We’re three episodes into Game of Thrones season seven, and things aren’t looking good for Daenerys Targaryen. The women on her war council are either dead (Olenna) or captured (Ellaria Sand and Yara), her fleet has been pummeled by Euron Greyjoy, the Unsullied are trapped at Casterly Rock, and Tyrion is proving to be shockingly bad at military strategy. What’s a Mother of Dragons to do? For one thing: release the dragons, but Dany doesn’t want to be the Queen of the Ashes. She has another ace up her sleeve, though.
Daenerys has refused to use her thousands-strong Dothraki army for anything other than protection; she knows what the horselords are capable of when left to their own devices. But Dany could use a win, and the Dothraki might be her best bet at halting Cersei’s current hot-streak. It’s something that’s been on the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms’ mind since all the way back in season one, during a conversation with then-king, Robert Baratheon.
Robert: I do know this: If the Targaryen girl convinces her horselord husband to invade and the Dothraki horde crosses the Narrow Sea…We won’t be able to stop them.
Cersei: The Dothraki don’t sail. Every child knows that. They don’t have discipline, they don’t have armor, they don’t have siege weapons.
Robert: It’s a neat little trick you do. You move your lips and your father’s voice comes out.
Cersei: Is my father wrong?
Robert: Let’s say Viserys Targaryen lands with 40,000 Dothraki screamers at his back. We hole up in our castles. A wise move. Only a fool would meet the Dothraki in an open field. They leave us in our castles. They go from town to town, looting and burning, killing every man who can’t hide behind a stone wall, stealing all our crops and livestock, enslaving all our women and children. How long do the people of the Seven Kingdoms stand behind their absentee king, their cowardly king hiding behind high walls? When do the people decide that Viserys Targaryen is the rightful monarch after all?
Cersei: We still outnumber them.
Robert: Which is the bigger number, five or one?
Robert: [holds up his left fingers] Five…[clutches his right fist]…One. One army, a real army, united behind one leader with one purpose. Our purpose died with the Mad King.
Back in episode two of this season, the dearly-departed Olenna told Daenerys, “I can’t remember a queen who was better loved than my granddaughter, and what is left of her now? Ashes. Commoners, nobles, they’re all just children, really. They won’t obey you unless they fear you.” Dany hates the idea of letting the Dothraki loose, but it might be her strongest short-term option (to beat Cersei, she must become Cersei). Well, and dragons. Always dragons.