This video contains spoilers for the final season of Game of Thrones - but according to critics the show isn't just spoiled already, it's become downright rancid.
Yes, the latest episode of Game of Thrones has been getting the worst reviews in the show's eight season history, as fans and critics alike have banded together to condemn the decision to have fan-favorite Daenerys Targaryen suddenly go completely mental and murder tens of thousands of people for no good reason.
Titled "The Bells," the fifth episode of season 8 has a dire 47% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That's several percentage points lower than the previous worst-reviewed episode, "Unbowed, Unbent, and Unbroken" from way back in season 5.
And it's just the latest blow in the show's relentless descent into disappointment. Every episode so far this season has had worse reviews than the previous episode, dropping from 92% for the season premiere... to 88% for episode 2... 75% for episode 3... and 57% for episode 4. How bad is it? The season as a whole currently sits at 71% fresh, which sounds decent until you realize that the lowest total rating for any of the previous seven seasons was 91% for the very first season.
And those are just the critics. Fans have been even harsher, giving this season just a 43% rating so far. Ouch!
Critics didn't pull any punches in their reviews, with much of the disdain aimed at the showrunners. Maureen Ryan of the Hollywood Reporter wrote that she was shouting "don't do it!" at the TV screen.
"I wasn't talking to Daenerys. I was shouting at the writers and architects of Game of Thrones, executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. But they did it. They not only gave Daenerys the least-earned character turn in the show's history - maybe in television history - they rubbed our faces in this colossal mistake for what felt like an eternity. To say the show befouled the bed in its penultimate episode, 'The Bells,' is putting it mildly."
"'The Bells' was Game of Thrones at its worst, and it did untold damage to the show as a whole. It's going to be hard to think of the show without feeling nauseated by what it did - especially to its women - in the home stretch. [...] Inescapably, infuriatingly, what we're left with is apparently the central message of Game of Thrones: Bitches are crazy."
Anna Leszkiewicz of New Statesman agreed.
"'She went mad' feels like a lazy, stereotypical, unearned plot device and one that was truly horrible to watch. At times, the massacre felt like pointless, gratuitous audience torture … It feels like Game of Thrones is throwing a major character under the bus for the sake of an easy ending."
Akhil Arora of Gadgets360 had similar thoughts:
"Despite having some of the most well-acted moments and epic scenes in its roster, Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5 ultimately felt hollow. This used to be a show where major points of a character's arc were laid atop on seasons of foundation. But in its most pressing hour, Benioff and Weiss have largely thrown all that out of the window in service of shock and moving onto the next story beat."
And The Daily Beast's Melissa Leon wrote,
"The Mother of Dragons becoming a 'Mad Queen' may work on paper with what the show has foreshadowed for seasons all this talk of Targaryens' hereditary madness, and her own streak of cruelty with her enemies but her split-second decision to systematically murder half a city of innocent people does not."
Vulture's Kathryn VanArendonk drove the point home, writing
"Disheartened isn’t even the right word. I am exhausted by Mad Queen Dany [...] The notion that this sprawling story about epic political gamesmanship, the corruption of power, the things we inherit from our families, the people we choose to love, and the inevitable inescapable march of death would ultimately hinge on a trope as painfully stale as 'and then the scary powerful woman goes crazy' is, to be frank, boring."
NPR's Glen Weldon was more succinct:
"Dany got a raw deal. Narratively speaking, Game of Thrones did the Mother of Dragons dirty, there's no two ways around it."
So can the show redeem itself in the series finale? After what happened in "The Bells," it's hard to see how. As the BBC's Hugh Montgomery wrote,
"By the end of this 90 minutes, as the ash settled, it is difficult not to feel one was looking at the charred remains of an era-defining television show's integrity."
Rest in peace, Game of Thrones. Rest in peace.
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