With the Night King defeated, Westeros turns to the Iron Throne.
**SPOILER WARNING: This story contains spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5.**
In the wake of Cersei killing Missandei, Game of Thrones had Daenerys one-up her, sending her charging forward on Drogon toward full Mad Queen. With Jon Snow’s claim to the Iron Throne now greater than hers, her journey toward her destiny has hit a potential roadblock, and she's no fan of waiting for others.
Season 8, Episode 5 opens with Varys writing a letter about Jon Snow’s claim to the throne. A young girl, Martha, likely one of Varys’ “little birds,” arrives to tell him that “she isn’t eating” and that her soldiers are watching.
Varys moves to greet Jon Snow upon his arrival at Dragonstone, telling him that he fears for Dany’s state of mind.
“Men decide where power resides, whether or not they know it,” Varys says before telling Jon, essentially, that he thinks Jon should be on the throne. Jon says he doesn’t want the throne and never has, and despite the fact that Varys thinks Jon would “rule wisely and well,” Daenerys is his queen.
Tyrion goes to find Daenerys, who is standing by a window overlooking the ocean, her hair unkempt. He tells her that someone has betrayed her. Daenerys contemplates the he-said-she-said of the recent episodes, which have seen everyone trying to figure out this whole rightful-ruler situation. Tyrion tries to assure her, despite her misgivings, that “it doesn’t matter now,” and that Dany is indeed the true queen. She doesn’t look convinced.
As Varys burns notes in his room, Grey Worm arrives with shackles to arrest Varys. He and his soldiers deliver Varys to the beach, where Dany, Jon, and Tyrion await him in the dark. Tyrion tells Varys that he’s the one who told Dany about Varys’ betrayal in thinking that Dany has gone mad and that Jon should be the one to sit on the throne. Tyrion and Varys bid each other goodbye, and Dany steps forward.
Daenerys sentences Varys to die, with Drogon creeping out of the shadows over her as she announces her full title. She gives the command, “dracarys,” and Drogon burns him alive, only for Jon to look on at Dany with doubt and maybe a little fear in his eyes.
Daenerys and Grey Worm then discuss Missandei, and Dany gives him the “only possession” Missandei brought with her — only for him to throw it in the fire. Jon arrives, Grey Worm leaves at Dany’s prompting, and Dany tells Jon that Varys’ death is as much Sansa’s fault as her own, since he died because Sansa told Varys about Jon (which she learned from Jon).
“I don’t have love here, only fear,” Dany says, and Jon once again professes his love for her, and tells her she’s his queen. They kiss.
Later, as Dany sits on the throne in Dragonstone’s throne room, Tyrion begs Dany not to burn Westeros and kill its inhabitants. “If you hear them ringing the bells, call off the attack,” he says, but Dany gives no implication that she plans to be merciful, and she tells Grey Worm to ready the Unsullied.
As Tyrion’s walking away, she tells him Jaime was found trying to get past their lines.
“The next time you fail will be the last time you fail me,” she tells him.
Davos meets Tyrion and Jon on land as they go to be with the soldiers ahead of the attack, and to tell them that Dany wants to attack by daybreak at the latest. Tyrion asks for a favor, though we don’t hear exactly what that favor is.
Arya and the Hound arrive supposedly near King’s Landing and tell a random soldier that they’re there to kill Cersei.
Tyrion goes to visit Jaime, who’s been captured by the Unsullied and chained up in a tent. Tyrion holds up a key and asks to know why Jaime left. He urges Jaime to work with him and then take the woman he loves and escape to Pentos, start a new life away from all this mess in Westeros.
Tyrion says he knows Dany’s forces will win the next day, but he tells Jaime to get into the city and urge the people to ring the bells and open the gates before Dany can burn the whole thing down. Jaime can save “tens of thousands of innocent lives,” Tyrion says, and he knows that Dany will kill him for setting Jaime free, but that the lives he’ll be saving if this plan works will be worth it.
The two share a beautiful brotherly moment after Tyrion sets his brother free, with Tyrion admitting Jaime was the only one who never treated him like a monster. He thanks him, they hug, and Tyrion walks away.
The next morning, Euron and Cersei’s forces prepare for battle, readying their dragon-killing arrows and taking to the walls.
The Hound and Arya walk through the streets, casual as ever, as the citizens rush to take cover. Jaime is inside the walls, too, and walks, supposedly, to accomplish his mission from Tyrion.
The Golden Company waits just outside the gates, looking out over the dry land just outside King’s Landing at Dany’s forces. Jon, Tyrion, and Davos look out over their men. Tyrion tells Jon that if the bells are being rung, that means the citizens have surrendered and that Jon should call off his men.
Cersei smiles as she looks out over the city, safe in her castle.
The Hound and Arya move quickly to be some of the last people to enter the Red Keep. Jaime is caught in the swelling crowd outside the gates and after failing to get a soldier’s attention, he cuts down a back alley.
Euron’s ships sit in the harbor and everyone looks to the sky, waiting for Dany to show up with Drogon. She dive-bombs them, dodging ballista arrows left and right and burning the ships as she goes. Drogon and Dany make it to the city’s walls and burn the ballistas on that side.
The ground troops on the opposite side of the wall stare each other down from their respective front lines, only for Drogon to burst through the city and absolutely decimate the Golden Company in one fell swoop. Dany’s troops race forward to take out the remaining members of the Golden Company, with Grey Worm taking out the Golden Company’s leader. Dany’s troops enter the city via the giant hole in the wall that Drogon created, killing Cersei’s soldiers with abandon, if not glee.
Drogon burns countless men alive. Cersei looks on, still in her castle. In the distance, she can see Drogon’s path of destruction and hear him roaring. Qyburn tells Cersei that they’re losing, and Cersei tells him “the Red Keep has never fallen, it will not fall today.” She says all they need is one good shot to kill Drogon, but it's unclear how much she actually believes it. She is not in a good place, to say the least.
Grey Worm, Jon, and Davos lead a group of soldiers to meet up with some of Cersei’s soldiers. They stare each other down, with King’s Landing’s people clearly trying to determine whether or not fighting is worth it. Tyrion stands just outside the wall, waiting and hoping that Jaime can raise the alarm.
In that moment, Drogon takes to the streets and roars at citizens, who cower in fear.
The leader of the group facing off against Jon’s men drop their swords in surrender, and they begin shouting among themselves to ring the bells to indicate surrender. Cersei can hear her people down below yelling for the bells and surrender, but she remains impassive. Dany can hear the people calling for the bells, as well, as she sits with Drogon and looks out over the city.
Tension builds, and then the bell rings. Everyone takes a deep breath. Dany, upon hearing the bells, seems overwhelmed and then infuriated. She and Drogon take off for the castle, headed directly for Cersei. Along the way, she burns city streets, killing innocent bystanders. Tyrion looks on in horror and Grey Worm, clearly understanding his queen’s command, incites a battle with the men who had surrendered moments before. Jon, horrified, demands for the soldiers to stay back, but fails at convincing most of them to stand down. There’s a lot of blood.
Drogon continues to burn the city’s streets, and Dany’s forces make their way through the streets as well, killing soldiers. Jon continues to command for his forces to stop, and Davos tries to help citizens to get to safety.
Jon walks through the streets in a daze as he witnesses the destruction, observing the innocents being slaughtered. He stops one of the soldiers on his side from raping a woman by killing him, then tells the woman to find somewhere to hide.
Drogon then makes it to the castle and commences its fiery destruction.
At the beach, Jaime finds Euron, who taunts Jaime into a fight by telling Jaime that he’s slept with Cersei. They brawl, and after a bloody fight, Euron stabs Jaime in the side with a dagger.
Qyburn tells Cersei that the Unsullied have breached the Red Keep and that they need to leave. Crying, Cersei accepts his urges that they need to leave. Wildfire explodes across the city as she takes his hand.
Jaime miraculously stands after Euron tells him he fights well “for a cripple,” and he runs Euron through, leaving him to die on the beach. Of course, Euron gets the last word, announcing to no one in particular that “I’m the man who killed Jaime Lannister,” and Jaime walks away. Always a proud idiot, that one.
The Hound and Arya have made their way to the castle. The Hound tells Arya to leave because there are already so many other ways for Cersei to die in this.
“You come with me, you die here,” he says before walking away to get his revenge.
“Sandor, thank you,” Arya says, and they share a smile before he walks away, supposedly to find the Mountain.
Speaking of the Mountain, he uses his body to cover a fleeing Cersei and protect her from the falling walls and ceilings around her. That’s where the Hound finds them, where he greets Cersei, kills her guards, and stares down his “big brother.”
Cersei commands the Mountain to stay by her side, and when Qyburn tries to stop the Mountain from leaving Cersei’s side, he kills him. Cersei walks past the Hound — she’s not really what he wants — and he watches her as he approaches the Mountain. They duel as the castle falls down around them.
That’s when Cersei finds a beaten and mortally wounded Jaime in the remains of the castle. She sobs upon seeing him, and they rush forward to hug each other. The castle continues to fall down, and they leave arm in arm.
The Cleganes continue their epic brawl, and the Hound manages to push his sword entirely through the Mountain’s body right before the Mountain pushes the Hound down the stairs. The Mountain then removes the sword from his body and tromps down the stairs like he hadn't just been run through with a blade, aiming to finish the job.
Arya makes her way through the city streets and witnesses the death and destruction Dany and her people have caused. She runs with the rest of the citizens, panicked and scared as she’s crushed beneath bodies and rushing feet. A young woman helps Arya to her feet.
At the same time, the Mountain beats on the Hound and chokes him against a wall. The Hound stabs the Mountain over and over again, and, like the zombie we all know he is, the Mountain refuses to die, even when the Hound stabs him through the eye. So, to finish the job, the Hound rushes at his brother and the two go flying through the wall and tumble into the fires below.
Jon Snow and Davos give the order to fall back and exit the city before they all die at Daenerys’ hand.
Arya, bloody and covered in dust, wakes up in the war zone after an explosion. Dazed, she stumbles through the streets, choking and coughing. She barely dodges a falling tower and pauses for a moment to catch her breath before noticing a crowd of people huddled together, including the person who saved her earlier. She urges them to move, telling them they’ll die if they stay where they are. Having regained her confidence, she leads the people to supposed safety, but when a group of Dothraki ride through, they’re stalled long enough that Drogon comes through and burns everything. We’re left to wonder if Arya was killed in the blast as well.
Jaime and Cersei make their way through the dungeons only to find the way out blocked by a cave-in. As Jaime looks for a way out, Cersei begins to panic, begging Jaime to not let her or their baby die.
“Nothing else matters,” Jaime tells her as the two stare into each other’s eyes. “Only us."
The dungeons begin to collapse, and they're crushed by the seat of power caving in on them.
Outside, as ash rains down, we find out that Arya miraculously was not killed in the flames. She stumbles to her feet, even bloodier and dustier than before, and looks out at the scene around her: buildings, rubble, and corpses alike charred and burning. Among the wreckage is a single white horse, covered in blood but miraculously uninjured. Arya approaches the horse, mounts it, and rides off.
Next week, the series finale.