The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, titled “The Bells,” was intense, to say the least. The titular bells did indeed ring, signifying the surrender of King’s Landing, only for Daenerys to go full Mad Queen and blast the entire city and all its inhabitants to ashes anyway. Although the episode was jam-packed with major deaths, reunions, confrontations, and rampant carnage, there were also plenty of subtler moments on Season 8, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones you might've missed.
It's understandable if you didn't catch these quieter moments, considering there was a lot of events going on that probably caught your attention instead (hello, dragon devastation!). So in case you were too distracted, overwhelmed, or just plain blinded by rage and frustration to spot the smaller takeaways from the episode, here’s a list of crucial things that occurred in “The Bells" you may have missed upon first viewing. Beware: major spoilers ahead.
1. Varys was probably trying to poison Daenerys
Early in the episode, a little girl Varys called “Martha” entered his chambers to report that Dany "won’t eat.” Varys sighed and said, “We’ll try again at supper.” One could assume that Varys was simply concerned about Daenerys’ health — even though that’s a bit of a stretch, considering that he was in the middle of trying to covertly maneuver Jon onto the throne — until Martha voiced her fears that the soldiers were watching her, and Varys reminded her that, “the greater the risk, the greater the reward.” As there wouldn't be much danger in simply trying to persuade the Queen to eat a well-balanced meal, Varys and Martha’s goals were likely much more sinister.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise when you remember that Varys had been trying to poison Daenerys since Season 1, when he sent the wine merchant to do his dirty work. Sure, he took a break for a little while, in the hopes that Dany would prove to be the wise and benevolent ruler he’d longed to serve, but as soon as he realized that there was a better option, the Spider turned right back to his old tricks, deploying his little birds.
2. Daenerys' talks with Tyrion and Jon foreshadow a confrontation with Sansa
Despite the fact that Varys was the one executed for treason and King’s Landing was the city that burned in Sunday's episode, Daenerys still seems to have her sights set on Sansa in Winterfell. She accused both her Hand and her lover/nephew/army commander of having divided loyalties before issuing barely-veiled threats should they chose to side with Sansa over her. She spoke to Jon like she was already in a war with Sansa, telling him that Varys’ death constituted a victory for Jon's sister, and saying that if the truth about him being a Targaryen got out, it'd be a threat to her own reign.
While Sansa is currently nowhere near King’s Landing, this seems to point to a showdown between the two women in the GoT finale. In a way, given Dany’s blunt-force approach to ruling and strategizing, it makes sense that of all the Starks, the one she fears the most isn’t the loyal one whose blood can challenge her claim to the throne, or the scary one who has trained as an assassin. Instead, it's the smart one who has seen through her from the moment she stepped foot in Winterfell.
3. Varys may have spread Jon's secret far and wide
The first time we saw Varys sending out notes is after a daytime meal, and when Grey Worm came to arrest him, it was deep into the night, and he was still at it. If he sent out missives for hours, the truth that Daenerys so desperately wants to keep hidden has probably already spread far beyond her ability to snuff it out.
Who Varys was contacting is anyone’s guess, but there are still at least a few Grey Houses left (most notably Yara Greyjoy, who has reclaimed the Iron Islands), as well as the Maesters at the Citadel, who will probably be very interested to learn that Rhaegar Targaryen left a legitimate heir.
4. There was a blink-and-you-miss-it football star cameo
He wasn't visible for long, but Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers showed up briefly as a member of the Golden Company, the mercenaries Cersei hired to help defend King’s Landing. Unfortunately for the athlete, the Golden Company were among the first to fall, so the odds of his character returning for the finale were probably burnt to a crisp by Drogon.
5. Bran had visions of this episode long ago
Way back in Season 4, Bran touched a weirwood tree and saw a vision of, among other things, an ash-covered Iron Throne, sitting in the roofless Great Hall of the Red Keep, and a dragon’s shadow flying over King’s Landing. We now know that this shadow belonged to Drogon, and while we have yet to see the Great Hall post-destruction, it seems pretty safe to assume that it looks pretty close to Bran’s vision.
Bran received a similar vision in Season 6, but this time the images of Drogon over King’s Landing were intercut with snippets of Dany herself, along with Aerys yelling “Burn them all!” It all seems a little on-the-nose now, but back then, with all the focus on the White Walkers and Cersei, it was easy to miss the foreshadowing.
6. Drogon ignited the wildfire planted decades before by King Aerys
After Qyburn convinced Cersei to flee the Red Keep and head to a safer location, the camera panned out over the devastation of the city, and we could see flashes of green amidst the raging orange flames. This was the wildfire that Daenerys’s father, "Mad King" Aerys Targaryen, had hidden all over King’s Landing and intended to ignite when Tywin Lannister sacked the city, with Aerys thinking he would rise from the ashes as a dragon. In order to save the people of King’s Landing from a fiery fate, Jaime Lannister assassinated Aerys, earning him the nickname “Kingslayer.”
In “The Bells,” Aerys’s wildfire finally burned, the Lannisters — including Jaime — fell, and Aerys’s daughter soared over it all on a dragon, finally bringing her father’s dark plot to fruition.
7. Daenerys also once envisioned the ash-covered Iron Throne — and it ended in her own death
In Season 2, when Daenerys visited the House of the Undying, she had a vision in which she walked through the same ash-covered Great Hall that Bran saw in Season 4, complete with the torn-off roof. In her vision, she turned away from the Iron Throne (without touching it), walked outside toward a sound that could either have been a baby’s cry or a young dragon’s screeching, and came across a tent with her deceased husband Drogo and baby Rhaego inside. When she saw them, she mused, “Maybe I am dead and I just don’t know it yet.”
Ultimately, Dany wound up turning away from Drogo and Rhaego and returning to her life. Still, her vision could have foreshadowed that after burning King’s Landing, she'll come close to the Iron Throne but die before she ever gets a chance to touch it.
8. The way Cersei and Jaime died nods to the valonqar prophecy
Fans of the GoT books have long speculated that the valonqar prophecy, which was given to Cersei as a little girl and predicted her eventual death, meant that she would ultimately meet her end at the hands of one of her brothers. The prophecy states that, “when your tears have drowned you, the valonqar shall wrap his hands about your pale white throat and choke the life from you.”
Turns out, neither Jaime nor Tyrion ended up killing Cersei — but there was still a small nod to the prophecy in the scene where the Lannister twins got crushed by falling debris. Right before the ceiling collapsed on them, and after Cersei cried, Jaime placed his hand on her neck, fulfilling the first two-thirds of the prophecy.
9. Arya’s white horse could've been Bran
It was a little odd when a white horse appeared from nowhere at the end of the episode to carry Arya Stark to safety, but there may have been a good reason it happened. A lot of fans are speculating that Bran may have warged into the horse in order to help his sister get out of King’s Landing alive. While this is just a theory (for now), it doesn’t seem like that much of a stretch that Bran would have observed the sacking of King’s Landing from the vantage point of a horse, considering that he spent most of the Battle of Winterfell warging into birds.
10. Olenna Tyrell saw all of this coming
Back in Season 7, when Daenerys was plotting how best to take control of King's Landing with the help of Yara Greyjoy, Ellaria Sand, Olenna Tyrell, and Tyrion Lannister, she refused to attack the city with her dragons, telling her council that she was "not here to be Queen of the Ashes." Although Yara and Ellaria felt as though the civilian casualties that would result from such a siege were a fair price to pay for the Iron Throne, Daenerys shut down their squabbling, insistent that she maintain the moral high ground over Cersei.
Olenna, forever 10 steps ahead, immediately pushed back on Dany's idealism, telling her that if she wanted to win, it was not love she needed to cultivate, but fear. Although it's unlikely Dany's actions in "The Bells" were precisely what Olenna had in mind, her pivot toward fear tactics and willingness to slaughter innocents in order to seize power show that, even in death, Olenna Tyrell is still always right.