The Mother of Dragons deserves a better sendoff in Game of Thrones

So long Dany! It was nice knowing you…

It wouldn’t be a spoiler if I told you that Daenerys Targaryen, First of Her Name, Mother of Dragons, Lengthener of Honorifics, is going to die in the finale of Game of Thrones next week, right?

After turning King’s Landing and the Red Keep into her own personal barbeque pit, the (suddenly) Mad Queen has been outed as the Big Bad of a series that has spent multiple seasons hyping up the Frozen Zombie Industrial Complex. Nevermind the eternal army of the undead set to destroy all of humanity. The real threat to all of Westeros is…”Crazy bitch with a dragon.”

Now all of this MIGHT have been palatable if D.B. Weiss and David Benioff had spent any amount of time setting up this late heel turn by a fan favorite. But instead, they decided to cram in a season’s worth of character development into…about 3 episodes. “But Jorah, her most trusted advisor, died protecting her. And then she lost Rhaegal to a one in a million Scorpion bolt. And then her most loyal handmaiden Missandei was beheaded in front of her!” So let’s tear up the last seven seasons of thoughtful character building that allowed us to witness Daenerys’ growth from victimized child bride to emancipated (and emancipating) queen who wants to break the wheel of royal succession.

Season 8 of Game of Thrones has been beset by problems ranging from the visual to the memeable. People complained that the Night King was dispatched with too easily. That Tyrion has suddenly gone from being the smartest man in Westeros to Tommy Boy. And let’s not forget the collective battle strategy devised by John and company at the Battle of Winterfell that came right out of Zapp Branigan’s playbook. But none of these small inconsistencies compare to the show’s decision to discard one of its most fascinating and complex characters and turn her into a caricature of a generic TV villain.

There are some that say the signs of Dany’s mad queen tendencies were evident throughout show. After all, she has killed characters in each and every season. But all of these killings were justifiable. What is not justifiable is slaughter of thousands of surrendering soldiers, men, women, and children to satiate some sort of newly developed bloodlust. And to ask the audience to agree that this is somehow “in character” is asking far too much.

Daenerys always paired her fury with mercy. Yes, she killed (and who in Game of Thrones hasn’t?). But she has also shown restraint. She met power with power. But she also knew when to rein in her worst tendencies. Which makes her sudden cruelty in the penultimate episode all the more jarring.

Take the example of another critically acclaimed show of the past decade. In Breaking Bad, showrunner Vince Gilligan took five seasons to painstakingly craft the slow and gradual devolution of Walter White into Heisenberg. We rooted for Walter, but we also witnessed how he slowly compromised himself until he finally became a monster in the end. His heel turn was not only telegraphed and earned, it was a central aspect of the show’s success.

But these sorts of character arcs need time to develop. And in their rush to the finish line, Weiss and Benioff almost seem to be rewriting character motives and intentions on the fly. Jamie goes from redeemed hero to lovestruck teen in the span of an episode. And poor Dany now gets stuck serving as the “Final Boss”, when she was positively heroic in previous seasons. Or did you forget how much you cheered when she freed the slaves in Astapor? Or when she killed all the Khals to assume leadership of the Dothraki. Yes her path has been riddled with violence. But it was rarely wanton or unnecessary. So in order to make us to root against Daenerys, the showrunners had to make her irredeemable. And roasting a few thousand children did that trick quite nicely.

To be fair, Weiss and Benioff had an absolutely Herculean task put upon them to successfully wrap up this epic series. And as the show grew in popularity, the difficulties of reaching a satisfying conclusion only grew. The weight of expectations to “stick the landing” of a beloved show is absolutely crushing. Just ask Damon Lindelof. And truth be told, plot contrivances not withstanding, Season 8 has delivered some truly thrilling battle sequences and delicious character beats. Regardless of what happens in next week’s finale, Game of Thrones place in the pantheon of great television remains secure. But I would hate for this brilliant show to be forever marred by its utter mishandling of arguably one of its best characters.

So enjoy the finale of Game of Thrones next week. A truly groundbreaking show that steeped into the collective consciousness in a way that’s unprecedented in this new era fragmented TV viewing. Just remember when you are watching Daenerys’ death next week, this Mad Queen definitely deserved better.

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Brian Chu
Brian Chu 221 posts

Brian Chu is a Staff Writer for Nerd Reactor and aspiring Jeopardy contestant. He thinks Picard is the best captain, Cumberbatch is the best Holmes, Bale is the best Batman, and Tennant is the best Doctor. Follow him @chumeister