SPOILERS AHEAD from Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5. Also WARNING: Toward the end of this post, I'm gonna rant like a mofo about Dany's TV character development.
Game of Thrones just Dracarys-ed the hell out of Daenerys Targaryen's storyline as a hero of the game. In Season 8, Episode 5, "The Bells," the Breaker of Chains ignored the King's Landing bells signalling the city's surrender. She and Drogon instead covered King's Landing in fire and blood -- not just the soldiers, but thousands of innocent people. No matter what happens in the May 19 finale, there's no coming back from that.
It was quite a change of pace for the fire-loving dragon queen who had never before turned her Dracarys powers on civilians completely out of the game. Tyrion Lannister used wildfire to kill thousands and win the Battle of the Blackwater and Arya Stark killed off an entire House, but in context those kills -- and Dany's previous kills, even the Tarlys -- could all be fairly explained, keeping our heroes on the right side.
Emilia Clarke knew this was coming, of course. She got the final season scripts and filmed them, and she shared multiple hints along the way that Dany's story would take a dramatic turn for the worse.
ET: Have you shot your final scenes yet [nods from cast] and are you happy with how things ended?
Nathalie Emmanuel: Yes.
[Emilia Clarke cringe-smiles and nervous-laughs.]
ET [pointing to Emilia]: She didn't say yes. You didn't say yes.
Emilia: Best season ever!
Ooh, but you have to watch how she says it. It's pretty clear she did not think it would be the best season ever:
It reminded me of Michael Scott on The Office:
Or the Chrissy Teigen cringe smile:
Props to Nathalie Emmanuel for staying spoiler strong there, even though Missandei was killed off last week. She could've joined Emilia Clarke in cringe-laughing but instead kept a straight face and stayed loyal to the show.
I'm with Emilia, though. And that interview was not the only time she gave fans a hint that Dany's storyline would go south.
Remember a year ago, when Emilia Clarke was asked about filming Dany's final on-screen moment? Here's what she had said to Vanity Fair about that:
It fucked me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone's mouth of what Daenerys is.
That unsettling reaction was a big hint that Dany would go out in a negative way.
Game of Thrones has never been a show that cares about fan service, but it should care about character consistency.
That's why so many Dany fans (especially book readers like myself) are pissed off at the showrunners for the past couple of seasons, but especially the writing of Season 8. Dany's Season 8 story took a dramatic turn from the woman who always stood up for the people, and never wanted to be the queen of ashes. They even had her begging Jon not to tell anyone about his lineage. They made her weak and desperate, something very far from Book Dany and also foreign to most of HBO Dany's story. Imagine if the situation were reversed and Jon started slaughtering innocent people. Fans would rightfully be confused and frustrated at such a huge character change.
Just because she got mad doesn't mean she had to go mad. But Game of Thrones decided to go hard on The Mad Queen angle in Season 8. Instead of just letting her be as ruthless as Arya or Tyrion when it counts -- something she had shown the whole time, and why she was able to win so many good people to her side -- they decided to tip her scales to madness.
Dany deserved better than to be lumped in with her abusive brother Viserys and their father The Mad King just because they are Targaryens. (Meanwhile, Rhaegar, who dumped his wife and kids for Lyanna Stark, is somehow "noble"? OK.) Jon is a Targaryen too, but no one calls him out on anything he's done -- or not done, since he's become one of the most passive characters -- or decides it's because of his dragon blood.
I know not everyone agrees. That's the beauty of a show like Game of Thrones. It inspires strong opinions, but not the same strong opinions. Some fans think Dany has been going mad the whole time in a steady progression. Others just never liked her. We were warned that fans would have divided opinions on the final season, depending on various characters' fates. So be it.
Game of Thrones' final episode ever airs this Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. And then we can spend the rest of our lives debating it like the Lost finale (I actually liked that ending, gods save me), the Dexter finale (actually is there a debate there or do we all agree that one sucked?) and The Sopranos finale.