Art is subjective, but logic is not. Game of Thrones season 8 has been objectively bad in regards to narrative logic and facts that we know about the fantasy world George RR Martin built for us.
There are plenty of things in this show that I find subjectively good and subjectively bad. For example, I enjoy Sansa’s strength and character growth, but don’t like that she references trauma caused by sexual abuse as a cause of her strength. But this is subjective. This is an opinion. And we can disagree. But a large portion of the plot points in Game of Thrones season 8 are not like this. They are objectively bad writing and bad directing and it cannot be ignored when it comes to discussing show quality.
Dany “Forgot” About the Iron Fleet
In a recent interview about Game of Thrones season 8, David Benioff implied that Daenerys had “forgot” about the Iron Fleet. Narratively, that doesn’t make sense. We are shown repeatedly, even in that very episode, that they are actively discussing the Iron Fleet. The discussion about them takes place very shortly before they leave for Dragonstone where the attack occurs.
Even if we assume she forgot about them on her ‘long journey’ to the Dragonstone (fast travel is an entirely different issue, honestly, but let’s keep going on the topic at hand), these plans were made prior to leaving Winterfell. It wasn’t a spur of the moment decision to go there. The Iron Fleet was part of the decision to sail to Dragonstone and that’s a fact.
Proof of the Iron Fleet being part of the planning can be found in this summary video:
I’m constantly giving these showrunners the benefit of the doubt and playing Devil’s Advocate for their poor writing, especially here in Game of Thrones season 8 which has been one of the worst offenders in regards to logical flaws. It’s exhausting. But I suppose I’ll do it again. Let’s say the trip to Dragonstone was planned in advance (which we see that it is), and it was the last minute jaunt in the final stretch with her dragons that was the moment where she “forgot” about them. This is a stretch, because they knew they could be there when they first set out to Dragonstone, but okay, let’s make these leaps for a moment…
It STILL doesn’t make sense. From her vantage point in the air she can see for miles and it’s clear that Euron’s fleet is huge and wouldn’t be missed sailing on the open ocean.
Perhaps they were hiding behind Dragonstone? But seconds later we see them headed towards her fleet head on so that doesn’t make sense either. Is this another issue with fast travel? They somehow whipped around from their hiding spot and started charging them head on in open waters in a matter of seconds? I don’t think so. I think this is objectively bad writing.
But if they were hiding behind Dragonstone and Daenerys couldn’t see them and the editing just sped up their charge against Daenerys’ fleet, that brings us to the next issue…
Probability of Scorpions Taking Down Dragons
The probability of Euron getting three successful hits on Rhaegal with the Scorpion is extremely low. If he’d gotten off one lucky shot, I wouldn’t be criticizing it. There’s a precedent for that. Historically, Meraxes was taken down with a Scorpion with a single well aimed shot. We have been told within the books and shown on the show that it’s hard to take down a dragon in such a way and the previous instance was a lucky shot through the eye.
Other Scorpion shots rightfully missed their targets because it’s incredibly hard to hit them this way. And we are supposed to believe that not just one, but three shots hit their target back to back?
I’d estimate Dany is about 1,000 meters away from Euron. It’s probably more, given the fact that she didn’t see his damn fleet at all, but I’ll roll with this. And of course Euron needs to hit a moving target. I don’t have the exact velocity of a dragon at hand just now, but I do know that the airspeed velocity of an unladen European swallow is about 11 meters per second. So I’ll guess Rhaegal is cruising around 5 m/s. Seems fair.
Euron clearly had this moving target in his non-adjustable sights, because he hit it. Now, I’m gonna reckon that Rhaegal’s neck is about 5 meters thick from top to bottom, and we know that this target is moving horizontally (5 m/s) and that the bolt itself will drop from whatever he’s aiming at. Given that he hit Rhaegal smack dab in the middle of its throat, that drop can’t be much more than 2.5 meters.
In other words, he would need to be aiming for the very nose of the beast, and the bolt would need to cover the 1,000 meter distance in about half a second.
The bolt, therefore, would need to have an initial velocity of about 2,000 m/s.
By comparison, a modern sniper rifle propels a bullet around 800 to 1,000 m/s (howdy, Fortnite fans!).
I’m going to once again give these showrunners the benefit of the doubt and play Devil’s Advocate (I’m so exhausted), but even while doing so, these probabilities are improbably low and it’s still objectively bad writing. So let’s do it! Let’s play Devil’s Advocate! Because I know defenders will bring up several possibilities where they can stretch this to make “sense” and none of those really fly here.
This is a fantasy show, so maybe, just maybe we can have a Scorpion shoot twice as fast as a sniper rifle. Sure. I mean, dragons being able to fly is also a stretch when it comes to physics, so fine. But if Daenerys didn’t see Euron’s giant fleet, it had to have either been extremely far away, in which case Euron wouldn’t have been able to see Daenerys or her dragons either. Or he was hiding behind Dragonstone, in which case his aim would be hindered because of a giant mountain/castle blocking his view. So was he firing from so far away that he was firing blind or was he firing around a mountain?
Are you seeing why this is objectively bad? He was either hiding behind Dragonstone or he wasn’t and neither make sense.
Daenerys Could Have Burned Euron’s Fleet
Yes, this is the third logical issue with the Iron Fleet scene. It’s probably the worst scene in regards to logic not just in Game of Thrones season 8, but possibly the entire series. There are other issues with the season for sure, but we have to get through this one first.
In a fit of rage, Daenerys attempts to dive bomb Euron’s fleet head on. When she sees the Scorpions aimed at her and Drogon she wisely backs off. They took down Rhaegal in much more difficult conditions (hiding? behind? Dragonstone?? So far away they couldn’t see each other???) and Euron seems to have magical aim, so a head on attack is not the best thing. Good job, Daenerys. Backing off was the right move.
But she could have easily come at them from behind and burned the heck out of them before they could turn around. The Scorpions are affixed to the front of the ships, and while we don’t know the full pivoting range (doesn’t seem to be that great, honestly), we can assume it’d be difficult to turn them completely around and fire through the sails and masts of the ships. If she’d come at them from behind, she’d have been out of view of the weapons and could have sunk them all with dragon fire. Why didn’t see do this? Objectively bad writing, that’s why.
But then again, if they were hiding behind Dragonstone (???) then I guess aiming around things is possible? This makes no sense.
Jon’s Lack of Farewell to Ghost is “Powerful” (It’s a CGI Thing)
If you read my reviews, you know I was super upset about Jon’s lack of a proper goodbye in ‘The Last of the Starks.’ It’s been an ongoing joke in fandom that Ghost has been gone for two seasons due to CGI budget issues, and it appears that was confirmed. But there are two major issues with this.
Firstly, David Nutter said the following:
Since the direwolves are kind of CG creations, we felt it best to keep it as simple as possible,” said Nutter. “And I think that it played out much more powerfully that way.”
“Keeping Ghost off to the side, I thought that played out better,” he added.
Now this does veer into subjective territory, so I’ll grant you some wiggle room to argue against this. Judging by online reaction, a good majority of fans (or at least the fans who are vocal online), subjectively felt this was not ‘better’ or ‘powerful. Perhaps there are some out there who agree with Nutter, though. And that’s their opinion.
But I don’t feel that Nutter could be this out of tune with the fandom. He’s done some incredible emotional episodes in the past, such as ‘The Rains of Castamere‘ and ‘A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms.’ I feel like this is a weak excuse, especially from someone who has written many emotionally powerful episodes in the past and knows how important character moments are to the plot.
So this brings us to our second point, which is an even weaker excuse and brings us back to a more objective argument: the CGI budget. Money is an objective fact and perhaps they did have to cut corners on some things But there are ways to do this scene relatively cheaply. With their $90 million budget for Game of Thrones season 8 and the low cost of some of these options, this decision is objectively bad.
Someone on r/FreeFolk made this low budget version, which cost them just $56 dollars. Of course I don’t expect them to go that low, but it shows that there are ways to work a scene around high cost CGI. Other ideas I’ve seen thrown around r/FreeFolk include forced perspective shots, using a real wolf (though we would likely complain at the size discrepancy, but likely a lot less than we are now!), or just have Jon hugging an ‘IKEA rug’ and keep the rest of the wolf out of shot.
You get a hunk of faux fur. You cut a scene of close up hand in a black glove petting it. You cut back to jon looking down and smiling and saying “good ghost.” and then you cut to the dog making a shit for brains dog face. Done. This is so easy. And I didn’t even use CGI.
— Dia Lacina (@dialacina) May 7, 2019
The cost of any of these options is minuscule compared to full blown CGI embrace. And yet, they didn’t do it. Nutters comment about this being “more powerful” feels like an excuse to cover up a lack of effort in regards to making a proper goodbye work.
Why would they do this? I don’t know. Any speculation on my part would also veer into my subjective feelings about where the showrunners true feelings about the show may lie, and I’m trying to keep that out of this piece (yes, I did slip a little on that with this bullet point). But regardless of the reason, the budget excuse is a bad one since it’s absolutely possible for them to make it work at a lower cost.
Varys Supporting Jon For The Throne
Varys changes teams a lot. That’s not that far-fetched. In fact, I’d say that’s pretty on brand for him. What is objectively bad is Varys’ contradictions in regards to how he came to this particular team switch. Varys is a smart man who has navigated a complicated political situation very delicately, but in these last few episodes all his logical decision-making skills seem to have vanished and he’s switching teams for reasons that don’t jive with his previous stances on things.
In ‘Stormborn‘ Varys implies that King Robert was a bad King because he didn’t want to rule. “There have been few rulers in history as cruel as the Mad King. Robert was neither mad nor cruel. He simply had no interest in being King.” Then last episode he says, “The best ruler might be someone who doesn’t want to rule.” He is directly contradicting himself here. He flips, sure, but he’s still a smart character and wouldn’t so obviously contradict his own internal logic like this.
Another instance of Varys flipping in direct contradiction to his own reasoning comes from a moment back in season five where he implied that Daenerys could ascend the throne regardless of her gender. “Who said anything about him?” he told Tyrion. He didn’t seem to think Daenerys being a woman would be much of a problem for them (whether that’s true or not can be subjectively debated, but that’s the stance he took). But then this season he flips on that and says Jon should take it “because he’s a man. Cocks are important, I’m afraid.”
So yes, go ahead and switch sides, Varys. You fight for the realm and not a particular monarch. That’s fine. But you’re contradicting yourself while doing so and that is objectively bad. It reads like the writers forgot what they did back in season five and seven.
The Dothraki Battle Plan Isn’t Suited for the Army of the Dead
Let’s jump back in time to ‘The Long Night,’ which is an episode that I generally enjoyed. The tactic to send the Dothraki ahead of the rest of the army is a real battle tactic, but it doesn’t make sense when it comes to this particular battle. A trainer for a horse mounted army unit chimed in with her astonishment at the use of this tactic:
I was the trainer for one of the Army’s last horse mounted units and even though we were a ceremonial unit we used the old Cavalry training handbooks. So that is an old battle technique, you always send the Cavalry in first. Horseman have the tactical advantage of speed, mobility, mass, and height over ground troops. Also in a normal battle they would also have a psychological effect over a ground unit. But I couldn’t see any advantage of this tactic working here and we see how awful the battle plan was by this waste of troops and horses.
Why would you use a tactic that is primarily used to psychologically intimidate your enemies when your enemies are an army of undead ice zombies that lack any sort of reasoning? It was a huge waste. Once again I want to throw a shout out to Tor.com for their commentary on the issue (seriously, you guys are great at this):
What’s Step 1 in your plan?
Why, to send a cavalry corps into them! Oh, and that cavalry, by the way, is armed with plain ol’ useless weapons until Her Slowness, Melisandre, mosies out of the gloom completely unexpectedly.
Even with that help, Step 1 boils down to “Here’s a Dothraki Horde, m’ lord of Night. May this gift ever worsen our plight.”
This was objectively bad. The only subjective part of it is determining if this bad plan makes sense in the narrative. We have people responsible for some of the best battles on the show so far planning this battle. We have numerous characters who have fought the Army of the Dead and know what they are. And yet we somehow got this? Like Varys’ lack of consistency, this doesn’t make sense given what we know about this specific set of characters. They know better. So from my point of view it doesn’t make sense that they would use this plan.
King’s Landing’s Surroundings Changed
Someone explain why the King’s Landing in Game of Thrones season 8 appears to be inland in a desert (or possibly just a dry field) whereas the King’s Landing from previous seasons is on the coast with mountains at its back? Seriously? How? I don’t even have the proper words to explain this issue so I’ll just drop this picture here and leave.
Game of Thrones season 8 has had its moments. ‘A Night of the Seven Kingdoms’ was pretty solid and the directing in ‘The Long Night’ was beautiful. But the writing and directing decisions outlined above ruin these quality aspects and make it almost nonredeemable. It’s almost like how season 5 had ‘Hardhome,’ which was amazing, but the rest of the season was a complete disaster and therefore the season is remembered as being terrible. Season 8 is full of holes and inconsistencies and a severe lack of logic.
With two episodes left, I’m afraid we’re going to be left completely unsatisfied. But who knows. Maybe they’ll pull a quality conclusion out of nowhere and tie up at least some of the loose ends that are currently hanging over the show. I’ll tune in.
I can’t abandon the show this close to the end. But I’m bracing myself for severe disappointment.
Author: Angel Wilson
Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They’ve also written for Friends of Comic Con and is a 2019 Hugo Award winner for contributing fanfic on AO3. They identify as queer.
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