Game Of Thrones Is Falling Apart

Game Of Thrones Is Falling Apart
Image: HBO / IMDB

After spending eight seasons building up world-ending threats of the undead and their necromancer leader, a summoner capable of birthing literal death, and the immutable power of three fully-grown dragons, the biggest threat left in the Game of Thrones universe is now a lack of common sense.

There’s only two episodes remaining, and yesterday’s episode (The Last of the Starks) illustrated just how much time has been wasted in Winterfell already. Fair warning: what follows will be a straight up spoiler discussion of the full season proper, so if you’re holding out for the latest episode, make sure you watch that first.

game of thrones is falling apart hbo

With the battle for the soul of Westeros done and dusted, courtesy of a Night King whose background and history is still completely unknown because he never spoke a single world, The Last of the Starks turned its attention to “the last war”, as Daenerys aptly put it.

But in between the seventh season and now, Daenerys’ advantage has all but completely vanished thanks to HBO’s greatest deus ex machina, Euron.

game of thrones final season euron

Instead of finding some meaningful way to equalise the battle between King’s Landing and Daenerys’s pet fire breathers, the show has decided that ballistae are actually good enough to out dragons after all, even though they proved largely ineffective when Daenerys and the Dothraki attacked in season 7.

Ignoring one of the tenets of the books – where dragons can really only be killed with a shot to the eye, because their hide and scales are so thick – stacking the walls of King’s Landing with ballistae like that one arsehole at an Age of Empires LAN party is apparently sufficient to completely neutralise one of the most long-standing threats to the Seven Kingdoms over the last six seasons.

I can understand the narrative necessity behind Euron acting as a counterweight. The show doesn’t have enough time to develop a more clever way of levelling the battlefield, and the prospect of King’s Landing being able to survive an assault from two dragons, even with the skilled mercenaries of The Golden Company, is totally absurd.

So like the Night King, whose threat has completely vanished and was afforded no development, the dragons had to go.

But the least they deserved was a valiant death.

game of thrones final season bronn ballistae Image: HBO / IMDB

Firstly, why did the Northern forces fail to utilise Bran’s expertise? Could someone not have asked him to scout ahead? It’s not like the Night King is going to come for him. And there’s bugger all Cersei can do about a few crows or ravens, even if Euron is savvy enough to figure out he’s being watched (ravens randomly flying over a fleet of ships would probably look a bit out of place).

It’s not entirely clear why the forces split up to begin with, either. It was made clear that the two armies would mount an assault together, and the Northern forces were aware of Euron’s alliance (and naval support) beforehand. They weren’t planning to attack first from the sea as a distraction, or mount a large scale beach landing. Why expose half your force, which cannot be reinforced in a pinch, to one of the greatest naval commanders in the Seven Kingdoms and arguably the most efficient and lethal naval crew?

And all that aside, does it seem logical that Daenerys would have absolutely zero vision of the ships below, while being exposed enough to ballistae fire? The ships might have been hidden behind a rock, but both parties obviously have line of sight. If the ballistae, which is stuck on the deck of the ship, has an angle from behind the rock to fire, then surely the sails have to be visible too.

There’s the ballistae itself, too. The traditional maximum range of a wartime ballistae was around 500 metres, with its effective range being substantially less. Daenerys and the dragons were in complete view of Euron’s fleet when they fired, meaning that the dragons couldn’t have been flying at an altitude high enough to disrupt visibility. Even if we’re generous and say the ballistae’s maximum range has been expanded to a kilometre courtesy of Qyburn’s pseudo-scientific bullshit, most people are capable of seeing something a kilometre away. Size 14 font, maybe not, but colours, basic shapes, the outline of a giant fleet, definitely.

(There’s also the part where the ballistae are somehow powerful enough to shoot a projectile at a speed that can match the dragons, which raises the question of how the ships are able to support all that weight in the first place. But we’re never going to get small details like that with two episodes remaining.)

And wouldn’t the dragons have some kind of sensory advantage themselves? They’re intelligent creatures of their own right, as established in GoT lore, and the series has long set out their capacity to understand human commands (like dracarys). They’re just not savvy enough to have any threat perception, even after the near-death experience of being swarmed by the Night King’s forces. (Even in the episode, Daenerys has to navigate Drogon away from danger after Rhaegal drops out of the sky – Drogon doesn’t react on its own.)

With no aerial reconnaissance, no ability to assist in the fight and stuck with half the forces necessary – because the bizarre tactical decision to split in two, rather than proceeding by land as a single force not exposed to Euron’s navy – one of the series’ greatest magical threats is now a complete irrelevance.

If all you need to knock some fully-grown dragons out of the sky was better, bigger bits of wood, how did Aegon conquer the Seven Kingdoms in the first place?

And that’s not even factoring in the obvious haste at which the story is trying to wrap up. Bronn’s appearance in season eight, thus far, has been: have sex with some prostitutes, get interrupted mid-coitus, travel alone all the way from King’s Landing to the north, pass unnoticed through the Northern forces – even though he fought against the dragons and Dothraki in season 7 – only to discover Tyrion and Jaime in the same room, ready to bargain.

Is no-one going to spot Bronn as he wanders out? Tyrion has always had an affection for Bronn’s mercenary behaviour, but Bronn also hasn’t been paid by Jaime or Tyrion for eons. How does he intend to hold them to his word? More likely, the subplot existed solely as a motivator to get Jaime to return to King’s Landing via Cersei’s death threats.

Also: let’s just enjoy, for a moment, the fact that Bronn was sent to the North to assassinate two Lannisters with a weapon that he explicitly said was too slow to reload in seasons prior. I’m not saying Qyburn can’t have made improvements, but not addressing something that a character already complained about is indicative of how many details are ending up on the cutting room floor.

game of thrones final season war room Image: HBO / IMDB

The reality is that the show is running out of time. There’s no space left for proper character or strategical development, so anything without a clean answer needs to be resolved in as efficient a manner as possible, no matter the cost. There’s nowhere to include Euron’s broader backstory, where he journeys out into the far seas and returns with all manner of Eldritch-esque artifacts, plays around with the apocalypse, and just generally serves as one of the most menacing characters in the Seven Kingdoms. Cersei mentions the Kraken directly in the previous episode, and there was a hint of Eldritch madness quoted in season 6 when Euron was first introduced (where Balon asks if Euron’s men tied him to the mast to stop him from jumping overboard).

We’re not going to get a Kraken in the next two episodes. But can you imagine if some of the time wasted in the first two episodes had been spent on the mystical side of Euron – and the summoning of a Kraken was what took down Rhaegal?

That’s a fitting death. It’s certainly better than watching a mythical beast get -20 to its plot armour.

But the show only has time for convenience. It’s why Arya was able to run past a literal horde of zombies in a corridor to somehow sneak behind the Night King in the Godswood. Or how Jorah Mormont is able to break through the wights (after having been forced to retreat from the failed cavalry advance) to support Daenerys when she dismounts.

Or why Cersei, who used wildfire to immolate thousands of civilians and all her enemies in the Red Keep, doesn’t just immediately obliterate Tyrion upon realising he’s still alive after sending Bronn to assassinate him. They don’t have a huge force outside the gates, there’s no dragons. It’s literally free kills for Cersei at that point – she’s hyper-arrogant, to be sure, but she’s also not one to look a gift slaughter in the mouth.

That’s where Game of Thrones is at, though. We’ve got two weeks before it all wraps up, and God knows how many years until a proper conclusion is finally offered through the books. And that’s where the only satisfaction will come from now – with the questions left unanswered, character arcs discarded and any meaningful plot development abandoned, it’s hard to see where a clean resolution will come from. The series just needs to end at this point, and it’s certainly not going to let logic get in the way.


  • I said after episode two of this season that the show could have finished then and there and I’d be happy.

    With each subsequent episode, I feel like i’m more and more right. This week’s episode just dragged on for so damn long.

    Also whoever wrote Brienne in this week’s episode should be drawn and quartered.

    • Couldn’t agree more with this. I always thought what Jamie and Brianne had was more of a soldiers/knights respect and admiration as she attempted to help him reach some kind of redemption. For them to be now romantically involved seems unfitting and obviously just there to help Jamie with his inevitable betrayal to Cersei. The last season was bad with timelines and the passage of tim/travel, this one is even worse.

      • Yeah its been pretty obvious they liked each other for a long long time. It COULD have then been written as just kinghts respect as you say, but its definitely been obvious where it was leading.
        Whether it was written well, yeah thats another thing.

  • Agree with everything you’ve said here. It’s basically a Marvel movie at this point. Common sense has to be left at the door.

  • agree with alot of points here, plus where have the Reeds gone to in all of this? They hold strong fealty to the Starks but are nowhere to be seen.

    • Jon did call all of his banners at the start of the season and if i remember properly, the Reeds refused to come.

  • Wait, did Euron not gain the Iron Isles throne by convincing people he could mind-control dragons with a mythical horn in the TV series? Haven’t watched since season 3 or 4 (and stopped reading halfway through Dance), but that seems like a pretty big plot point to sidestep if he ends up allying with Cersei against Daenerys.

      • I know – a friend of mine got really confused a while back when I mentioned Lady Stoneheart, which prompted me to learn she just didn’t exist in the series – but a Valyrian horn seems like a rather useful plot device that was discarded in favour of, as Alex puts it, “-20 plot armour” to the dragon. I wonder if this was a conscious decision to avoid raising more questions than they had time to answer, or if they just had no idea where the story was going when they introduced Euron.

      • To be fair a lot of them can’t possibly be adequately covered in a show that’s basically an hour every week… and loads of them basically amount to “Then everybody died” or will never be finished because GRRM will have a massive acute myocardial infarction before he ever finishes writing them.

    • And the erosion of standards continues. Some people actually like to engage with the shows they love and hold them up to a certain level of writing competency. No one is expecting War and Peace but it would be nice if it was something approaching say, I don’t know, the Game of Thrones books.

      • So, the standard established by several years of adaptation has fallen since they literally ran out of books to adapt? Colour me shocked.

        I’ve come off the backend of re-watching the entire series to catch up on season 8. It was always occasionally clumsy and needlessly incendiary. It always valued spectacle over substance. It was always a far more bombastic animal than the books.

        So I repeat – it’s event TV, not Tolstoy. Enjoy it for what it is, not what you wish it was, no?

  • The show has been falling apart since the Dorne visit season. That was when they were running out of the last bit of source material and they REALLY dragged that season out, then the tonal shift next season when it became full fan fic writing, I think people were blinded by the pace changing so much and stuff actually happening, that they didn’t notice the ass writing. This season feels so badly written, I was actually cringing last night during the Bronn scene….

  • Oh my god this episode was bad. What the hell was any character thinking? Every single one is a bloody idiot, and if people had issues with the battle tactics last episode this one this one should piss off even the least interested. If I think I could organize a better attack and a better defense to said attack, the show creators have absolutely failed.

    Especially given we know that wildfire and its production was at Cersei’s disposal and exactly how effective it is in a naval battle it’s baffling that their strategy was just ‘shoot the big arrows (ruining the surprise with which they might have been able to kill both Dragons), don’t push into the remaining (swimming) survivors which could now all be killed easily, catch one woman and kill her in another opportunity to kill all of Dany’s remaining army because oh my god there’s like 20 people left or more likely they blew their budget for extras last episode’. Hey, maybe they couldn’t make any more – cool, then they should at least have people waiting on the beaches. This was a planned attack, one that went far better than they could have hoped and they only manage to sink some ships and capture one person?

    Also what the hell was with the Scorpions? They can fire from below, on moving ships at a range of 400 plus metres minimum with near perfect accuracy and then the ones mounted on Cercei’s walls can’t reach Drogon from above at maybe 200 metres?

    Also people can just hear each other from 100 metres away at normal speaking volumes? How, logistically speaking, did Euron catch Missandei who was presumably either headed towards a ship per Grey Worm’s request and would have been twice as capable of reaching the shore as all of the more high value targets, but even if she wasn’t she’d surely have had as good a chance of getting to shore as all the men wearing goddamn heavy leather and chainmail armor that all made it?

    This episode was like the last season’s stupidity, but at least there I could forgive it because, at the very least, they had to move a lot of characters between points a and b to setup this season. Hell, the first half had a naval trip that apparently totally neglected to ask for the help of the Iron Islands when they would have passed by them and it’s even mentioned in episode Yara captured them in Dany’s name, but I can forgive that because they probably want to set up some horseshit surprise rescue scenario, but then after all the characters are assembled, after all their motivations and means have been established – this is what happens? This was honestly some of the worst TV I’ve ever seen.

    These problems aren’t only easy to fix, they would have been cheaper to entirely avoid too. Who decided this episode had to have a big battle? Who even wants a battle at all after last episode? It didn’t add anything to the rest of the episode, the best of which was almost a return to the season 1 Varys and Littlefinger talks that, hey, used to be the meat and potatoes of whole episodes in the past, a past where battles happened off screen for budgetary reasons and people loved that stuff. Why would you think your audience couldn’t sit through that, and just that without some dumb fight that lacks any internal logic? Do the creators think that little of us? Are we that stupid, that impatient and that fickle in their eyes? We’re past halfway in the series now and only one episode has really been good (and that was the last episode which I still found really disappointing) and the first two were just weak, dare I say filler.

    This(?!) is what it’s all been leading up to, and boy if it doesn’t make me regret watching past season 2. What a disappointment.

    • I think this was the best episode of the season. It was filled with issues and artificially moronic character decisions, but at least we almost got back to the political maneuvering and character tension that the show actually made its name on.

      The big battles are consistently the worst, dumbest episodes of the show and this season is just full of them. This is not what I signed up for as a season 1 viewer and this is not what made the show a household name. Game of Thrones used to be the Breaking Bad of fantasy, and now it’s the Avengers: Endgame of fantasy.

      I don’t want to see heroes acting like heroes and triumphing valiantly. I want to see heroes trying the same shit a hero would get away with in any other story and getting severely punished for it (like Ned and Robb Stark). I want to see battles won before they’re fought through secret machinations and betrayals. I want to glimpse magic and fantastical threats in the dark corners of the world, not the front and centre of every wide-angle single shot. I don’t want to see massive CGI armies clashing meaninglessly in the background while a single person saves the day, like always.

      The last two seasons have been awful, but at least half of this episode remembered what this show used to be about.

      • Couldn’t agree more with this. There was a time this show put the focus on backstabbery, intrigue and betrayal. Now it’s just cookie cutter fantasy tropes without much surprise or substance at all.

        As the article states, really the show just needs to end and hopefully the spin offs recapture the magic of seasons 1-3 GoT.

  • You nailed it here, Alex. Literally every gripe I had with the episode.

    The entire show just isn’t good anymore. It feels like some CW “easy-to-watch” nonsense.

  • This episode was terrible even by post season 5 standards. Felt like I was watching a cheap soap opera with fancy CGI. I’d rather they’d suddenly announced they cancelled GoT after the last episode and left it up to the fan fiction writers to tie things up. It’d probably be just as bad but then I wouldn’t feel obliged to read them.

  • It fell apart seasons ago. Though I’ve criticised GoT for several seasons now, I didn’t hate this episode as much as many people seem. To be clear, it was definitely bad but I thought it had some redeeming scenes, unlike many episodes over the past three and a half seasons. I think that GoT will be looked back on as an interesting case study and serve as a warning. The content based on the books was some of the best television I’ve seen but when the showrunners had to step out on their own (mostly) and continue the narrative with only general points to follow (as supplied by Martin) it just fell apart. It lost its nuance, its strong character development, its interwoven narrative, and it stopped being a gripping story on any level. Characters are mere shadows of themselves or have changed altogether (I honestly want Daenerys to lose to Cersei because I hate the character she’s become) and all the scenes which should be impactful and dramatic merely fall flat. What a waste. Had everyone waited until the books were complete, GoT could have gone down in TV history as one of the best shows of all time.

    • It’s still better than most anything else on at the moment, but is that because they’re good or a lot else is…..not?

    • Had everyone waited until the books were complete, GoT could have gone down in TV history as one of the best shows of all time.

      LOL. The books will never be complete.

  • I can’t disagree that this was a strange episode, and really seems to be rushing towards the required climax with only two episodes remaining.

    A couple of notes:

    Cersei mentions the Kraken directly in the previous episode…
    We’re not going to get a Kraken in the next two episodes.
    Cersei’s reference to Euron about “the lion on land, the kraken on the sea” (or whatever it was) was to the sigils of their respective houses, appealing to Euron’s ego for his ongoing support by suggesting they could rule all of Westeros together. For the same reason you’re not getting a literal lion in the next two episodes either.

    They don’t have a huge force outside the gates, there’s no dragons.They did have their one remaining dragon with them outside the gate. He was a little further away, but still close enough to do damage if Cersei tried anything (more) stupid.

    • That’s true – it was more a reference to the mythical stuff Euron dabbles with in the books. It’d have made for a vastly more interesting confrontation on the sea now, if the writers had set it up when Euron appears/disappeared to Essos.

      It’s a letdown that they initially set him up as this mysterious, slightly mad captain, and all we get is just an arrogant arsehole that stabs people when he gets shitfaced.

      • Gotta say he’s not a character I’ve enjoyed watching any time he’s been on screen. Maybe because he was introduced late, he’s always felt like an after thought to me.

        Should have also mentioned that I’ve not read any of the books so I’m at the mercy of the script writers for any background details. Do the books have actual krakens?

        • Book Euron might be one of the series most fascinating villains. The Kraken isn’t just a sigil or a joke – it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he might be able to summon stuff. Him and the Drowned God went on some wild adventures, check it out.

  • About my only complaint with this article:
    courtesy of a Night King whose background and history is still completely unknown because he never spoke a single world,
    We don’t know a lot about the night king, but we know enough. He was a human, transformed by the not-elf children of the woods as a means to protect them from humans, who ended up killing everything instead.

    But yeah there was a lot of bad decisions in this episode.
    If Dany had just flanked the ships she could have got them all without reprisal. The geography would have allowed for it, too; the same rocks that hid the ships would have allowed a low-flying dragon to fly around and burn them all.

    One other plot point/hole? not mentioned: Correct me if I’m wrong but, from Euron’s perspective, Tyrion should not have known about “his” unborn child. This should have raised some questions on Euron’s behalf but it looks like that won’t happen.

    • Yeah I think the writers have forced a lot of bad decisions onto characters this season solely to get from point A to B. It’s rushed storytelling as they sprint to the finish line 🙁

  • Since splitting from the books and having used up all of Martins’ notes for the future books, the show has just become poorly written fan fiction by Benioff and Weiss.
    They just do dumb random crap that’s illogical, contradictory and nonsensical to the story and every character has become a one dimensional caricature of themselves.
    It’s like they lost interest and were sick of it after a decade working on it and just rushed out this half-arsed crap.

    It’s gone from something that had years of clever writing and build up that everyone had invested a lot of time into, to predictable and stupid nonsense with no regards to anything that has happened previously.

    Knowing there’s only two episodes left to wrap up what should have been something epic and monumental is disappointing. I honestly have no interest in what happens anymore.

  • I agree with most of your complaints Alex but I would argue about the plan to split the northern forces. The plan they talked about was for the majority of the force to travel by land and surround the city while the boats (and dragons) would sit outside the bay (near Dragonstone) to prevent an escape by sea. I still like that plan in theory.

    The issues come when they arrive, like how the hell Euron with arguably he biggest fleet ever snuck up on them (as you mentioned) and why the hell Dany & Drogon flew angrily at Euron to just turn around and let their fleet get attacked instead of, oh I don’t know, breathing fire at wooden boats…

    Then there’s the fact that Dany’s group apparently threw away the plan and magically made it, not just onto the mainland but to the front gate of Kings Landing, without being attacked. And the problems just kept piling on from there…

    • They knew Euron had buggered off to collect 1000 ships though, and they had that information through the Greyjoys, Varys (when Euron returned to King’s Landing with his bullshit-size fleet) or Bran (when he’s not getting high off wheelchair lore).

      The only way the plan still seems logical from there is … if they forgot about Euron’s fleet? Which it kind of sounds like they did.

  • For those complaining about Cersei not killing Tyrion/The dragon or attacking at the castle walls – you do know what a parley is right?

    They are quite common in history, and if Cersei had of attacked it would of been a gross breach of the rules of war.

    • She set off a bomb on a holy site with a large number of innocents inside (along with her family and rivals). Regardless, as far as I know Westeros doesn’t really have ‘rules of war.’ The only three rules that ever really get a mention are that you will be cursed for:
      – Kingslaying (or rather, slaying one you have vowed to protect/fight for)
      – Kinslaying
      – Slaying guests of your home after sharing food and drink with them

      And Cersei has already broken two of those, three if you count Tommen’s suicide as her fault.

  • I suspect some of the weirder decisions come down to the differences in the character of book Cersei and TV Cersei. In the last few books, Cersei seems to be full on delusional with a loose grip on reality.

    TV Cersei seems to be portrayed as being angry and not giving a fuck any more. However, she is still occasionally making decisions delusional book Cersei would.

  • The show needs more time, a 10 episode season whilst having some of those episodes keep the length. I’d really like a proper explanation as to why the show is so short now, I know a little detail, HBO didn’t make the choice to have 6 eps d&d did.. is it to use more of the budget on fx and battles?

    It’s rushing through everything so fast, ruining a lot of the work put into the previous seasons. Not everything in got was going to have a conclusion, that’s fine but there’s huge problems with speeding past major things like Arya killed the fukn night kang and its hardly mentioned? Kings landing is a month away or so but everyones teleporting? I am still LOVING the new season but its really shit that its doing itself like this

  • I’m still enjoying it, but I said it when this season was announced as the last. It simply is not enough time, it really needed two more seasons, not one. They know how important this is and yet they’re still finding ways to screw it up, and it is definitely obvious that the reason is too little time.

  • It’s the most watched show of our time.
    Raking in buckets of cash for all involved in it.
    Pretty much everyone is watching.
    With that in mind, what possible excuse is there for a lapse in quality? Not enough time? BS. Demand more time. With this much popularity worldwide they can do whatever they need to and anyone who denies them, well, I wouldn’t want to be that person because the backlash would be real.

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