There are, once again, no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season (the final season!) and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts/dragon enthusiasts, Josh Kurp and Ryan Harkness, will answer your eight most pressing questions.
1. Was Daenerys really a tyrant the whole time like Tyrion claimed?
Yes, but keep in mind all the lords and rulers in Westeros and beyond are effectively tyrants. The casual brutality inflicted upon the general population by those in power is one of the most prevalent themes in George R.R. Martin’s books. Ned Stark cut the head off that Night’s Watch guy who came with the first news of White Walkers, and he would have decapitated Jorah Mormont, too, if given half the chance. Where was Jon Snow’s mercy when dealing with the men (and boys) of the Night’s Watch who stabbed him to death?
Dany stepped into an existing power structure in Meereen that was already inherently tyrannical, and she would have become complicit in that evil had she not decided to overhaul the whole system by eliminating slavery. She was forced to wield a tyrant’s power to accomplish that goal, and she definitely ended up shedding more blood trying to remake society than she would have just leaving things be.
There’s probably about a half dozen important revelations about power the show could have slowly rolled out if they’d spent a couple of extra seasons on Dany’s descent into ruthless pragmatism. Instead, it focused on this argument from Machiavelli: it’s better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both. Dany tried her best to navigate the political landscape of Westeros in a civilized manner and suffered a series of devastating setbacks because of it that almost ruined her completely. She then swung way too far the other way in desperation, becoming the kind of tyrant she initially sought to depose.
But if she’d always been a tyrant, she wouldn’t have locked her dragons up in the great pyramid when they started eating her subjects. She wouldn’t have stuck around in Meereen in an attempt to ensure the slavers didn’t return to power. She wouldn’t have risked her entire army to fight the Walkers. The true tyranny came late, and it came as a result of the lessons she learned from the nobles of Westeros when she held her hand out in peace. — Ryan Harkness
2. Was Jon working in the best interest of the future of Westeros when he killed Daenerys?
I’ve built my own kind of mythos around Jon Snow that has served me well over the past couple of seasons. Not of him as Azor Ahai, the Prince That Was Promised, or the king that will save us all. But of Jon as this moral but kinda dumb dude who is generally clueless most of the time. Ygritte pegged him pretty quick as a sexy know-nothing, and it’s much less frustrating watching him bumble through the show once you’ve lowered your expectations accordingly.
So, I don’t think Jon did what he thought was best for Westeros because I don’t consider him smart enough to know what the hell that would be. It was actually Tyrion’s view of what was best for the realm that was used. He gave Jon the real aggressive “you gotta stab your girlfriend” talk and just kept hammering away until Jon went through with it. He didn’t want to do it, but Tyrion coerced him using his superior intellect and manipulation skills.
The Imp even implied Daenerys pulled the same kind of psycho behavior we saw in King’s Landing while “liberating” Meereen, and threw in that whole “crucifying the masters” thing without any context (not that crucifying is acceptable in any context, but we stuck with her through it, didn’t we). Tyrion wasn’t engaging in a balanced discussion on the pros and cons of letting Daenerys rule. He was cramming Jon’s dumb head full of bad thoughts and negative possibilities so he’d do what Tyrion wanted. And it worked.
Later on Jon asks Tyrion whether he’d done the right thing, and you really feel like he’s tortured by the question. All the arguments that felt so ironclad at the time probably seem pretty speculative in retrospect, because who knows what would have happened if he’d given Daenerys some proper (incestual) lovin’ and maybe a much needed vacation? Of course, there’s no way he could have made things work. But the idealistic side of him isn’t about to accept that, and I’m sure he’ll torture himself with “what ifs” for the rest of his days. — RH