TV

‘Game Of Thrones’ Has Always Been Leading To This Episode

You just haven’t been paying attention.

Game of Thrones Daenerys The Mad Queen

Ooft, Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5 was a big cleansing blast of fire, and we are the confused and scared peasants running around like idiots, before being utterly consumed.

*Spoilers, clearly*

Dany has finally snapped, and has turned into the mad queen that everybody has always been scared about. Always. It’s a big mood! She’s angry and she owns a dragon, and she is burning everything down.

Honestly, with this show, I’ve felt like burning it all down too, sometimes. Watching this show is a lot of emotional labour! Burning down the innocent is basically self care.

Lots and lots of people died in this episode, some better than others. Farewell, Varys, Cersei, Jaime, Mr Mountain, Le Dog, Harry Strickland, Qyburn, Euron… and basically every single person who lives in King’s Landing.

It was huge! It was an extremely fitting penultimate episode. But a lot of people are super, super mad.

Which is interesting! People seem very entitled towards their own idea of what a good and a bad character arc entails.

Dany Has Never Been A Hero

Daenerys Stormborn was turned into a hero basically by accident.

Sure, she’s done some really good things in her time — freeing slaves is pretty great, for example. But she’s never been motivated purely by altruism when doing this. Every bit of mercy, charity or kindness that she’s exhibited has happened as she marched towards achieving her imperialistic goals of conquering and ruling a far-off nation.

Even her “liberation” of the slave cities ended up with her getting a massive army. If she was TRULY doing it for their sakes, she would have disbanded them.

She believes wholeheartedly in her own right to rule a nation, purely because of her birth and desire. Her father was an insane megalomaniacal dictator from a long line of strict and horrific rulers. That’s the foundation of Daenerys’ rule. I’m no moral scientist, but I would say that conquering is usually bad!

She spent a lot of time convincing others that she’d take the Seven Kingdoms in the cleanest war possible, but… that’s still insanely egotistical and overwhelmingly ambitious. Monarchies are never about serving people! She’s no saint.

As time went on, the monarchy of Westeros got worse and worse, and Dany basically did a quick PR job and set herself up as the opposite of the Lannisters. The Lannisters are bad! Therefore, Dany is good!

As an audience, we need heroes in stories — and I’m afraid to say that we basically projected all those qualities on to Daenarys. Every time she did something monstrous for the right reasons (she burned a LOT of people alive BEFORE Kings Landing, friends) we basically normalised it because we wanted it all to be worthwhile. We wanted it justified.

This show has never been about justice, and I think people are angry because they wanted it to be. If wishes were fishes, we’d all be Tullys!

Also, there’s a SHITLOAD of people who named their daughter Dany or Khaleesi, lol. We were well and truly projecting.

Just Some Monstrous Things Dany Did

Remember when Daenerys burned that witch alive and accidentally made dragons back in the first season? Lest we forget that Mirri Maz Duur was getting revenge on the Dothraki who had slaughtered her village and (in the books at least) raped her?

Remember when Daenerys crucified 163 slave masters, and then was later told that some of them actually probably weren’t guilty, and she shrugged it off? I mean, I personally think she was in the right, but the step between mass crucification and mass burning isn’t too far.

Remember when she burns every single Dothraki Khal, and then forces their armies to swear to her so she can unleash them on another nation?

Remember when she burns all the Sons of the Harpy? Remember when she burns Sam’s dad and brother to make an example, and absolutely did not NEED to?

We don’t need to go into whether or not any of these are justified — they all make logical and probably ethical sense to her. But they also point the way towards her current actions, and always have.

“We will lay waste to armies and burn cities to the ground” — Daenerys Stormborn, season 2.

Foreshadowing A Monster

Everyone has always been scared of Daenerys becoming a monster.

In the House of the Undying in Season 2, the prophecy was that she’d become the “queen of ashes” —  the show has literally foretold this being a potential outcome for Daenerys from the beginning. I would argue that the litany of tragedy that’s happened to her, and the above ethical compromises more than adequately justify her taking that turn.

When she invaded Westeros, the sometimes-astute Tyrion warned her of how she’d look to the populace if she conquered with savage Dothraki screamers and hordes of foreign soldiers. They always talked about how easy it would be for her to win through burning down the Red Keep, but basically how bad of an image issue it would be if she causes casualties with her dragons.

Cersei at one point lumps Dany in with the Night King, saying they’re each forces of magic and horror — and it’s true. With her dragons, with her exotic, magical origins, she is far from an ordinary ruler.

We got a taste of how terrifying a dragon could be when the Night King turned one. If we forget that we hate Cersei, her efforts to fight against the dragons becomes more noble — it’s regular people trying to defend themselves against the otherworldly, the powerful.

In many ways, this show has been divided into two stories (this is legit a thing, it’s not a song of Ice and Fire for nothing), the drama of human politics and the threat of the supernatural. With the Night King defeated, and the battle removed from the far more wild and acceptably mysterious north, into the more civilised and human south, Dany has become the supernatural force to be feared.

She is the other.

This is why Varys was dragoned to death at the beginning of this episode. He’s always been the most concerned that Dany will one day turn, like the Mad King before her. He’s always symbolically tried to align himself with the normal, common people and their interests.

By killing him, she’s shown that she has put her interests first, and has shucked off the very thin mantle of altruism that she’s used to gain and retain power.

The Snap

George Ronald Ronald Martin has always loved a twist. He loves to give us a hero and then tear them away from us. He loves to make us feel foolish for looking for hope in those heroes.

This is what he did with Ned Stark, when he beheaded him. This is what he did with Robb Stark, when he beheaded him and then sewed a direwolf head onto his body.

This is what he did with Oberyn Martell when he smooshed his noggin.

The turning of Daenerys Targaryen is exactly the same motivation, but instead of killing her, he just showed us that she was never the hero we wanted. It’s WANTING a hero that ruins us, and that we are made to feel like big dum-dums about.

I agree that Dany’s snap could have used another episode at least of drawing out. It truly did feel like we moved very quickly from normal Dany into unbrushed hair and paranoia — but I guess things move fast when you’re close to reaching your goal as a dragon-conquerer.

I also agree that there are several gendered implications with Dany’s “madness” — but they were there from the very beginning, not recently introduced.

Happy Ever After

One of the reasons people are mad about this episode is because this foretells a grim ending to this nine year saga next episode.

We don’t know the specifics yet, but after committing a genocide, there’s no way Dany can finish her arc happily. That must be sad for anyone who thought she would. But it’s Game of Thrones? Honestly how did anyone expect it would end? With the most beautiful wedding in the world? With a rousing awards ceremony like the end of Star Wars: A New Hope?

If there’s one moral of this show, it’s that playing the Game of Thrones makes literally nobody happy ever. Especially not us!


Patrick Lenton is the Entertainment Editor at Junkee. He tweets @patricklenton.