The week’s penultimate episode of Game of Thrones is called “The Bells” because of the bells that ring throughout King’s Landing to signal the city’s surrender. Because the people of King’s Landing clearly caught the Mother of Dragons on a bad day, Daenerys decides to burn them all to a crisp anyway, surrender or no surrender. However, there’s a pretty big question lingering over this episode, and that’s who is responsible for ringing the bells in the first place? It’s certainly not Cersei, who sits idly by in the Red Keep despite hearing the cries of the city’s people and her soldiers to surrender. So, is it Jaime? Did he manage to pull off one last act of heroism before rushing off to attempt to save his sister’s life?
If anyone can do it, then why did it seem like everyone was waiting for Cersei to give an order to ring the bells?
Sadly, unless series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss decide to answer this question off screen, there’s no scene within the show that reveals who actually rings the bells. In fact, we don’t even know how the ringing of the bells works — is there a particular access point, or can anyone do it? And if anyone can do it, then why did it seem like everyone was waiting for Cersei to give an order to ring the bells? If you decide to surrender to an invading enemy, then surely there’s no need to ask for permission from your soon-to-be-dethroned queen.
Here’s what we do know: Tyrion is the one who tries to convince Daenerys not to burn the city if she hears the bells ring. He then orchestrates Jaime’s escape and tells his brother to ring the bells of surrender before he heads off to whisk Cersei away to parts unknown. We watch that plan fall apart rather quickly as the Kingslayer is delayed in his attempts to reach the Red Keep and then finds himself in a random fight with Euron Greyjoy. Still, he is missing long enough to make it plausible that he’s the one who does the actual ringing. As the former Commander of the Kingsguard, he would know how to access the tower, and if there’s a guard stationed there, his golden hand would surely give him enough clout to order that person to stand down.
Again, the show doesn’t offer up enough context surrounding the protocol to give a definitive answer. The one thing we know for sure is that plenty of people were begging for the bells to be rung in order to save the city. And while Cersei made no move to attempt to save her people, someone in that crowd — Jaime, a soldier, or maybe just one of the small folk — does everything they can to avoid bloodshed. Unfortunately, like Cersei before her, Daenerys chose violence despite having literally every other option at her disposal and the city at her feet, making the actions of the brave person who tried to stop the siege all for naught in the end.