Ah, Daenerys. Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys. Missandei’s Daenerys, Jorah’s Daenerys, Grey Worm’s Daenerys, the queen we chose. Not because she’s the daughter of some king we never knew in a foreign land across the Narrow Sea, but because of who she is. The girl who walked into fire with three stone eggs and walked out unburnt with three baby dragons. The child who survived on the run as an exile, an abusive brother, rape and slavery, and carved out a place for herself in a savage culture. The girl who struck the chains off every slave in every city she conquered, in a world set against her. The woman who struggled against her worst instincts, battled her father’s legacy as a mad and cruel king, and compromised for peace over and over again for people who never thanked her for it. She freed the Unsullied in Astapor, and put them to use slaying the masters precisely because she knew that the Unsullied wouldn’t rape or loot or pillage in their sacking of Astapor; they’re the world’s most highly disciplined elite infantry. She conquered Meereen with minimal violence, infiltrating the city from the sewers and using her ships as a battering ram to force their entry through the weakest gate. Her conquest of Yunkai was virtually bloodless.
She delayed her voyage to Westeros because she wanted to see peace and stability, and ensure the continued freedom of the people she had saved, to watch over Essos lest it collapse back into slavery in her absence. This is the woman who chained up her own dragons, her children, beneath the pyramids of Meereen because one of them might have killed a shepherd child. The woman who married a likely enemy against her heart’s desire in an attempt to broker peace between the perpetrators of an old, tyrannical world, and the freed civilians of a newer, more just one. This is the woman who peacefully agreed to the Iron Islands seceding from the Seven Kingdoms on the condition that they abandon their reaving, raiding, and raping.
When she arrived on Dragonstone in full strength, with her armada of a hundred thousand Dothraki, eight thousand Unsullied, the swiftest ships from the Iron Fleet and the allegiances of Houses Greyjoy, Tyrell, and Martell, and the armies of the Iron Islands, the Reach, and Dorne that came with them, she did not begin her conquest as most conquerors do- with fire and blood. Unwilling to fly her dragons to the Red Keep and take out Cersei with ease, because she did not want to the risk the lives of Cersei’s household guard, the page boys and cupbearers and ladies in waiting and cooks and kitchen maids; lives that most people at war would wave off as unfortunate but necessary collateral casualties.
How else do you take a city? Let’s see. She could have sailed the Greyjoy fleet and attempted to attack from Blackwater Bay, as Stannis did in Season 2. Or she could have used the Unsullied and the Tyrell and Martell armies and tried to take King’s Landing via the Mud Gate, strategically the weakest point in the city’s defences, since it connects the city to the South and the Roseroad, where her allies the Tyrells have dominion. This would have been easy enough; winter had come and most of the city’s grain comes via the Roseroad from the Reach. In a universe that is still consistent and bounded by in universe logic, Cersei should never have been sitting on the Iron Throne in the first place. She got out of attending her own trial by committing an act of terrorism, blowing up the Sept of Baelor with her uncle and King Tommen’s Hand, Kevan Lannister and the last heirs to Highgarden and directly causing the death of her last remaining child by killing the woman he loved. Legally, her status was still unclear. Why was she made Queen when everyone knew her as the sinner who made her walk of atonement naked as the smallfolk flung shit and mud and rotten food at her? Why was she made Queen when everyone knew she had blown up a place of worship so soon after the King had declared that the Crown and the Faith were the two pillars that held up the world? (Hot Pie mentions this to Arya. If word had gotten around to the Crossroads Inn, it surely had gotten around to most of the Seven Kingdoms). Why were the people of King’s Landing not rioting against her as they did with King Joffrey in Season 2? Why are the other great houses and families of those she killed in the Sept not rallying their forces to depose her? Why are there no consequences for her actions?
Game of Thrones has always been its strongest when characters suffer the consequences of their actions through a logical progression of events carried by consistent characterization, no matter how much the audience were rooting for the victims of those consequences. Ned Stark lost his head because he stupidly confronted Cersei in what he believed was an attempt for her to save herself and her children, and what she perceived as a threat that she then neutralized swiftly and effectively. Even then Cersei knew the importance of consequences; she knew killing Ned Stark would start a war, so she was as horrified as anyone when her sadist of a son ordered Ned killed instead of exiled to the Night’s Watch. Robb Stark, for all his military feats and victories on the field, was betrayed by his own bannerman and killed when he broke a binding oath. Arya went blind for misusing her face changing powers on someone she wasn’t supposed to kill. Theon was made captive and tortured when he betrayed Robb Stark and captured Winterfell at its weakest, only to fall when the Boltons, who had also betrayed Robb Stark, came to claim Winterfell. Jon Snow was killed by his own men when he abandoned the neutrality of the Night’s Watch and promised protection to the wildlings who had put entire villages to the sword on their raids.
Then you reach Season 7, and the world of Westeros seems to shrink, the logistics of time and travel are skewed, and most distressingly, characters we’ve been seeing growing and learning suddenly behave like completely different people. Story and characterization are axed in favour of visual spectacle. The mysterious fantasy elements that made this more than just a period drama- Bran Stark’s journey, the Three Eyed Raven, the Night King and the White Walkers, the visions in the House of the Undying, warlocks and Quaithe, dragons and prophecies- are relegated to background themes that serve only to propel plot points. Tyrion, who in the books takes a darker, vengeful turn after his trial, and kills his lover in cold blood (as opposed to self defence on the show), who bitterly swears in front of the whole court, ‘I wish I had poison for all of you!’ is suddenly the show’s moral compass. Arya, who’s been psychopathically stabbing people and crossing names off her list, killing and baking human beings into pies and feeding them to their father, is suddenly humanized in some slow motion footage of her walking around seeing death and destruction all around her.
Jaime is made the empathetic focal point in the Field of Fire in S7, as he leads the Lannister forces back after sacking Highgarden and killing Olenna, and is ambushed by Daenerys and the Dothraki. From S7 onward, the writers abruptly double down on the framing of Daenerys as burgeoning tyrant with violent instincts that are held in check only by her advisors. They leave Jaime’s sack of Highgarden off screen, and all the Lannister soldiers look immaculate in their polished armour, but this is misleading. What happened in Highgarden? Lannisters are not Unsullied. They looted, raped, and pillaged, killing thousands. But the viewers are tricked into not thinking about this uncomfortable fact because we don’t see it happen. What we do see is Tyrion walking around looking devastated at the destruction the Dothraki and Daenerys wreak on the Lannister forces. Tyrion, who did worse when he blew up Stannis’s fleet with wildfire, stares at the field looking horrified as though he’s a complete stranger to medieval warfare. Canonically, wildfire is the most painful way of dying, and dragonfire the least painful and most instantaneous. Dragonfire is so powerful that Aegon the Conqueror was able to melt the stones of Harrenhal within an hour, so powerful that it crisps people to ashes the moment it hits them. Benioff and Weiss conveniently contradict this when they show charred bodies in hunks of Lannister armour, but then have Randyll and Dickon Tarly flailing around for a good twenty seconds when Drogon burns them.
The choice Daenerys gave the Tarlies was the choice proposed by every other ruler in Westerosi history, including the lauded Aegon I. In fact, it was even more generous than most, because she told them they could keep their lands and titles if they submitted. Did Robert Baratheon put men in chains because they refused to submit to his rule? No, he just killed them, and pardoned the ones who bent the knee and would obviously be of use to him (Ser Barristan). Dany even considered sending them to the Wall; Randyll pointed out that since she was not his Queen, she did not have that power. Lest we forget, Randyll Tarly is bannerman to Olenna Tyrell. He’s already a war criminal by reneging on his oath to his liege lady, just like Roose Bolton did to Robb Stark. Daenerys gave them a choice, hardly more ruthless than any other medieval ruler in her place would’ve done. They made their choice, she kept her word, and suddenly Varys and Tyrion are muttering their concerns over her apparently bloodthirsty nature.
Varys, whose whole career involves operating a network of spies in order to bring people down, pit them against each other, and put his favourites in power. Varys who whispered in the ‘Mad’ King Aerys’s ear that his son Rhaegar was plotting against him, and intentionally fanned Aerys’s paranoia. A central theme in Game of Thrones has always been the juxtaposition between how things happen, and how the narratives around them are constructed- information asymmetry, the biased stories that constitute our histories. This issue is exemplified in Jaime Lannister, who is derided and feared and hated by the very people he saved by breaking his oath. He copes with this unfortunate legacy by playing the part of the callous warrior people think he is, and it is only when he confides in Brienne of Aerys’s plan to burn the city to the ground with hidden caches of wildfire, that he begins to reject his reputation as ‘Kingslayer’ and begin his redemption arc. We know he struggles with this because we’ve seen him in earlier seasons looking at his page in the book of the Kingsguard, and his obvious admiration for Brienne, who is the ideal knight in all but name. Even ‘Mad King Aerys II’ was probably not really mad. He began his reign as a generous, likeable man, until the Defiance of Duskendale when he was imprisoned in solitary cell for 6 solid months, which tipped him over into full blown madness. Even so, his descent into paranoia did not happen overnight, and did not happen entirely without cause; Varys was actively plotting to depose him and put Rhaegar on the throne.
Even the Mountain, Gregor Clegane, is not simply the one dimensional brutal, violent killing machine he’s portrayed as. He overdoses on milk of the poppy, has migraines and kills almost compulsively; in fact, in the books, it’s strongly suggested that he has a brain tumour which medieval society has no way of understanding, but we as viewers/ readers do. And that’s the point. We’re supposed to be caught by the dramatic irony of knowing who these characters really are and how their world chooses to see them. The show even alludes to this notion when Arya witnesses the mummer’s theatre in S6, when she’s training in Braavos. Ned Stark is portrayed as a treacherous fool with every intent of usurping Robert, Tyrion is presented as the Demon Imp who murders King Joffrey, Sansa is nothing but a damsel in distress. In a moment of what could have been a meta commentary on the construction of history and the importance of revisionism, Arya sees the people she knows well reduced to the worst, most shallow and grotesque stereotypes. We know that Sansa grows on to become more than a damsel in distress very quickly, we know that Ned had no intentions of treachery, and that Tyrion was far from a demon and actually the saviour of King’s Landing in the Battle of Blackwater Bay, just as we know that Jaime sacrificed his honour for the sake of the whole city.
The reason I’m drawing attention to this is because I have little doubt that even in the books, Daenerys will go down in Westerosi history as the Mad Queen. It’s such an important plot point that, like the blowing up of the Sept, Hodor’s tragic reveal, and Jon Snow’s death, it probably came straight from Martin. Daenerys has always been walking the path of a tragic hero, torn between her childlike desire for the ‘house with the red door’ which she associates with home, belonging, and love, and her desire to press onward towards Westeros. Young as she is, she conflates her desire for the Iron Throne with her desire for home and family, without realizing that Westeros has never been her home, and Westerosi have never been her family. Martin probably gave Benioff and Weiss the skeleton outline of the endgame- Dany will burn the city to the ground, she will become Mad Queen Daenerys, and Jon Snow will have to kill her. The only tragedy bigger than Dany’s here is that Benioff and Weiss failed not only as show writers, but as an audience too, completely squandering Martin’s bare plot points in service of a shallow and unearned arc.
Nothing Dany has done in the books or the show has justified her sudden, abrupt heel turn into violent mass murdering psychopath. In the books, it’s likely that her burning down King’s Landing will be at least partially accidental- she’ll be targeting the Red Keep, but it’ll set off the wildfire caches her father hid underneath the city. In a moment of poetic tragedy, she will become what she has always struggled to oppose- the mad Targaryen daughter of the mad king who wanted to ‘burn them all’. However, unlike the show, this will probably happen before the war with the White Walkers to the North, which will serve as the story’s final endgame. This is hinted at by a prophecy that Dany hears repeatedly:
‘To go north, you must journey south, to reach the west you must go east. To go forward you must go back and to touch the light you must pass beneath the shadow.’
Quaith, the mysterious masked woman, is very much an echo of the supernatural forces that guide characters in Shakespearean tragedies, like the ghost in Hamlet and the witches in Macbeth. I suspect the prophecy means this: before Dany can go north to fight the White Walkers, she must rule (likely with fear) in the south, in King’s Landing. Before she can go west to Westeros, she must liberate the cities of the East in Essos, and rally an army of freedmen. Before she can go forward with her goals she must revisit the losses and desires of her childhood, and to reach the light of redemption she must pass beneath the shadow of tyranny. Just like a jaded Jaime whose intentions were, to begin with, heroic and noble, Dany too will begin to emulate the persona she inspires, rather than being the person she is. She will rule with fear, because the people of Westeros decided who and what she was the moment she flew in with her dragons and foreign Eastern army, and sent the city up in a blaze of wildfire. They will not entertain the notion of it being ‘accidental’ anymore than they are willing to accept that Jaime broke his vows to save the city, or that Ned was innocent of treason and made a false confession only for his family’s sake, or that Tyrion didn’t kill Joffrey and really saved them all by engineering their victory over Stannis.
The seeds of Dany’s reputation as a Mad Queen have already been planted as of the final book. Quentyn Martell, a Prince of Dorne who was dropped from the show, travels to Meereen to meet Daenerys on the premise of a secret pact signed by Ser Willem Darry, promising Viserys to Princess Arianne Martell (another brilliant character dropped from the show). Dany treats with him politely enough, entertains him at court as an honoured guest, but since Viserys is dead, and Dany is already married to Hizdahr, she urges him to return to Dorne as there is nothing for him in Meereen. Quentyn, however, does not wish to return empty handed to his father. So when Dany is out of the city, he sneaks down into the pyramids to try and tame and claim Viserion, the friendliest of Dany’s dragons. Unfortunately for him, Rhaegal burns him before he can, and despite Missandei treating him for three days, he dies of his injuries. While we the readers know that this is hardly Dany’s fault, the narrative around this incident and the way the other characters respond to it is already hinting that the public story will be that the Dragon Queen rejected his proposal and burned him alive.
Meanwhile, a darker, resurrected Jon Snow will come to ask for help against the dead. Their falling in love will be much more powerful in the books, because Jon Snow, like Daenerys, is also poised for a darker turn. In the books, he is killed not because he let the wildlings south, but because as Lord Commander he ordered the Night’s Watch to march on the Boltons to save his sister. He broke his vows in a very clear and unambiguous way, whereas in the show he technically ‘died’ before waging war on Ramsay Bolton, so that we could cheer him on as an honorable good guy. In the books, his brothers in black have tears in their eyes as they stab their Lord Commander, because they too are conflicted; they love him and yet are compelled to betray him because he abused his authority and enlisted them in a deeply personal war for a family he swore to cast aside. In the books, Jon has dreams about killing Robb Stark so that he can take Winterfell, and in later books especially he uses more violence on his opponents than is strictly necessary. Tyrion is by far the worst of the three; his trial leaves him more bitter and cynical than ever before; he mindlessly rapes women, he strikes them sometimes, is cruel and hungry for vengeance, fantasizing about raping and killing Cersei. In the books, he will likely be the one to egg Dany on to using more ruthless means and more firepower against King’s Landing, because he really does want revenge on the people who never gave him a drop of gratitude for saving them, and then called for his head for a crime he did not commit.
In the show, they make Tyrion a highly moral, pacifist, doubt ridden moral compass of a character who becomes a mouthpiece for the showrunners. Benioff and Weiss seem unable to decide exactly how to execute the ‘Mad Queen’ plot point, so they fall back on the cheapest of tropes, the very stereotypes that the books work so well at dismantling.
‘Every time a Targaryen is born,’ Varys tells us, ‘the gods flip a coin, and the world holds its breath to see on which side it lands.’
He goes on to affirm for the audience that Jon fell on the ‘great’ side of the coin, and implies that Dany falls on the other, ‘mad’ side of the coin. In one stroke, the show obliterates the premise of its characters, by erasing the ethical grey area between good and evil. Martin has outlined the lives and deeds of all the Targaryen monarchs in other works, and makes it quite clear that the coin flip saying is just that- a popular saying, much like ‘A Lannister always pays his debts’. Just as surely as there must have been many a Lannister who did not pay their debts, the vast majority of Targaryens are actually middling monarchs, with very few- maybe three or four in a long line- being truly insane. In any case, both their ‘madness’ and their ‘greatness’ derives quite simply from the fact that they were dragonlords born into a dynasty of dragonriders. Give a good hearted peasant a crown, an army and a dragon, and his deeds will be labelled ‘great’. Give a cruel peasant a crown, an army and a dragon, and his deeds will be labelled ‘mad’. Targaryen greatness and madness almost always comes down to the fact that they were born into power, and everything that people in power do is magnified and more likely to have extreme consequences. So Varys taking that saying at face value was a gross insult to the character’s intelligence, almost as bad as actually believing another one of the story’s popular sayings, ‘Tywin Lannister shits gold’. Even the famed Lannister fortune is revealed to be a facade, as the crown is heavily in debt and the gold mines of Lannisport have long since run dry.
In trying so desperately to get us to dislike Daenerys, Benioff and Weiss made me dislike everyone except Daenerys. Book readers and fans of Stannis Baratheon will know what I mean; in the books, Stannis never burns Shireen, and makes it clear that should he die in the war against the Boltons, his advisors are to put Shireen on the throne. Stannis also delivers one of the most noble ideas in the books:
‘I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.’
This is why he remains the only self proclaimed monarch who aids the Night’s Watch against the real enemy beyond the Wall. With the sacrifice of Shireen on the show, Stannis was callously tossed onto the villain pile. They tried to do the same thing with Daenerys, and then justify it by saying that she’s always shown signs of madness.
This is simply not true. Specifically, the writers point to her not reacting strongly as Khal Drogo killed Viserys. Viserys had abused her sexually and physically and psychologically, sold her for an army for himself, told her he’d be happy to let all the Dothraki and their horses rape her if he gets his army, and threatened to cut her baby out from her, to name a few. He abused Dany far longer than Ramsay abused Sansa, but nobody calls it a sign of ‘madness’ when Sansa feeds Ramsay to his own hounds and walks away with a smirk, or when Arya kills off the entire male line of House Frey and walks out calmly. Daenerys crucified the masters who had crucified little slave children every milestone with the express intention of mocking her. 163 children, and she crucified 163 Masters in retaliation, to send a message. Was that just? No, because we later found out that at least a few of those Masters had objected strongly to crucifying the children. But ruthlessness and vengeance are not signs of madness, or half of Westeros would be mad and none more than Arya Stark, that saviour of humanity.
Another incident to which people point as foreshadowing is what she tells the Thirteen in Qarth: ‘We will lay waste to armies, we will burn cities to the ground, I will take what is mine with fire and blood. Turn us away, and we will burn you first.’ People often quote this out of context. When Dany said this, she, her baby dragons, and her little khalasar were starved and parched after traveling in the Red Waste, and they all would have certainly died if Qarth had turned them away. This was no worse than Robb Stark angrily proclaiming ‘I will kill them all!’ when he hears of his father’s death. Did he actually intend on going to King’s Landing and killing them all? Probably not. Dany was desperate. She needed to get into Qarth or all the people who’d chosen to follow her would have died for their choice. She tried to reason with them, then pleaded, and then finally intimidated the only people who could save her life. And long after her dragons had grown and she had amassed a formidable army of devoutly loyal soldiers, she never returned to Qarth to make good on her threat; because it was only something she said to get out of a dire situation.
In any case, foreshadowing is not character development. The writing of the final three episodes has felt terribly confused. They have Arya tell us that ‘Sansa is the smartest person’ she knows, but nothing Sansa does or says gives any indication that she’s smarter than she was when her quick thinking saved Ser Dontos Hollard’s life in S2, or when she lied deftly to save Littlefinger from the Lords of the Vale after he pushed Lysa Arryn from the Moon Door. She points out their grain stores are running low, and that their armies need to rest. That’s obvious. She openly antagonized their new Queen, Daenerys, when she’s put her war on hold to come to the North’s aid. That’s petty. She tries to argue for an independent North with absolutely no leverage whatsoever, as the biggest threat to humanity marches towards Winterfell. That’s just plain stupid. The only way we can conclude Sansa was ‘smart’ is in hindsight. Had Sansa read the script? Sure sounds like it, because anyone else would be shitting their trousers at the thought of an undead army headed by a supernatural force coming to kill them all, instead of thinking politics in the off chance that they survive. Making Sansa act bitchy towards Daenerys not only continues the seasons- long trend of pitting women in catfights against each other when it’s completely unrealistic (the Sansa/ Arya subplot from S7, Meera/ Osha, even Arya/ the Waif, because in the books they were friends), but it’s also a disgustingly cheap way of getting the audience to dislike Daenerys.
Then you have Varys worrying about her ‘mental state’ when all Daenerys has ever done up till that point is perfectly sane. At the Winterfell feast when Tormund and co. were praising Jon as a war hero and for riding a dragon, Dany looked lonely and isolated and maybe a little envious. And why not? She actually did more than Jon in the battle, the first to leap onto Drogon and get into action, saving his life (for the second time) when he stupidly charged at the Night King from 500 m away, and picking up a sword and fighting for her life even though she’s not a fighter. As Dany rode dragons and torched the undead army with Drogon and saved Jon Snow, and Lyanna Mormont took out a giant, Sansa cowered in the crypts bitching about Dany. What did Dany do to make Varys worry about her mental state? It’s not like she threw her wine in anyone’s face or stormed out. She quietly left a situation that was making her uncomfortable, then tried to talk to Jon about it. A very emotionally mature response.
The worst of it, however, came in the series finale, with Dany’s ominous speech about ‘liberating’ the entire world from Winterfell to Dorne, from the Sunset Isles to the Jade Sea. After spending two episodes trying to convince us that Daenerys’s 180 degree heel turn was a spur of the moment decision grounded in emotion, the writers immediately backtrack and try to gaslight us into thinking that she’s always been like this, and that this was her plan all along. Tyrion might as well have turned to the camera when he claimed that she’s always been like this but we cheered her on because she was doing it at first only to evil men. The thing is, his argument doesn’t hold up well at all because it’s a huge fucking leap from wanting to abolish slavery to liberating all the free people of the world from their mortal coils. Dany’s sense of justice has always been ruthless, but it has never been irrational. She only hurt people who had wronged her or systematically abused others on a truly horrific scale. She only targeted perceived enemies, and took the least violent approach whenever possible. It just doesn’t make any sense for her character to do what she did in Episode 5, and then that bizarre speech in Episode 6 that came out of nowhere.
The very fact that they never once showed us Dany’s face once she began her rampage after the city had surrendered is evidence of the absurdity of it. Because what could you show on her face that would be consistent with the Daenerys we’ve known for 8 seasons? Emilia Clarke gave it her very, very best, and her speech in Episode 6 chilled me and actually made me wish we could’ve had an entire season of dark Daenerys (not ‘mad’ Daenerys). But the script fails to sell this turn of events. It fails utterly and miserably, and once Dany is dead it becomes positively Disney-esque in its resolutions for other characters. The beloved Starks get everything they ever wanted. The Dothraki apparently happily assimilate into Westerosi society. The Unsullied sail off to Naath (OK, that little bit was actually sweet). Yara Greyjoy, who had been promised independence for the Iron Islands, gets a death threat from Arya after (rightly) saying that Jon should get justice for killing her queen. Sansa rudely tells her uncle Edmure Tully to sit down, and Edmure is made into a slapstick joke. Edmure Tully is not a joke. He’s a kind and brave lord who took in all of his common folk into Riverrun to protect them from Tywin’s raiders and rapists. Riverrun was crammed with tents because he wanted to protect them all. He was forced to marry a Frey because his nephew, Sansa’s brother, broke his oath. Then he spent the next few years in a dungeon cell, not knowing what became of his wife and son. And they made him into a joke instead of resolving his plot.
Samwell Tarly is made Grand Maester despite not having forged a single link in the chain even freshly qualified Maesters are supposed to wear. Does Sam realize that becoming a Maester means he can never have a wife and family? Does he willingly abandon Gilly and let Little Sam (and Little Jon, who’s on the way) grow up as bastards, when his best friend is an example of the way the world treats bastards? Why couldn’t he just retire as Lord Tarly of Highgarden and the Reach and ask Professor Slughorn from the Citadel to become Grand Maester? Why does Davos suggest that the Unsullied settle in the Reach and start their own house? It’s common knowledge that the Unsullied are all castrated! Why is Bronn- fucking Bronn, of all people- made Master of Coin and Lord of Highgarden? Why do the other Lords of the Reach raise no objection to an upjumped sellsword becoming their liege lord and Warden of the South? Bronn’s first act as Master of Coin is to discuss the rebuilding of brothels in the city. Really, Bronn? Is this supposed to be funny in the wake of everything that’s happened and all the lives that have been lost? Can the show never move past dick jokes and eunuch jokes? Why is Brienne shamed for being a virgin in a time and culture where virginity was a virtue for highborn women?
Why do none of the other lords and nobility object to the fact that the Starks now have total dominion over all of Westeros; Bran Stark ruling six kingdoms of which House Stark isn’t even a part, Sansa Stark as Queen in the North, Jon Snow as a leader of the freefolk beyond the Wall? What even is the point of the Night’s Watch anymore? Why do Yara and the unnamed Prince of Dorne not ask for independence after Sansa gets it, considering the Iron Islands and Dorne have struggled for independence for far longer and with more cause than the North?
It’s definitely not just Dany whose been shortchanged this season, but Dany is the most important part of what they did wrong. I’ve had days to process it, rewatch some scenes, try to see Dany in a different light, but at the end of it all, to quote Jon Snow, ‘It doesn’t feel right.’
Daenerys deserved so much better.
In my head, Drogon takes her back to Meereen, and Daario immediately summons Kinvara, the Red Priestess who was doing PR for Dany while she was away. Kinvara invokes the power of the Lord of Light to bring her back, and her new purpose is to overlook a new world order, free of slavery, in Essos. She rules as Queen of Meereen, with Daario as her boyfriend, they adopt a couple of orphans and Drogon makes his nest on top of the pyramid. In time he lays a clutch of four eggs (canonically possible because dragons are unisex in the books). She names the hatchlings Viserion (who is cream and gold like his namesake), Rhaegal (green and bronze like his namesake), Joraxes (crimson and copper), and Missandor (cobalt blue and silver). Black and scarlet Drogon raises them to be strong, good dragons, and in time they find suitable riders; Blackfyre descendents from the Free Cities, exiled members of House Velaryon, and other bastard born children with dragon’s blood. Together, they usher in a new age of freedom, of strength for the oppressed and the powerless, an age of heroes.
We close on a scene of Viserion II cuddling up with Dany as she stands on the balcony of the Great Pyramid, overlooking the city which has been at peace for several years now. Viserion in the books is her sweetest, most affectionate dragon, the first to wake up and go to her whenever she’s around, the most protective, who tries to perch on her shoulder and snuggle with her even when he becomes too big for it. Viserion II croons affectionately, and Dany is reminded of Viserion I, of Rhaegal I, of Jorah and Missandei and Grey Worm, of Ser Willem Darry and Drogo and Rakharo and Irri and Jhiqui and all the people she’s lost on the the journey to learning to rule without fear, the devastating price of peace that will haunt her till the end of her days.
There you go, your ‘bittersweet’ closure.