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Spoilers ahead for Episode 4 of Game of Thrones Season 8, called "The Last Of The Starks."
Only two episodes are left before the final credits roll on Game of Thrones, and there are still a lot of loose ends to tie up. After the defeat of the Night King at the Battle of Winterfell, the focus falls to the fight for the Iron Throne, and all signs point toward a bloody conflict before the winner is decided. "The Last of the Starks" saw some grave losses for Dany: the absolute trust of her advisors, Missandei, and Rhaegal.
Yes, one of Dany's two remaining dragons was killed in "The Last of the Starks" in a shocking and decisive move. When Dany's fleet of ships dropped anchor in the waters around Dragonstone, Dany and her two dragons were flying around, not looking too concerned. Then, the Iron Fleet appeared out of nowhere, and Euron Greyjoy fired a bolt from a giant crossbow mounted on his ship, striking Rhaegal in what seemed to be a lethal blow.
In case that first one wasn't enough to do the poor green dragon in, a second bolt hit Rhaegal in the wing, and a third pierced him through the neck, sending him plummeting dead down into the ocean. Rhaegal survived his injuries at the Battle of Winterfell only to be killed upon returning to Dragonstone.
Understandably, Dany was distraught at the loss of the second of what she considers her children. She's down to just Drogon, who managed to evade bolts from Euron's weapons. As sad as it is for Daenerys that she lost two of her beloved dragons, the third really needs to die before the end. Here's why the tragic twist has to happen.
Dany Is Overpowered Even With Just Drogon
One of the biggest complaints about the dragons is that Daenerys is way too powerful with them as weapons. Viewers saw Dany use her dragons to conquer her enemies in Essos once they were big enough that they could no longer just be stolen by warlocks and she learned to control them. Dany's biggest problems were administrative and judicial, a.k.a. problems that can't be solved via fire blast.
Now, in Season 7, Bronn did manage to nail Drogon with a bolt from the first scorpion that was built to try and take down the dragons, and the Night King brought Viserion down with a spear. The Battle of Winterfell in Season 8 proved that dragons could be overwhelmed by sheer number (and other dragons, but that's not really a concern now that she's down to just Drogon).
At the same time, the Battle of Winterfell episode had to bring in a disorienting snowstorm to keep Dany and Jon on Drogon and Rhaegal from annihilating the army of the dead en masse, and the only reason why Drogon was injured at all is that Dany lingered on the ground too long after swooping down to save Jon. If the dragons are used to strategic perfection, then they're pretty much unstoppable.
And "pretty much unstoppable" does not make for compelling television when it comes to a climactic battle between two queens dead-set on the Iron Throne. Taking Drogon out of the game permanently would raise the stakes and force Dany to prove that she's more than just the Dragon Queen. If she wants to rule the Seven Kingdoms, she needs to be able to do so without scaring people into submission on the back of her mighty black dragon.
She doesn't want to be queen of the ashes and would rather be loved than feared; losing her fire-breathing dragon with which she wants to roast King's Landing and carrying on calmly and rationally anyway could be what she needs. It's also worth noting that her dragons have arguably done more harm than good to the Seven Kingdoms.
Yes, the realm would have been screwed by the Night King if she hadn't been present at the Battle of Winterfell with Drogon and Rhaegal to combat Viserion, but the Night King never would have had Viserion if Dany hadn't flown all three of her dragons beyond The Wall in Season 7. He would still be stuck behind The Wall.
Dany couldn't have foreseen that, of course, and shouldn't be blamed for it, but it proves that a dragon is a dangerous variable, and even a fire-proof Targaryen can't always control what burns.
Cersei Is Prepared
Drogon giving Dany too much power in a fight against Cersei's forces is reliant on Dany risking Drogon anywhere near anybody who might have one of those giant crossbows. She kept Drogon out of range for the showdown against Cersei as she tried to negotiate Cersei's surrender, and the walls of King's Landing are lined with the weapons. Euron's ships all seem to be outfitted with them as well.
If Dany takes Drogon near the city, Euron's ships, or presumably the Golden Company in a field battle, she risks losing the last of her children. Yet can she win the battle if she doesn't at least try to use Drogon? If Dany does attempt to unleash Drogon, then it would make sense if Cersei or Euron is able to shoot him out of the sky. He can't blast fire in all directions at once, and he might still be hurting from what the Battle of Winterfell.
Throw in the fact that Dany may not be her calmest after watching Rhaegal be shot from the sky, seeing her trusted friend Missandei beheaded shortly after losing Ser Jorah, knowing that Jon has a better claim to the Iron Throne in the Targaryen line of succession, and likely coming to suspect her advisors aren't 100% on her side thanks to Varys, and she might not think very clearly about how she utilizes Drogon in the remaining episodes.
For better or worse, "Dracarys!" can be Dany's default setting, and Grey Worm may not try to temper her after seeing Missandei killed. She doesn't totally trust Tyrion, who fears her, and she may trust him less after finding out he concealed Cersei's pregnancy from her. If Dany decides to roast King's Landing to kill Cersei, Drogon could pay the price along with all the innocents within the city.
Honestly? I would be Team Cersei if Dany tries it and Drogon gets shot out of the sky, and that's coming from somebody who has been ready for Cersei to get the boot from the Iron Throne for years now. Dany has to be smart and strategic about how she uses him, and after how she threw out the plan at the Battle of Winterfell, I'm not sure she has it in her. Nobody can be good at everything, and she's not always willing to listen to those who would advise her against it.
Mad Queen Daenerys
Love it or hate it, Season 8 has pretty clearly indicated that Dany is in for a Mad Queen Daenerys arc. Or, at the very least, her advisors are concerned that Dany is becoming Mad Queen Daenerys. Varys listed some valid concerns about her leadership in "The Last of the Starks," and even Tyrion believes that Dany needs to have somebody who will temper her impulses.
Tyrion wants that person to be Jon as her husband to prevent another civil war, but Jon hasn't exactly proved himself willing to stand up to her. In fact, Tyrion is actively afraid of her and has had concerns ever since she roasted the Tarlys. Dany's proclamation in "The Last of the Starks" that it's her "destiny" to rid the world of tyrants (with fire and blood, apparently) didn't allay any of his fears.
At this point, it almost doesn't matter if Dany really is showing shades of Aerys and going full Mad Queen. What matters is whether the other characters believe it or not. There are still characters alive who recall the terror of the Mad King, and the North remembers what Aerys did to Ned's father and brother before Robert's Rebellion broke out. If they truly fear Dany is the next Aerys, will they want her to have a dragon at her disposal?
And should she? If Dany does go full Mad Queen and roasts King's Landing, then I'm guessing Drogon will be toast before the end. Nobody thinks burning King's Landing is a good idea, and there may even still be wildfire hidden around the city to guarantee it goes entirely up in flames. Dany probably shouldn't have a dragon if she's even a little bit as mad as Aerys and Viserys.
A Mad Queen who destroys a city to kill her rival with a dragon is exactly the kind of tyrant Dany professes to want to destroy. If she does truly lose her grip or if her advisors truly believes she's lost her grip, then Drogon would almost certainly either be put at great risk within killable range or in danger from others than Cersei.
The Dragons Were Named For Dead Men
Daenerys named her dragons for three of the men who were most important to her, even if they weren't all her favorite people. Drogon for Khal Drogo, her first husband and sun-and-stars; Rhaegal for Rhaegar, the brother she never met but everybody spoke highly of as "The Last Dragon" despite his reputation for kidnapping and raping Lyanna Stark; Viserion for Viserys, who got himself killed in Season 1 but was still key to Dany's journey and probably would have been her husband if he hadn't wanted Drogo's army.
Just as Viserys was the first key person in Dany's life that she could remember who died, Viserion was the first dragon to die. Rhaegal died shortly after Dany learned that Rhaegar secretly married Lyanna Stark and fathered a son who is ahead of Dany in the line of succession, but who died before he got to even meet his son.
Although Drogo was the strongest and fiercest man she ever knew, he died as well. Does this mean that her strongest and fiercest dragon is doomed as well? Maybe Dany shouldn't have named all three of her dragons after dead men. Does "valar morghulis" apply to dragons as well as men? And if all goes according to plan for Dany, and she breaks the wheel and begins a new era for the Seven Kingdoms, would it really make narrative sense for her to have a dragon as what keeps her on the throne?
Aegon won the throne by conquest, and the people of Westeros fear dragons still. Just as Dany needed to move on from the men in her life who died and arguably failed her, perhaps she needs to move on from the dragons. If she survives the series at all, that is. With only two episodes left, anybody could really die, and Dany is no longer the last Targaryen.
Find out what's next for Dany and Drogon when the fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 airs Sunday, May 12 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.