We received an email from HBO about a production error in the most recent episode of Game of Thrones, entitled “The Last of the Starks.” It reads:
In response to inquiries from those who saw a craft services coffee cup in Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, HBO states, “The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea.”
This is what we’ve come to with this show.
And yet, there was one moment of absolute tension. Daenerys (Emilia Clarke), down two dragons, most of her army and nearly all her seaworthy fleet, marches on King’s Landing to demand Cersei’s (Lena Headly) unconditional surrender. Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) is sent to deliver his Queen’s message. He is met by Qyburn (Anton Lesser), but forgoes sparing verbally with him to tell his sister it is better to stop now than unleash the chaos the Dragon Queen is already planning. In that moment, something harrowing and brilliant could have occurred. Cersei could have killed the lot. Daenerys, Tyrion, the captive Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson), Varys (Conleth Hill), the remaining Unsullied and Drogon. It would’ve been an astounding reversal of fortune as Cersei is, for the most part, outmatched should the Prince of Indecision and his wise advisers marshal the other six kingdoms against the Lannister order. But in this scene, she has the upper hand and it seems as though she might use it. Instead, she just orders the Mountain to lop off Missandei’s head, letting all that tension pass away.
Nonetheless, we’re holding onto that one moment when she almost unleashed her arrows on her brother and his Queen. It may be the last bit of legit tension before the end.
It is no secret Game of Thrones has turned. After seven years of telling us the coming war with the Army of the Dead was important, the show’s producers scrapped this idea in favor of making the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms the most important element of the story. We were already uncertain after last week’s episode, “The Long Night” and its abandonment of the program’s mystical elements like the Prince who was Promised, Bran’s Three-Eyed Raven scheming, and even the Lord of Light. This week came close to proving the heroes of Winterfell (except maybe Arya) deserved to be overwhelmed by the Night King.
Of course, that could just be us. We were invested in Dany learning the truth about power and breaking the wheel. Sadly, the show seems invested in turning her into another Cersei — a power mad, emotional fool of a woman who should not be anywhere near the seat of power. It smacks of a certain misogyny — one which creeps out in genre stories when the engine runs out of steam and the writers just don’t know what to do. The cleverness gives way to hoary old cliches and here, we see, a recurring canard about women drivers. It is absolutely unsettling and an increasing betrayal of both characters. Cersei should be mad, of course. We like her mad, in fact. But the increasing instability of Dany, particularly after the hard lessons she learned ruling Meereen, makes the entire endeavor with her seem more pointless than we she was in Qarth asking about her dragons. Unless they can wrap this around in some ingenious way — like making Varys the hero who breaks the wheel — the show is now actively pitching for the Prince of Indecision to sit the Iron Throne. And that is a drab idea.
For the moment, though, let’s pour some wine out for Missandei, Raeghal, who survived only to be sacrificed in this week’s only true shock, and Ghost. He survived the Battle of Winterfell only to be banished to the True North with Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and the other Wildlings despite the “stronger together” theme of the previous seasons. Unless it’s a huge dodge and the Wildlings will become a surprise cavalry during the fight next week, Game of Thrones is headed towards a dour ending in which nothing is learned and the world wheels on as it did before.
If it was more artfully done, that would be a worthy and sad ending.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO.