Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 Review: The Bells

Daenerys sees red and Jamie keeps it in the family as Game of Thrones reaches its conclusion.

This penultimate episode of Game of Thrones thunders to the finale of what is surely the biggest show ever. Catch up now via NOW TV Entertainment. Spoilers ahead for episode 5.

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Just hours after it first aired, ‘The Bells’ appears to be the most controversial episode Game of Thrones has ever put out. This was over an hour of your senses being attacked, and in a season full of stunning visuals, it still managed to stand out as one of the best episodes in terms of cinematography. Regardless of what you think about where they ended up going plot-wise, ‘The Bells’ is still notable for its horrific atmosphere and haunting score (which is one of the few things of the series that has stayed consistently good).

The episode saw Daenerys embrace her legacy as the Mad King’s Daughter, unleashing Drogon and laying waste to King’s Landing, killing thousands. It’s a move that’s proved to be divisive among fans of the show, who claim that the turn is way too sudden. I’m inclined to agree, as despite there being a number of hints that Dany might turn out this way, there hasn’t really been enough time to establish her as someone who would be willing to kill innocents to get what she wants.

A lot of this is due to the fact that the series has very little time to wrap this stuff up, and you wonder what they could have done with a full, 10-episode season. This was another episode that included an epic battle sequence, but whilst episode 3 was about pure survival, ‘The Bells’ is more about the characters realising the horrors of war. 

Whilst Dany’s crazy turn was rushed, it was made more effective by the sheer spectacle of the violence. This was Game of Thrones at its most grisly, and certainly one you’ll want to skip if you’re not into gore (though you’re probably not into this show anyway if that’s the case). We see limbs and heads chopped off, people bleeding out, faces melting and charring from dragon fire and families carbonised. It really pushed home what's happening to the ordinary people of King’s Landing whilst the lords of the land war and squabble.

Another part of the episode that has proved to be contentious was Jamie going back to Cersei. I get what the writers were attempting here, and the idea of a tragic ending for the Lannister siblings is a good one, but coming off the Kingslayer apparently declaring his affection for Brienne (in the very same episode, no less) it seemed like a turn that happens very suddenly. Jamie is a character that has had a very specific arc, so him going straight back to Cersei seemingly on a whim makes little sense.

Elsewhere, The Hound finally confronts his big brother (played by an actor 20 years younger than him) for a highly anticipated clash of the Cleganes. The Hound’s lust for revenge has been one of the show’s most important conflicts, and it culminates in the episode’s best scene by far. Brutal and thematically weighty, Cleganebowl definitely delivered, with an extra bit of glorious splatter in the form of dressing gown-wearing mad scientist Qyburn getting dashed on some rocks. 

Next week, everything ends as Game of Thrones draws its final sword.

Catch episode 6 on Monday April 20th, 9pm, exclusively on Sky Atlantic via the Sky Entertainment Package.

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