Last night, the most popular TV show in the world crossed paths with the most popular beverage in the world.
If it were simply Young Sheldon glimpsed sipping his inaugural macchiato, it would be no big deal. Instead, the grande-size, heat-sleeved treat belonged to Daenerys Targaryen, a resident of Westeros, the fictitious Game of Thrones realm that famously eschews corporatism for wizardry and blood sport.
— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) May 6, 2019
Only a scant few viewers seemed to catch the loose cup as the show initially aired on Sunday night. Once the initial wave of tweets about the actual substance of the episode subsided, though, the images of the cup spread throughout the internet like wildfire—specifically, the wildfire Cersei used to kill everybody at King’s Landing. By Monday morning, “Starbucks Cup” was trending on Twitter, which was probably better news for Starbucks than for the team behind Game of Thrones.
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
Was the cup on the table an on-set prank? A brand activation? An elaborate hint at what’s to come in the next episode? (Jon Snow is going to “flat white” something?) As one Twitterer who works in TV points out, the answer may not be all that interesting:
This happens a lot & is not really remarkable. Script supervisors (@Local871 members) catch 999 of these out of 1,000 but set is hectic and in a show like this they are watching so much. Also, they may have caught it but the “good” takes proved unusable for other reasons in post. https://t.co/PBXZXZXzNN
— Brenden Gallagher (@brendengallager) May 6, 2019
And as production designer Hannah Beachler notes, it’s likely not even a Starbucks cup!
That cup (from Crafty ???? not Starbucks) is sitting in front of The Warden of the North’s chair, not Khaleesi! Only DGA members can Eat and Drink on set! #DoNotEverLetMeCatchThat when Camera is going up! ????bloop! https://t.co/3m1SVR1bAV
— Hannah Beachler (@chinchilla1970) May 6, 2019
So, there you have it. It was a common mistake, the kind of thing that ends up in IMDB’s “goofs” section all the time. The only reason this cup is getting attention is because it appeared in a show that is watched and scrutinized by a ridiculous number of people around the world in unison, people who are now left to ponder just how much the baristas in Westeros would screw up names like “Daenerys” on the sides of those cups.
Fast Company has reached out to HBO for comment on Cupgate and will update this post accordingly.