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“The Bells” is the 71st best episode of Game of Thrones, as voted on by IMDb users. Put another way, it’s the third worst episode of the series. In the season eight episode, Daenerys Targaryen goes full girlboss and, with some help from her dragon Drogon, destroys King’s Landing. It was the most-watched episode of Thrones ever (until the equally confounding series finale), but the reception was so mixed that the cast and crew tried to defend the muddled motivation behind Daenerys’ heel-turn — and failed.
It would be a reasonable assumption — understandable even! — that everyone associated with Game of Thrones would want to sweep “The Bells” under the proverbial rug and never discuss it again. But the episode came up during a recent Empire magazine interview with House of the Dragon co-showrunner Ryan J. Condal.
“Daenerys resurrected this idea that, when you’re the only person in the world with nuclear weapons, you can either be a force for peace, or you can be a tyrant,” he said about the connection between “The Bells” and the prequel series. “The line between those two things is very thin. That’s definitely something this show will explore.”
Miguel Sapochnik, who directed “The Bells” and oversees House of the Dragon with Condal, also talked about the debate over the episode.
[For Sapochnik], the divided reaction and backlash around Daenerys’ devastation of the kingdom hasn’t factored into how they’ve approached this show; there’ll be no playing it safe, and no easy endings “Life doesn’t end the way you want it to!” Sapochnik told Empire. “I think we very much wanted to pay attention to not that.” Condal agrees: “It doesn’t really factor in at all. I think the minute you as a creator start playing defense, you’re just taking the ground from beneath your feet. Should we be so lucky to have such a large and passionate fanbase that will debate our show! I think that in itself is a sign of success.”
House of the Dragon premieres on August 21.