You know the drill: This post contains spoilers for Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones. Stop reading now if you don’t want me to be the one to tell you what the Hound said to the Mountain.

She had to destroy the city in order to save it.

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke)'s not unfamiliar strategy had to have blown most of whatever’s left of Game of Thrones’ special-effects budget on the show’s penultimate episode, 80 action-packed minutes of a woman with a pet dragon having a royal hissy fit.

(I hope that doesn’t sound sexist. Her late brother was the king of the royal hissy fits. As was, from what we’ve heard, their father before him.)

And, sure, there was something wonderful and terrible to behold as she and her Drogon rained terror down on King’s Landing, but all those pyrotechnics — and the resulting ash — couldn’t obscure how mechanical this drama has become as it heads into next week’s finale.

I’m tired of blaming the characters for their poor choices. They are enslaved by the writers, who seem to have lost interest in anything but making sure this thing lands safely.

As if we all watched Game of Thrones to feel safe.

For those who primarily watch for the elimination rounds, the season’s fifth episode dispatched a number of major characters, not to mention most of a medium-sized city.

The death toll included the patriotic traitor Lord Varys (Conleth Hill), who got the Dracarys treatment from Drogon, as well as incestuous twins Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey); Sandor “The Hound” Clegane (Rory McCann) and his brother, Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane (Hafpor Julius Bjornsson); Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbaek); Qyburn (Anton Lesser); and whatever was left of Daenerys’ soul.

Oh, and maybe, just possibly Jon Snow/Aegon Targaryen (Kit Harington). Or not. (I don’t actually believe this, but feel I should acknowledge the possibility, just in case that was his sword attached to his corpse.)

Tyrion (Peter Dinklage), now the last of the Lannisters, seems to have backed a winner, but that realization is unlikely to bring him joy.

I’d like to think the Tyrion we used to know would have seen this coming. The seeds of Dany’s derangement were sown long ago, and if they seem to have grown into an entire mad forest in these final episodes, that’s not nearly as surprising as, say, how well Euron was able to speak after being run through with a sword.

But with Cersei dead, Dany triumphant, Jon possibly once again dead or not-dead — if so, he is the Schrodinger’s cat of fantasy characters — I’m not sure what we can hope for from next week’s 80 minutes.

That the Iron Throne has miraculously been melted into plowshares?

That Drogon, who’s now doing the work of three dragons, will go on strike?

That Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) moves Dany to the top of her little list?

Other thoughts on the episode:

  • I was never so happy during this episode as when Jon insisted they wait till daybreak till the attack, and I could finally see at least some of what was happening.
  • We got to see what was under The Mountain’s Darth Vader mask, and predictably, it was not pretty.
  • The Hound’s speech to Arya about the high cost of revenge was lovely, and effective, but seems like something he could have said, say, before they set out from Winterfell. (Oh, and what The Hound said to the Mountain? “Hello, big brother.”)
  • Director Miguel Sapochnik’s cuts between the Hound’s fight for survival and Arya’s were spectacular.
  • I don’t understand why the anti-dragon weapons that worked so well before were so easily taken out this time. Oh, right. Because the writers needed them to be.
  • I’d honestly lost track of whether or not Cersei was pregnant or just pretending to be pregnant, and while it sounds as if she really was, I’m still not sure. (How long has Jaime been away?) In any case, costume designer Michele Clapton gave her a terrific dress to die in. I’ll truly miss Cersei’s eye for fashion.