Behold Ser Latte of House Starbucks, first of his name, guest at the table of Queen Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, hero of the worst Game of Thrones episode to date, "The Last of the Starks." We shall never see his likeness again, because HBO has already edited him into oblivion. But fret not; unlike his similarly missing brother, Ser Pounce, his time on the screen is not over. It's only just begun.
People have been roasting Game of Thrones all week after a very anachronistic white disposable coffee cup appeared in Sunday's episode. Viewers noticed the gaffe almost immediately, spreading blurry screenshots of the offending vessel across the web. Tweeters have imagined how Thrones characters' names would be misspelled by baristas ("Latte for … Denise?"), and what the cup would look like if you crammed Daenerys' entire title on it. There have been Lord of Light (Roast Coffee) quips and Flat Wight jokes.
On Monday, HBO admitted its mistake, albeit in a way that's confused about the cup's contents: "News from Winterfell," the network tweeted from the Game of Thrones account. "The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea." (A piece of advice: Considering how uneven this season has been, now is not the time for jokes about poor planning.) That remark only drew corporate sass from Starbucks itself, which felt Dany would have ordered a Dragon Drink, an apparently real product it describes as "a combination of sweet mango and dragonfruit flavors."
It didn't matter that Game of Thrones' art director revealed that the cup wasn't from Starbucks at all—it's a generic craft services cup—the presence of the coffee chain in Westeros is now all but canon. By Tuesday, the cup had been scrubbed from existence in Westeros, but not online. Some, perhaps in retaliation to Ser Latte's digital disappearance, have started editing the cup into other classic narratives, like Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope, or just directly onto the Iron Throne. The meme is not likely to disappear any time soon.
People have always been obsessed with bloopers and movie mistakes—finding them is like peeking behind the curtain and seeing Oz. But reactions to the Westerosi latte vacillate between schadenfreude and genuine, if good-humored, irritation. Many reactions to the gaffe sneer at Game of Thrones for missing the cup despite having two years to finish the season and a reported budget of $15 million per episode. Worse, the showrunners have a cameo in the scene with the cup in question and still no one noticed, which some viewers are taking as the ultimate sign of carelessness. For some, finding the cup isn't about spotting a mistake, it's about locating proof that the show's attention to detail this season has been lacking.
With rushed and wavering episodes like "The Last of the Starks," which treated its beloved characters like chess pieces rather than people, it seems likely that this mistake—and the meme around it—could end up one of the final season's most memorable moments. Even though they're still laughing, that's sad for Thrones fans. The cup has become a symbol for just how sloppy Game of Thrones has become. The show has been commodified; it's fast food, not French press. It serves you four pumps of sugar, natural flavors, and potassium sorbate and expects your tongue to taste pumpkin. In the end the only winner is Starbucks: They've gotten an estimated $2.3 billion in free advertising, and the cup isn't even theirs.
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