DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.
Although there are people analyzing the explanations of Daenerys burning King’s Landing with one camp saying there was no explanation since she killed innocent people while another saying she already asked Cersei to surrender, lost one of her dragons in the process, and decided that it was better to rule by fear than by compassion, I want to focus more on the audience who were evidently not expecting this turn in characterization to happen. However, Daenerys in the books is self-aware of her family’s madness which provided her internal struggle of wondering “What if I have the Targaryen curse? What if I become mad like my brother and father?” I do not know if the show laid the build-up to Daenerys’ destruction of King’s Landing because I only read the books, but based on the reactions that I have seen, David Benioff and Dan Weiss did not do a good job of foreshadowing it.
As for the scene itself, it was actually brilliantly filmed. The muffling of the background sounds, the peoples’ points of view of Drogon burning the buildings, Rami Djawadi’s droning musical score, the horror on Jon’s and Tyrion’s faces, and–most importantly–Daenerys’ wide-eyed face when she hears the bells provide a bone-shivering combination. Indeed, it was one of the few television moments which left me shaking.
Despite what most people are feeling, I do not think this is David’s and Dan’s fuck-you to the fans. Although I did think they took too much creative liberty with the series the moment it outpaced the books, I do not think this scene was in open defiance towards the fans. They were only working with what little they have left in order to conclude a deeply complicated series. Benioff did state that the reason for this change was because Daenerys always had a numb reaction to death around her even in the first season when she watched her brother die. However, such a character trait was too murky to be a sign of what was to come, since you could say that about any other character like Arya most definitely. It has less to do with sociopathy and more to do with desensitization, especially considering how before her brother’s death, she already witnessed what the Dothraki were capable of, by killing each other at the wedding as well as embarking on raids and raping women.
Another unpopular opinion of mine is that I think George R. R. Martin was wise in writing “Fire and Blood,” which is the history of the Targaryen dynasty in the first years of their reign, because it puts everything that happened in “Game of Thrones” into perspective and makes sense of every event that happens. In the case of Daenerys destroying King’s Landing, it is actually reminiscent of Aegon the Conqueror and one of his wives, Visenya, destroying EVERY Dornish castle to avenge their sister, Rhaenys. They did this for two years in what would become the Dragons’ Wroth. So if Daenerys is the “Mad Queen” for destroying King’s Landing, would it not make Aegon and Visenya the “Mad Couple?” The main reason why they do not overwhelmingly receive that moniker from fans is because “Game of Thrones” is not about them but about Westeros hundreds of years after them. Because the show managed to define an entire decade, it placed Daenerys as among the show’s most visible representative, which would then lead to the fan worship.
Considering how David and Dan just defiled their own show’s brand, I do not think I can imagine all of the memorabilia associated with Daenerys and her three dragons (specifically Drogon) that have become cheapened because of this course of action. If this decision betrayed the fanbase not just of a relatable character but also one with a consistent line of behavior, then it was a poor business decision as now people would probably start selling off their Daenerys memorabilia or flat out destroying them.
What made the worship of a fictional character a major red flag was when fans of the series were naming their own daughters “Daenerys” as though she was a canonized saint. Even if Daenerys was completely flawless, the name still would not have any bearing in the real world, since it is difficult to spell and pronounce to people who are not fans of the show or book series, whether they are teachers or employers.
A major flaw on the audience’s part is that they placed modern-day expectations on a character in a series based on Europe 600 years before their own time. A thing to keep in mind is that “Game of Thrones” and the “Song of Ice and Fire” series take place in a fantasy world based on the English civil war called the War of the Roses, which would be in the 1400’s. They want Daenerys to be a liberator of slaves, yet they completely ignore the difficult compromises she makes, such as marrying a Meereenese prince, allowing the fighting pits to remain open, and not giving enough to the people sickened by a plague when there was not a lot available. Within her grand quest to retake the Iron Throne with an army of liberated slaves, there were serious consequences in which she made the most uncomfortable choices, especially when diplomacy did not work and even had an adverse effect.
The audience saw her as the Breaker of Chains and not as a Targaryen, as a young woman who bases her ideals on an incestuous, slaughter-hungry dynasty. In this way, they placed their own biases on Daenerys’ identity by focusing on her quest for slave liberation and not her quest to reclaim the Iron Throne. It is not out of selfishness, but out of a genuine need to connect with what appeared to be the most relatable character in a series with lots of morally questionable characters. However, while Daenerys did not show indications of being a “Mad Queen,” there were signs that she was not going to be a perfect queen, since although she ended slavery in Slaver’s Bay, she indirectly disrupted the social order in these cities since she did not treat the slave market as a deeply integrated part of their lives that cannot be completely abolished within a single generation with the proclamation “Dracarys.”
When people stop calling Daenerys Targaryen the “Mother of Dragons” and start calling her the “Mad Queen,” it is a sign that these characters have easily changeable positions in the audience’s worship. In an abstract sense, it can raise the stakes of the story since it was dramatically altered and Daenerys as the “Mad Queen” could have worked, however this is a case of fans placing too much hope in Daenerys alone and the directors made such a decision too late when there is a series finale just approaching and when this should have been hinted at episodes if not seasons beforehand. So I am in complete agreement with the YouTuber WhyCreate, since David and Dan made an irresponsible choice in making this completely unpredictable change in Daenerys when it should have been hinted at a lot earlier like in the books. As for the fans, evidently they were in love with the characters of the series, but they are not beacons of morality and virtue, as George R. R. Martin himself made perfectly clear numerous times.