In the ‘Game of Thrones’ recap, Daenerys seeks vengeance against Cersei Lannister in the battle at King’s Landing as she prepares to take what is hers through fire and blood…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
The transformation of Daenerys Targaryen into the Mad Queen is now complete.
It’s a twist in the story that I personally refused to see happening after Daenerys had been built up as the savior and most worthy individual to sit on the Iron Throne since ‘Game of Thrones’ first began but ultimately her story took a huge turn in the penultimate episode on Sunday night.
Perhaps in some ways there were hints that this kind of massacre led by the Dragon Queen were going to happen from incidents in previous seasons.
When Khal Drogo poured a cauldron of melted gold over her brother’s head and she watched him burn to death, Daenerys didn’t blink much less shed a tear for her last living relative. Instead she just uttered the words ‘he’s no dragon’ as she sneered down at his smoldering corpse.
Now Viserys was an asshole so it’s easier to accept Daenerys’ reaction to his death but still she didn’t even blink in the face of her brother being executed.
It was much the same when Daenerys took Meereen and freed the slaves but in the aftermath, she decided to exact revenge by executing 163 masters — the same amount of slaves they had crucified on the road leading to the city as a warning to the coming dragon queen. In the end, Daenerys executed the masters and then later found out that many of them spoke out against crucifying the slaves but they were killed anyways.
Daenerys even heard warning from Ser Barristan Selmy several seasons ago when she began handing down justice for those who went against her rule of law. He explained that her father lived up to his moniker as ‘The Mad King’ because everything he did was under the guise of ‘justice’ even when he was burning people alive for breaking the law. In the end, Daenerys’ father died while still promising to ‘burn them all’ to the people who had turned against him in his final hours.
Daenerys promised she would never become like her father but this episode proved that the Targaryens are famous for taking what they want in fire and blood — and that’s exactly what she unleashes during the sacking of King’s Landing.
It also must be noted from a prophecy that Daenerys had back in season 2 when she was locked inside the House of the Undying trying to retrieve her dragons. In the dream she had inside those spooky walls, Daenerys finds herself inside the Red Keep standing in front of the Iron Throne except the ceiling has been ripped out and the floor is covered in snow.
At the time it appeared to be a harbinger for the coming of the White Walkers but now it seems Daenerys’ dream was foreboding for her own future, no one else.
The ceiling to the Red Keep had been torn down by dragon fire and the floor near the Iron Throne was covered in ash rather than snow. This prophecy apparently came true as Daenerys now rules over the kingdom of ashes following her fiery assault on King’s Landing.
With that said, let’s recap the penultimate episode of ‘Game of Thrones’ titled ‘The Bells’…
The True Heir
Lord Varys has always promised that he was out for the good of the realm, although his intentions have been rightly questioned considering how he faithfully served under a mad man in King Aerys II Targaryen and then never seemed to waiver while kneeling to a fool in King Robert Baratheon.
Either way, Varys abandoned his post at the capital in order to seek out a leader he felt could rule the Seven Kingdoms in a just and fair way, which is why he threw his allegiance behind Daenerys Targaryen several seasons ago. Unfortunately, Daenerys’ decision making and going against his advice time and time again has left Varys questioning if perhaps he backed the wrong monarch yet again.
After learning that Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and one of the most just people Westeros has ever known, Varys believes that perhaps he would be the proper person to rule.
It’s because Jon Snow has never sought out leadership yet people are always willing to follow him. It’s because Jon Snow doesn’t want to be king that he might be the perfect person to rule.
After Daenerys saw her best friend and closest advisor Missandei executed a week ago along with the death of her dragon Rhaegal, Varys suspected that his queen would be seeking vengeance through fire and blood rather than any kind of conventional method of battle to get Queen Cersei Lannister to surrender.
As the episode begins, Varys is penning letters that reveal Jon Snow is truly the son to Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, thus the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. We don’t see how many times he’s penned these letters or if any of them were already sent out but we know he’s taking steps to usurp the queen before she ever has a chance to rule.
Varys even talks to one of his child spies, who was ordered to bring food to the queen yet she’s declined to eat as she sits in solitude after her latest defeat. It’s an interesting interaction between Varys and his spy because based on the conversation, it would appear that perhaps he was attempting to poison her food and finish the queen himself rather than allowing her to go off into battle the next day.
In the morning, Jon Snow arrives at Dragonstone to give the queen an update on the Northern forces that will arrive at King’s Landing in two days. He’s met on the beach by Lord Varys, who informs him that Daenerys has shut out all visitors and refuses to speak to anyone.
Varys then decides to make his move by inviting Jon to listen to him about being the rightful heir and the ruler that Westeros deserves rather than the one who thinks she belongs on the Iron Throne. Varys reminds Jon that the Targaryen family throughout history has produced several benevolent and worthy kings — and more than a few despots and mad men along the way as well.
At this stage, Varys can’t say for certain if Daenerys is like her brother Rhaegar or more like her father, ‘The Mad King’ but it seems he’s no longer willing to take that risk by putting her into power.
“They say every time a Targaryen is born the gods toss a coin and the world holds its breath. I still don’t know how her coin has landed but I’m quite certain about yours”
~ Lord Varys
Jon scoffs at ‘The Spider’s offer as he says yet again that he has no interest in ruling and that he’s only there to serve their queen.
As he watches Varys speak to Jon, Tyrion realizes that the master of whisperers is doing his best to betray the queen against his advice. Tyrion has no choice but to tell Daenerys of his betrayal, which means Varys will die by her hand.
When he arrives in her chambers, Daenerys has already determined the traitor in her midst but she believes it’s actually Jon Snow. Tyrion informs her that Varys is the person who betrayed her but the queen says the path of destruction started with Jon telling his family the truth about his parents, which then spiraled out of control.
Just as Varys warned — it’s no longer a secret, it’s now information and that is impossible to contain.
“He knows the truth about Jon. Because you told him. You learned from Sansa and she learned from Jon, though I begged him not to tell her. As I said, he betrayed me.’
~ Daenerys Targaryen
As Varys continues to write his letters, he hears the marching of soldiers coming closer to his door. He knows that they are coming for him so he burns the last of the letters he was writing and prepares to be put into chains.
They lead him down to the shores of Dragonstone where Tyrion confesses that he’s the one who turned him into Daenerys for his betrayal. Varys holds no ill will towards Tyrion but hopes that he’s chosen the right side in this coming war.
In the end, Daenerys sentences Varys to die for his betrayal and as she utters the word ‘dracarys, Drogon appears out of the night and burns the master of whisperers to death.
Later that night, Daenerys sits in her chamber all alone once again when she receives a visit from Grey Worm. He’s not only been her most trusted soldier but probably the person most motivated to punish Cersei Lannister for killing Missandei last week.
Daenerys hands Grey Worm the collar that Missandei wore as a slave — it was the only possession she had until she was freed. She believes that Grey Worm should have it but without uttering a word, he just looks at the collar before throwing it into the fire to burn the only symbol connecting Missandei back to her previous life before the queen freed her.
Jon shows up to pay the queen a visit as he tries to tell her yet again that he is committed to her and will by her side when she’s finally sitting on the Iron Throne. His words give her very little solace, especially now as Daenerys has watched all of the people she cared about most in this world have perished. The voices of reason that often times talked her back from bad decisions are gone.
Jorah is dead. Missandei is dead. And Daenerys is feeling awfully alone right now.
Daenerys: “Far more people in Westeros love you than love me. I don’t have love here. I only have fear.
Jon: “I love you. And you will always be my queen.”
Daenerys kisses Jon but the passion soon fades as he pulls away. As common as incest was during the reign of the Targaryen family, Jon still can’t reconcile the fact that he’s had sex with his aunt and can’t wrap his head around doing it again now that he knows the truth. As Jon pulls away from Daenerys’ embrace, he likely severed whatever remaining ties they had as she decides that if the people won’t love her, they will absolutely fear her.
“Is that all I am to you? Your queen? All right then. Let it be fear.”
Daenerys has decided on her course of action as she prepares to attack King’s Landing and take back the Iron Throne by any means necessary.
The Last War
As Daenerys prepares for her attack on King’s Landing, Tyrion once again begs her not to destroy the city and kill thousands of innocent people in the process. He tries to remind her how she saved the slaves in Meereen rather than killing them for the sake of getting to the masters. In turn, she reminds him that the slaves turned on the masters and assisted in her taking the city.
In this case, the people of King’s Landing aren’t revolting against Queen Cersei, which makes her job of ‘saving’ them that much more difficult.
Eventually, Daenerys agrees to acquiesce to Tyrion’s request to not harm any of the people of King’s Landing so long as Cersei surrenders by ringing the bells to signify that the fighting is finished. She also tells Tyrion that his brother Jaime was captured trying to cross over the lines of their siege outside the walls of King’s Landing.
It seems Jaime’s loyalty Cersei knows no bounds, which once again proves that Tyrion doesn’t know his family all that well. He was wrong about Cersei betraying them and he was wrong in trusting that his brother was done with her.
“The next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me.”
~ Daenerys Targaryen
The next morning as the troops finally converge on the land just outside of King’s Landing, the fight to take the Iron Throne is just hours away. ‘The Hound’ and Arya Stark arrive with the intention of carrying out their own vengeance. ‘The Hound’ is out to kill his brother and Arya wants to cross Cersei’s name off her kill list.
Meanwhile, Tyrion pulls Ser Davos aside and asks the world greatest smuggler if he could do him a rather steep favor. That night, Tyrion arrives at the tent where his brother is being held prisoner. Tyrion talks his way into see him before producing a key that he plans to use to set Jaime free.
Back when Tyrion was sentenced to death for killing Joffrey — a crime he didn’t commit — it was Jaime who helped to free him so that he could live. Now Tyrion hopes to pay back that favor to his brother while begging him to get to Cersei, ask her to surrender by ringing the bells and then the two of them will leave on a boat bound for Pentos where they can start a new life together.
Tyrion promises Jaime that Cersei will not win this fight — the city will fall and she will crumble as well unless he can convince her to surrender. It’s the only way she’s going to leave Westeros alive.
He tells him to take Cersei through the basement of the Red Keep where all the dragon skulls are kept and through there he will find a passage way to a beach that will lead to a boat waiting there for them. He’s arranged for his brother and sister to survive together in hopes that they can also stop a bloody war from happening.
Jaime agrees to try and with that Tyrion unlocks his chains before the two brothers share a heartfelt goodbye knowing this will probably be the last time they will ever see one another.
“If it weren’t for you, I never would have survived my childhood. You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster. You were all I had.”
~ Tyrion Lannister
Tyrion and Jaime embrace before the ‘Kingslayer’ sets out to get into King’s Landing and hopefully save his sister from a fate worse than death. As for Tyrion, he knows that Daenerys will call for his death if she discovers what he’s done but he hopes by allowing Jaime to talk Cersei into surrendering before the city is destroyed that the queen might reward him rather than behead him.
The Mad Queen
The next morning as Jon Snow prepares to lead the troops outside the walls while Captain Harry Strickland prepares his Golden Company for battle, there is an uneasy feeling in the air. The fighting will begin at any moment and the tension is thick.
Before the battle begins, Tyrion tells Jon Snow to listen for bells ringing from inside the city walls because that’s the signal that the queen has surrendered and the fighting is done. Tyrion just wants to save as many people as possible and he begs Jon to pull back once he hears those bells.
“If you hear the bells ring, they’ve surrendered. Call off your men.”
~ Tyrion Lannister
In Blackwater Bay, Euron Greyjoy sits with his Iron Fleet with the scorpions mounted on the ships just waiting for the last dragon to go flying through the sky. The cloudy day overhead doesn’t help much but Euron eventually spots Drogon in the distances as he orders his ships to open fire. The first massive spear misses and Daenerys swoops in on the back of her dragon as she begins raining down fire on all the ships below.
Much like her ancestor Aegon Targaryen did when he conquered Westeros, he toppled one of his greatest opponents Lord Harren Hoare — best known by his nickname Harren the Black — after he refused to bend the knee to the would be dragon king. Harren built a mighty castle that he believed could withstand any attack with towers made out of stone as he defiantly told Aegon when he was asked to surrender.
Stone can’t burn so Harren was confident that his monstrous castle could withstand the attacks from the dragons. He was wrong.
Aegon swooped down from the sky like a falling star, riding on the back of his dragon, Balerion the Black Dread, and he bathed the castles in fire. The stone didn’t melt but it heated up so incredibly hot that the people inside were roasted alive. In the end, Aegon conquered all Seven Kingdoms and Harren the Black along with all of his sons were burned alive inside that mighty castle.
If you remember Harrenhal from the show — it’s the demolished castle where Tywin Lannister holds up during season 2 and Arya Stark meets Jaqen H’ghar for the first time. That was also the kingdom that Petyr Baelish was granted as a reward for his service to King Joffrey Baratheon.
Back in Blackwater Bay, Euron has abandoned ship as Daenerys quickly destroys his entire fleet. She then flies around the outside of the walls of King’s Landing there the rest of the scorpions were mounted in an attempt to bring down the dragon. On the back of Drogon, Daenerys quickly burns those weapons down as well.
Inside the city, people flock to get inside the walls of the Red Keep for safety but only so many are allowed to enter. ‘The Hound’ and Arya get inside just before the doors are shut while Jaime Lannister is unable to get there in time before he’s turned away. Jaime then rushes off to find another way to get to his sister before she’s killed.
The fight is already nearly over after the best defenses that Cersei had built to stop Daenerys on the back of her dragon have now been destroyed. Outside the walls, Harry Strickland and the Golden Company await their fighting to begin as they hear loud explosions from a distance.
A few seconds later, a huge explosion bursts through the wall as Daenerys arrives on Drogon as she attacks the sellsword army from behind, immediately killing many of the 20,000 men who were hired to defend the queen. Grey Worm and Jon Snow lead the troops of Unsullied, Northern men and the remaining Dothraki to take out the last remnants of the Golden Company.
Even Harry Strickland is left to turn and run away before Grey Worm’s spear explodes through his chest, bringing his life to an end.
The fighting doesn’t last long as queen’s army decimates the soldiers that Cersei hired to protect her. Inside the tower at the Red Keep, Cersei watches as Daenerys flies around on the back of her dragon unleashing fire as Qyburn arrives to give her some unwanted news.
Daenerys has laid waste to the Iron Fleet and all of the scorpions meant to bring down the dragon have been destroyed. The Unsullied have breached the gates of King’s Landing and they are headed straight for her. Of course, Cersei believes that the Lannister army will defend her until their dying breaths and she will still survive because the Red Keep will not fall.
“The Red Keep has never fallen. It won’t fall today.”
~ Cersei Lannister
Sadly, Cersei underestimates her opponents because after Daenerys destroyed her entire army in a matter of minutes on the back of her dragon, the troops would rather live than fight a losing battle. The Lannister army lays down their swords and surrenders.
As Tyrion walks through the broken, burnt and bloodied bodies of the Golden Company and the Lannister army, he’s still hoping that Jaime was able to get to Cersei to convince her to give up. A moment later, the bells ring out as King’s Landing has submitted to the new queen — the battle is finished, Daenerys has won.
By now, Daenerys has landed on one of the smoldering towers that once stood as she scans the damage inflicted by her dragon while hearing the bells ring out throughout the city. Soon the look of relief turns to vengeance as Daenerys is still not satisfied because the Red Keep still stands — the building that her ancestors build that is now occupied by usurpers.
Daenerys’ face turns to one of pure rage as she takes off on the back of Drogon and begins raining down fire on the entire city. She burns soldiers just as quickly as she burns innocent people just trying to flee with their children. She pours fire down on everyone and everything while making her way closer and closer to the Red Keep where she plans to topple Cersei Lannister once and for all.
As soon as the queen attacks, Grey Worm takes that as a sign that the fighting is not done and he unleashes his spear on one of the unarmed Lannister soldiers. The rest of the Unsullied, Dothraki and Northern troops follow behind him while Jon Snow is horrified that they are killing unarmed men who have already surrenders.
He attempts to stop his men but the bloodlust has already taken them.
Meanwhile, Jaime has made his way through King’s Landing to the back entrance of the Red Keep where he intended to take Cersei after making their escape. He plans to sneak through there to find his sister and then the two of them can leave together.
Unfortunately, Jaime’s path to Cersei is impeded after Euron Greyjoy washes up on shore after his ships were destroyed. He invites Jaime to a fight — winner takes all for Cersei.
“If I win, I’ll bring your head to Cersei so you can kiss her one last time”
~ Euron Greyjoy
The two engaged in a fight that sees Euron stab Jaime twice with his dagger and it appears that the ‘Kingslayer’ is about to be slayed. Just before Euron can celebrate his victory, Jaime is able to retrieve a sword and he runs it through the belly of his enemy. Euron Greyjoy lays on the rock bleeding out while still smiling from ear to ear.
He’s about to die but he believes he’s done enough to ensure Jaime Lannister is going to join him.
“I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister”
~ Euron Greyjoy
Jaime is severely wounded but still alive as he makes his way inside.
As for ‘The Hound’ and Arya, they make their way into the Red Keep where Cersei had the giant map of Westeros painted a season ago. Arya is determined to cross Cersei’s name off her list but ‘The Hound’ stops her before she can go.
He warns her that when revenge is the only thing on your mind, it consumes you just like it has consumed him his entire life. He doesn’t want that for Arya and he warns her to turn around and leave.
The Hound: “You think you wanted revenge a long time? I’ve been after it all my life. It’s all I care about and look at me. Look at me! You want to be like me? You come with me, you die here.”
Arya: “Sandor — thank you.”
Arya parts ways with ‘The Hound’ who is bound and determined to settle the score with his older brother once and for all.
Upstairs, Qyburn finally convinces Cersei that she needs to leave the tower for her own safety. Tears roll down her cheek because Cersei begins to realize that this really is the end for her. Qyburn suggests moving to Maegor’s Holdfast — a castle within the castle and the safest place for her right now. We saw Maegor’s Holdfast back in season 2 when Cersei took the women and children there during the Battle of Blackwater Bay.
On the way down, the castle is crumbling all around them as Cersei’s last soldiers are taken out by falling debris. That’s when they encounter ‘The Hound’ who has come to settle the score with his brother.
“Hello big brother.”
~ Sandor ‘The Hound’ Clegane
‘The Mountain’ moves to confront his brother as Cersei and Qyburn both urge him to stay by the queen’s side to protect her. The undead monster finally goes against his orders as he grabs Qyburn by the throat and violently throws him to the ground, smashing his head open and killing him. Cersei decides she’s not sticking around for this fight and she rushes back ‘The Hound’ as the long-awaited ‘Clegane-Bowl’ is about to begin.
‘The Hound’ moves into attack his brother and a bloody battle ensues. ‘The Hound’ stabs his brother repeatedly but the zombified ‘Mountain’ refuses to go down. Finally, ‘The Mountain’ gets the upper hand and he lifts his brother into the air and begins to shove his thumbs into ‘The Hound’s eyes as memories of what he did to Oberyn Martell come to mind.
Before ‘The Mountain’ can finish the job this time, ‘The Hound’ fights back with several stabs to his brother’s head with a dagger that slows him down for a moment. Realzing this would be his only opportunity to stop his brother, ‘The Hound’ rushes forward, grabs onto ‘The Mountain’ and they both crash through a wall before falling to their deaths in the fire pit below.
The only thing ‘The Hound’ feared was fire after his face was put to the flames by his brother when he was just a little boy. As much as fire scared him, his hatred of his brother Gregor was stronger.
Cersei makes her way downstairs where she is finally reunited with her brother Jaime after he was able to make it back into the castle to retrieve her. She’s terrified of dying and Jaime does his best to console her while giving them both a chance to escape.
Back in the fray, Jon tries to order his troops to stand down as he watches Daenerys fly overhead, dropping fire on the people below. He’s appauled at her actions and Jon wants no part of this massacre but even his men are getting so caught up in the mayhem that he’s forced to kill one of them as he attempts to rape a woman on the streets.
As for Arya Stark, she leaves the Red Keep but still has an arduous journey to escape the city as Daenerys continues to destroy anything and everything in her path. The point of view from Arya attempting to flee the city gives a real sense of the horror and atrocities that are being carried out for the sake of Daenerys to sit on the Iron Throne.
Arya tries to save a mother and her daughter who helped her back to her feet when she was nearly being trampled but they both end up burned alive by dragon fire. When the flames finally die down, Arya is left covered in ashes and blood as she looks around to see the devastating unleashed by the dragon queen.
In the rubble of fire and blood all around her, Arya spots a lone white horse still alive — it appears to the horse that was once mounted by Harry Strickland at the beginning of the battle. Arya jumps on the horse’s back and rides out of King’s Landing — where she’s going remains to be seen.
As for Jaime, he’s able to get Cersei down into the basement beneath the Red Keep but sadly the escape route to the beach has been destroyed by rubble from the castle crumbling down around them. There is no way to get to the boat that is supposed to take them to Pentos.
Cersei breaks down crying as she realizes that she doesn’t want to die and she wants to protect the life of her unborn child. Sadly, Jaime can’t offer her any way of making it out alive but at least they will die there together.
“Nothing else matters. Only us”
~ Jaime Lannister
As they embrace, the walls and the ceilings of the castle come crashing down around them as Jaime Lannister and Cersei Lannister meet their demise. It wasn’t the ending that many saw coming for Cersei when this season began but in the end she left this world the same way she entered it — beside her brother Jaime as they perish together, crushed under the weight of the crumbling castle.
This ending really shouldn’t be a surprise considering Jaime Lannister has always loved his sister above all else. Remember his line from pilot episode when he pushes Bran Stark out of that tower window — the things I do for love — and this was just the latest and last example of that as Jaime dies alongside Cersei.
And just for a final body count — Cersei Lannister, Jaime Lannister, Euron Greyjoy, ‘The Hound’ Sandor Clegane, ‘The Mountain’ Gregor Clegane, Qyburn, Harry Strickland and the Golden Company are all dead.
Queen Daenerys Targaryen has finally conquered a kingdom but at what cost? Was Sansa Stark right about Daenerys this entire time or was she just pushed over the edge? What will Jon Snow do now that the woman he loves has gone mad?
We will hope to find out in the ‘Game of Thrones’ series finale next Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.