[Major spoilers for Game Of Thrones season eight, episode five below.]
For better or worse, Daenerys Targaryen turned into her father last night, directing Drogon to lay waste to the townspeople of King’s Landing after she knew the army itself had surrendered. The final half of “The Bells,” unfolds in a storm of destruction, one that kills Cersei (and her mortally wounded brother), but also thousands of innocents and one (1) Green Bay Packers quarterback.
Our own Myles McNutt finds Dany’s heel turn to be “a logical and to my mind effective way of ending this story on a thematic level.” He continues, “The way it reshapes the rest of the episode is a striking reframing of the violence that has defined the show, but this time with the knowledge that Jon—often our point of view on the horrors of war—is on the side committing that violence. Once the Lannisters lay down their weapons and give up the city, everything after that is a war crime, and Jon, Davos, Tyrion, and we as the audience are faced with that violence in a new light.”
That said, he, like so, so many of you, also calls bullshit on David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’ route to getting there. “I do think that the writers failed to create the necessary structure for it to play out as they imagined,” he writes. “[I]n the context of a rushed final two seasons, and a Daenerys story arc that was always at odds with the rest of the show due to its isolation and its erratic pacing, it’s hard for me to get a firm grasp on the character’s journey as demonstrated by the show.”
While we see both sides of the arc, fans found themselves divided, with some pointing to the trail of fire and violence that Dany’s left in her wake as evidence of an effective slow-burn turn.
Others, though, see it as yet another failure in the show’s post-George R.R. Martin era, with Dany’s emotions eclipsing a long history of empathy and liberation. “[T]he ‘she’s a Targaryen shrug emoji’ excuse doesn’t work either,” wrote Rewire.News’ Imani Gandy. “As Varys said, with targaryens you flip a coin. She wasn’t destined to be a mad queen. They didn’t write her that way for 6 seasons! She got a bit big for her britches in S7, but genocide? Nah.”
Annapurna founder Megan Ellison echoed those sentiments. “David Benioff and D.B. Weiss just ruined 30 years of George R.R. Martin’s work in 90 minutes,” she tweeted. “They are obviously sexist fucks and obviously NOTHING without George R.R. Martin. There was no motivation for Daenerys to lay Kings Landing low after a lifetime of her saving innocents.”
Many fans found sexist undercurrents in Dany’s turn, especially when her boiling instability is set against the show’s depiction of Jon Snow as the calm, collected leader Westeros deserves. It doesn’t help that last week’s episode left many frustrated, be it in Brienne’s out-of-character sobbing or the writers’ perspective on Sansa’s history of assault.
If anything, though, the show’s failures should boost anticipation for Martin’s novels, which will no doubt provide the hundreds of pages necessary to earn such a vicious turn for the fan-favorite character. In the meantime, all those moms who named their children Daenerys or Khaleesi might want to start thinking up some nicknames.