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YMMV / Game of Thrones S8E5: "The Bells"

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  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Did Daenerys truly snap and go full blown insane when she burned King's Landing to the ground, killing thousands? Or was her act of mass murder towards a surrendering city made by her with all of her mental capacities intact and fully aware that she was committing an act of unspeakable evil? Mass murdering the city and the Lannister forces would have sent a message towards everyone, but especially Sansa and the North, that Dany would gladly murder them all if they didn't bow down to her and accept her as their new Queen and obey her without a second's hesitation.
      • Alternatively, there are several reasons other than outright madness that her decision making abilities might have been compromised. She's mourning the deaths of her two best friends, hasn't eaten for days, is severely sleep deprived, and on top of it she's suffering serious romantic and sexual frustration.
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    • Jaime's comment about not caring whether the people of King's Landing live or die. A piss-poor continuity error forced to justify Jaime's last minute rejection of redemption? Or Jaime admitting that while he was against the Mad King burning the people alive and stopped it from happening, he still held the commoners in King's Landing with the contempt one finds from the upper-class and Daenerys's recent losses of her dragons making him think that his sister's forces did indeed have a chance to fight off Daenerys and suffer only minor casualties?
    • Tyrion's obsession with ending the war between Cersei and Daenerys peacefully. Does he truly want to protect his family, even if it means he will be killed by Daenerys for disobeying her desire to kill her? Is he only motivated by the fact that Cersei is pregnant and trying to protect the unborn child she is carrying? Or is he truly concerned of the implications for a potential Daenerys reign if she massacres soldiers and innocents to take the throne? The episode demonstrates that Daenerys was perfectly capable of taking the city with few, if any civilian casualties, she simply chose to continue the destruction even after the city had surrendered. Did Tyrion simply underestimate Dany, Drogon, and their army's ability to do take the city so cleanly? Or did he think that there was a possibility that she would take things too far even before the deterioration of her mental state due to the losses of Jorah, Missandei, two of her dragons, and the breakdown of her relationship with Jon? That even if she was perfectly capable of taking the city with minimal bloodshed, there was always the chance she'd choose not to?
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  • Anti-Climax Boss: After two seasons of hyping up Cersei’s forces as dangerously formidable against Dany's army, nearly the entire Lannister defense — the Iron Fleet, the Lannister regulars, the Golden Company, the scorpion batteries, the Kingsguard — proves to be hilariously outmatched. Drogon torches the Iron Fleet, the Golden Company, and the scorpion batteries while the Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northmen slaughter the Lannister regulars with ease. The Kingsguard, save Gregor, are cut down by Sandor with virtually zero effort on his part. The leaders of the above die fairly ignoble deaths. Only Gregor Clegane manages to be a threat to anyone and the only enemy he fights is his brother Sandor. And Cersei herself dies crushed by rubble, completely outmatched and powerless to stop Dany, instead of facing the latter.
  • Ass Pull:
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    • There is no in-universe precedence of tolling the city bells to signal surrender despite it being treated like a commonly known custom in the episode. Back in "Blackwater" Ser Davos, who grew up in King's Landing and participated in the siege of Storm's End, even said to his son: "I've never known bells to mean surrender."From the books 
    • Euron coincidentally washes up on the same shore Jaime is on miles away from where he jumped ship for no reason other than to have a fight that removes him from the plot.
  • Catharsis Factor:
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Everything that happens after the first twenty or thirty minutes is so relentlessly dark and violent even by the standards of this show, with thousands of innocent people getting needlessly slaughtered, Dany's fairly abrupt turn to genocidal villainy, and quite a few sympathetic characters being killed off or getting traumatized by the horrors they witness, that it can become rather difficult to care what happens to anyone. It even turns out that the Northern soldiers who we were supposed to be rooting for the whole time were apparently just lacking the opportunity to go on a massive rape and murder spree. Likely an Intended Audience Reaction as the characters (Particularly Jon and Tyrion) themselves are visibly disturbed and stunned by this turn of events.
  • Faux Symbolism: The apropos appearance of the proverbial, apocalyptic white horse can come off as rather gratuitous, given the setting.
  • Fight Scene Failure: The fight between Jaime and Euron. The continuity of movement is all over the place, making it hard to follow anything, and when you can follow it you just see terrible edits that reveal just how badly the fight is choreographed, with Jaime on the ground one second and on his feet less than a second later. The fight itself is a mundane tussle that in no way required all this editing.
  • He's Just Hiding!: There are some fans who were convinced that Jaime somehow survived the destruction of the Red Keep and would turn up alive in the finale. The next episode provides a definitive answer to that theory.
  • Just Here for Godzilla:
    • Some audiences who were disappointed with the later episodes of the series stuck around long enough to see Cleganebowl happen.
    • As Ramin Djawadi keeps outdoing himself, several fans have declared to only watch the final episodes for the fantastic score.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • Jokes comparing Dany’s decision to attack despite the bells to someone ignoring an incoming call they didn’t want to answer abounded immediately.
    • Fans joke that the writers noticed how overpowered the semi-auto super scorpions were last episode and nerfed them like game developers would in a patch. They also joke that Drogon got a buff in both speed and firepower.
    • The idea that the entire KL massacre could have been avoided if Jon would just take one for the team and bang his aunt to calm her down.
    • "We did it, Grey Worm/Jon! We saved King's Landing!"note 
    • Qyburn's abrupt and ignominious death, wherein the Mad Scientist was flung down a staircase by Gregor Clegane, quickly became memetic for its unexpected humor, with comparisons being made to a certain notorious Vine and several jokes likening The Mountain to the writers and Qyburn to Jaime's, Dany's or Tyrion's character development.
    • Jokes about the populace of King's Landing being diagnosed with mesothelioma and being entitled to financial compensation.
    • Dany's sudden Sanity Slippage is actually because the production team took her Starbucks away or because she's 'hangry' after not eating for two days.
    • Dany torching King's Landing being inserted with various songs with fire in the title (e.g "Burn it to the Ground", "Burn it Down").
    • "Lena Headey was paid $1 million an episode this season to stand at a window drinking a glass of wine" - in reference to how little Cersei did this season (and she spent the majority of the episode in that very position).
    • Among NFL fans, jokes about Aaron Rodgers getting torched like he torched defenses have spread rather widely after Rodgers' cameo as a commoner running from Drogon's fire but being immolated anyway.
    • A shotnote  of Jaime with his amputated hand intact led to jokes that his character development went so far backward that his hand (the loss of which kickstarted his character development) grew back.
    • "Mom, why did you name me after the evil witch?" referring to an hypothetical scenario where the girls named Daenerys before her Face–Heel Turn in her episode eventually grow up and ask why they were named after her.
    • "Dragonfire can't melt stone beams" which is similar to an earlier, similar meme referring to the explosion of Great Baelor Sept, poking fun at the inconsistency of dragonfire being able to pulverize buildings.
    • "X scene brilliantly foreshadows Daenery's complete 180/Jaime's broken character arc/viewer disappointment in the series...".note 
    • Following Jaime's confession that he never cared about innocent civilians despite killing Aerys for that reason, "X never really cared about Y" has become a joke pointing out character arcs making a sudden u-turn like "Ned Stark really never cared about honor."
    • Comparing Cersei's Villainous Breakdown to Theresa May's tearful resignation a couple weeks after the episode aired.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • Daenerys's burning King's Landing with all the surrendering soldiers and civilians in it. Despite wanting to "break the wheel" and prove that she is not like her father, she ends up becoming the very thing that she's trying to prevent. Her slaughter of the smallfolk is even worse than killing the soldiers because they did nothing against her other than not rolling out the red carpet for her the moment she arrived in Westeros.
    • Grey Worm crosses this when instead of keeping his soldiers in check, he follows his master's example and backstabs soldiers who had already surrendered. By doing so, he sends the invading army into a crazed frenzy that rapes, burns, and kills its way across King's Landing. He's indirectly responsible for who knows how many people suffering and dying because he couldn't hold his temper in check.
    • The Northern soldiers cross it too when they ignore Jon's commands to stop attacking. Special props to the soldier who has abducted a woman right in front of Jon Snow, his rightful commander (and King), and attempts to kill Jon when Jon intervenes to prevent the soldier from having his way with her.
  • Narm:
    • The fight between Euron and Jaime features a ridiculous amount of cuts and climaxes in Euron throwing Jaime to the ground, only for the next cut to show Jaime on his feet.
    • Euron's last words that he killed Jaime. The fact that tying in a fight with a one-handed cripple is what he's most proud of as he dies instead of killing a dragon, killing his own brother, becoming King of the Iron Islands, nearly becoming King of Westeros, capturing the Princess of Dorne, destroying the Lannister fleet, destroying two fleets on opposite sides of the continent in days, sacking his way through Essos, or any of his other numerous acts is laughable. Compounding this is the fact that he stares directly into the camera as he gives his last words, making it seem like he's bragging directly to the audience about getting one last named character kill in. (Reportedly, Euron was meant to just die but the actor kept ruining the takes purposely until allowed to give an impromptu death speech.)
    • There's an unintentionally amusing moment where before the big showdown between the Clegane brothers, Cersei shuffles off down the stairs like a child sneaking past their arguing parents.
  • Rooting for the Empire: A lot of fans, much as in the case of Stannis, continue to root for Dany after this episode. "Daenerys did nothing wrong" is often issued. The fact that Cersei and Varys are Unintentionally Unsympathetic helps.
  • Special Effect Failure:
    • Similar to the scenes from the first episode of the season, a few of the scenes from Daenerys's POV of Drogon flying over the city don't do a good job of making the landscape beneath the dragon look like anything more than a flat greenscreen image or a model at best.
    • In one shot, Daenerys is conspicuously absent from Drogon's back during his bombing runs.
    • Several of the Chroma Key shots on the staircase of the Red Keep noticeably stand out a far bit more than they should.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • The Golden Company is just an army of expendable mooks during this episode, in spite of their importance to the Targaryen plotline in the books. The entire company is obliterated minutes into the siege and it's the Lannister soldiers who actually fight in the city's defense.
    • Varys. Having spent the past seven seasons effortlessly weaseling out of everything that came his way, it made little sense that he'd be captured and executed so easily, or that his end should be so abrupt and inconsequential. Conleth Hill himself was not pleased with this, feeling that his character had been sidelined in both this season and the last.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • Sansa's concern that Dany's combined forces are still recovering from their battle with the Night King and that they should have some time to rest in the previous episode, seemingly confirmed by the rout by the Iron Fleet and Rhaegal's death and Missandei's capture and execution, didn't really mean anything in terms of her assessment of the fatigue of the surviving Northern troops and Dany's own army. Considering that Dany and Drogon nearly annihilate Cersei's forces singlehandedly on their own and bring down the gate, which allows her troops to enter the city with minimal fighting before Cersei's forces drop their weapons, the surviving Unsullied, Dothraki, and Northern troops seem more than able to battle enemy forces before the city surrenders. Said troops also don't seem to show signs of any fatigue and fight Cersei's forces with the same aggressiveness they've shown before, seemingly stirred by Dany's continued attack on the city, with only Jon Snow and Davos shown as the distinct minority in trying to stop the sack.
    • The long-awaited Cleganebowl turned out to be completely extraneous narratively and thematically. There were no stakes in it, and its outcome didn't affect anything in the slightest. Whoever came out victorious was doomed anyway; Gregor was, for all intents and purposes, just another wight, whose comeuppance for any past atrocities had already been delivered years ago by Oberyn; and Sandor has resigned to die, turning the supposed Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny into a glorified Murder-Suicide for the man who'd failed to get over his past. Even if that was the point, it doesn’t excuse Gregor suddenly regaining his personality and antipathy for his brother with no explanation in time for the fight, especially when he had shown no awareness the last time they faced one another.
  • Unintentionally Unsympathetic:
    • Given that Cersei is shown quietly sobbing and cradled in her lover's arms as she dies, the scene's intent is to signal a kind of Villain's Dying Grace on her behalf but many audiences felt she was unworthy of such a moment, since it came at the price of undoing Jaime's entire story arc and so betraying Brienne's faith in him, while also taunting Missandei with her slave past in the previous episode and gratuitously killing her for no reason, and for her petty scheming and murdering the Tyrells.
    • Jaime could count too. The episode highlights his Tragic Villain trait of "not being able to let go of Cersei" for the final time, but considering he blatantly rejected a chance to start over with an unambiguously much better woman, it's hard to feel sorry that he died (and got beaten up by Euron beforehand).
    • Tyrion is presented as deserving of sympathy for being the sole moderate voice of reason in Dany's council and someone whose faith in Daenerys is betrayed, while Dany browbeating him is treated as her being a Bad Boss. However, as Hand, most of Tyrion's advice has been genuinely awful and he has screwed up multiple times during his tenure, bearing responsibility for the siege of Meereen, the loss of Highgarden, the destruction of Yara's Iron Fleet, and the imprisonment of Dany's Dornish allies. Anyone in real life with as many military and civil service failures would have been removed from service and demoted; Daenerys keeping him around for as long as she has is indeed a sign of her mercy.
    • There were fans who felt little sympathy for the inhabitants of King's Landing, owing to the behaviors of residents in past seasons including their approval of Ned's execution, the riots against Joffrey's reign in which Sansa was nearly raped, the crowd's participation in Cersei's walk of shame when they pelted rotten produce at her, and cheering for Euron Greyjoy when he led Yara through the city on a collar. Some viewers reference several characters' views on the city (Sandor Clegane, Oberon Martell, and Olenna Tyrell) in which they call it a "shit city" while Olenna claims to the High Sparrow, "Half the men, women, and children in this foul city break the sacred laws," and that [the High Sparrow] lives among rapists, thieves, and murderers. For these viewers, it makes Dany's slaughter exceptional in degree but not in kind.

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