In possibly one of the most controversial Game of Thrones episodes to date, Episode 5 “The Bells” managed to defy expectation and credulity in a series that has a reputation for doing just that. Viewers looking forward to seeing the end of Cersei Lannister’s reign and the taking of King’s Landing by Jon Snow’s forces and a dragon-riding Daenerys were in for several shocking twists.
Amidst epic episode standouts like Cleganebowl, where The Hound finally confronts his big brother The Mountain, there were several references and Easter Eggs for observant fans to catch. There were several included moments that buoyed the poignancy of the episode, as well as foreshadowed much of its fiery violence. Here are ten of them that you may have missed during all the action!
10 DRAGON FIRE
If epic wide shots of a dragon’s shadow soaring over King’s Landing may look familiar to viewers, that’s because similar imagery was conveyed to Bran in a vision. When Bran touched the Weirwood tree on the north wall of Winterfell in Season 4, he had a vision of a great dragon casting its shadow over King’s Landing. This vision was repeated later, fleeing the Cave of the Three-Eyed Raven.
In Season 2, it was unclear whether that dragon was from the past, when the Targaryen family ruled Westeros, but now in Season 8 we see that the vision has been fulfilled. Game of Thrones enjoyed a greater budget with each passing season, and lucky for us, the improved special effects of the series gave us an even better look at the dragon.
9 BEWARE OF EUNUCHS
In the beginning of the episode, Varys is seen in his chambers scribbling feverishly on a small piece of parchment. A young servant girl interrupts him, explaining that Daenerys won’t eat because she’s too depressed about the murder of Missandei and the death of her second dragon, Rhaegal. Varys explains they’ll “try again at supper”.
The girl explains she feels the guards are watching her, to which Varys explains with the greater risk comes the greater reward. It is highly implied Varys may be poisoning the queen. Eagle-eyed viewers will see he removes his poison ring when he burns the parchment. A witch once warned Dany to “beware the perfumed seneschal”, and poison is known to be used by “women and eunuchs”.
8 A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE
Music has always played a big part in Game of Thrones. From the soaring theme that plays over the opening credits, to the Westerosi songs that accompany each season, music is used to both convey the tone of the story and foreshadow some of its events. Fans may have missed the two most effective pieces of music utilized in “The Bells”.
“The Rains of Castamere”, a ballad about the Lannister victory over Castamere, which was played at the Red Wedding, is also played with Jaime and Cersei as they’re trapped in the Dragon Cellar. The “Light of the Seven”, which played when Cersei destroyed the Sept of Baelor, can be heard as Jon and Grey Worm march on King’s Landing.
7 FLIP A COIN
Some viewers may have wondered why Dany chose to take such a dark turn after she arrived at King’s Landing, but there have been a few signs signaling her destructive mania. In Season 2, while discussing the Targaryen family with Tyrion, Cersei remarked that “Every time a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin”. This is repeated in Season 8.
In A Storm of Swords, Dany was told that the “Targaryens have always danced too close to madness”. The “flipping of a coin” phrase became synonymous with the Targaryen’s because King Jaehaerys (Dany’s grandfather) claimed madness and greatness were two sides of the same coin.
6 BREAKER OF CHAINS
To say that the death of Missandei affected Daenerys is an understatement, but as her lover, it crippled Grey Worm even more. Dany tries to give him some solace during Episode 5 when the two are alone by offering him the only thing Missandei brought from Essos; her old slave collar.
Grey Worm stares at it briefly before leveling his gaze at Dany and tossing it into the fire. The metaphor in this case isn’t subtle, as Dany ends up deciding to unleash dragon fire on King’s Landing. The pain of Missandei’s death, the death of her second dragon, and Jon Snow’s betrayal meant everything would be consumed by flames.
5 BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WINE
Jaime Lannister has made mention in past seasons that he always hoped he’d die in the arms of the woman he loved, and so left Winterfell to return to King’s Landing and Cersei’s embrace. Before he could reach the gates of the city, he was captured and detained by Dany’s forces on suspicion of espionage.
Tyrion came to his aid, pulling rank on the guards so that they would let the Queen's Hand have some time alone with “the prisoner”. He explained to Jaime that he was compelled to free him, since Jaime had been the one to free him before he was executed in King’s Landing for Tywin Lannister’s death.
4 GREEN WITH ENVY
If viewers thought it was strange that green explosions were erupting everywhere that Dany’s dragonfire reached, the reason might surprise you. As it turned out, her ancestor’s stashes of "wildfire" beneath the city were activated when the fire reached them, causing them to explode in dozens of green blossoms.
In a cruel twist of irony, Cersei had utilized one such cache to utterly destroy the Sept of Baelor in Season 6, and now she was forced to watch from the Red Keep as green and red flames engulfed what remained of her citadel. The sheer number of green blossoms indicated just how paranoid the Mad King was.
3 AT WORLD'S END
As Dany engulfs King’s Landing in flames and the Red Keep crumbles into ruin, Cersei finds herself alone. As she stumbles through the Red Keep’s courtyard, the world map that Cersei had painted on the ground begins to crack in half. This is a map we’ve seen featured many times before, from an area where Cersei has had many prolific and important conversations.
As fissures shoot across the continents, Cersei looks up to see Jaime stumbling towards her. At the end of days, all she has left in the world is Jaime, her one constant throughout a sordid childhood and painful adulthood of lies, deception, and violence. In certain ways, the Westeros Cersei knew (and tried to control) is dying, with a new one rising from its ashes.
2 A VISION FULFILLED
When Cersei was young, she encountered a wood witch that foretold her death in a vision. She ominously explained that Cersei, a future queen would die at the hands of the Valonqar, which in High Valyrian translates to “little brother”.
It was Tyrion who told Jaime to bring Cersei into the Dragon Cellar, where there was a tunnel through which they could escape to the beach. Jaime led her there at his little brother’s behest, and though the witch claimed her little brother would “choke the life out of her”, Jaime does cup her face in his hands shortly before the cellar collapses.
1 THE THRONE ROOM COVERED IN ASH?
Many felt that the vision Dany had in the House of the Undying involving the throne room of the Red Keep was made true in Episode 5. What was previously viewed as a blanket of snow actually appeared to be ash from the destruction of King’s Landing with dragon fire...
Bran also had a vision many seasons ago, and in it he saw the shadow of a dragon darken King’s Landing, and also flashes of ash falling.