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Game of Thrones: What The Bells In King’s Landing Meant BEFORE Season 8


Game of Thrones season 8 featured Daenerys’ attack on King’s Landing, with the bells supposed to mean surrender – but that wasn’t always the case.

When the army of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) launched its attack on King’s Landing in Game of Thrones season 8, the sound of the bells was supposed to represent surrender; however, that’s not what it meant before the final season of the show. Game of Thrones season 8 proved to be extremely controversial for a number of major storytelling decisions, and chief among them was the villainous turn of Daenerys. Having been setup over the first seven seasons as one of the two main heroes of the show, alongside Kit Harington’s Jon Snow, Daenerys made a sudden turn into the so-called “Mad Queen” following The Long Night.

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Having lost those closest to her, including Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen), Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), and her dragon Rhaegal, it was understandable that she’d want to enact revenge on the enemies she had left. And while there had been glimpses of a darker side to the Khaleesi, few would’ve protected the fiery display she set upon King’s Landing in season 8, episode 5, “The Bells”. Fully unleashing Drogon, she rained her fury down upon the citizens of the city, including those who were innocent, and didn’t stop even when the bells rang out to signal surrender.

Related: Game of Thrones: Why The Books’ Ending Will Still Be Controversial

The bells had been such a big talking point, with Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) extremely confident that Daenerys would heed the signal, that the episode was even named after them. But while the bells here meant surrender, that conflicts with a previous mention of them in Game of Thrones. In season 9, episode 9, “Blackwater”, Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham) responds to the ringing of the bells in King’s Landing by saying: “I’ve never known the bells to mean surrender.” While that doesn’t definitively mean that bells can’t mean surrender, it does make it a stranger choice, especially given how much the episode rests on the bells. In that same episode, Varys (Conleth Hill) notes: “I’ve always hated the bells. They ring for horror … a dead king, a city under siege.” Tyrion offers up “a wedding” as another reason, but again there’s no mention of surrender.

What The Bells Ringing In King’s Landing Will Mean In The Books

Daenerys and King's Landing Burned

Whether or not it’s a total plot hole, lazy writing, or the reality is that the bells can be used for any purpose, since they’re about as distinguishable a signal as possible in King’s Landing, it is interesting that they’re noteworthy not only in “The Bells”, but also “Blackwater”, which was written by George R.R. Martin himself. Martin often likes to foreshadow elements, and it seems plausible that the bells will have a deeper meaning in the books. Daenerys’ turn will likely happen there too, but it’ll be under different circumstances, with the most likely option being that she attacks a King’s Landing ruled by Aegon Targaryen, who may or may not be a pretender.

By his side will be Jon Connington, who had once been the Hand of the King to Aerys II Targaryen. Connington went into exile after losing the Battle of the Bells to Robert Baratheon (played in the show by Mark Addy), a key defeat as part of Robert’s Rebellion. It was named for the bells that rang out at the Stoney Sept, warning of the battle. It’s likely, then, that the bells in King’s Landing will be a trigger for Jon Connington in the books, because that remains one of his greatest failures, and something that changed his life for the worse. The bells ringing could spark a madness inside him, leading to a major event or terrible decision as Daenerys and Aegon prepare for a second coming of the Dance of the Dragons.

Since Martin outlined some of the books’ ending to Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, then it is possible this is something he mentioned to them. They obviously cut Aegon Targaryen and Jon Connington from the show, but the idea of the bells is the kind of thing that they may have felt was memorable and iconic enough to translate in their own way. Thus the bells rang for surrender and show Daenerys’ shift, regardless of whether that fully works or not.

Next: Game Of Thrones’ Ending & Real Meaning Explained (In Detail)

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