The following are a few notes from Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5. Warning: mild spoilers may be included, though I’ve tried to stay away from anything too glaring. Either way, consider yourself warned.
In Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5, a betrayal is uncovered, which promises to have far-reaching consequences. Later, Daenerys brings her forces to bear on King’s Landing in a climactic battle that removes multiple players from the game permanently. Meanwhile, in the midst of the resulting carnage, Jon begins to realize he’s made a mistake concerning his loyalties.
Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 proved to be a monumentous 90 minutes or so of television. Needless to say, it’s also going to be one that creates a lot of differing opinions. I plan on addressing some of that, since I’m already seeing it online just moments after the episode aired. First, however, I should say that there’s nothing wrong with people having those opinions. The fact is art is supposed to be subjective and move people, so it makes sense. That being said, my own opinions (and reasoning) will be spelled out through this article. Pretty much the whole thing is going to be spoilers, so stop reading now if that’s going to bother you.
To those decrying Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5 as somehow not representative of Daenerys’s true character arc:
Truthfully, if you weren’t expecting something like this, you haven’t really been paying attention to the show or the source material it comes from. Granted, it’s easier to miss things if you only watch the show, because you don’t get as much subtext. The fact is, however, they have been laying seeds to foreshadow a dark turn for Daenerys almost from the beginning.
She has always shown signs of having much too much of her father in her. It just wasn’t immediately obvious, because there was reason to root for her and hate the people she was doing awful things to. Couple that with the fact that every advisor she’s ever had has either died or betrayed her (both in Ser Jorah’s case), so she’s completely alone now and on the mental edge. That’s a dangerous place for someone to be when they have what amounts to a nuclear weapon at their disposal, and no reason to think they are going to gain anything from having people love them, rather than fear them.
She’s never been a great ruler; always demanding loyalty (with the alternative being death by fire), rather than earning it. She has consistently refused to compromise. It’s also been obvious for a long time that it was only the people advising her keeping her on a leash, so to say. Now that she’s isolated, she can be who she truly has been all along. The fact that none of this was completely obvious is actually the way foreshadowing is supposed to work.
Further, the showrunners (like George RR Martin before them) have been telling us for years to expect a “bittersweet” ending. What could be more bittersweet than for a supposed protagonists to end up being the final antagonist of the story? I would argue that’s completely in line with the realistic nature the story has had from the beginning. We always knew this wasn’t going to be the kind of fantasy story where the heroes all triumph and live happily ever after.
Too quick a change of character?
I totally get how there are people out there, thinking the change was too sudden. My point, though, is that it hasn’t really been rushed. It just hasn’t been completely obvious. There were signs going all the way back to the first season/book, and it’s become more explicit since Season 7 when she burned the Tarlys. Even her own advisors have almost always been afraid of her for the past several seasons. You could see it in the way they reacted whenever she would get angry. Compare that, if you will, to the relationship shared by Jon and Davos, and it’s quite a striking difference.
I realize that things may seem like they’ve happened really quickly, but it’s really not the case. Think of it as though this season was the final novel of a series. In the last book (Season 7), you had Dany’s advisors wondering amongst themselves if they’ve backed the wrong monarch. They just witnessed her be needlessly cruel, executing two noblemen against the advisor’s wishes, who rightly argued they should have been imprisoned. Is she too much like her father? Fast forward to this season/book:
She loses half her army, including Ser Jorah, fighting alongside people who quite obviously have no love for her;
Concurrently, she discovers that her lover is actually her nephew with a better claim to the Iron Throne than her own;
Despite this, he remains loyal and doesn’t press his claim, but he can no longer return her affections;
This doesn’t stop others from acting in his name, though. That’s why Varys betrayed her last week. She no longer trusts Tyrion. Then, she loses Missandei as a result of being betrayed, isolating her even more;
She ultimately blames Jon for Varys’s betrayal. She begged him not to tell his siblings, but he felt honor-bound to do so. As a result, Sansa tells Tyrion, who tells Varys, leading to the betrayal. Dany makes it clear she blames them all. She is affectively alone with no one to guide her away from her worst tendencies. As Maester Aemon once told us, “a Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.”
All of this has happened during the season/book, and that’s after subtle foreshadowing going back to the beginning. Is it really such a sudden change for her to break bad during what is affectively the climax? I don’t think so. Not at all. You just have to look at it from that perspective.
Not to say there aren’t valid criticisms
On the flipside, I find common ground with those lamenting the fact it’s likely going to be difficult to come to a suitable conclusion to everything that just occurred with just one episode remaining. There really is a lot to unpack, and it would be done more satisfyingly over a longer run time. More time would definitely be better, but it is what it is. They spent the equivalent of a Marvel movie’s budget on these 6 episodes, so I’m not sure how they could’ve done more even if they’d tried. At some point, logistics dictate. That’s just the sad truth of television.
Personally I would’ve preferred they’d handled Dorne better. They definitely could’ve gotten at least another season or so by not making things so concise. The Catch 22, however, is then people would be complaining about there not being enough action. That’s exactly what happens whenever they do that on The Walking Dead, so facts are you just can’t please everybody. No single scenario would leave everyone satisfied, so we’re just going to have to take it as it is. Some are going to be disappointed, while others aren’t, and in the end they’ve been telling us that was how it was going to be for quite a while.
Odds and ends from Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
The subtle murder plot you might have missed
Am I the only one who picked up on the fact that Varys was attempting to assassinate Daenerys via poisoning? It was presented in such a way that would be easily forgotten, but I’m pretty sure that was the point of his brief exchange with his Little Bird.
She told him Dany wasn’t eating, and he said they would try again at supper. Try what? One might think they were simply talking about getting her to eat to keep her strength up were it not for one other thing. The Little Bird worried Daenerys’ soldiers were watching her. Why would that be a bad thing, if all she were doing was trying to get her Queen to eat? I think this was the spider making his play for a (almost) bloodless coup.
NOTE: Apparently, I’m not the only one thinking this was the case.
Unlike those who seem to think it didn’t make sense for Arya to come so far, only to leave at the last moment, I thought it was a perfect way to end the unusual relationship between she and The Hound. Both of them have lived lives dedicated to vengeance , and in that last moment he wanted her to see the consequences of that. He wanted her to have something better then becoming like him. In the end, she has much more for which to live, and I thought it was very inspirational for her to finally see that. For her to choose a different path. I also really loved the way she chose, in those final moments, to call him by his given name.
We finally got to see it, and it was pretty glorious. I’m typically not a fan of things presented only for fan service, and especially not on a series built on subverting expectations. Still, there was really no way The Hound’s character arc could possibly end satisfyingly without this confrontation taking place. It’s just as simple as that.
I also found it quite almost poetic that – after detailing him as a character with a much-deserved fear of fire – he should go out proving the only thing more strong than that fear was his hatred for the brother whose actions gave it to him in the first place. We always knew such a nihilistic character was never going to find a true happy ending. Tonight victory was as close to happiness as Sandor Clegane ever experienced in his life. I think we should all raise a cup of wine and a snarl in his honor. Then again, he would probably just call us all twats for doing so.
Jaime and Cersei
Among the other characters whose arcs came to an end tonight were Jaime and Cersei. Interestingly, it didn’t go the way I expected, which I’m assuming was the goal. There have always been tons of theories surrounding what was going to happen between these two, so it’s interesting the writers chose to do something completely different. That being said, I think it worked.
Jaime always said he wanted to die in the arms of the woman he loved, and that’s exactly what happened. I feel like he originally chose to stay with Brienne, but when faced with the knowledge of what was going to happen to Cersei, he just couldn’t do it. He couldn’t leave her on her own to die. It’s sad, because his character arc was so redemptive, but in the end he simply wasn’t able to see himself as the good man Brienne and we now know him to be.
Various prophecies not paying off
It’s easy to understand why some might chafe at certain prophecies we’ve been given not coming to fruition. A great example of this is Jaime not killing Cersei. Another is Jon having essentially proven ineffectual in the demise of the Night King.
I would argue, however, there’s something to be said about negating prophecies being a good thing and entirely realistic. People are often motivated by such things, even in the real world, only for them to amount to nothing in the end. The fact that the prophecy come to nothing with Stannis seasons ago, only for Melisandre to conveniently switch to it being someone else and it eventually turning out to be neither, created a theme of subverting the prophecy. The showrunners are trying to show a realistic world in a fantasy setting. People tend to put a lot of weight behind things like prophecies, but then they eventually amount to nothing and the world moves on.
To be honest, I’m not sure the prophecies are going to pay off in the books either, but we won’t know that for God knows how many years. My point, though, is that the books have been full of red herrings from the beginning, so it won’t surprise me if the prophecies amount to nothing there as well.