‘Game of Thrones’ Season 8 Episode 5 Recap: The Last War Turns King’s Landing to Ashes

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
Lena Headey in ‘Game of Thrones’ season 8 episode 5 (Photo by Helen Sloan/HBO)

I cannot believe there are only two episodes left – ever – of Game of Thrones! (I’m not ready!) So much has been packed into the previous four episodes in season eight, but there is still so much more we still need to know! (e.g. whose coffee cup was that? Seriously, I’m more concerned with the fact that we didn’t get to see Arya and Sansa’s reactions to Jon’s big reveal. And is Sansa plotting Dany’s downfall?) The internet’s opinion was pretty divided on “The Last of the Starks,” particularly about Jon’s (Kit Harington) seemingly cold farewell to Ghost and especially, Missandei’s (Nathalie Emmanuel) death, whether or not she needed to die and what her last word (“Dracarys”) meant. My opinion? It meant “light these mofos up!” giving Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) an excuse to do what she wanted to do all along.

I’m pretty sure that’s what we’re in for tonight with season eight episode five. As Emilia Clarke has said, “Episode five is a bigger episode. Five is…like…find the biggest TV you can!”

I do know that a lot of things have to happen in the next two episodes before what remains of Westeros can get back to the business of living. The Hound (Rory McCann) has to kill The Mountain. It must happen. And given that the latter has superhuman undead strength, I think the former will do it with the one thing he’s most afraid of – fire. It would have a beautiful symmetry to it, don’t you think?

Cersei (Lena Headey) has always been at the top of Arya’s (Maisie Williams) kill list. I believe that’s why she’s headed south and I believe she thinks she’ll die in the process. (Her family is everything to her, but she doesn’t plan to return to Winterfell?)

I’ve not read the books, but I’ve read enough interviews with George R.R. Martin to know that his main goal has always been to get beyond the fight for the throne. As Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) and Varys (Conleth Hill) discussed in last week’s episode, whoever wins the “The Last War” might not be the best person to rule the new world order once the fighting is done. That said, I’m officially throwing my vote to Tyrion. I won’t get into the theories that say he might be another secret Targaryen. No, I’m going back to the fact that he’s always the smartest in the room, except possibly when Sansa’s in the room. Solution: King Tyrion rules with Queen Sansa (Sophie Turner) by his side, as co-regent. (I would have thought that impossible until two weeks ago.)

Jon can be Warden of the North, which is what he really wants. (And he WILL be reunited with Ghost. It cannot be otherwise.)

Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Brienne (Gwendoline Christie) can ride off into the sunset together. (After Cersei somehow, by someone, gets settled in for a long dirt nap first. I firmly believe that Jaime left Winterfell not to join forces with Cersei but to try to kill her. It may be the end of him.)

Of course, all of my surmisings assume that all the good guys make it through the upcoming battle. It’s more than likely that a lot of our favorites have been spared only to come to a horrible end one of these next two Sundays. (Not to mention, D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have hinted that we may not have seen the last of the White Walkers. Was Jon brought back from the dead to become the new Night King? My money’s on him killing his aunt/lover and saving the world first.)

Also, could I just take a sec to say how gorgeous the music has been this season? Ramin Djawadi’s score for GoT has always been brilliant, but this season has been next level (and at times has reminded me of his even more brilliant score for Westworld, particularly in season eight episode three.) I could go on, but let’s just get to this week’s installment, shall we? Director Miguel Sapochnik (“Hardhomme” “The Battle of the Bastards” “The Long Night”) is back. As Margo Channing* so eloquently put it, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

We open on Varys composing a letter (to whom?) that very clearly deals with the news of Jon’s birth. We’re back at Dragonstone. A child/a servant enters to tell him that “she won’t eat.” Obviously, they are talking about Dany who must be prostrate with grief over Missandei.

Jon and Varys are walking on the beach discussing Dany, her current mental state and that they both know she’s about to reign hell on King’s Landing. Varys repeats the old maxim, “whenever a Targaryen is born, the God’s flip a coin.” (Usually taken to refer to the question of whether they will turn out to be mad or not.) Varys goes on to say that he still doesn’t know how “her coin” has landed, but he’s “quite certain” about Jon’s. So now Jon knows that Varys knows. He tells Varys that he doesn’t want it. Varys is convinced he will “rule wisely, while she…” Jon interrupts, “She is my queen.”

Tyrion enters the Queen’s chambers. He says, ‘There’s something you need to know.” Dany answers, “Someone has betrayed me.” Dany thinks it’s Jon. Tyrion says it’s Varys. She lists all the people who know and it comes back to Jon. Tyrion is still trying to bring it back to Varys. But now Dany is pissed that Tyrion spoke to Varys about the situation before he told her.

Dany, who looks the worst we’ve ever seen her, is going down a dark, paranoid rabbit hole and is not convinced that Tyrion still has her best interests at heart. She says, “It doesn’t matter now.”

Varys removes rings as we hear the sound of approaching footsteps. He’s waiting to be arrested. He’s taken to the beach in the dark where Tyrion, Jon, and Daenerys wait. An obviously conflicted Tyrion admits to Varys that it was he who turned him in. Varys says, “I hope I’m wrong. Goodbye old friend.”
Daenerys sentences him to die. By dragon fire. Holy crap that was harsh! The electric chair is walking across carpet in winter compared with death by dragon.

Dany and Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) are alone together. She gives him Missandei’s “only possession.” It’s the slave collar she brought with her across the narrow sea. He throws it into the fire.

Jon enters and Dany tells him Sansa betrayed his trust and told his secret. “This is a victory for her…She killed Varys as much as I did.” She says that the people of Westeros love him and not her. “I don’t have love here. I only have fear.” Jon says that he loves her and she will always be his queen. She wants to know if that’s all she is, his queen. They kiss and again it’s Jon who breaks away. It’s clear the answer is yes. She is not pleased. “All right then, let it be fear.”

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 5
Kit Harington and Conleth Hill in season 8 episode 5 (Photo Courtesy of HBO)

Tyrion and Dany are arguing about burning King’s Landing. She thinks showing mercy by sparing the city is weakness. She sends Grey Worm to take the Unsullied and wait outside the city. Dany tells Tyrion that Jaime was stopped trying to get past her lines. She blames Tyrion for his brother trying to get back to Cersei. She tells him, “The next time you fail me will be the last time you fail me.”

Tyrion and Jon meet up with Ser Davos and the rest of the army. Dany wants to attack by daybreak. Tyrion asks Davos for a favor. “I’m not going to like this favor, am I?”

The Hound and Arya are stopped outside King’s Landing. A guard asks who she is and where she’s going. Not one to beat around the bush, Arya gives him the truth. “I’m Arya Stark. I’m here to kill Queen Cersei.” The Hound adds, “Think about it. She kills Cersei, the war’s over.” The hapless guard actually says, “I have to talk to my captain.”

Back with Dany’s army, Tyrion is attempting to speak Valyrian to an Unsullied soldier. After several bad, but humorous attempts, a soldier tells him, “We speak the common tongue.” Thank the lord. This could have gone on forever. He wants to be alone with “the prisoner.” It must be Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.)

Jaime tells him they recognized him by his golden hand. Tyrion wants to know why he didn’t take it off. “Cersei once called me the ‘stupidest Lannister.’” Tyrion is incredulous that his brother is “going back to die with her.” He suggests Jaime convince her to give up, because of her child. Jaime says the “child is the reason she’ll never give an inch.”

Tyrion is convinced the city will fall in the morning. He doesn’t want his brother to die. He tells him to get Cersei out of the city. He gives him a plan to get out. Jaime gives his brother his word he’ll try to get out. Tyrion believes he’s repaying his brother. I don’t think Jaime means to keep his word. In any case, Tyrion gives him the signal about the bells and brushes off Jaime’s observation that “his queen” will kill him if she finds out. He thinks that in the end if she can take the throne, she’ll thank him for making it possible without “wading through a river of blood.” “Tens of thousands of innocent lives, one not particularly innocent dwarf. Seems like a fair trade.” They are saying goodbye. Tyrion tells Jaime, “if it weren’t for you, I’d never have survived my childhood…You were the only one who didn’t treat me like a monster.” They are crying in each other’s arms! I can’t take this. It can’t be the last time we see either of them!

Then, next morning, Euron the Despicable (Pilou Asbaek) is on a boat looking out over the harbor and arming the Scorpions. The city is preparing for battle. Citizens are gathering their children and locking their shutters. The Hound and Arya are among the crowd heading into the Red Keep. It does appear that a cloaked Jaime is headed there as well.

The Golden Company, with Harry Strickland (Marc Rissmann) at the head, is waiting outside the gates, facing Dany’s army. Tyrion tells Jon, “If you hear the bells ring, they’ve surrendered. Call off your men.”

Cersei is looking smug, with The Mountain at her back, safe inside the Keep. She’s closing the gates! Thousands of people (Arya and Jaime among them) are locked outside! So much for keeping the people safe!

The Iron fleet is in the harbor. Euron hears something. He looks up. Is it a dragon? Yes! It’s Drogon with Dany aboard. Of course, he’s got his infernal machines ready. But Drogon is setting things on fire before he can get off a bolt! Dany comes back around. The fleet is ablaze! Finally, the damn dragon is doing some damage. She got the upper hand and the fleet is destroyed! (Is Euron dead? Doubtful. Too easy.)

Suddenly the walls of King’s Landing explode outward! The vaunted Golden Company is decimated. Goodbye Harry, we hardly knew ye. Then they are overrun by the remaining Dothraki Screamers! (Sweet baby jeebus that was quick!) Drogon and Dany’s armies are making mincemeat of the Lannister army and the Golden Company!

Cersei is still in the Keep, no longer looking smug as her city burns. Lickspittle Qyburn enters. He tells her the Iron Fleet is burning, the Scorpions have been destroyed. Cersei says, “The Red Keep’s never fallen. It won’t fall today.” Qyburn (Anton Lesser) says, “Yes, Your Grace,” but does not sound convinced.

Tyrion looks toward the Keep, waiting for the bells. Jon watches as Drogon lands on the city walls. He’s obviously waiting for Dany to light it up and dreading it. Huzzah! The Lannisters drop their swords in surrender. Jon looks relieved.

Jaime is still trying to get to Cersei. Tyrion still waits. Dany is atop Drogon. And yeah, she looks bonkers. The bells ring signaling the surrender! Dany hears them but doesn’t freaking care. She and Drogon fly to the Red Keep. Cersei sees them coming. Below citizens are running in terror. Drogon is indeed lighting the mofos up. As Drogon’s fire boxes in the Lannister army, Grey Worm and the Unsullied wait on the other side. He is clearly out for revenge.

Jon tries to keep the army from charging, since he knows there has been a surrender. Cersei looks frightened for the first time as she watches from her perch. This is not how she thought this morning would go.

The armies are all running amok. Civilians are being murdered in the streets. Jon is watching his worst fears come true.

Jaime has made it to the boat Tyrion promised. Who emerges from the sea but Euron. Jaime says he wants to get Cersei out. Euron wants to fight him. This idiot thinks he’s a king because he f*cked the queen. Jaime has had enough and lunges at him as Drogon is still overhead blowing shit up and the world is ending. Euron and Jaime are fighting. Jaime’s sword is on the ground. Euron grabs it and stabs Jaime!! NO! Are you freaking kidding me?!? That asshole gets to end Jaime after all he’s been through and right under Cersei’s nose?!? What an ignominious end! I protest!

Cersei is in tears as Qyburn comes for her. She knows it’s over.

Euron is boasting as Jaime wheezes. He’s not dead! F**K! Euron stabs him some more. Jaime stabs Euron! Jaime, who is somehow still on his feet, walks away as Euron yells, “I got you! I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister.”

Arya and Clegane are inside the Keep, watching the dragon outside. He tries to tell Arya to go home. (He thinks he’s going to keep her safe.) He says, “If you come with me, you die here.” Arya uses his name and says, “Sandor, thank you.” Arya looks frightened, but I liked this ending to their journey.

Qyburn, Cersei, and The Mountain are trying to leave the Keep. The walls are crashing down around them. Clegane is there to meet his brother. Cersei commands Ser Gregor to stay by her side. When Qyburn insists he “obey” his queen, The Mountain kills him! Good! The monster killed his creator! Cersei keeps walking as the brothers face each other.

Sandor is trying to fight with his sword which is becoming more ineffective with every thrust. He knocks The Mountain’s helmet off. We see what’s under there and it ain’t pretty.

Cersei is looking for escape as the Keep continues to crumble. She can hear Drogon. Suddenly she’s face to face with Jaime! He’s still alive. She whimpers and they go to each other and embrace. The Keep is falling apart around them. Jaime is obviously gravely wounded. She notices. He tries to get her away.

Back to Clegane Bowl. Sandor runs his brother through but the monster won’t die. He swats Sandor away and down the stairs then pulls the sword from his body.

Arya is trying to get out of the city – or is she still looking for Cersei? The city is about to become dust. Everywhere there are wounded and dying civilians and fleeing soldiers. It’s complete chaos. She’s down and being trampled.

This is intercut with scenes of The Mountain beating his brother to a pulp. It’s as if Arya can feel it. A civilian finds her and helps her up. She’s caught in a mad crush!

Sandor is bleeding profusely. The Mountain is choking him but he won’t give up. He stabs at his older brother, begging him to die. The Mountain is trying to do an Oberyn on Sandor when the latter stabs his brother in the eye. Though he’s now blind in one eye, he manages to rush his brother and they both fall from the Keep into the burning city below. They die together!! A fitting end for them both! (And in fire so I was sorta right.)

Where’s Arya?? She’s bleeding and unconscious among the rubble! Now she’s up. Where is she going to go? She’s badly hurt but still upright. She sees the woman who helped her earlier. Tells her she must keep moving. She exhorts everyone to follow her out of the city! The Dothraki are killing anything that moves! WHAT THE ACTUAL F**K JUST HAPPENED?!?! Did Drogon just torch Arya?!?! NOOOOOOOO I do not accept that that is how the hero of the Battle of Winterfell is going to die!

Jaime and Cersei are trying to get to the boat. Cersei is crying. She doesn’t want to die. Doesn’t want her baby to die. Jaime is trying to reassure her that nothing else matters except them. He calms her down but it’s too late. The Keep falls on top of them. This is how Cersei and Jaime end. In each other’s arms. (I don’t know what his motives actually were when he left Winterfell. If she hadn’t been a whimpering mess, maybe he had planned to kill her. I choose to believe this.)

OH MY GOD ARYA IS ALIVE! YES!!! Not even singed, but, holy crap is she is bad shape! She’s as battered as King’s Landing! As she looks around, a white horse appears. Is it the one she rode in on or is it a figment of her imagination? She extends her hand to take the reins and whispers to soothe it. It must be real since she’s now riding out of the city that is now a pile of ashes as Tyrion had predicted and feared.

And fade to black! Sweet baby jeebus I’m spent! There’s nothing left and yet still so much for the final episode to handle! I need a drink.

*All About Eve (1950) – written/directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

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