Yes, the HBO series has been planting the seeds for a Mad Queen heel turn for years, says Riley McAtee. "Yet Sunday was the first time it ever seemed possible for Dany to burn innocents by the thousands," he says. "Despite years of foreshadowing, the character’s final tyrannical turn in this episode feels unearned. Did it really have to happen like that? In the chaos of 'The Bells,' the show forgot about the empathy that has been as fundamental to Daenerys’s character as her ruthlessness. She isn’t the Breaker of Chains for nothing. Daenerys used to personally save women from being raped by Dothraki warriors. She freed the Unsullied and countless other slaves. She took Yunkai, Astapor, and Meereen with minimal bloodshed, and she succeeded in creating a better world for the people in those cities. She wanted to rule, yes, but the girl who had spent so much of her childhood being bullied and tormented by more powerful men also knew what injustice was." He adds: "It’s one thing to be ruthless, as Daenerys has always been; it’s another to be truly cruel and evil. Daenerys’s actions in 'The Bells' were the latter. She instigated a completely unnecessary mass killing, a vicious act that is entirely outside her established character. Maybe Dany, who has much of the same foreshadowing in George R.R. Martin’s books, was always destined to become the Mad Queen—it just doesn’t make sense for it to happen without the show demonstrating any internal conflict or nuance."
So much of “The Bells” depended on Daenerys’s final attack being entirely vindictive and emotional: "The show could have laid the groundwork for this turn; it didn’t," says David Sims. "Daenerys has so long been presented as a leader who was fundamentally shaped by her experience as a captive piece of property, someone who abhorred slavery and had little taste for pure cruelty. Game of Thrones could have easily demonstrated the nasty reality of her fight for Westeros without putting the choice to massacre innocents directly on her shoulders. Instead, “The Bells” ended up painting one of the most pivotal plot points in the final season as an emotional lashing out from a tired, lonely, paranoid young woman."
Game of Thrones turned Daenerys into a crazy ex-girlfriend: "The way the episode is scripted, it’s being jilted by Jon Snow, of all things, that pushes her over the edge," says Melissa Leon. "(Not his 'betrayal' in telling Sansa about his lineage; Dany tries to kiss him again even after that.) It’s Jon pulling away from the idea of making out with his aunt that hardens her beyond reach: 'All right then. Let it be fear,' she decides, forgoing hope for love. In the 11th hour, Game of Thrones turned Dany not just into a Mad Queen, but into a crazy ex-girlfriend—the laziest of sexist tropes. And one that could have been so easily avoided. There were all the reasons in the world for Dany to snap, from genetics to bad fortune to isolation and betrayals. For the love of God, why make the final straw about Jon Snow?"
Putting Arya on the ground as an audience point-of-view character made sense: "Putting this popular, near-superhuman character on the ground with all the King’s Landing redshirts effectively sold the horror that Dany was wreaking on the place," says Alan Sepinwall. "And Arya’s attempted escape from the carnage featured some of the most jaw-dropping shots of what may be the most technically impressive episode of television ever made. It was stunning enough to see Drogon blasting through the castle’s walls from the inside, or wiping out the Iron Fleet in less time than it would take Hot Pie to eat a baked good. But following Arya in the midst of it all, frequently on the verge of dying a very stupid death so soon after safeguarding humanity, gave the spectacle by director Miguel Sapochnik and company just enough of a personal touch to mean something."