'Game of Thrones' Final Season Draws Backlash Over Portrayal of Female Characters

[This story contains spoilers for season eight, episode five of HBO's Game of Thrones, "The Bells."]

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) has won the Iron Throne. On paper, it's about as happy an ending as Game of Thrones could possibly muster — but the surface details leave out all the fire, blood and character assassinations along the way.

The Mother of Dragons' conquest was at the heart of Game of Thrones' penultimate episode, "The Bells," from veteran director Miguel Sapochnik. The action-packed installment centers on Dany's increasing descent into madness, which boils over when she decides to raze the city of King's Landing to the ground rather than allow its people to surrender safely. Daenerys scorches thousands of helpless men, women and children, with much of the violence grounded in the perspectives of the victims. Meanwhile, Cersei dies in the arms of her brother Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), the two of them crushed beneath the ruins of the Red Keep, a swift end to a queen who was barely featured in the final season.

While Cersei was the only one of the two queens to actually lose her life, many Game of Thrones viewers see Daenerys' acts as nothing short of a character assassination, laying blame for the treatment of the Dragon Queen, Cersei and the series' other powerful women at the feet of creators David Benioff and Dan Weiss. Criticism regarding Daenerys' actions in "The Bells" follows recent backlash for season eight's fourth episode, "The Last of the Starks," in which Missandei of Naath (Nathalie Emmanuel), one of few persons of color on the series, was brutally beheaded in order to fuel the latest destructive arc.

Industry veterans and TV critics have reacted sharply in response to the storytelling decisions. Ahead, a selection of reactions to this past week's treatment of Daenerys and beyond: