Episode 5 of HBO’s Game of Thrones Season 8 saw Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) descend into madness while attacking King’s Landing. As a result of this, many viewers felt like the transition was too abrupt. However, her fall has been a long time coming.
SPOILER ALERT: This article discusses HBO’s Game of Thrones. Please proceed with caution if you have not yet viewed all current episodes and wish to avoid spoilers.
In the last episode of Game of Thrones, Daenerys managed to single-handedly destroy all of the dragon-killing crossbows which, effectively, rendered Cersei Lannister’s (Lena Headey) army as useless. This resulted in the bell being tolled that indicated surrender by Cersei. However, Daenerys decided to raze King’s Landing anyway, killing many innocent civilians in the process.
While her act was deplorable, the fact that she did it should come as no surprise to fans that have been paying close attention during the previous seasons of Game of Thrones.
As far back as the very first scene that introduced Daenerys showed evidence that she might be unstable as well as a ruthless leader. Daenerys and her brother, Viserys (Harry Lloyd), first appear as the surviving children from Robert Baratheon’s (Mark Addy) slaughter of the Targaryens during Robert’s Rebellion. Immediately, these children have already suffered. In addition to this, the Targaryens were known to marry within their family in order to keep the bloodline pure so, again, there is the potential for trouble here. So much so that there have been many comments from other characters throughout eight seasons of Game of Thrones about the madness that runs through the Targaryens and this includes the last Targaryen king, Aerys II Targaryen, who was also referred to as the “Mad King.”
The scene is set for a character that could end up mentally unhinged, and this is first shown when her brother is sentenced to die by Khal Drago (Jason Momoa), according to Marie Claire. As her brother dies, Daenerys is “eerily calm” about the entire situation. While fans can argue that Daenerys suffered at the hand of her brother her whole life, it could also be counter-argued that it was the being of the end regarding Daenerys’ sanity.
As Game of Thrones progresses, Daenerys quickly rises to become a leader of certain tribes and groups. At first, it is the Dothraki when she walks into fire and hatches her dragon eggs. And, some will argue at this point that her walking into the fire could have also been seen as her trying to die by fire. Which means that to survive such an event could, potentially, mess with her mental health even more.
Her walking into the fire was the result of some pretty traumatic circumstances. Leading up to that point, she had seen her husband die, then be brought back to life with blood magic, as well as the loss of the child she was carrying. All of these events — particularly the fact that she had to kill her own husband after he was resurrected — are indicators that she has had to endure things that no one should have to.
In addition to the factors leading up to Daenerys snapping in the final season of Game of Thrones, Daenerys has shown herself to be a ruthless leader. Each group that she has conquered has been at the result of her own unyielding need — and this need usually also results in some sort of carnage. Even though Daenerys has been actively pushing back against her genetics, as Vox points out, she still manages to follow in her father’s footsteps by using fire as a method of control.
However, while Daenerys is spending more time on making sure the people she rules follow her of their own volition, she is certainly not above using deadly measures when justified. For example, when she burns all of the Khals to death rather than having to live out her life in the Dothraki equivalent of a nunnery. Sure, she brought a group together that would otherwise be raping and pillaging everything in sight, but it managed to reinforce to the audience that Daenerys used her Targaryen legacy of burning people with fire when required.
As Daenerys reached Westeros, the plan to take the iron throne becomes muddied with the problem in the North with the Night King (Vladimir Furdik). While she offered assistance, it was established early on that she does not like it when her authority is questioned. She is the one rightful heir to the iron throne and those who do not believe that can die.
Regardless, Daenerys then offers her assistance to the North in return for their help with her claim to the iron throne. In the process, she loses a dragon and finds out that her claim to the iron throne is one step behind that of Jon Snow (Kit Harington), who turns out to be the legitimate son of her older brother.
Still, she heads South and Jon follows her obediently. However, more loss is to come by way of another dragon and one of her most loyal advisors, Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) in Season 8 of Game of Thrones. So, by the time she actually attacks King’s Landing, she has to be in a fairly vulnerable position from an emotional viewpoint. Which makes her descent into sudden rage-filled madness is suddenly not so, well, sudden.
However, many fans still believe that Daenerys Targaryen is the ruler that Westeros truly needs and will continue to defend the queen against her own madness as they head toward the finale episode of Game of Thrones.
Season 8 of Game of Thrones returns to HBO with Episode 6, the series finale, on Sunday, May 19, at 9 p.m. ET.