Daenerys’ invasion of King’s Landing in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones was going to be explosive — she’s riding Drogon into battle and driven to destroy Cersei, after all — but an old treat made the whole thing even more … vibrant.
[Ed. note: this post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, “The Bells”]
Anytime there’s a big battle in King’s Landing, you can always expect wildfire to be a part of it and Dany’s invasion of the city in episode 5, “The Bells,” is no exception. As the city started to burn, red fire mixed with explosions of green fire all throughout the city.
Wildfire is a highly flammable liquid that can be set off by the slightest spark. Once it starts burning its flames are a bright green color. The flame burns until all of the wildfire is gone.
The first time we see wildfire in Game of Thrones was all the way back in season 2. When King’s Landing faced a seemingly unstoppable assault from the navy of Stannis Baratheon, Tyrion — then Hand to King Joffrey — ordered the alchemists of King’s Landing to make up a massive batch of wildfire that could be spread through Blackwater Bay and set on fire. The ships in the Blackwater burn and King’s Landing is saved.
The next time wildfire made an appearance was in the final episode of season 6, when Cersei used it to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor with all of her greatest political enemies trapped inside.
Cersei’s destruction of King’s Landing’s most holy buildings also served as a mirror to a plot that we only caught glimpses of in the show: Aerys II Targargyen, the Mad King’s plot to blow up the city. Like Cersei, Aerys felt trapped by Robert Baratheon’s encroaching army and when he knew he had lost to the rebels, he ordered that the city be blown up with wildfire, but Jaime Lannister killed him before the order could leave the room, saving the city.
Perhaps the largest question about wildfire this time around is whether it was intentional or not. It’s hard not to see the parallels in Cersei’s situation in “The Bells,” and the one she faced back in season 6. Once again, she’s more or less trapped in the Red Keep, and she knows that the enemy, this time Daenerys, has the upper hand. It’s not hard to image that Cersei would want the city to go up in smoke when Dany invaded, but she probably didn’t expect Dany to do so much of the work for her by having Drogon strafe the streets with fire as well.
Ultimately though, whether the wildfire was set up by Cersei, or the explosions were simply pots left over from some other time, it was Dany that destroyed King’s Landing and the people inside — but the wildfire certainly didn’t help.