‘Game of Thrones’ recap: The series just burned itself to the ground

Spoiler alert! The following contains details from “Game of Thrones” Season 8 Episode 5, “The Bells.” Read our recap of Season 8, Episode 4 here. 

What is left for “Game of Thrones”? 

Nothing, really. For viewers who have stuck around for eight seasons of the HBO fantasy series, all that’s left after the penultimate episode is ash and a bad taste. When Daenerys Targaryen lived up to her terrible family’s reputation and burned King’s Landing to the ground, she incinerated the last hope for “Thrones” along with it. 

Where to begin with “The Bells,” an absolute disaster of an episode that exhibited every bad habit the series’ writers have ever had? They threw out their own rule book (suddenly the scorpions don’t work and Drogon can burn everything?) to pursue gross spectacle. 

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen on "Game of Thrones." (Photo: HBO)

Character and substance were left by the wayside (Grey Worm would never be that sadistic, not even in grief) so that the plot could go where the writers wanted. The pace was rushed in the beginning, painfully lagging by the end. The script created plot devices and conflicts out of thin air (no really, have we ever heard about the bells before?), relished in violence and let a main character survive beyond any reasonable odds. (How many buildings have to fall on Arya before she stays down?) “Bells” is somehow both fan service and an indulgence in all the worst tropes that fans hate. 

Had this episode taken place just before the finale of Season 4 or 5, it might be forgivable, but with just over an hour left in the series, it’s far too late to make a mistake of this magnitude. There’s no time to switch gears, because Mad Queen Dany (and, apparently Arya’s inexplicable survival and possible revenge) is what “Thrones” will always have been about. This disappointment is what we’ve all been waiting for. 

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The bigger they are, the harder they fall, and few TV shows have gotten quite as big as “Thrones.” Even fewer have failed so spectacularly for so many viewers.

Theoretically, the series has one last hour to redeem itself. And maybe some fans will hold out hope that the finale can wrap things up in a way that makes emotional and logical sense. But betting on “Thrones” to fix itself is really just doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result. Just like Cersei, Tyrion and the rest, we should know better by now. 

This recap will be updated. 

We’re in the end ‘Game’ now:

  • We have questions about how Dany, Jon, Cersei wage war
  • ‘Thrones’ merch ranked from awesome to awful
  • The problem with this ‘Thrones’ death
  • Emilia Clarke gets last laugh over coffee cup gaffe
  • What fans thought of Episode 4

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