Welcome back to Battle of Thrones, Gizmodo's weekly breakdown of an important moment of conflict in the latest Game of Thrones episode. Last week, Cheryl and Germain talked about “The Long Night,” a 90-minute war fans had been waiting for since the first episode of the show. This week, Germain and Beth will talk about “The Last of the Starks,” and how we think the mindset of Daenerys Targaryen is creating all kinds of problems. Let’s go!
Germain Lussier: Now that the White Walkers are gone, did you expect Dany to give Jon such an ultimatum?
Beth Elderkin: I didn’t expect it, but it definitely didn’t surprise me. The moment Daenerys realised there were actual obstacles standing in her way to the Iron Throne, her response has been a downward spiral of bad decisions. There’s a song from the soundtrack for Lindsay Lohan and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Freaky Friday called “Me Against The World.” Right now I feel it’s Dany Against The World and the world is winning. Only like 10 people will get that reference.
Germain: I did not get the reference but I appreciate it. I agree too. That scene where Jon was being celebrated by Tormund and everyone and we just saw Dany’s jealousy and rage rising was particularly powerful. It was her realising, “I love this guy, but he’s now my main threat for everything I’ve been going after.” It was scary to think she may, actually, become a villain against the Starks. Do you think that’s where it’s going?
Beth: I’ve actually felt that way for a while. My recent fan theory post about how the Azor Ahai prophecy could still be fulfilled, hinged on Daenerys turning against Jon and dying for it. Now, I don’t think that’s what’s definitely going to happen—although if it does, it would be like the Kentucky Derby 2019 of nerd fandom predictions—but I do feel that Daenerys and Jon are destined to be at odds. What do you think?
Germain: I think it’s all going to come down to that too. The books are called A Song of Ice and Fire and, well, Jon is Ice and Dany is Fire. It was written. Literally. But the journey there, to me, is the best thing on the show at the moment. Her asking him to keep the secret of his true self. Jon not keeping that secret. Sansa telling Tyrion.
Seeing how this little seed of information can spread and blossom into a life or death situation for each of them. It’s fascinating. Personally, I get this feeling that next week somehow they’ll dispose of Cersei and then Dany is going to kill Jon, proving that you can sit on the Iron Throne, but you can’t do it with a clear conscious. Plus, that would tie into this hint we are getting that Dany is about to light up King’s Landing something fierce. How do you feel about her approach to that?
Beth: So, there have been some concerns lately that Daenerys is acting “out of character” this season, that the woman we’ve gotten to know over the past eight seasons is suddenly becoming a tyrant just so Jon can emerge as the One True Hero™. I could not disagree more. This “approach” is exactly what Daenerys has done for years. She’s not a queen, she’s a conqueror. She comes in with her dragons and burns everything that’s a threat, but fails to come up with long-term solutions to help her subjects. It’s why she failed in Meereen. She doesn’t plan, she assumes. That’s why she’s had such a hard time in Westeros. Her whole strategy of “burn the bad ones, and everyone else will be happy” doesn’t work there. So in short, I feel the same way about this approach as I have about all the others: What happens after?
In your mind, is there any way for Daenerys to come out of this situation well? Or do you think the writers have put her down a path she can no longer verge from?
Germain: That’s a good question. I feel like there’s always a way. Whether or not I can come up with that way is another story and, if I could, I’d be writing on GoT and not io9. But I tend to lean towards your feeling that Dany is an anti-hero in a way. She’s brutal. Fair, but a killer. And I think her “coming out of this situation well” is any way she can take the throne. If that means she has to give up the love of her life (which is odd to say about Jon but that’s sort of how the show has spun it) to do so, then so be it. If it means she has to kill every man woman and child in King’s Landing to do it, so be it. Sure, that would leave the audience feeling much more conflicted about cheering for this character, but it’s Game of Thrones, not a Disney movie. It’s a show about the grey areas of life.
Bronn’s speech this week was important I think. Where he talks about the way to power is through violence and that history doesn’t really remember that. I feel like that’s the path for Dany. Do you think people would riot if Dany just went straight villain but won because of it?
Beth: Possibly, but it would be unpredictable. I feel that would be more interesting than if she went straight villain and lost. Forcing the audience to confront our own screwed-up history, and the things we forgive and forget in the name of creating greatness.
But I’ve got to be honest: I don’t think Daenerys would be able to keep Westeros from turning against her after winning the Iron Throne. Maybe that’s the point, that Westeros is past the point of no return. “A Dream of Spring” is, just that, a dream. One that will never come true.
She’s not breaking the wheel anymore, that’s for sure. She’s trying to break everything else so it’ll keep on turning in her favour.
Germain: And that’s going to be much more difficult now with only one dragon. To pivot slightly, what did you think of how that went down? How it was relatively easy for Euron to kill Rhaegal? The surprise was part of the point but it felt almost too convenient for me? Thoughts?
Beth: What’s better than one crossbow? All the crossbows. I cracked up when I saw Euron sitting on the back of that thing, looking like he was about to race Go Karts in downtown Fresno, California.
I liked the design of the new crossbows, that they looked like a squid’s tentacles, but I’m pissed that the only way to kill any of Dany’s dragons was…crossbow. Give me a giant undead dragon fight, or an ice spider.
Germain: Yeah at least they had established that weapon but it was just a little weird. The dragons didn’t see them? She didn’t fire on them?
Beth: She yelled out her coffee order because she’d forgotten her cup a few thousand miles back.
Germain: That’s a whole other story. I don’t know, the whole dragon thing just felt really inconsequential to me after eight seasons making dragons creatures of the utmost importance.
Anyway, last thing. Missandei. Rest in peace. We could talk about that from a whole bunch of angles but I’m wondering, since we’re talking about conflict and Dany, how is the murder of Missandei going to change her mindset, if at all?
Beth: It really bothered me. Missandei, the only protagonist played by a woman of colour, was “fridged” so Daenerys would have something to be angry about. But to tell the truth: I don’t feel it changed her mindset, at least not enough to justify the death. Daenerys was already prepared to burn King’s Landing. She was looking for a reason. You could see it on her face. She wants to win the Iron Throne before Jon gets there, so he has no choice but to bend the knee.
What about you? Do you see it changing her mindset, tactics, or strategy?
Germain: Yeah I think, setting the blatant, problematic aspects of it aside, it’s just fuel on the fire we’ve been talking about. Dany is ready to achieve her destiny by any means necessary.
Beth: Of course, the only dangling thread is whether destiny matters anymore…or ever did. Two of the dragons are dead, Arya killed the Night King, Azor Ahai is nowhere to be found. And, as Varys put it: Only tyrants believe in destiny. We’ll have to see what Dany is willing to do to achieve what she thinks is hers.