MODIFIED MCSHANE SCORING SYSTEM FOR:
GAME OF THRONES S8 E5 aka EPISODE 72 OF 73 aka "DING DONG" were there dragons? was there a dragon? Yep. Were there tits? No, not really, unless topless Frankengregor counts. Starting baseline: 5 out of 10
Pour one out for Missandei. It was very bold of the Tits and Dragons show to kill off the best remaining pair of tits on the show. I choose to remember the good times, like when she revealed the gender-neutral nature of Valyrian pronouns in a very forced and ham-fisted way, like the producers were speaking through her and passive-aggressively including one last bit of book content. Or the time Ser Davos randomly started hitting on her and they turned Westeros' favorite Grandpa into Creepy Inappropriate Uncle Man. Or the time they aged her up so the Dany/Missandei bedwarming scene wouldn't be Creepy As Fuck but they ended up chickening out on doing it anyway. Ah well.
Varys seems resigned to his own death. One of his little birds reports in, and we quickly realize a poisoning attempt has gone awry because Dany is on hunger strike. Varys began this bit with some letter writing and the camera focuses on enough words to let us know that Varys is getting the word out to the whole seven kingdoms about Jon Snow. Welp, he's all in, ain't he? Not sure why the merman is suddenly tired of paddling and the consumate survivor is now gung-ho about dying for the cause, but here we are.
Tyrion and Dany. Remember, folks: nothing says "crazy" like a woman no longer wearing makeup. Anyway, Dany's "paranoid" rambling is actually an astute and 100% accurate assessment of the situation: Jon blabbed to Sansa and Sansa blabbed to Tyrion in the hope Tyrion would blab to Varys and others and foment dissent among Dany's ranks and that's exactly what you did you little dummy. It's never spelled out if Dany's not eating because she knows some shit is up of if that's just supposed to be part of the mad with grief over Missandei thing.
Anyway, Varys takes his rings off and burns his last letter before being arrested. Astute viewers have pointed out this is so his signet ring will go unmelted and can be used to verify his letters about Jon posthumously. Anyway Tyrion and Varys have a touching tender moment as Tyrion admits he ratted him out to save himself. Varys hopes he's wrong and deserves this, but the tone of his voice says he doubts it. Connleth Hill was a very good Varys and it's such a shame they really stopped giving him stuff to do once they ran out of source material to adapt. Dany asks Varys what time it is while Drogon emerges from the gloom and answers "4:20, time to BLAZE IT." Tyrion and Jon watch Varys burn. +1 for the fond farewell.
Jon has shown up and reaffirmed his loyalty to Queen Dany for about the 400th time in the last couple weeks. He comes in on the tail end of a convo between Dany and Grey Worm, conducted in Valyrian, and we're given subtitles and its framed like its significant. Dany bemoans that the people do not love her, only fear her, but they love Jon. So she tries to play Come Into My Castle with her tongue and Jon's mouth one last time, but Jon ain't having it. "You're my queen." "Is that all I am? I guess it's fear then." This was really good, and the often-panned Emilia Clarke is doing a good job of playing broken down and nuts. It's just a shame they waited so long to start doing this and are rushing through to the end result. Game of Thrones, for all its great props and good costuming and wonderful music and even good acting, is still being written like it's a term paper due tomorrow morning. +1
The goodbye scene between Tyrion and Jaime is BEAUTIFUL. Wonderful enough for me to look the other way on the silly TRANSLATION HUMOR between Tyrion and the Unsullied guards to set it up. Oh and Jaime even fucking being here in the first place. Jaime now claims not to give a shit about the people of king's landing even though the whole essence of his character is that he chose their lives over his honor way back when. FAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRT. But laying out Tyrion's emotional motives for putting his own neck in the noose w.r.t. Dany by springing a prisoner is done so well and these actors are so in-tune with their characters after all this time that this scene deserves a +1 anyway.
Arya and The Hound join the bum rush and just barely get inside the gates before they close specifically because they pushed a woman and little girl out of their way. HAHAHAHA. Jaime misses the cutoff and has to take the long way around. +1
The battle is on. Dany uses the sunshine as cover (holy shit would you look at that sensible tactics! This show has missed you so much, sensible tactics, never run away from us like that again!). The Ninja Inverse Power Principle applies to dragons and the scorpion ballistas: now that Drogon is solo, dragons are basically invincible again, while the mass number of scorpions makes them all useless. The cannons are cannon fodder. Ha ha, it's irony! Ha ha? Ha? Ugh. Look I tried, okay? Dany makes short work of what's left of the Iron Fleet and the Lannister troops on the ramparts don't fare any better. Meanwhile, The Golden Company starts flexing like they're actually gonna accomplish shit in this show, and lines up outside the city walls. NO, SENSIBLE TACTICS, WHERE ARE YOU GOING PLEASE DON'T LEAVE ME AGAIN I'LL BE GOOD THIS TIME I SWEAR! Anyway, Captain Harry Strickland gets his Cosplay Jaime on [I love the idea of Cersei hiring a guy who kinda looks like Jaime, its a good callback to Lancel] one last time before Dany blows out the walls from behind with dragonfire after which Jon & Grey Worm lead the charge. The regenerating Dothraki ride over everybody save for a bloodied and stumbling Strickland, who quickly gets finished off by Grey Worm. I am stunned -- STUNNED, I SAY -- that Captain Strickland did not survive to the end of Game Of Thrones +1 for this battle shaping up to be the one sided ass-whipping it always should've been, though it begs the question of why they bothered having the goodguys fritter away their army in The Battle For The Dawn and several instances of dumb tactics for the sake of plot to make Cersei look like she had a chance.
CLEGANEBOWL was pretty good. Having The Mountain lose some of his Darth Vader armor so we could see the grotesque monster underneath was a necessary beat. Sadly, no Nedhead or anything super freaky like that, just some greenish Frankenskin. The best part was Qyburn being oddly fond of Cersei one last time and suddenly, ruthlessly, paying for it with his life when he tries to give Frankengregor an order and gets his head smashed against a wall gruesomely for his effort. Make a mistake and pay for it. Remember when Game Of Thrones was full of that? Anyway we get your standard human vs. zombie fight. There's a torch mounted on a half-broken wall and I _REALLY_ wanted that to play into the finish the way they kept leaving it in the shot. Having Sandor win by burning his brother the way his brother burned him to start this whole mess would've been poetic. But we got a good "stabbing Gregor through the eyeball does nothing" spot and a nice callback spot where Gregor does the same eyegouge that he did when crushing Oberyn's skull. Eventually Sandor makes the decision to tackle Gregor over the edge and send both men plummeting to their deaths, sacrificing himself to take his brother out. We'll call it a draw. I'm good with this. Qyburn's death might have been the highlight of the episode. +1
At one point Arya is running through the carnage and the rubble to give us that Horrors Of War feel and she runs into an extra that kinda looks like Gendry. I think it's the recurring walk-on they used for Alton Lannister way back when. Anyway, having Arya run into a Gendry lookalike is a wonderful touch and does a way better job of what I think they were trying to do with Arya than most of what they ended up doing with her in this episode. +1 for Doppelganger Gendry.
Grey Worm eventually says "fuck it" and spears a surrendered Lannister soldier signalling that the rout and rampage is on. I actually kinda like the idea that Dany worked out a deal beforehand with Grey Worm to say Fuck This Surrender Bullshit we wiping these punks off the map, and that this was what their secret Valyrian convo was about. Since for all Tyrion's pleading that "the bell tolling means the city has surrendered to you" Dany treated it with a Yeah Whatever and I think (I should rewatch to confirm) she never quite actually agreed to go along with that. It'd salvage this whole thing if Dany went in never having intent of accepting a surrender. +1
All right. Let's get to the dumb shit.
Euron vs Jaime. Jaime karate chopping Euron in the throat with his gold hand was excellent. The rest of this was a stinker. You know, I've been watching "blind" reaction videos on youtube from people who are just now getting into the show and starting with Season 1, so I'm seeing stuff like the Ned/Jaime fight again and boy the contrast between show the and show now is STRIKING. One spear wrecks Ned's knee forever. Now? Jaime gets stabbed in half his organs and it ceases to mean anything once the fight is over. Euron's lines are all clunkers. I really wish this guy had gotten more to work with than the Captain Jack Sparrow shit he got, and if a couple interviews are any indication so does he. -1 for stab wounds not mattering outside of actual combat.
Jon stops one northern troop from committing one rape. Ask Mirri Maz Dur what the fuck that's worth. Okay we get it JON GOOD DANY BAD. Stop hitting me over the head with it.
Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. Arya almost dies but then she doesn't. OKAY WE FUCKING GET IT, SHOW. GEEEZUS. Look, if you stopped at one death fakeout, some people might actually buy into it. Textbook example of Diminishing Returns. The more fakeouts they go for the more obvious it becomes that they don't have the guts to actually pull the trigger on killing Arya off. Which is too bad because actually killing someone who really matters might have been the one way to close the gap and make Dany's rushed heel turn actually take in spite of it all. They also do some dumb shit with A PALE HORSE HAHA GET IT DEATH RIDES A PALE HORSE that takes way too fucking long for Arya to finally get on the thing and ride away. It's like they're stalling just to make this be an 80 minute episode. Also, while having Arya say goodbye and thank you to The Hound by finally calling him by his real name of Sandor was a nice little nugget of warmth, and I dug it as a detail, it's really not enough to offset how dumb and "characters serving the plot" it is to have them wait to have the "don't be like me, save yourself" convo NOW as the Red Keep is crashing around them and it by rights ought to be too late than, say, you know, AT ANY DAMN POINT DURING THE HUNDREDS OF MILES OF RIDING FROM WINTERFELL TO KING'S LANDING. It's not like Sandor didn't know why she started following her in Episode 4 in the first place. They clearly just wanted Arya to be there to run through the rubble but not be a casualty. Arya is _probably_ my favorite of the main characters bookside, and when this show started I was so hype and had Maisie Williams penciled in as the one sure bet among the new/young actors to come out of this Game Of Thrones gig as the superstar of tomorrow. And boy has this show kicked me in the balls repeatedly for having that sentiment. Arya was the first character to get victimized by the dialogue writing getting really bad. She hasn't quite gotten as bad a stinker as "BAD PUSSY" but it has not been for lack of shoddy effort on Benioff and Weiss' parts. Woof. Anyway, Arya suddenly has MATERNAL INSTINCT now and you can probably hear the dull fluttering click of my eyelids trying to do barrel rolls as Arya runs around trying to convince women and children to GET TO THE CHOPPAH! NOW! to little avail. I swear, if this is all just to have Arya be "WAIT I WANT BABIES AND TO BE A MOMMA NOW" and that's her pretext for getting back together with Gendry I'm gonna puke blood, and I hope Woke Feminist Twitter doesn't blow it's wad on Dany and has some outrage left in the barrel for _that_ rough beast lumbering towards Bethlehem to be born next week because I have a bad feeling they're gonna need it. -3 for all sorts of irritating shit.
Jaime and Cersei run to the escape dinghy but the rubble has cut them off. They're stuck. They die together as shit collapses all around and on top of them. That sound you hear is the mother of all Wet Farts rumbling its way through a mummer's intestinal tract. NOW, if the result of this is nobody finds the bodies and Dany concludes they escaped, AND she resolves to hunt them and their baby in a mirror of King Robert's hateboner for her and Viserys back when we started, I can dig this. If Dany does the math and decides this is Tyrion's final straw and she has him killed, or even just tries to have him killed, that'd be cool. The show needs to go all in on selling the Dany heel turn and anything that can be used to sell it should be. But, on it's own, there's just something underwhelming about this, and maybe that's the point but man it just seems that so much of what they did with Jaime ended up not mattering and it really sucks that such an effective acting performance got squandered on what became such an inconsistently written character. And I don't mean inconsistent so much in terms of behavior but, like, inconsistent in the sense of they changed their mind on their vision for the character constantly, and it got dragged along for a bumpy ride on Plot Beat Road as a result. If book Jaime matters as much to you as book Arya does to me I bet you're PISSED right about now. And you should be. And boy does Brienne look like a chump now too. Knighting was the perfect denouemont. 'Shipping them was a mistake. One of them should've died against the White Walkers and this all would've been better (and then the Walkers would've had an actual effect too, wouldn't THAT be nice?). -1
But, really, this whole episode is about Dany, and hoping you the audience buy into the sudden heel turn. All the eggs are going in this basket. And unfortunately, the basket was placed half-hanging over the edge of a really large table and all this weight caused it to fall over and now we've got a bunch of cracked eggs and cleaning the carpet is going to be a chore and a half. Why didn't we put the basket in the middle of this big ass table? We had the room!
There's lots of reasons to rationalize Dany going over the deep end. There is, theoretically, a lot of hints even going back to watching her brother die and not giving a fuck that Dany has had this in her all along. But, here's the problem. Everything from Viserys to Mirri Maz Dur to Pyat Pree to Xaro Ducksauce & Doreah to Kraznys to The Slavers Of Astapor to the Second Sons not named Daario to crucifying the slavers of Yunkai and Mereen to feeding that one dude to her dragons to melting The Tarlys was always framed as "WOO HOO BADASS!", contrary to the spirit of the books w.r.t. "righteous" vengeance. Also, they all Had It Coming. Even Varys at the start of the episode. They all crossed her first. The framing of the show has always presented this stuff as COOL. We've been expected to cheer Dany for roasting people even as Stannis' burning people was [rightly] cast as Pretty Fucked Up, man. But now we're expected to think The Tarlys and Varys were A Bridge Too Far and now we're supposed to boo her, even though Arya fucking up the Freys and doing morbid shit like baking Lothar and Black Walder into a pie is still presented as COOL. So, no, it hasn't really been hinted at since Season 1 because the hints weren't framed as such.
Maybe if she'd killed Varys earlier on. Maybe if Dickon hadn't volunteered but Dany roasted him anyway. Maybe if Barristan had lasted longer and been able to give more WTF looks at some of this shit. Maybe if she'd never forgiven Jorah, channeled some Stannis, and gone like "yes you did all this great emotional journey to come back to me and you are doubtlessly 100% loyal to me now, and I appreciate it, but you did double cross me once and that must never be forgotten. DIE." Like, just imagine if Jorah had survived the white walker battle only to get executed in a fit of paranoia NOW when everyone else is turning on her and she decides "well he did it once, best not give him a chance to do it again, the Mormonts have always loved the Starks". Maybe if she'd tried to "accidentally" kill Jon during the White Walker battle.
Maybe, even, if she'd gone straight for the Red Keep and nuked Cersei along with it, and that had set off the wildfire caches and made the first wave of civilian casualties accidental. And have her initially disgusted but frantically shifting blame and denying culpability (and responding to that criticism by doubling down, lashing out, and killing more.)
Instead, it was framed like Dany flips out when she hears bells, specifically, and she started actively targeting civilians (when even Dany at her most furious has _never_ done before) and consciously avoiding The Red Keep [so that Cersei has time to run away].
This deserved to be set up better, and to have a slower, better paved road taken to it. Clarke is actually a lot of fun as Crazy Dany and it's just too bad we didn't get more of a chance to savor the descent.
Maybe one great expository speech next week from Dany will pull us out of this nosedive. But it's gonna take a lot. Waiting until the penultimate episode to rush the turn is really hurting what could've been one of the most memorable TV moments ever.
I want to love the Dany heel turn. I want to revel in the horror of it, see it coming a couple episodes away. It should be the last top level gut punch, like Ned's beheading or The Red Wedding. Reaction videos should be people screaming and crying and calling GRRM a sadist. Instead it's more "oh well they finally did it" and the reaction videos are "WTF".
Like Stannis suddenly being in an eager hurry to burn Shireen because that was his next plot point, Dany going trigger happy on civilian targets without a sufficient explanation because She Needs To Be A Badguy Before The Last Episode is a really jarring shift and the foundation work wasn't adequately done, and it doesn't feel earned. And it's worse here because at least Stannis' extremes were always framed by the show as "hey this is actually a pretty bad dude" but with Dany the show has repeatedly framed her as a sympathetic hardass but NOW says "yeah all that stuff we told you to cheer? You should've been booing actually." And it underscores just how rushed and contrived the plot has been in the last couple seasons. Big -3 for not sticking the landing. FINAL SCORE: 5 out of 10
Stop me if you've heard this one before, but it looked and sounded gorgeous but made little sense if you forgot to turn your brain off before viewing. There were good nuggets here and there but the continued frustration of this show being so close to still being good yet deliberately not taking that last step, not paying that bit more attention to detail, just rushing through the plot points and not caring to stop do the homework that makes them cogent and emotionally gratifying. There's a dozen little things that could've been done in this episode, or even in the last couple, or even a couple years go, and the big punch would've landed. But they weren't and they didn't. And that's way more frustrating than if the show were just straight trash from top to bottom. I mean, even these goofy reviews of mine are actually starting to feel like work [and I'm cutting the corner of a second viewing] What does that tell you?
NEXT WEEK: It's finally over.