The fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ eighth and final season, “The Last of the Starks,” was full of shocking and controversial twists — but perhaps none as startling as a modern-day Starbucks cup left in plain view during the Winterfell party scene.
Fans picked up on a very inappropriately placed coffee cup in the background, just hours after the episode premiered:
my favorite show in the entire world forgot a STARBUCKS COFFEE CUP ON THE TABLE WHILE FILMING pic.twitter.com/60z3pOCfg9— zane (@zane) May 6, 2019
And it didn’t take long after that for the shot to spread rapidly across social media, with some fans choosing to celebrate the flub rather than mock it on Monday morning:
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, and Drinker of Pumpkin Spice pic.twitter.com/BOPdolRhXz— Ira Madison III (@ira) May 6, 2019
Perfectly reasonable explanation for what appears to be a Starbucks cup during the latest Game of Thrones episode. pic.twitter.com/MP6FAhKO4T— Simon (@Tuffty88) May 6, 2019
Despite their ironic affection for the gaffe, fans have also made sure to call it out as evidence of the show’s sloppy production values and questionable budget:
Costumes $150— tony (@sadvil) May 6, 2019
Direwolf CGI $3
Writing staff $0
someone who is good at television please help me budget this. my show is sucking
the starbucks cup... as if we needed any more proof they dont give a shit pic.twitter.com/948IakEUe1— we're not suicidal just angels who want to go bac (@danystormborn) May 6, 2019
It didn’t help that astute viewers quickly realized that the showrunners themselves, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, had cameos in the scene, and still no one managed to notice the wayward cup:
TFW YOU'RE SO INTO YOUR HITCHCOCK CAMEO YOU DON'T NOTICE THE STARBUCKS CUP https://t.co/ryL3fWegDf— Ellie Hall (@ellievhall) May 6, 2019
As amusing as all this is, it’s also an opportunity for fans to vent their frustrations with Game of Thrones in general, using the Starbucks cup as a sort of synecdoche for their overarching problems with this season of the show thus far:
I think the Starbucks cup is really a metaphor for how sloppy the plotting of this season has been. You hate to see it but it's staring you in the face.— fred fujiwara (@nkem_x) May 6, 2019
“I hate where the writing is going overall,” one fan wrote in a Twitter thread (which discusses a major episode spoiler). “Everything is feeling rushed and some of the build up and ideas for the past seasons are just getting overlooked. Just like that Starbucks cup.”
Y’all can talk about the writing and killing black characters and blah blah blah but that Starbucks cup is the real spit in the face LMAO— Special Guest: Tyra Banks fan acct (@baskgod) May 6, 2019
Viewers have increasingly called out the show this season for its sexist and racist treatment of various characters and what seem like the characters’ inexplicable motivations. The Starbucks cup, at least for now, may be the perfect representative of all of these complaints — ironically giving the fandom something to unite around in the series’ final weeks.
when you want to be ruler of the seven kingdoms but all anyone wants to talk about is the Starbucks cup you left on the table pic.twitter.com/MOOwXm08nw— Dave Itzkoff (@ditzkoff) May 6, 2019
Both HBO and Starbucks took the gaffe in good stride — at least at first. Ironically, per an official statement from HBO, it wasn’t even a Starbucks cup, but rather an herbal tea from the on-set craft services. “The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” the statement read. Starbucks used the opportunity to peddle its new summer drink:
TBH we're surprised she didn't order a Dragon Drink.— Starbucks Coffee (@Starbucks) May 6, 2019
Speaking to Variety, art director Hauke Richter pointed out that the reason this error had garnered so much attention is that Game of Thrones’ production values are usually immaculate. Mistakes like this one “[have] not happened with ‘Thrones’ so far,” he said.
Despite making light of the mistake, HBO quietly edited the cup out of the footage for the episode after social media’s mockery had run its course, as Vox confirmed through replaying the episode on HBO Now on Tuesday morning. It will, however, live on in original bootlegs and DVR recordings of the show.