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What a show decides to do with its penultimate episode is always fascinating. After all, a final season can be completely filled with table setting, but the second to last always serves as the guiding hand that will lead audiences into the last chapter. Game of Thrones has proven to be no exception, as with the fifth episode of its eighth season the HBO series not only unleashed over-the-top madness, but key paths for all of its most important characters.
“The Bells” definitely delivered some epic finality for some of its key players, such as Cersei and Jaime Lannister, Sandor and Gregor Clegane, Varys, and more – but there are five still standing who need to have their plots wrapped up in the Game of Thrones finale. So let’s break them all down, shall we?
Daenerys Has To Face Judgement
Last week I called Daenerys Targaryen the “lesser of two evils” when it came to a choice between her and Cersei as possible rulers of Westeros, but “The Bells” wound up tipping those scales in horrifying fashion. While Dany has made some scary calls in the past, her decision to burn King’s Landing to the ground makes Cersei’s destruction of the Great Sept Of Baelor look like a bully playing with a magnifying glass and an ant hill. It was needless and senseless violence, as the city had already surrendered, and the finale will almost certainly feature judgement of her actions as its centerpiece.
The Game of Thrones writers and director Miguel Sapochnik made the call not to feature any close-ups of Daenerys following her Queen Of The Ashes/Mad Queen decision in “The Bells,” so the finale of the show will not only have to give us a bigger picture of her emotional state through those events, but have her dealing with the consequences of her terrible actions. Early in the episode she accepts her path forward will have her subjects fear her instead of love her, so how will she feel when she’s back among her people judging her for murdering thousands of people? It’s possible that she won’t care at all, but that by itself will be fascinating to see.
Jon Has To Confront Daenerys
Jon Snow a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen’s last few confrontations with his Queen/aunt haven’t exactly gone well. Daenerys was immediately threatened by him when he revealed his lineage in the second episode of the season, and things didn’t exactly get better in “The Last Of The Starks” when the Breaker of Chains tried to get him to conceal his secret from absolutely everybody – including his own siblings. The situation became even more terrible in the first half of “The Bells,” when Dany chewed him out for actually telling Sansa and Arya about his parents (which is, of course, how Tyrion found out), but following the burning of King’s Landing things are definitely worse than they’ve ever been.
It’s been made clear time and time again that Jon has absolutely no interest in taking the Iron Throne (is there even an Iron Throne to sit on anymore?), but it’s very much still going to be his responsibility to confront Daenerys about her actions in the Game of Thrones finale. He’s clearly horrified by what she has done, signified by his attempts to get his men to stop fighting, and his eventual retreat, but how he deals with it in a face-to-face situation is going to be a completely different story.
Tyrion Has To Reconcile With His Choices
Obviously Daenerys’ horrific decision to “Burn Them All” a la her father was the big headliner in “The Bells,” but not to be forgotten are the extremely bad moves that Tyrion Lannister made before the battle actually started. Within the span of just a couple of minutes he made calls that eventually led to the deaths of two people who previously saved his life: first he betrayed Varys by telling Dany about his treason; and then he set Jaime free from imprisonment – a move that ultimately led the eldest brother of the Lannister clan to the specific location where he would be crushed to death along with his sister/lover.
So how does Tyrion reconcile with these choices in the Game of Thrones finale? In “The Last Of The Starks,” Varys warned him of exactly what was going to happen, and one could argue that the writing was clearly on the wall in regards to what Daenerys was going to do even after King’s Landing surrendered, and yet he chose the “loyalty” path. Basically, Tyrion trusted his gut instead of his brain (a not-too-bright movie for one of the smartest men in Westeros), and one can imagine that he will be filled to the brim with emotional turmoil as a result in the series’ last episode.
Arya Needs To Make A Move
Obviously everyone involved saw some ridiculously terrible things happen in “The Bells,” but no significant Game of Thrones character had an experience quite like Arya Stark’s. Being on the ground and not fighting as a part of either army involved, she essentially got a civilian perspective on all of the damage done, and what she saw was tantamount to a nightmare – which is saying quite a lot when you consider everything that she’s been through over the last seven seasons. In the wake of all the destruction she presumably got away thanks to the horse that she found, but nobody who is aware of Arya’s personality could possibly think that she is just going to ride off into the sunset and leave everything behind.
Arya may not have gotten the chance to kill Cersei (with a pile of rocks getting that particular job done), but that doesn’t mean Game Of Thrones will end without her attempting some kind of post-Night King assassination plot. Sure, The Hound told her not to live a life guided by vengeance, but would anyone be able to blame her after everything that she saw Daenerys do? The call the show ultimately makes with Arya at the end will surely be one of the more contentious final choices no matter what happens.
Sansa Needs To Make A Call
We didn’t actually get an appearance from Sansa Stark in “The Bells,” as she was told to stay at Winterfell during the fight in King’s Landing, but she is expected to have a huge role to play in the Game of Thrones finale. After all, it’s no secret that she is no fan of Daenerys’, and one can certainly imagine that her opinion of the Queen of Dragons isn’t going to change following everything we saw. In fact, she is almost surely going to make significant moves against her, and that’s going to include making specific calls about the person she wants to be, and the role that she wants to take on in Westeros.
As mentioned, Jon doesn’t want to rule, and Daenerys clearly isn’t fit for the role of queen – so that leaves Sansa in a very interesting place. Fans have been speculating since the Battle of the Bastards that the eldest Stark sister might be the best person to serve as queen, but that will only happen if she actually makes moves in the finale to make it happen. There will be a lot of eyes on her moves in the next episode, and hopefully she doesn’t disappoint.