It wasn’t quite the relentless, multi-level stupidity of Avenger’s Endgame, but the penultimate episode of A Game of Thrones left me with much the same impression as reading A Dance with Dragons did. Namely, that I can do better. And I was very far from the only viewer left unimpressed.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead:
10 big flaws with the penultimate episode of Game Of Thrones:
Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash. In fact if anything it was too predictable – to Varys and us anyway, if not Jon and Tyrion.
‘They say every time a Targaryen is born the Gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath,’ the Spider told the dwarf. ‘We both know what she’s about to do.’
In a fable about power, and the hunger for absolute power corrupting absolutely, it was inevitable – much like Varys’ execution.
But the way she spared Tyrion, Jaime Lannister, and even her lover Jon surely made less sense. If anything their betrayals were much greater than his. It was not Tyrion’s first mistake either and her warning ‘next time you fail me is the last time you fail me’ didn’t sit with her ruthlessness towards Varys – or King’s Landing.
‘Sansa trusted you to spread secrets that could destroy your own queen,’ she hissed. ‘And you did not let her down…Varys knows the truth because you told him. You learned from Sansa and she learned from Jon, though I begged him not to tell her…He betrayed me.’
Probably the most under-rated, under-used Game Of Thrones’ character, Varys had known ‘more kings and queens than any man living’, as he pointed out to Jon, and survived them all. In fact he’d turned survival, seamlessly switching sides, into an artform. So it was unlikely that he’d have allowed Daenerys to come for him without conceiving some sort of escape, especially as he knew Tyrion disagreed with his view Jon would make a better ruler. Finally the way her dragon simply torched Varys was a disappointingly, uncharacteristically, coarse form of execution.
Rash: Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash +10
Rash: Some viewers complained that the way Dany abandoned her principles (everything she’d ever stood for) and descended into butchery was irrational or rash
Tyrion’s sustained faith in Daenerys being a benevolent, moral, candidate to rule the Seven Kingdoms was never very convincing. Tyrion wasn’t ever idealistic let alone naïve and, given his acute intelligence, ignoring Varys’ judgement/counsel just didn’t add up either. He had already been suckered by Cersei and Jaime so shouldn’t have swallowed Dany’s promise to hold back after a surrender. Obviously, family is everything in GoT. Tyrion releasing his brother (returning the favour) made sense but urging Jaime to save Cersei (telling him to escape and ‘start a new life’) ?? Nope, just don’t see Tyrion doing that – especially as it was before Dany went on the rampage.
The biggest problem with all this fake drama, which I addressed briefly in last night’s Darkstream, is that it was dependent upon highly intelligent characters to be something they were not. Both Varys and Tyrion saw Daenerys’s descent into ruthless butchery coming, but neither of them, despite their long personal histories of taking matters into their own lethal hands, bothers to do anything conclusive about it. Given how much both men care about the people of King’s Landing, their fecklessness in the situation is simply absurd, particularly in the case of Varys, since the treachery involved in his letting others know about Jon’s claim on the throne guaranteed his execution in the event of detection anyhow.
I see this trainwreck of an episode as a classic example of letting the visuals drive the story, which is almost always a mistake. The writers have a certain image in mind, so they move the pieces around to ensure they can present it to the viewers with no respect for either the characters involved or its effect on the story. Or, for that matter, the viewers’ intelligence.
It was even too stupid for The Verge:
Taken as a whole, all these idiot gestures look exactly the same. “The Bells” is full of characters being their dumbest, most ill-considered selves, solely in the pursuit of momentary conflicts and payoffs. Jaime’s death in Cersei’s arms seems like a fitting payoff for all his awful behavior with her in the early going of the series, but it completely ignores all his character development over eight seasons, including his most recent relationship. Euron’s attempt to murder the first person he sees after his ship is destroyed seems in character for an agent of chaos, but it still feels forced and random. Varys couldn’t go about his plan in a dumber way if he tried — it’s almost as though he’s anticipating and hoping for execution, to remind Jon that Dany is capable of killing even those closest to her.