'Game of Thrones': Why Daenerys' Descent Into Mad Queen Was Predictable — But Unearned (POLL)

Meredith Jacobs
HBO

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 8, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones, "The Bells."]

"I will take what is mine. With fire and blood, I will take it," Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) once said, and she makes good on that promise (in the worst way possible) in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones.

Daenerys and her soldiers attack King's Landing and, ultimately, Cersei (Lena Headey) in "The Bells," but the destruction Daenerys leaves in her wake is nothing short of horrific. Tyrion's (Peter Dinklage) pleas for the innocents at King's Landing, like ones she herself has freed, go unheard. His plea to listen for the bells that signal the city's surrender doesn't matter.

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Daenerys burns King's Landing, soldiers and innocents alike, even after hearing the bells. And the audience witnesses the descent as she becomes the Mad Queen through the eyes of her victims, as they try to flee her dragon's fire and young children are unable to move as their parents are slaughtered around them.

But this madness is something we should have also seen coming, looking at the episodes that came before it and the showrunners' comments in the "Inside the Episode" featurette HBO released after "The Bells" aired.

(HBO)

Daenerys' vision in the House of the Undying back in Season 2 may have been foreshadowing this ending for her in ash. Though it looked like snow falling, perhaps signifying winter, it was very well symbolizing the ash falling on and burying King's Landing and those there as a result of her actions.

As executive producer and writer David Benioff points out in the featurette, "she chose violence. A Targaryen choosing violence is a pretty terrifying thing." And this isn't the first time she's done that.

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Daenerys prepares for her final war after the penultimate 'The Bells' episode.

She crucified 163 slave masters for the 163 slave children who suffered the same fate in Meereen. Following Ser Barristan's death, she sought revenge, using her dragons to get it on the leaders of Meereen's noble families.

She killed the Tarlys for refusing to bend the knee, and when Sam (John Bradley) found out, he pointed out to Jon that he has spared men before in a similar position. She refused to let her army rest following the Battle of Winterfell, determined to fight on to King's Landing and take back what she sees as hers from Cersei.

But it's not hers. As we've learned, Jon (Kit Harington) is the true heir to the Iron Throne, a fact that has contributed to Daenerys' Season 8 descent. As Benioff pointed out, she "has had really close friendships and close advisors for her entire run of the show," but many have turned on her (like Varys) or died (like Jorah and Missandei).

(Helen Sloan/HBO)

"She's very much alone, and that's a dangerous thing for someone who's got so much power, to feel that isolated," he continued — especially given that this side of her has always been lurking under the surface. The EP specifically called out Daenerys' reaction to her brother's death. He may have been a terrible brother and person, "but there is something kind of chilling about the way that Dany has responded to the death of her enemies," he said.

If things had changed, we may have never seen this side of Daenerys, but everything has piled up on her this season — Cersei's betrayal, Missandei's execution, the truth about Jon — and led to the events at King's Landing and what executive producer D.B. Weiss said was a reaction to seeing the Red Keep, "the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago" and the "symbol of everything that was taken from her."

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However, that reaction out of pure rage and grief doesn't make sense given what we've seen from Daenerys in the past, namely that she has protected and freed innocents. Tyrion even points that out to her early on when she refuses to even think about sparing the innocent in King's Landing. They should have freed themselves, she says, even though she herself has freed those from tyrants before.

Instead, in one fell swoop, we see her burning women and children alive as they flee. Her anger should have been solely directed at Cersei, not at those who had nothing to do with the tragedy she'd suffered and atrocities that had been committed against her. She could have headed straight for the Red Keep and Cersei, yet instead, she took the time to destroy everything in her path.

And fans are not pleased with how it played out.

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