Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, "The Bells", has opened up big questions for next week's series finale to answer. The issue of who would win the Last War between Daenerys Targaryen and Cersei Lannister was solved in decisive fashion when the Dragon Queen unleashed her full fury and burned King's Landing to the ground.
The Battle of King's Landing went very differently than the Battle of Winterfell; this time, Daenerys used Drogon to maximum effect, wiping out Euron Greyjoy's Iron Fleet and the giant scorpion crossbows Cersei had placed all over the city. Dany also made short work of the Golden Company, clearing an easy path for Jon Snow and Grey Worm to lead the Northern Army and the Dothraki into the city. Yet, despite the ringing of the bells that signaled the Lannister surrender, Daenerys decided to show no mercy and became the Mad Queen; she literally rained fire on the city, burning buildings and people without remorse. Grey Worm, still furious over the death of Missandei, followed suit and led the Unsullied to slaughter the Lannister soldiers, to Jon Snow's horror.
Meanwhile, more personal drama unfolded in King's Landing. Jaime Lannister had to get past (and kill) Euron Greyjoy before he could reunite with Cersei, but that led to the deaths of the Lannister twins when the Red Keep collapsed on their heads. Cleganebowl was a violent brawl that resulted in both the Mountain and the Hound falling to their fiery deaths. And Arya Stark didn't attempt to kill Cersei as she planned, but after surviving Daenerys' rampage, she looks to have decided the Dragon Queen is her final target instead. With one last episode still to come, here are our biggest questions about Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5.
10. Who Did Varys Send Letters To?
At the start of Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, Varys was executed for treason by Daenerys. The Spider wasn't just trying to talk Jon Snow into pressing his claim to the Iron Throne in broad daylight, he was also busy writing and sending letters revealing the truth that Jon is really Aegon Targaryen, the true heir to the Iron Throne. Varys' letters even summarized Jon's origin story, including how Ned Stark kept the secret until his death in Game of Thrones season 1.
Who was Varys sending these letters to? The likely recipients were the remaining high lords of Westeros, such as the briefly mentioned new Prince of Dorne, and perhaps the Maesters of Oldtown. Varys wanted to rally political allegiance to Jon over Daenerys and ideally to force Jon to press his claim due to popular support. Even though Varys perished by dragonfire - fulfilling Daenerys' promise that if he ever betrayed her, she would burn him alive - his end goals may still reap his desired result.
9. Why Was Only Varys Executed And Not Sansa Or Tyrion?
Varys' treason was clear-cut, but when Daenerys confronted Tyrion about how Varys even found out Jon's secret, the Imp confessed he was the one who told the Spider. Tyrion's reasoning is that as Master of Whispers, Varys had a right to know. This was essentially Jon's rationale for telling Sansa and Arya the truth despite Daenerys begging him not to; as Jon's family, he felt they should know. But Sansa told Tyrion and, as Daenerys explained, Tyrion did exactly what Sansa expected him to do and spread the secret, all to undermine Daenerys in favor of Jon. Now, plenty of people know Jon's secret.
Daenerys is surrounded by traitors to her cause who are all working behind their back to install Jon as King (actively or otherwise). So why did only Varys pay for his treachery and not Tyrion or even Sansa or Jon? If Daenerys were the Mad Queen everyone thinks she is (and her insane father was), she probably would have had them all executed for treason too. But the short answer is Game of Thrones still needs Sansa, Jon, and Tyrion alive for the finale while Varys' time had come.
8. How Did Arya And The Hound Get Into King's Landing So Easily?
Arya and the Hound were planning to stride right into King's Landing, but they were briefly stopped by a Northern guard before the duo breezed past him on their way. However, how did they get into the city? At that point, King's Landing was locked down and fortified; the gates and walls were lined with Lannister soldiers prepared for a siege. Tyrion even recruited Davos Seaworth, "the greatest smuggler alive", to sneak his brother Jaime into the city after Tyrion freed him from captivity. Yet somehow, Arya and the Hound - the latter of whom is well known in the realm - were able to penetrate the city's defenses and stroll right into the Red Keep along with the masses seeking refuge.
7. Why Was There Wildfire In King's Landing's Destruction?
As Daenerys' dragon burned the city down with orange dragonfire in Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, there were green explosions as well. This was presumably due to the wildfire that Cersei had planted all over the city and she used to destroy the Sept of Baelor and wipe out her enemies the High Sparrow, Faith Militant, and the Tyrells in season 6. Apparently, the wildfire caches remained hidden in the city and perhaps Cersei was planning on using them to burn the city down herself before Daenerys beat her to it.
6. Are Jaime And Cersei Really Dead (& What About the Valonqar Prophecy)?
Jaime survived a brutal fight with Euron Greyjoy and reunited with his sweet sister Cersei before they both perished in the dungeons of the Red Keep when the castle collapsed on top of them both (and their unborn child). But could Jaime and Cersei have survived? After all, Jaime looked like he drowned after the Loot Train Battle in Game of Thrones season 7 but he survived that, thanks to Bronn. Of course, given the way Game of Thrones is speeding towards wrapping up the series, this looks to indeed be curtains for the Lannister twins who have been such great villains throughout the series.
While it's fitting that Jaime and Cersei died together, this demise robs fans of a couple of things they hoped to see: Cersei brought to trial for her crimes and the fulfillment of the valonqar prophecy that she would be killed by a "little brother": "When your tears have drowned you, the Valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.” The way events played out instead, Tyrion enabling Jaime to reunite with Cersei and his escape plan turning out to be what led them to their doom is, at best, a loose interpretation of the Valonqar prophecy.
5. What Was The Meaning Of Arya's White Horse?
Arya miraculously survived Daenerys fiery devastation and came upon a white horse in the middle of a King's Landing street. The Hero of Winterfell was there to kill Cersei and cross her off her list but she turned back at Sandor Clegane's urging. However, after seeing so many people die horribly and narrowly escaping death herself, Arya appears to have decided that the Queen she needs to kill is Daenerys; she rode off on the white horse like a knight, but to where?
The white horse was also an interesting visual because it recalls the white horse Khal Drogo gave Daenerys on their wedding day in Game of Thrones season 1. The white horse could represent the more innocent and hopeful version of the Dany before she turned into the Mad Queen, and perhaps the symbolism foreshadows Arya being the one to kill her.
4. Has The Iron Throne Been Destroyed?
One question that Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5 doesn't even hint at but is most certainly left dangling is whether the Iron Throne was destroyed along with the Red Keep? The infamous chair, forged by dragonfire from hundreds of swords of Aegon the Conqueror's vanquished enemies, is the titular prize of Game of Thrones. Possession of the Iron Throne and the power of the Seven Kingdoms it represents has passed from Robert Baratheon to Joffrey Baratheon to Tommen Baratheon to Cersei Lannister. Now victorious, Daenerys can finally claim the Iron Throne - but does it still exist?
Game of Thrones didn't show the Iron Throne itself get destroyed in "The Bells", so it's likely it's still standing. After all, the throne room is somewhere in the center of the Red Keep and it's mostly the towers along the castle exterior that Drogon destroyed. It won't be clear until the Game of Thrones series finale next week, but odds are Daenerys will actually get to triumphantly sit upon the Iron Throne - but for how long?
3. What Will Jon Snow Do About Daenerys?
Jon Snow has repeated that he doesn't want the Iron Throne since he discovered his true parentage, but has his street-level view of both Daenerys burning down King's Landing and Grey Worm leading the Unsullied and Dothraki to massacre the Lannister soldiers who surrendered change that? Jon already showed Daenerys his doubts about her even before the Battle of King's Landing, which helped her decide that ruling though fear would be the course of action she would take. But now Jon has seen what that looks like - and so has Arya.
So, is Jon Snow going to declare himself Aegon Targaryen and press his hereditary claim to the Iron Throne? Will Arya take Jon's or someone else's face to try to kill Daenerys? Is all of this destined to end in bloodshed between a Stark, a Targaryen, and Jon, who is both?
2. Will The North Rise Up Against Daenerys?
If Jon presses his claim to the Iron Throne in the Game of Thrones series finale, the North will surely rally behind him, especially since Sansa has stated she believes Jon is "better" than Daenerys (and so do others). Sansa will likely convince Lord Royce to send the Knights of the Vale and the Northern Army is already with Jon at King's Landing. Jon's soldiers were spared a prolonged conflict because Dany burned down the city and won so decisively - but that just means the Northmen have lived to fight the Unsullied and Dothraki (not to mention Drogon) if Jon challenges Dany.
If the North rises up behind Jon, it means the final episode of Game of Thrones will be a reboot of Robert's Rebellion, with the North trying to unseat a Mad Targaryen - only this time to place a different Targaryen on the Iron Throne.
1. How Will Game of Thrones End?
With only one final 90-minute episode to wrap up Game of Thrones, many fans are dreading an unsatisfying ending. Despite the many deaths in season 8, plenty of major characters are still alive and fans hope their stories get some kind of closure. Have we really seen the last of Sam Tarly, Tormund Giantsbane, and Ghost? Will Bronn claim Highgarden, his supposed prize from Tyrion now that Daenerys won? Do Brienne and Podrick have anything left to do in the series? Does Bran Stark still have a role to play as the Three-Eyed Raven? Who will finally sit on the Iron Throne? And who will live and who will die? These are all questions fans hope to receive good answers to in the final episode of Game of Thrones ever.
Game of Thrones' series finale airs Sunday, May 19th at 9pm on HBO.