It’s perhaps time to come to terms with the fact that we’re going to be arguing about Game of Thrones’ final season for a while now. It feels like once a week a new tidbit brings us back to Westeros, whether it’s an update on the publication of the next novel in the series (which will hopefully provide readers with better closure than the finale provided for watchers) or the identity of the Coffee Cup Culprit. This week is no different, with Vanity Fair breaking a story on the upcoming The Art of Game of Thrones art book.
The story contains a number of interesting easter eggs, and likely only a fraction of those available in the book, but one in particular stands out. Thrones’ greatest triumph and simultaneously its greatest failure remains the eighth season’s penultimate episode, ‘The Bells’. It’s a masterpiece in terms of bringing a big-budget cinematic flair to the small screen, but is also very much the point for Daenerys’ character development. Her villainous turn comes out of nowhere, and seems to have been prompted by… the sound of bells?
The new book suggests that there was originally meant to be more at play emotionally in that moment.
While there’s no dialogue during the scene in the show, co-showrunner D.B. Weiss has explained, “She sees the Red Keep, which is, to her, the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago. It’s in that moment, on the walls of King’s Landing, when she’s looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her, when she makes the decision to make this personal.”
While this may not have been completely clear in the episode, production art in the new book suggests the initial intent was to make this more explicit. The illustration features the Lannister lion banner flying behind the Iron Throne, visible from the outside of the throne room. Dany was, as the caption explains, supposed to be able to see it clearly from atop her dragon. This would have been the moment that pushed her over the edge.
It’s tough to say if this single moment would have fixed ‘The Bells,’ as its problems extend far beyond that one moment. However, it feels safe to say it would have clarified the single most important emotional cue in the episode, which would have gone a long way in making it less of an outright failure in terms of execution. There’s no telling why the cue from the production art didn’t carry over into the show, but at least we have some insight as to what the intent was now. Better late than never, we guess.