Game of Thrones: Is Daenerys’ villain arc believable?


The final season of Game of Thrones took a shocking turn for the Mother of Dragons. But was her journey to becoming the Mad Queen a believable one?

Daenerys Targaryen has been a major player in Game of Thrones since the series’ very first season, and she’s gained more and more strength since her story arc began. The final season of the show took a shocking turn for her character, even if the series had been hinting at the Mad Queen storyline for a while.

But given the subtlety of those hints and the short timeline the showrunners had to work with during season 8, was Daenerys’ descent into madness believable? Yes, the Dragon Queen has always had impulses that alluded to tyranny—but she’s had just as many moments showing kindness and mercy throughout the series. And that’s part of the reason her behavior during the series finale doesn’t quite add up.

Her decision to burn King’s Landing in “The Bells” wasn’t taken well by fans, but one could see how the writers got there. Daenerys loses her closest friend, her most trusted advisor, and one of her dragons. Her claim to the throne is in question, and she’s angry—perhaps rightfully so. One could understand how she might make the rash decision that she does, even if hitting every last corner of Flea Bottom is a bit excessive.

The lack of remorse after the fact is what really doesn’t make sense for Daenerys. Even if she’s truly gone mad, one would think that the queen she was before is still in there somewhere.

We’ve seen Daenerys weep when her dragons killed a child. We’ve seen her free innocents from oppression, and we’ve witnessed her make sacrifices for Northerners who don’t even care for her. Are we really meant to believe that Daenerys feels nothing for the people she burned?

When it comes to Daenerys’ villain arc, the entire thing feels too black and white. We’ve seen so many morally grey characters throughout this series, yet Daenerys makes one decision and becomes a completely different—and wholly one-sided—character? She didn’t need to be redeemed.

Her actions during “The Bells” aren’t redeemable. But the show could have and should have shown that she’s still a multifaceted person with impulses toward both good and evil.

Instead, we get Daenerys’ speech about her intentions to conquer more cities. We get her smiling at what she’s done and what it’s earned her, and we get an almost manic declaration that the world will eventually be better because of it.

None of it is totally believable, though, no matter how fantastic Emilia’s acting is—because Daenerys seems to have lost her ability for introspection. And that doesn’t just happen in the span of an episode or two.

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Game of Thrones is available to stream on HBO Now and HBOGo.