Note: This post contains major spoilers for the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8, “The Bells”
Poor Tyrion Lannister spends the first thirty minutes of “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, doing everything in his power to prevent the slaughter of the innocent people of King’s Landing. In scene after scene, we see Tyrion plead his case to Daenerys, Grey Worm, Jaime Lannister, Jon Snow, and Davos Seaworth, repeating his mantra of, “If you hear the bells ring, they’ve surrendered,” so many times that we half-expected him to self-actualize into a bell and ring himself.
He puts in the work. He arranges all the pieces. He checks all the boxes.
Turns out, it didn’t matter. The bells did indeed ring, but Daenerys torched the city anyway.
More than anything else, “turns out, it didn’t matter” was the running theme of “The Bells,” an episode that tossed aside seven-and-a-half-seasons of careful groundwork and character development in favor of unearned shocks, dizzying twists, and hasty resolutions. A significant portion of the Game of Thrones fanbase is understandably upset, after investing so much time and emotional energy into this show, only to watch it faceplant spectacularly at the finish line.
While some would argue that the foreshadowing in earlier seasons perfectly set up Dany’s Mad Queen pivot, you’d have to perform some Olympic-level cherry-picking in order to claim that as evidence of strong writing. While yes, there was a fair amount of foreshadowing that Daenerys would someday go full Red Hulk (although still not enough, as we’ll get into below), there was also a lot of other foreshadowing, along with significant plot threads and carefully nuanced character work, which was unceremoniously shunted aside in order to make way for the events of “The Bells.”
Here is an extensive, although probably not exhaustive, list of threads that Game of Thrones has carefully set up and cultivated over its previous seven seasons, only to drop-kick into oblivion in its penultimate episode.