On April 17, 2011, a new HBO drama about warring families, icy zombies, and CGI dragons premiered, and whether you loved it or hated it, there’s simply no denying the kind of impact Game of Thrones had not just on television, not just on pop culture, but on the world in general. Its epic journey was a wild, weird, and fascinating adventure, and to mark the occasion Collider presents “What Is Ten May Never Die,” a ten-week retrospective on the show’s legacy — what we remember fondly, what we wish we could forget, and everything in between.
Look, no one ever said writing a sprawling eight-season television show was easy. And certainly Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss won no shortage of Emmys for the epic fantasy drama while keeping us on the edge of our seats from the very beginning. But because we were on the edge of our seats, that means we were paying pretty careful attention to this show, and that means we noticed when plotlines that intrigued us seemed to simply… fizzle out. Or get dropped like hot potatoes. Or get executed in such a way that even though they happened, they were incredibly forgettable. Game of Thrones did a lot of things well. Those things do not include the below.
Image via HBO
It’s hard to say that Game of Thrones completely forgot about the Dothraki, because there are more than a few examples of Daenerys Targaryen’s loyal force of horse-fighters completely bodying her enemies as advertised. Most notably, there’s the “Loot Train Attack” in Season 7’s “The Spoils of War,” an incredibly lame name for one of the show’s best set-pieces, in which Jaime Lannister’s forces absolutely shit themselves at the sight of the Dothraki performing advanced equestrianism before getting burned to ashes by Drogon. All very good. However! The thing to keep in mind is that the Dothraki were there from episode one, from the jump, always in the background behind Dany with the implication that if they could just get over their fear of boats, it’s game over for anyone in Westeros who stands in their way. That’s pure build-up. That’s 70 episodes waiting to see the Dothraki fully unleashed.
So, finally, in Season 8’s “The Long Night,” we watch the Dothraki charge, screaming and whooping triumphantly, into the darkness to take on the White Walkers, where they all…slowly die off-screen one by one. Awhoops. It’s one of the most egregious examples of Season 8’s rushed timeline, in which puzzle pieces weren’t elegantly removed from the board as much as they were smashed off the table with a baseball bat. There wasn’t any room for the Dothraki in the final stretch, so they got straight-up slaughtered in a span of ten seconds. The sheer force of Khal Drogo facepalming in horselord heaven created its own set of constellations in the Westeros sky. – Vinnie Mancuso
The Maggy the Frog Prophecy
Prophecies can be dicey territory, because they’re frequently introduced to cover up some plot hole that the writer simply couldn’t figure out. (“So why do all of these random people agree to give their lives to save Neo from The Matrix?” can be hand-waved away with a succinct “He’s the hero of prophecy.”) Game of Thrones threw down roughly 700 different prophecies over the course of its 8-season run, and the overwhelming majority of them either never came true or ultimately had little to no impact on the story. But arguably the most frustrating one was the chilling prediction given to a young Cersei by a fortune-telling crone named Maggy the Frog in the Season 5 episode “The Wars to Come.”
Cersei, eager to hear whether she will marry the handsome Prince Rhaegar and become queen, gets some admittedly shitty news from ol’ Maggy – not only will she never marry Rhaegar, but she will marry a philandering king she doesn’t even like. And sure, yeah, she’ll get to be queen, but only briefly. A younger, more beautiful queen will quickly take her place and destroy everything she loves. Plus, all her children will die, and she will be choked to death by her younger brother.
The reason Maggy’s prophecy is so frustrating is twofold – firstly, most of it never happens. Her kids do die, but no beautiful young queen has anything to do with it. Joffrey is killed by Lady Olenna, the elderly matriarch of House Tyrell. Myrcella is poisoned by Ellaria Sand and the Sand Snakes as revenge for Prince Oberyn’s death. And Tommen jumps out the dang window after Cersei blows up his wife Margaery and most of the Tyrell family. When Dany finally does show up to claim the throne as Queen, she razes King’s Landing to the ground. Cersei loves power but she certainly never loves the city, and nobody she particularly cares about is killed in the siege. Except for herself, of course, which brings us to the last part of the prophecy that doesn’t come true – she isn’t choked to death by her younger brother. She gets crushed by a pile of rocks during Dany’s siege and dies side-by-side with Jaime. Neither of her brothers have anything to do with her death, nor does anyone else’s brother for that matter. She’s killed by Dany.
You could be forgiven for not paying off a prophecy that was only really featured in one scene of your eight-season show if that prophecy wasn’t the single most important motivation of Cersei as a character. Literally everything she does throughout the course of the entire series is directly related to her obsession with Maggy’s prophecy, primarily her intense distrust and hatred of Tyrion. You can’t even argue that the prophecy was self-fulfilling and thus an example of dramatic irony, because most of it doesn’t happen as prophesied. Instead, Game of Thrones uses the prophecy as a quick and easy way to justify Cersei making catastrophically impulsive decisions in every season before quietly pushing her into the background of Season 8 as a passive observer who stands around until a roof falls on her head. Ultimately it’s the show’s failure to give Cersei’s arc a satisfying conclusion that is so frustrating, but every element of that failure can be laid at Maggy’s wrinkly feet. – Tom Reimann
RELATED: ‘Game of Thrones’: Hannah Waddingham on Literally Being Waterboarded in Season 6 and Why She Would Do It Again in a Heartbeat
Image via HBO
The introduction of a whole new society adjacent to Westeros was a pretty exciting moment for Game of Thrones, and with it came shiny new characters played by great actors like Pedro Pascal, Indira Varma, and Alexander Siddig. But then Oberyn Martell got his head squished and the rest of the Dorne storyline just fizzled, to the point where, when half of Dorne was abruptly killed off at the beginning of Season 6, it almost seemed like a mercy. Except it still left the story feeling like an incomplete thought that never payed off. Even the Sand Snakes, loaded with so much potential as the fiercest assassins the show had ever seen, their presence on the show eventually reduced to being eye-fucked by Bronn and then killed off. Perhaps this is a case of a subplot that the show didn’t so much forget about as completely fumble. – Liz Shannon Miller
Nymeria and the Direwolves In General
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It’s almost impossible to think about House Stark without thinking about the direwolves, the mythical creatures who are not only the sigil represented on the family’s flag, arms, you name it — but the pack of pups that uniquely bonds itself to each member of the Stark children. Some of them (like Lady) met a terrible fate early in the show, thus giving us one more reason to despise the Lannisters, and several others (like Grey Wind) were killed in incredibly gruesome fashion, as if the Red Wedding itself wasn’t brutal enough. Toward the end of the series, only two still remained — Nymeria and Ghost, although the former was absent for several seasons before an arguably lackluster reunion scene in Season 7, and the latter earned a moment with Jon Snow in Season 8’s penultimate episode that barely felt earned after being reduced to the role of glorified extra rather than loyal animal companion. But if there’s one thing that felt incredibly obvious in watching the entirety of Game of Thrones, it’s that the direwolves were a shining example of yet another significant plot concept introduced first thing, only to inevitably be dropped once it became too inconvenient to keep them around for narrative (or involved VFX design) purposes. – Carly Lane
What Happened to Quaithe?
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Ah, Quaithe, you helpful little NPC, we hardly knew ye’. Played with a heaping dose of mysteriousness by Laura Pradelska, this Shadowbinder from Asshai had all the trappings of a Major Character. There’s the dope mask, for one, an interwoven series of hexagons that looks like it’d be envied by the Cenobites from Hellraiser. But there’s also the fact she kept popping up at opportune times with enigmatic prophecies that sure sounded important for Daenerys Targaryen and Jorah Mormont. “She is the Mother of Dragons, she needs true protectors now more than ever,” she tells Jorah, warning that men will want those three little beasties on Dany’s back because “dragons are fire made flesh, and fire is power.” Quaithe…kind of nailed it here, because the warlock Pyat Pree steals the dragons like two hours later. When Jorah tracks Quaithe down again, she tests his loyalty to Daenerys; obviously the big emotional lug passes, and Quaithe sends him in the right direction. By this point, it’s like, just whomst is this woman, and why does she know so much about Daenerys’ journey? The answer: We never see Quaithe again. Not a whisper, not a word. She poofs right outta’ the narrative after Season 2, which obliterates all her intrigue in hindsight. In this context, she’s less a character and more of a masked signpost that says “Danger thataway,” a plot-driver dressed in a cool enough outfit to hide her lack of a future. – Vinnie Mancuso
Image via HBO
Just… why? Why cast legendary Deadwood star Ian McShane as a reformed mercenary turned quasi-monk for exactly one episode of the series? Seriously, why? It sounds like McShane had a good time, and we’re all happy for him. But beyond the help he offered Sandor Clegane (Rory McCann), the fact is that casting an actor of McShane’s status would imply that the character of Brother Ray would have a pretty big impact on the series, or at least the Hound… But really, all that happened was that the Hound returned to murdering immediately after Brother Ray’s sad demise, leaving McShane’s casting as one of the show’s more obscure but most baffling question marks. – Liz Shannon Miller
Dragons Weren’t As Helpful As We Thought
Jorah Mormont: “Your ancestor, Aegon the Conqueror, didn’t seize six of the kingdoms because they were his right. He had no right to them. He seized them because he could.”
Daenerys Targaryen: “And because he had dragons.”
The story of Aegon I Targaryen runs throughout Game of Thrones and serves as the undercurrent of every decision Daenerys Targaryen makes. My man rode into Westeros with basically two (2) sisters and three (3) dragons and not a single kingdom could stop them. Aegon was a warlord with nukes in an age of swords and shields. It was vegetable carts vs. Panzer tanks. The legend surrounding dragons grew when they died out, but it’s all based on the idea that having a dragon automatically makes you King Shit of Fuck You Mountain. Which is why it is genuinely hilarious, bordering on nonsensical, how deeply unhelpful Dany’s three dragons became down the Season 7-8 stretch. One of them, poor unappreciated Viserion, took a spear to the belly and returned as a slave to the Night King on his very first recon mission.
Soon after, we got our first glimpse of the dragons in a battle scenario, and by that, I mean Drogon and Rhaegal are incapacitated by a cloud bank. Jon Snow’s long-awaited dragon ride into battle ends when he flies into a tree-like a child’s lost kite. Soon after, Rhaegal gets speared in the damn head by a pirate in leather pants who we can only assume, based on every single decision in Pilou Asbæk’s performance, is on a dangerous amount of ketamine. To be fair, the horrifying destruction in “The Bells,” the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, is a glimpse of a dragon’s unstoppable tactical advantage, but that deep into the series it felt like an overcorrection. Seeing Drogon single-handedly decimate a city makes the endless waiting, planning, second-guessing, and sitting around Meereen feel even more gratuitous in hindsight. It’s like talking up your skills as a sharpshooter for seven hours, immediately firing five rounds into your own foot, and then — another full-ass hour later — finally nailing the target dead-center. – Vinnie Mancuso
KEEP READING: ‘Game of Thrones’: Miltos Yerolemou on Being Arya’s Obi-Wan, Auditioning for Varys, and Why Syrio Forel’s Fate Should Remain a Mystery
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