Warning: Game of Thrones spoilers for the “The Last Of The Starks” will be found below.
If you’re concerned about the direction Game of Thrones is steering one of its main female characters, you’re not alone.
Season eight has been packed full of epic battles, shocking deaths, and meaningful interactions between core characters, but for all the fan service David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have given us so far, they’ve also struggled to define one of the key remaining players in the game.
Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen has spent the past seven seasons fighting to reclaim her birthright. In that time, she’s suffered, sacrificed, and saved many. She’s been abused, raped, and sold into slavery. She’s lost friends, family, her followers, and her children. She’s freed the oppressed, liberated entire cities, and ignored her own selfish interests to risk her life for a people she’s never even met.
She’s also, admittedly, an imperfect leader and a deeply flawed human being, as are many on this show. She’s entitled, arrogant, quick to anger, and ruthless when it comes to her enemies. Daenerys has struggled because of those character flaws, choosing to trust the wrong people and act before thinking, to seek revenge instead of justice, and to fail to understand her people’s needs simply because they do not align with her own.
She has been, in short, a problematic choice for a monarch.
She was not, however, on her way to becoming the Mad Queen. And she shouldn’t be now.
Game of Thrones has always struggled to do right by their female characters, a fact that’s glaringly obvious in how the writers have treated Dany’s downward spiral this season.
In the span of just four episodes, the show has managed to undo years’ worth of character development and complex storytelling to give us a truly vanilla showdown between an ambitious woman on a quest for power and a mediocre white man attempting to avoid the responsibility of a leadership position at all costs. Daenerys began season eight as a woman willing to sacrifice her armies, her children, and her self for another man’s cause. She rode North at the behest of Jon Snow, she entered a foreign land where she was deeply unwelcome, withstood quiet jabs at her character and her claim, and lost her closest advisors and friends in the process.
Despite all she’s given to the North, to the Starks, to the Seven Kingdoms, the final season’s fourth episode — “The Last of the Starks” — would have us believe her increasing paranoia and defensiveness is a sign she’s become an unfit ruler. When we see her defy Jon Snow’s battle plan in episode three, she’s impulsive; when we see her argue with Sansa, she’s a cunning bitch; when we see her burn her enemies by using the best weapon she has, she’s bloodthirsty and evil.