The recent success of House of the Dragon has inevitably reminded viewers of Game of Thrones. While the new series is a bit more tightly-focused than its predecessor, it remains to be seen whether it will make some of the same missteps when it comes to writing.
Game of Thrones, especially in its later seasons, was well-known for relying too much on various deus ex machinas. While some of these were clearly intended to fix a given plot hole or problem, they ultimately ended up creating even more problems, most of which marred the central coherence of the series as a whole.
Many important and powerful dragons appear in both House of the Dragon and Game of Thrones. In the latter, they play a particularly key part, once they are large enough for Dany to ride them into battle. However, their appearance beyond the Wall, while solving some of the key problems of the characters, raise their own host of issues.
Namely: just how fast can dragons fly. If, in fact, they are gifted with this powerful speed, it makes one wonder why this wasn’t put into effect much more consistently rather than when it’s convenient for the plot.
The Battle of the Bastards is one of the most important conflicts to occur during Game of Thrones. It is, to be sure, a deus ex machina for Jon Snow, since it saves him from near certain death at the hands of Ramsay Snow. It is also, however, a moment which raises far more questions than it ultimately answers.
For instance, many fans have wondered how it was possible for the Knights of the Vale to make it to Winterfell in such a short period of time. As was all too frequently the case in the final seasons of Game of Thrones, geographic coherence was sacrificed for the plot, raising further questions about how and why it takes anyone any time at all to get across Westeros.
Gendry is one of the most beloved side characters in Game of Thrones. He is also one who has a rather unusual part to play, as he is both jettisoned for a time (sent away rowing to save his life) and miraculously returns, before he is appointed to run back to the Wall, which then leads to Daenerys’ timely arrival. Both of these raise significant questions.
For one thing, many fans have wondered what was he doing and how he happened to end up with the main characters again. Another question many debated was how was it possible for him to run back to the Wall in time to summon help. The series doesn’t bother to either ask or answer these questions, and its internal coherence suffers as a result.
Coldhands is one of the most mysterious characters in the book, and to an extent this carries over into the series. He is, in many ways, the definition of a deus ex machina, as he arrives to save Jon from wights. While this is certainly a good thing for Jon, it does open up a Pandora’s box of questions and other plot holes, such as why he waited until this particular moment to arrive.
For that matter, many have also wondered if he had managed to survive the attack of the wights? Given that Benjen Stark is a member of one of the series’ most important families, it’s rather frustrating that his eventual fate is left so ambiguous.
Melisandre is definitely one of the most powerful characters in Game of Thrones. As she proves with her ability to resurrect Jon, and to stay alive for centuries, there is much more to her than meets the eye. Her giving birth to the shadow baby is a deus ex machina for Stannis, as it removes his brother Renly, one of the most significant roadblocks to his throne.
It’s a compelling visual, but it does beg the question: why was this the only time that she used this particular bit of magic? There were, after all, a number of other times it would have been very helpful, yet there is no real explanation as to why this is the only time she employs this method.
In some ways, Melisandre is at the heart of some of the most frustrating deus ex machinas in Game of Thrones. For example, after her exile at the end of season 7, she returns to play a key role in the epic battle that takes place at Winterfell. It’s nice to see her return, and it’s obviously key to her development as a character.
At the same time, it’s also frustrating, because it seems to undo everything that came before. After all, many viewers have questioned why the writers bothered to have her exiled, only to have her return immediately thereafter. It’s another frustrating story choice in the season 7.
Wildfire plays a key role in many of the events of the later seasons of Game of Thrones. In fact, it’s precisely what allows Cersei to blow up the Great Sept of Baelor (one of the most shocking moments in the series). Although it is a useful deus ex machina, it is also one that seems to open up a whole host of problems the series does little to resolve.
Why, for example, is it only around when some characters seem to need it? Just how much of it is there present in King’s Landing? And, perhaps more importantly, why didn’t Daenerys’ attack atop Drogon ignite what was left?
Bran is arguably the most important character in Game of Thrones. He also seems poised to be one of the best kings of Westeros, guided as he is by his knowledge of past, present and future. However, his skills are arguably one of the most significant of the many deus ex machinas in the series.
There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to when they’re going to be utilized. They are, all too frequently, nowhere to be seen at several key moments, leading the viewer to question why they even exist at all.
There are many reasons the final seasons are particularly badly received, and one of them is the killing of Rhaegal. It’s in some ways a negative deus ex machina, in that it removes one of Daenerys’ most fearsome weapons. However, it’s a glaring inconsistency, and it ultimately raises several frustrating questions and plot holes.
Most notably, it makes no sense why Euron, gifted with such a seemingly powerful weapon, would choose to take out Rhaegal when he could just as easily have destroyed Drogon, the larger dragon and, more to the point, the one with Daenerys on his back.
Arya is one of the best characters in Game of Thrones. Her skills at fighting and assassination, honed in Braavos, seem to play a key part in her character development. While she deserves credit for being the one to strike the killing blow to the Night King, this can’t but be seen as a deus ex machina.
Most importantly, it doesn’t really put her actual skills to use, as it’s not an assassination, per se. Any other warrior, including Jon Snow, would have done just as well. It thus calls into question not just her time among the Faceless men but also her presence at Winterfell altogether.
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