Tower of the Hand

Daenerys, First and Last of Her Name

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Mar 17, 2020, 8:00 AM ET
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Of the characters who lent their perspectives to the chapters of the very first book, six survived to the final episode of Game of Thrones' final season: three Starks, one Lannister, one Targaryen, and one Snow. Throughout the week we'll be devoting a thread to each of these original protagonists, recalling their humble introductions from the book and asking if the show gave them a proper sendoff.

Today, we remember Daenerys Targaryen: younger sister of Princes Rhaegar and Viserys; khaleesi to Khal Drogo; Mother of Dragons; Liberator of Meereen; Conqueror of King's Landing; and Queen That Never Was.

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Her brother held the gown up for her inspection. "This is beauty. Touch it. Go on. Caress the fabric."

Dany touched it. The cloth was so smooth that it seemed to run through her fingers like water. She could not remember ever wearing anything so soft. It frightened her. She pulled her hand away. "Is it really mine?"

"A gift from the Magister Illyrio," Viserys said, smiling. Her brother was in a high mood tonight. "The color will bring out the violet in your eyes. And you shall have gold as well, and jewels of all sorts. Illyrio has promised. Tonight you must look like a princess."

A princess, Dany thought. She had forgotten what that was like. Perhaps she had never really known.

AGOT 4: Daenerys I
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The most consequential moment that contributed to Daenerys' ultimate doom was the decision she made in the penultimate episode, "The Bells." Having conquered King's Landing, having at last invaded Westeros and defeated Cersei, Daenerys proceeded to rain dragonfire on the entire capital and its innocent citizens, reducing the once-great city to ashes.

We must remember what her brother Viserys had warned in her very first chapter: "You don't want to wake the dragon, do you?" Back then, it was hard to imagine that meek, little Dany was the dragon we should have feared waking. But Cersei's refusal to yield, Varys' betrayal, Missandei's death, Jon's better claim to the Iron Throne... none of these on its own made Daenerys snap from principled liberator to mad queen, but we know every slight against her weighed heavily on her soul. When the bells rang, telling Daenerys to accept her almost-too-easy victory, the dragon in her wasn't satisfied. Dracarys, she commanded, over and over and over.

The carnage was enough to turn Tyrion against her, and she promised only more to come. In the finale, Daenerys gave this victory speech to her army:

"Blood of my blood. You kept all your promises to me. You killed my enemies in their iron suits. You tore down their stone houses. You gave me the Seven Kingdoms! [To Grey Worm] You have walked beside me since the Plaza of Pride. You are the bravest of men, the most loyal of soldiers. I name you commander of all my forces, the Queen's Master of War. Unsullied: All of you were torn from your mothers' arms and raised as slaves. Now you are liberators! You have freed the people of King's Landing from the grip of a tyrant! But the war is not over. We will not lay down our spears until we have liberated all the people of the world! From Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannisport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea! Women, men, and children have suffered too long beneath the wheel. Will you break the wheel with me?"

Privately, to Jon, she remained convinced about her cause:

"The world we need won't be built by men loyal to the world we have. It's not easy to see something that's never been before. A good world. I know what is good. Be with me. Build the new world with me. This is our reason. It has been from the beginning, since you were a little boy with a bastard's name and I was a little girl who couldn't count to ten. We do it together. We break the wheel together."

But Jon heard those words and came to a different conclusion about them. Mere steps away from the Iron Throne, Jon kissed his queen, then stabbed her. Drogon collected her lifeless body and flew off into the horizon, the last of the dragons and the last of the Targaryens, presumably gone forever.

Looking back at Daenerys' journey from beginning to end, does it make sense that she wound up dead like this? Were there hints throughout that pointed to her destination as a mad queen, or did it seem that she was destined for something else until the final season? Are you satisfied with Daenerys' arc on Game of Thrones? Lastly, would you want to see Daenerys meet the same fate in the books?

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