HBO’s second to last ever episode of Game of Thrones threw a lot of fans for a loop, with a massive plot twist that many didn’t see coming.
And if social media is a true barometer of fan temperament, the villagers are buying up shares of pitchforks at a record setting pace. This would be a good time to buy major shares in torches, friends, because there’s a small scale revolt in the works.
Just in case you haven’t had that jaw-dropping plot twist revealed to you yet, this is your last chance to avoid spoilers.
Okay, you’re still here, so I’m going to post a picture of the handsomest boy in Westeros before I go on:
Which one do I mean? You’ll never know…
Okay, back to business! On Sunday night’s episode, “The Bells”, Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) decided to show Cersei what a dedicated Prodigy fan she was, and went full-tilt Firestarter on the Iron Fleet, the Gates of Kings Landing, then the entire freaking population of the city, penned in like helpless sheep in the slaughterhouse.
It was all pretty horrific, and the online community lost their proverbial dragon poop over it.
Some even went so far as to say that George R. R. Martin would probably jump right out of his recliner and hammer out the last two books to correct this horrible, horrible grievance. There’s just no way that Daenerys, precious, beautiful Daenerys, would go crazy and torch an entire city.
There’s just two problems with that assessment. First, this is Game of Thrones. Of course she’s capable of torching an entire city. She’s been doing it for freaking years, people. And second- who says she’s crazy?
“Who is innocent? Maybe all of you are, maybe none of you are. Maybe I should let the dragons decide.”
Plenty of people (many far smarter than myself) have pointed out that Daenerys has been resorting to violence to solve just about every problem she comes across. Point of fact- the only thing stopping her from wiping entire cities off the map has been the council of Jorah Mormont (Iain Glen) and Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel), who have both helped the Mother of Dragons find other, less Trogdor inspired solutions.
Unfortunately, Jorah and Missandei are both dead, and Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) never really learned how to talk down the temperamental Targaryan.
So, when Daenerys takes to the sky and starts torching the city, I was in the same boat as a lot of folks. This is not how I imagined Dany taking the Iron Throne. This went against all of my patiently scripted theories, most of which involved Dany and Jon flying in to liberate Kings Landing on their respective dragons, marrying to heal the divisions between their respective factions, and living happily ever after.
Where on earth did I go wrong?
It comes down to the genius of the gift wrap we’ve been looking at for so long. We were blinded to what that wrapping held within, since this packaging has been part of western storytelling for centuries.
Simply put, one does not expect to find Caligula wrapped in Cinderella paper.
Daenerys Targaryen fits every single trope of the classic Grimm fairy tale princess: She’s an orphan, she’s been abused most of her life, and she can talk to magical creatures. Her hair is white and flawless, her gowns are always smashing.
So perfect was that Cinderella wrapping at concealing who Dany really was that it became easy to brush over the atrocities she’s been committing since the first season, right in plane sight.
Dany has been acting every bit the Targaryan warlord since she rejoiced in her brother’s molten, golden crown. Daenerys’ story has been about seizing power from the second she walked out of her husband’s funeral pyre, waking up magic around the world in the process.
Most of the viciousness of Dany’s deeds have been obscured by the attrocities committed by those she had met on the road to power. There are very few instances where Dany has chosen diplomacy over violence, and she clearly believes that direct, bold action has been far more effective for her than waiting around on the diplomats.
If you think otherwise, ask Sam’s dad and brother how negotiations went for them.
In most cases prior to season 8, Dany has been reacting to people who are clearly evil. In season 4, Dany ordered the crucifixion of hundreds of Meereenese nobles, as retaliation for their practice of crucifying slaves. It seemed like an apt punishment at the time, but this does fit the mind set of someone who could burn a city to the ground.
She’s destroyed so very much on her way to the top, and almost always with fire. How many people had Dany already killed before she even set foot on Westeros?
And yet, we fell for it, since she came flying in like some Disney princess hell-bent on saving happiness forever. How could we be so naive?
It really does a disservice to Dany to say she went insane and started killing peasants out of madness. Her story is, and always was, about an entitled elite who would do whatever it takes to get what she wanted. That’s not madness, that’s the story of just about every Fortune 500 company out there.
And before we get too caught up in thinking Martin is going to “fix” this character turn, keep in mind that this is probably one of the story developments that series creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have known about since the beginning.
Not a single character in Game of Thrones had a happy ending in store for them, and we’ve known that since the second Eddard Stark’s head hit the flagstones. We just got distracted by the packaging.
Was this reveal clunky in the telling? Certainly. But we’ve been treated to far worse from shows in the past, and getting a beast this size to make a graceful landing might be impossible.