The dust hasn’t really settled after “The Bells”, “Game of Thrones”‘ penultimate and perhaps its most horrifying (and fan-splitting) episode ever. I haven’t stopped thinking about it, and during a conversation with my beautiful girlfriend I came upon an observation that really made me think.
Naturally, what comes now has some heavy spoilers regarding the episode, so read only if you’ve already seen it.
There is one very simple reason I could see why the dragon’s attack was particularly horrifying. It’s not (just) the fact that Dany is killing innocent people, as we’ve seen that before more than once.
The trick the episode did to make us feel so horrified and unsafe was a simple but extremely effective one, and it’s in the editing.
We’ve seen Dany ride Drogon into battle and burn people alive many, many times before. Hell, we’ve seen it happen even when the characters at the receiving end of the stream of fire were characters we loved (like Bronn or Jaime last season). This very episode we saw Dany ride Drogon to destroy the Iron Fleet and the Scorpions and the Golden Company. And that’s just the thing: we saw Dany do it.
But here’s when the episode made a twist: the moment Dany goes full Mad Queen and decides to burn them all…we no longer see her.
Every other time we’ve seen Dany go crazy with Drogon, the camera has put us as an audience right behind her, giving us a sense of safety — like we’re in the safe, winning team who has a dragon.
By never again showing Dany and Drogon, they turn the dragon into a faceless, horrifying monster. We as an audience no longer feel safe. Dany and Drogon are suddenly an enemy that is more than capable and willing to burn us alive. It’s such a simple change and editing trick that dramatically changes the way we see and feel a scene, and an absolutely brilliant touch.
Anyway, despite the fact that the season’s short length has taken an understandable toll on the pacing, I’ve enjoyed this season immensely because of how awful it’s constantly made me feel, and this episode was probably the most death metal of all. I can’t wait to feel even more like shit next week.