This story includes details from Game of Thrones season 8, episode 5, “The Bells.”
HBO aired the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones last night (May 12) to a bitterly divided audience. Some argued that Daenerys Targaryen’s transformation into a genocidal maniac was completely unearned, others thought it was actually a long time coming.
But one thing everyone agreed on was a narrative inconsistency that epitomized Game of Thrones‘ rushed six-episode final season. In particular, no one has any idea where all those Dothraki came from.
In the season’s third episode, viewers watched as, one by one, all of the Dothraki—an army of wild, nomadic horse riders loyal to Daenerys—were killed by the White Walkers. “What they see is just the end of the Dothraki essentially,” co-creator David Benioff said in a behind-the-scenes video for the episode. Eulogies were written. The Dothraki were no more.
Just two episodes later, however, the horsemen were inexplicably back, as if respawned from a video game. There was no logic to it. They were dead one minute, then leading the murderous charge through King’s Landing the next.
In isolation, one of these types of storytelling inconsistencies does not ruin a TV show—especially one that already requires you suspend your disbelief and accept a world of fire-breathing dragons, zombified soldiers, and Peter Dinklage’s weird British accent. But due in part to the show’s abbreviated six-episode season (and no longer having the benefit of George R.R. Martin’s book series to guide it), Game of Thrones has been marred by so many illogicalities and narrative contrivances that it’s become a distraction.
Take the dragon nonsense. In last week’s episode, Euron Greyjoy and his Iron Fleet were able to easily fell one of Dany’s dragons with several strikes from a large crossbow. Why Dany flew her dragons directly into the fleet was unclear. (Did she not see the many dozen ships? Why not approach from the side, or behind, or go around?) Her decision is easier to understand when you realize the show had to eliminate one of her remaining dragons to make the upcoming assault on King’s Landing more of a fair fight.
Which makes said assault all the more confounding. This time, Dany and her last dragon, Drogon, were able to evade those same large crossbows with ease and lay waste to the city and everyone in it. It was no contest. Where was this dragon carnage before? How was Dany able to conquer an entire city with one dragon, but failed to win so many previous battles with three of them?
Or how about Euron? Not only does he survive Drogon laying waste to to his fleet, but he happens to wash ashore at the precise spot and time when Jaime Lannister is walking by to set up a battle between the two. Moments later, this contrived fight is over, and Euron is dead. We hardly knew ye. (No, really, we hardly knew him. He came and went without doing a whole lot of anything aside from being a foil for Jaime.)
Most of these issues can be blamed on the show’s frenetic pace in its final few seasons. After an unhurried, calculated start, the show has abandoned all efforts to marinate in the story and instead flash-fried Westeros to death. Martin has reportedly told Benioff and co-creator D.B. Weiss how he intends to finish his book series (which, at this point, may never happen), but they’re now flying without a map. The result is that they forgot they killed all the Dothraki already.