conceivably drive her to make the decision she made in that moment. The writers have apparently said that viewers should have seen it coming. Well it was obvious that was the direction they were sending her character but only as of the previous episode. I was interested to see what was ultimately going to send her over the edge but nothing did. Nothing happened that could explain such a drastic change in character. I’ve thought about it a lot trying to figure out if any of the possible causes make sense and here are some of those thoughts:
    1) She had too much power and it corrupted her. If seizing power of the iron throne was that important to her, she never would have postponed her war for the sake of Meereen or to join the fight against the White Walkers. So this idea is out for me.
    2) Losing Jorah, her dragon and Missandei was too much for her. The problem with this theory is that she suffered greater losses before (Khal Drogo, their son and the first loss of a dragon) and she proved to be resilient and reasonable in the aftermath. I don’t see these recent losses as enough to have her suddenly want to slaughter innocents when she’s only ever talked about protecting them.
    3) Revenge. It’s possible that it wasn’t who she lost but who was responsible for those losses that got to her. These were the same people after all who had killed her family. But if her hatred for the Lannisters was that deep, she never could have made Tyrion her Hand or let Jamie live when he came to Winterfell or let him live for any amount of time after he fled (that last one though could of been her trying to see if Tyrion would free him). Plus, if she was that driven by revenge for the Lannisters, why didn’t she fly straight for where she’d likely find Cersei. Again, burning all of those innocent people instead doesn’t make sense. In the ‘Inside the Episode’, the writers said that in that moment when the bells rang, she looked at the Red Keep, the home her ancestors had built, and saw this symbol of everything that was taken from her and then decided to make things personal. It makes sense in a way except that when she came for the meeting at the Dragonpit, we didn’t see her become a raging lunatic intent on leveling the place. And unless I missed something, what did the people of King’s Landing do that she took personally? Killing some innocents in an attempt to get to Cersei would have been believable. Turning on these people when her true enemies were standing nearby has me mind boggled.
    4) Madness runs in her family so this was destined to happen. This suggestion bugs me the most because if Daenerys just went mad because of genetics, then Jon is just as likely to one day become a crazed maniac who slaughters innocents. Again, hard to believe. Yes, his mother was a Stark so it could make him less susceptible but it’s still in his genes. Then there’s the question, did she even go crazy? Tyrion asked her ahead of time to call off the battle if the bells rang and she nodded to Grey Worm. So at that point, she was still capable of seeing reason. And as Ken said, she hadn’t exhibited any real symptoms of madness prior to this episode. So as far as I’m concerned the genetics theory is a poor excuse.
    5) She felt hurt and unloved. This is the only explanation that I feel is reasonably believable. I agree with David that the last scene with Jon was pivotal. She said she had no love in Westeros and when she reached out one last time to Jon, she was rejected. It could possibly explain too what made her react in that moment when the bells rang. Any time Daenerys has conquered a place, she has always immediately gained the love and loyalty of the people. They were eager to follow the queen who couldn’t be burnt and were thankful to her for freeing them and breaking their chains. But this time something else happened. In that moment, the one she’d fought and lost so much for, when the Lannister army threw down their swords, her own men didn’t cheer that the war had been won and the people of King’s Landing didn’t bend the knee, call her things like Mother or show any sign of gratitude for saving them from Cersei’s tyrannical reign. They just screamed to ring the bells in fear of her. Maybe she felt unloved by them and hated them for it. If this is what the writers were trying to say though, somehow I think they failed to convey it properly or we just didn’t get to see Dany in Westeros long enough to realize how unloved she felt. We saw her feeling awkwardly inferior at a feast at Winterfell and we heard what she said to Jon before the battle but that’s all. And her men were still with her. It’s not like she didn’t have anyone around who loved her. The Daenerys we’ve watched all these years would have yelled some inspiring speech at the people of King’s Landing, not decided to promptly burn them all.
    If Dany goes mad in the books, I’m confident it will be written brilliantly. I just don’t think that was the case on the show. If she had a purpose that we just can’t yet see, that would satisfying but as of right now, what happened seems like a rushed attempt to convince us that she’s crazy and Jon belongs on the throne instead. The idea of Daenerys doing this because she felt unloved does have me undecided though as to whether this arc was a failure or if it’s actually brilliant but was just rushed. I think I will wait for the finale to decide.
    A few non-Daenerys related thoughts:
    – I’ve thought too that the capital could move to Winterfell. Seeing Jon in the south is hard to imagine but I think it’s more likely Sansa will rule the North.
    – I don’t think this is the last we’ve seen of Arya. I was confident she would survive this past episode simply because even though she claimed that she didn’t expect she’d be returning to Winterfell, we got no goodbye between her and her siblings. After being apart from them for so long and their reunion being such a big deal, no goodbye suggests their story isn’t over. Tyrion and Jamie got a nice goodbye, as did the Hound and Arya. A Stark goodbye was surely worthy of screen time if they were in fact saying goodbye for good.
    – I agree that the acting was outstanding. Both Emilia and Lena especially.
    – I agree with the first 5 points made by Josh in his first comment. The Euron and Jamie scene was horrible and with so little time left on the show, wasting time on a fight that didn’t advance the plot at all was frustrating, especially when other storylines have been dropped or rushed.
    – I’m worried for Jon in this episode because Grey Worm looked at him trying to stop his men from fighting. I do think that Jon will end up as King. It fits with the prophecies and visions and gives purpose to his resurrection. I think too that it’s foreshadowed in the scene in which Daenerys enters the throne room when she’s in the House of the Undying. While the white stuff could have been ashes or snow, I think it probably represented both…ashes foreshadowing the destruction if King’s Landing and snow foreshadowing Snow on the throne.
    Besides the writing of a few scenes, this episode was spectacular. In general, I think GOT spoils it’s viewers, giving them a better quality show than anything anyone has ever seen outside of a theatre. The cinematography, the music (the music for The Long Night deserves an Emmy), the acting, sets, and special effects…this is TV at it’s best. As for the petition, it’s silly. The season will never be re-done. However, I do find the petition revealing and therefore interesting. It shows how many people have been disappointed by the writing but I think it shows too just how many fans aren’t ready for this show to end. I know I’m not.

    Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 1:11 am | Permalink
  10. Ken wrote:

    Natalie–Yes to everything. Yes, the story has shown that Dany can be violent and impulsive, and she clearly has no issue with capital punishment. But have we ever once seen her lose her mind in the previous 7 seasons? No. That look on her face when she’s on Drogon when the bells are ringing is the look of a woman completely losing control of herself. When, in the previous 7 seasons, have we seen her lose just a little bit of her mind? Never. One might argue that it’s genetics, but that is a weak genetic determinism argument, and even if genetics explain everything (it shouldn’t), we still should have seen her insanity and genocidal tendencies beforehand. (And her wanting to justly burn traitors and enslavers is not “genocidal”; that’s just run-of-the-mill Iron Age justice.)

    I love the idea of a protagonist going mad. I love being shocked. I love this whole storyline, as you say. I love so many things about this episode. But I just don’t think the series was written well enough to support what has just happened. I don’t think it’s logical storytelling. And as you say, after 8 seasons, it’s unfair to quickly jam an “insanity” plot in during the previous episode. That might work in a 2.5 hour movie, but not an 80-hour show. You can’t just say “Oh, Dany’s also insane and a genocidal maniac” during the 77th hour.

    I loved this episode but it could have been so much stronger, if slightly less shocking, if the series had shown that it was truly in Dany’s character to do what she did. What’s next, Jon raising the dead to claim the title as the next Night King?

    Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  11. daltoni wrote:

    Hi Natalie… Your comments are very good and very thoughtful.

    I wonder if it would be useful here to turn our attention from the minds of the characters to the minds of the writers. Would it be safe to assume (I believe it would be) that the HBO writers had full access to Martin while writing the screenplays for this season? If so, would it be reasonable to suppose that the HBO writers anticipated the negative response that so many viewers have had to this episode? And if the writers anticipated the response, would it reasonable to further suppose that events in the final episode will show things in a different light? I know that this is a lot of supposing, but until the final curtain comes down, I am inclined to trust to the brilliance of the writers. In a good story, we should expect to approach the climax with as many things crossways as possible. Writers can’t turn scene, or a plot, without snarling it first.

    Saturday, May 18, 2019 at 9:43 am | Permalink

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