‘Game of Thrones’ Fights a Shocking, Game-Changing Battle at King’s Landing (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5.]

Game of Thrones sure knows how to celebrate Mother’s Day — with a gigantic showdown between two of the most iconic moms on the show.

In fairness, this isn’t just a celebration, though the airdate is certainly apt. The Battle of King’s Landing has been in the cards for the last two seasons, if not earlier; it’s the culmination of everything Daenerys has ever wanted (namely, getting the Iron Throne) and Cersei has ever wanted (namely, gaining and securing her power in King’s Landing). Dany’s lost two of her dragons. Cersei’s lost all three of her children.

Now Dany’s at Dragonstone, ready to attack with Drogon and her somewhat dwindled army of Unsullied, Dothraki and Northmen, and Cersei’s prepared to fight back with The Golden Company and Euron’s dragon-killing ballistas. Let the Battle of the Mothers begin!

Wisely and Well

The episode opens with Varys writing a letter declaring Jon as the true heir to the Iron Throne. Tyrion watches Jon and Davos arrive at Dragonstone. They talk about Dany’s mental state; Varys thinks she’s unstable, but Jon says she’s their queen. Varys tries to get Jon to take the throne, telling him “you would rule wisely and well,” but Jon won’t hear it.

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Tyrion goes to see Dany. He tells her about Varys’ betrayal, and Dany figures out that Jon told Sansa, Sansa told him and he told Varys. She’s not happy that Tyrion spoke to Varys about it first without coming to her. “She trusted you to spread secrets about your own queen,” Dany tells him, “and you did not let her down.” They both agree it doesn’t matter now, but as Dany steps into the light, it’s clear she’s not doing well.

Let It Be Fear

Varys is taken from his chambers and executed for treason. Daenerys burns him, much the same as she burned the Tarlys. As Varys burns, Jon gives her a questioning — and perhaps appalled — look. Afterward, Dany meets with Grey Worm and gives him Missandei’s one remaining possession, which he throws into the fire. Daenerys tells Jon that Varys’ death is a victory for Sansa, and that she doesn’t have love here, but Jon does. Jon tells her he loves her and that she is his queen, but when Dany tries to kiss him, he doesn’t kiss back. “All right, then,” she says. “Let it be fear.”

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Dany, Grey Worm and Tyrion discuss how to attack King’s Landing. Tyrion still advocates for mercy, and says if they hear the bells ringing in King’s Landing, the city means to surrender and Dany needs to call off the attack. She sends Grey Worm away to ready the Unsullied, but makes no promises about calling off the attack. She also tells Tyrion that Jaime was captured trying to cross their lines, and that the next time he fails her, it will be the last time.

Not So Innocent

Arya and The Hound come upon the camp at King’s Landing, and she tells the soldier she’s going to kill Cersei. A soldier says he’ll have to check with his captain, but it’s clear nothing will stop these two from getting where they need to go.

Tyrion goes to see Jaime, and he tries to convince him to go to the city and convince Cersei to surrender. At first Jaime resists, but Tyrion gives him a plan that, if it all works, would allow him to start a new life with Cersei. Jaime makes the valid point that Dany will kill him if she finds out he let him go, but Tyrion says thousands of innocent lives are worth one “not-so-innocent dwarf.” The brothers hug, and Tyrion cries.

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At dawn, both sides prepare for war, and Tyrion reminds Jon that if he hears the bells, he needs to tell his armies to surrender. The gates to the Red Keep are closed, and Jaime doesn’t make it in. At sea, Dany arrives on Drogon and burns Euron’s Iron Fleet and the ballistas that fired at her. She then soars over the city and lays waste to the Golden Company, and her army storms the city. It seems the tide has turned, decisively, in Dany’s favor.

Ring the Bells

Qyburn tells Cersei how screwed they are — all the scorpions have been destroyed, as has most of the Iron Fleet. Cersei doesn’t seem terribly concerned. “The Red Keep has never fallen,” she says, “and it will not fall today.” But it just might fall — when Jon and his army make it inside the city, the Lannister army drops its swords. “Ring the bells!” the people shout. Dany surveys the scene. Cersei watches her.

And suddenly, the surrender bell rings.

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Dany, hearing the bells, seems to lose her mind. She flies over the city and burns the people, who have surrendered, as they flee. The Unsullied and the rest of the armies, too, seem to follow her. Grey worm spears a soldier, and even Jon is drawn into the battle eventually. Tyrion watches, appalled, as Dany burns the city. Across King’s Landing, terror unfolds. Dany burns anything that moves.

On the shore, Jaime comes across Euron. They fight, and Euron stabs him. Heavily wounded as he is, he manages to kill Euron — who then proclaims, as he dies, that he got him. “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister,” he says.

The Hound’s Revenge

Qyburn comes to Cersei and tells her the gates of the Red Keep have been breached. They go to another place to wait out the storm. Meanwhile, The Hound and Arya have gotten into the Red Keep, but The Hound tries to convince her to leave. He tells her he’s been after revenge all his life, and it didn’t work for him. If she comes with him, he says, she’ll die there. “Sandor,” she tells him as he walks away. “Thank you.”

The ceiling collapses on Qyburn and Cersei, and The Mountain protects them. They run right into The Hound, who sees his brother. Cersei and Qyburn try to command him to stay by her side, but he kills Qyburn by throwing him into a rock. Cersei walks past the defiant Mountain, and the brothers fight. The Mountain gains the upper hand over The Hound, and deals him certainly mortal wounds, throwing him from rock to rock. The Mountain presses his eyes into his skull just as he did Oberyn, but The Hound manages to stab his undead brother in the brain. He charges at The Mountain and they topple over the wall into the flames.

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Cersei and Jaime are reunited on the map where he left her, and she cries in his arms. She notices he’s bleeding, and he says it’s just from his side. They leave together. They make it to the basement of The Red Keep, but the exits have been blocked by rubble. She starts to panic, but Jaime calms her. “Nothing else matters, but us,” he says. They hold each other as the basement collapses, killing them both.

Horse Ex Machina

Arya tries to flee the city, and she bears witness to the terror, gore and brutality unfolding on the streets. She’s caught up in a stampede of people, but one woman eventually helps her up. She survives the fall of the bell tower, and helps a group of people retreat, though she’s nearly killed in the attempt and doesn’t manage to save them. Out of nowhere, a horse appears. Arya gets on it and rides out of the city, and the episode ends.

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Other Observations

  • I went into this episode knowing Cersei would die, but I didn’t think it’d be such an odd, out-of-character ending. During the Battle of Blackwater Bay, Cersei was ready to drink poison — and poison Tommen! — rather than begging for her life or being captured by Stannis. Her being afraid is fine, but telling Jaime she didn’t want to die and she didn’t want her baby to die felt untrue to who she was. Thrones really didn’t give Lena Headey much to do this season, which is a shame.
  • What happened to Jaime’s character arc? He really wasn’t traveling south to kill Cersei, then… he was traveling south to save her. Strange endings to the stories for all the Lannister siblings but Tyrion.
  • Dany’s descent into Targaryen madness feels rushed. Throughout the series she has wanted to save innocents and not to be queen of the ashes, but that’s exactly how her story went this episode. As it stands now, it seems impossible for her to survive the series.
  • Still no Yara Greyjoy! I had hoped she would be the one to kill Euron, not Jaime. Here’s hoping her brief scene in Episode 1 wasn’t her only one this season.

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