Game of Thrones recap: Season eight, episode five is the most shocking episode of the season has seen the fight for the Iron Throne descend into tragedy with a major plot twist.
I guess the coin landed on “burn them all.”
Throughout the run of “Game of Thrones,” the seasons’ penultimate episodes were often the ones that packed in the most action and spectacular moments. So it was on Sunday, when the Last War unfolded broadly in the way many people expected, with the Dragon Queen turning heel and laying waste to King’s Landing.
It was a thrilling, horrifying and ultimately frustrating episode, which feels weird to say because it was often amazing to behold and reflected some of the show’s most central themes. But it hinged on a turn that rang hollow — specifically the heel turn mentioned above.
We talked at length last week about how the show has methodically broken down Daenerys in order to push her to the brink of madness — or some behavioral approximation thereof — culminating with Missandei’s beheading. On Sunday the last straw seemed to be Jon’s spilling his Targaryen secret and then essentially telling her, “I do love you but, ew, I can’t …”
“Let it be fear then,” she replied stoically.
But honestly, by then it was already a done deal. She’d sequestered herself in Dragonstone, her hair heartbreakingly disheveled in Missandei’s absence, and her overall look veering into Mad Queen Chic.
But just because the outcome wasn’t surprising, that doesn’t mean the result wasn’t spectacular. While the siege that led up to the King’s Landing apocalypse was plagued with some of the same strategic implausibilities and geographical confusion that has been an issue for much of this season, what followed was a terrifically and terrifyingly rendered decimation of a city.
And the symbolic moment of the coin toss we kept hearing about, as Dany sat atop a conquered city and pondered her ultimate destiny, was no less tense for that destiny’s having been little in doubt.
Of course the thing is, it actually should have been in doubt.
The reason it wasn’t was because the show had so clearly telegraphed her turn for the past few weeks, if not longer. Dany got snubbed at Winterfell and saw her supportive boyfriend turn into a throne rival and then reject her, as her most trusted confidantes died in front of her while her quote-unquote Hand continued to give the worst advice in the Seven Kingdoms. (The surest sign that Dany would not heed the titular surrender bells came when she told Tyrion that she would — I can’t remember the last time the former cleverest man in the world was right about anything.)
We all saw her face after Missandei’s execution — the would-be wheel-breaker had been pushed into a corner. And in fairness to the showrunners (David Benioff and D.B. Weiss) and writers, there have been plenty of indications throughout the show’s run that she wouldn’t respond well.
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