For those of you who know me, you know that "Game of Thrones" is my favorite obsession. From the music, to the costuming, to the set design, to the books, I love all things GOT related. When the penultimate episode of the famous HBO series aired on May 12th, 2019, the absolute massacre that we witnessed seemed to come out of nowhere, and many fans were left livid with how the episode, season, and show turned right before the end. After a year of rewatching, reflecting, and looking for foreshadowing, here is my take on the fate of the beloved Daenerys Targaryen.
(The rest of this article contains major spoilers for the entire 8th season of Game of Thrones.)
It Was Always Going To Happen
In looking back throughout the HBO series, there are several key moments that directly foreshadow how Daenerys' story will end. The most striking takes place in the Season 2 finale, "Valar Morghulis". While inside the House of the Undying in Qarth, Daenerys has a vision in which she walks through the throne room of the Red Keep, where everything is broken and covered in white. I always thought it was snow, but we now know that it is the ash from the Drogon's dragonfire. The most striking thing is that the shot of Daenerys and the Iron Throne is exactly the same as what we see in the Season 8 finale, "The Iron Throne".
(For specific start/end times below use: HBO S2E10 scene: 00:45:21- 00:46:00 and Youtube: 00:00:50 00:01:22)
Game Of Thrones - Daenerys Vision Scene From "Game Of Thrones" Season 2 Finale "Valar Morghulis".
If you watch the two scenes side-by-side, starting from the time markers below, the only difference is that in Season 2 Daenerys does not touch the Iron Throne. She even turns over the same shoulder to look away in both scenes.
(For specific start/end times below use: HBO S8E6 scene: 00:32:20-00:33:15 and Youtube: 00:01:04-00:02:00)
Daenerys Approaches to the Iron Throne | Game Of Thrones S8 Ep6 From "Game Of Thrones" Season 6 Finale "The Iron Throne".
So what does this tell us? Basically, it tells us that since Season 2 the showrunners have known that Daenerys was going to end up alone in the burnt and destroyed throne room in King's Landing, which to me suggests that they always intended for her to go mad. Below are a few key signs of her outcome that were a little less obvious:
She Told Us She Would Do It All Along
In Season 1, Khal drogo makes a pledge to Daenerys that he will give her the Seven Kingdoms; he swears this to her and to their unborn son, Rheago. He says, "I will kill the men in iron suits… and tear down their stone houses." This is perhaps one of the earliest moments that Daenerys begins to truly see what she wants: total rule over the Seven Kingdoms. (HBO S1E7 scene: 00:50:10-00:51:35 Youtube: 00:01:05-00:02:30)
In Season 5, Daenerys talks with Tyrion about her goals to take back the Seven Kingdoms. She tells Tyrion that all of the great houses are "just spokes on a wheel. This one's on top, then that one's on top, and on, and on it spins, crushing those on the ground." Tyrion responds that "It's a beautiful dream; stopping the wheel. You're not the first person who's ever dreamt it," to which she replies, "I'm not going to stop the wheel. I'm going to break the wheel." (HBO S5E8 scene: 00:25:00- 00:25:30 Youtube 4:40 -5:14)
In Season 6, when Daenerys recruits her khalasar of Dothraki, she delivers a powerful, inspiring speech to win them to her side. In her speech she asks the Dothraki, "Will you ride the wooden horses across the black salt sea? Will you kill my enemies in their iron suits and tear down their stone houses? Will you give me the Seven Kingdoms, the gift Khal Drogo promised me before the Mother of Mountains? Are you with me? Now, and always?" The scene is striking. It feels empowering, victorious, and inspiring between Emilia Clarke's brilliant acting, the musical scoring, and the spectacle of the scene. But Daenerys really is asking the Dothraki to do exactly what we see at the end of Season 8: she's asking them to destroy her enemies, which seems to be referring to everyone not following her cause. (HBO S6E6 scene: 00:51:00-00:52:20 and Youtube 00:02:40-00:04:00)
Finally, in Season 7, Daenerys finds out that the Unsullied have been successful in taking Casterly Rock, but the Lannisters had already deserted the place and taken all of the food from the Reach, so seizing the castle was essentially useless. As Tyrion tries to tell Daenerys that they can come up with a new plan, she says, "Enough with the clever plans. I have three large dragons. I'm going to fly them to the Red Keep… My enemies are in the Red Keep." And Jon Snow has to talk her out of flying to King's Landing. Instead, she flies to meet the Lannister army, and we see her absolutely massacre them, hence the episode's name, "The Spoils of War". (HBO S7E4 scene: and Youtube: 00:00:40-00:01:56)
After 7 seasons of watching Daenerys clearly outline her plans to conquer the Seven Kingdoms, why did that final turn feel like such a betrayal to her character? Everything Daenerys says in her final speech directly draws on those earlier speeches not only in what she says but how she says it. (HBO S8E6 00:14:10-00:16:40 and Youtube: 00:02:10-00:05:00)
I truly believe that the showrunners wanted Daenerys' fate to be their last element of surprise. With fans making predictions left and right leading up to the final season, some of which being true, the only logical reason why the showrunners killed Daenerys' character arc was for the sake of surprising the audience. Every speech she gave, every person she burned alive, every time she declared she would conquer the Seven Kingdoms, it was presented as inspiring, empowering, and positive. The show built her up as such a positive liberator that it made no sense when she killed thousands of innocent people. Honestly, I think her ending is fitting given it is what she always indicated she would do. She lost nearly everyone she loved in the process of making her way to the Iron Throne, and she finally reached the breaking point that allowed her to consciously seize what she had always wanted.
The problem is that the showrunners killed her character arc by making every authoritarian action of hers triumphant until this point.
Had the lighting, or music, or ensemble reactions been different in those earlier seasons, this ending would have been reasonable or even logical. But the showrunners built her up as a beloved figure who went mad for the sake of one final surprise. And it's a downright shame. If they would have built up this side of Daenerys, that ending would not only have felt more logical, it would have likely been much more powerful too. After everything she went through, I loved seeing Daenerys get what she wanted. But the price was too high and too out of left field. It is one of the best instances of sacrificing narrative for the sake of spectacle.
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