‘Game of Thrones’: Did Emilia Clarke Really Eat a Horse Heart in Iconic Daenerys Scene?

More than a year after its eighth and final season, Game of Thrones still resonates in repeat viewings and debates on internet forums. Some people are still trying to hash out how the last season “went so wrong,” while others are retreating to earlier episodes made at a time when most of the Internet wasn’t complaining about the show. 

The Internet will probably never settle the great debate over the final fate of Daenerys, as played by Emilia Clarke. That being said, it’s easier to answer the question of whether she was really eating a horse’s heart all the way back in season one of Game of Thrones.

Did Daenerys get what she deserved?

Emilia Clarke
Emilia Clarke | HBO

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The finale of Game of Thrones left more people unsatisfied than satisfied. The common complaint was that, as beloved as the HBO show had been over the  years, it started to falter once it ran out of George RR Martin material to adapt.

When the show ended up moving faster than Martin, and the writers had to find their own ending, the show went off the rails, said more than a few fans. 

Much of the debate swirled around Clarke’s character, who had been looked up to throughout the series as a leader trying to free enslaved people. Some fans so loved Dany, as she was called for short, that they named children after her.

So when she took a truly dark turn and torched innocents during her dragon attack on king’s landing, fans were aghast, saying the turn felt arbitrary and not fully thought out. That also applied to her death at the hands of Jon Snow. 

Fans were so disappointed in the final season, they started petitioning HBO for a do-over, much the same way Star Wars fans tried to have The Last Jedi declared non-canon. A CNET piece argued: “The show was too good for too long for its final two seasons, which admittedly diverged from the previous six in several bad ways, to completely tank the franchise.”

That wasn’t really a heart, was it?

If nothing else, fans had memories to revel in, as reflected by this Mental Floss roundup of trivia. One of it’s items of trivia pointed back to the season 1 episode when Daenerys ate what was supposed to be a horse’s heart. It should surprise no one to learn that it wasn’t really a horse’s heart, but that made the experience no less pleasant for Clarke. 

The heart was really a giant gummy candy. While gummy bears and worms can be fun to eat, a large gummy heart was not so much, especially over multiple takes.

“I ate roughly 28 hearts throughout the days we filmed that scene. Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often,” Clarke said.

Co-showrunner DB Weiss could be said to belabor the obvious when he said: “There was no need to tell Emilia anything about how gruesome a task it was to choke down a horse heart. Apparently, eating several pounds of gummy bear heart is almost as gruesome as the real thing.”

What does Emilia Clarke say about the finale?

Clarke told Indiewire she, too, was sad about the ending of the show, albeit for different reasons than most people. She was said for Wess and fellow showrunner David Benioff for taking so much heat, although they did enjoy a victory lap when the final season still managed to win several Emmys, including the top prize of Best Drama Series. 

“Everyone is going to have their own opinion and they’re fully entitled to them. It’s art and it’s to be dissected and taken on in whatever individual way you wish. And if you’re sad that the show is done and you’re sad because you enjoyed watching it, then that’s sad. It sucks this wasn’t the perfect ending that people were hoping for, but I truly believe we would never have made everyone happy,” Clarke said.