In Defense of Daenerys Targareyen
So were you one of the millions who watched the Game of Thrones series finale last night? I kind of did and kind of didn’t. After episode five I made a decision that I was going to skip the final two episodes. The show had become a joke for me and I didn’t want the final two episodes to ruin the entire thing for me. Kind of like how I can no longer watch How I Met Your Mother reruns because the series finale was such a giant betrayal of everything that came before it. I feel the same way about Game of Thrones. And I especially feel that way about the treatment of it’s female characters? Specifically Daenerys Targareyen (I will touch on a few of the other female characters in a bit). But I forced myself to watch the final episode and…I have some thoughts. Well a lot of thoughts but I’ve decided to try to condense some of them down for this post.
Daenerys (Dany), a character we were groomed to know, love and champion suddenly becomes a “Mad Queen”? after years of freeing slaves and fighting other tyrannical leaders she suddenly becomes one herself?? And the only reason they can give is “well her daddy was crazy too” REALLY?? Many have stated that her “madness” has been hinted at for years but I call BS on that. If that is the case and war and death are the litmus test for being mentally unwell then we have to apply that same logic to ALL of the characters. Arya literally became a trained killer. Sansa fed her husband to his dogs. Tyrion killed his own father. Do you see my point? If Dany was going to become “mad” (a term which in and of itself is utterly ridiculous) then that is something the writers should have worked for. They managed to do so with her brother Viserys in a single season. We understood that he was flat out insane and should never rule anyone - let alone the six kingdoms. Where was that arc for Dany? Were we supposed to believe that in six episodes she loses her mind and all sense of decency and honor? This is the same woman that sidetracked her own war to help Jon with his. She lost thousands of her troops and one TWO of her beloved dragons.
Dany wasn’t mad - she was PISSED. And who can blame her? I certainly can’t. Imagine falling in love with a guy who tells you hey, “btw- we’re related and I’m the rightful heir to the throne- but I don’t want it” You then tell him “cool, cool, so don’t tell anyone then and let me have my throne that I’ve worked so hard for” And he proceeds to tell….EVERYBODY. Wouldn’t you be a little pissed?? And then suddenly all of the people who believed in you turn on you when someone with a penis is found to have a better claim (and that’s arguable)?
Game of Thrones has a history of misogyny when it comes to writing female characters. I admit that I had stopped watching the show for a time because of it as well as a few other things that the show creators and producers, Daniel Benioff and DB Weiss had done that veered from the original source material of George R.R. Martin’s books. There are no better examples of this than the characters of Dany and Sansa Stark. Sansa whose strength and character development seems to be borne out of abuse and rape. Because a woman could never grow to be strong unless she is someone’s victim first, right? There is even a line in Episode 5 where Sansa infers that her rape is what made her strong. This rubbed a LOT of people the wrong way. And I was one of them. Rape and abuse used as character development is frankly lazy writing. Which is why Dany and Cersei and Arya stood out. Specifically Dany and Cersei when it comes to leadership. Now Cersei was TRULY insane. But she was also smart and capable. And Dany was smart and capable as well. Sansa had grown into a smart young woman who knew to basically do the opposite of whatever the men around her were doing. And in the final episodes each of these women are relegated to supporting characters in their own stories. Cersei - one of the best TV villains of all time- is felled by a ton of bricks. Not the glorious final ending she OR the audience deserved. Dany is relegated to being called mad and having all the men around her plot against her. And Sansa gets passed over as Queen for her younger brother who literally did NOTHING besides manipulate his family and their allies.
All of these women deserved better. And Dany more than anyone. We now have people like Kit Harrington who played Jon Snow, stating that “Dany was always a bad person”. Since when?? She certainly wasn’t the entire first six seasons. Has she killed people? Yes. But so has Jon. So has Arya- no one is calling them bad people. If this was always going to be the path Dany took , the writers owed it the to characters and the audience to SHOW us this change. To make us believe it. How does Dany go from freeing enslaved men, women and children to murdering thousands of innocent people? Was it the death of two of her dragon (pour one out for Rhaegal - who DEFINITELY deserved better)? The death of her beloved Missandei (Dracrys indeed, sis)? The rejection and betrayal from Jon? Okay…but she’s been through worse. She’s lost a husband and a child. And she managed to keep her sanity and even flourish. The show’s treatment of mental illness was beyond tone deaf and simply didn’t ring true.
There is so much more I want to say about the final season and episode of Game of Thrones but neither I nor you have all day to discuss it. More than anything, I feel that Daenerys as a character was ultimately sacrificed as a plot tool to get the show from point A to B in the final season. And such an iconic character deserved better. I am and will remain Team Dany.