Penultimate Game of Thrones: 'A World Completely Shattered'

Daenerys morphs into the Mad Queen and destroys King's Landing
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2019 6:49 AM CDT
GoT Goes Penultimate: The Most 'Heavy Metal' Episode Yet
This image shows Emilia Clarke in a scene from "Game of Thrones" that aired May 5, 2019.   (Helen Sloan/HBO via AP)

Cataclysm, carnage, and a much-anticipated "Cleganebowl"—these all marked "The Bells," the violent fifth and penultimate episode of the last season of Game of Thrones, which Todd VanDerWerff at Vox writes was, "on a visceral level ... a horrific ride through a world that has completely shattered." While last week's episode focused on feelings and relationships, Sunday night's veered into total and complete destruction as we saw King's Landing annihilated after Daenerys snaps and takes Drogon on a fiery vengeance ride through the city. It was a move that spurs VanDerWerff to say: "Honestly. What. The f---?" As the dust literally settles, more thoughts from around the internet:

  • The episode looked good, at least. VanDerWerff tries to crawl out from under the ruins to dig out four winners and 10 losers, and one victor he acknowledges is Miguel Sapochnik, the director of Sunday night's episode. VanDerWerff notes the "gorgeous visuals" and other technical feats that "you rarely see executed so well on television." In a nutshell: "'The Bells' is perhaps the most heavy metal album cover-esque episode of Game of Thrones yet."

  • Appetite for destruction. Sarah Hughes at the Guardian agrees, noting "there's no denying it worked as a visceral display." But she has a lot of other problems with what she calls the most "frustrating" episode yet, replete with rushed plotlines and an almost nihilistic endgame on the part of showrunners DB Weiss and David Benioff: "Increasingly it felt as though Benioff and Weiss were doing little more than gleefully destroying the world they once carefully depicted."
  • A winning night for death pools. Varys, Jaime and Cersei, Euron Greyjoy, the Hound and the Mountain—"for those irked by the relatively scanty death toll so far this season, well, on Sunday your cup runneth over," writes Jeremy Egner for the New York Times. One final scene that touched him: that of the demise of the "toxic Lannister twins": "It's a testament to the dramatic talents of Lena Headey and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau that an incest reunion that took a somewhat galling amount of forced plot mechanics to enact still tugged at my heart strings."
  • The Mad Queen finally emerges. The Dany-abruptly-goes-crazy storyline is what had many fans especially outraged, with Riley McAtee at The Ringer calling it "unearned" and Joanna Robinson deeming it a "betrayal" in Vanity Fair. But in Variety, Daniel D'Addario says Khaleesi's final rampage was "utterly in character" and has been slowly building toward this for the entire show. "Daenerys's tactics have always been more deeply rooted in dominance than in empathy (she spent an entire season insisting a peer united in the struggle with her 'bend the knee') and ... her case for herself as queen, and the actions she's taken to get there, pivot around the idea of revenge," he writes.

  • Back to 'Cleganbowl': Chaim Gartenberg at the Verge offers some historical context and an explainer for one of the most anticipated final showdowns of the entire series: that between the Hound and his brother, the Mountain. And for the most part, it was a satisfying climax. "It was fun to see two of the show's most lethal characters try to destroy each other," he writes. "Not every battle has to have the fate of the world resting on it. Sometimes, you just want to watch a good old-fashioned long-destined smackdown."
  • Did you catch the cameos? ESPN calls it one of the "worst-kept secrets in television," and Sunday night, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed it. "It was just for a few seconds, but I'll always be thankful to have been on the penultimate episode," Rodgers posted on Instagram about his star turn as an extra. Fans think they found him in this scene, the third soldier in.
  • A little levity. BuzzFeed tries to lighten the mood with some of the best Tumblr moments inspired by the episode.
  • There are still questions. Lots of them, heading into the final episode next Sunday. The Wrap offers 12 big ones of its own, including whether the White Walkers are really out of the picture, who will be revealed as "The Prince/Princess That Was Promised," and, perhaps most anticipated: "Who will sit on the Iron Throne?"
(More Game of Thrones stories.)

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