Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons broke bad.
We meet Daenerys in the very first episode, and throughout the years we follow her adventures, victories and challenges. We feel for her when her brother abuses her and sells to be Khal Drogo’s wife. Scene by scene, episode by episode, she makes us empathic for her. By the time she stands up unburnt with the three baby dragons around her body, she wins over our hearts.
At this point in the story, we are a bit oblivious to see the full picture the Song of Ice and Fire is going to tell us. Maybe because most of the cultures represent duality as if there are two opposite forces, one inherently good and another evil. We get hooked up on this idea that we believe the Fire is a divine power, the only thing that can destroy the night, winter and all that comes with it. However, only in the very end of the story, we find out that while the fire burns the White Walkers and the soldiers of the army of the death, it does not destroy the Night King. Only the opposite way of what created The Night King could destroy him, which only remotely has a connection with the fire itself.
While we see Daenerys using her dragons as mighty weapons to fight the evil in this world, we believe in her cause to break the wheel. We cheer for her when she is hopelessly roaming in the Red Waste. We sense shivers when she gets the whole army of unsullied by teaching a lesson that not every creature can be tamed and that dragons are no slaves. We are proud of her and what she has achieved, believing that she is no ordinary girl and that her dreams come true.
Throughout her journey in The Slaver’s Bay, we observe how she becomes a Queen. She is a liberator, the breaker of chains, the one who protects the innocents and punishes the masters. We see that side of her, and we know that she cares for others. Until the moment she runs amok and burns the whole city of Kingslanding to the ground together with its citizens, burying them in ashes. That moment when she makes a decision and the next scenes of massive killing make no one to doubt that she is truly lost now.
The theme of being in a senseless condition is set with a few examples of other characters who become truly lost, as ser Rodric says to Theon before decapitation. The same thematic music plays before Robb Stark makes a wrong decision to execute Richard Karstark, and we find out that indeed Robb could be no king. ‘The sun of winter’ could have been the last Karstark’s words, as it’s the official words of this ancient house. It would have been an omen for Robb’s fate. Instead, he reminds Robb that his kin shares a bloodline with the Starks. Perhaps, hoping that Robb can return from the defeat by darkness. We know Stannis is lost when he decides to sacrifice his daughter, even though he suffers before making his mind.
We get to know genuinely malicious characters, a few deuteragonists and some minor figures that are truly lost and show no signs of virtue. E.g. Joffrey, Ramsey, Meryn Trant, Ilyn Pane, The Mountain and perhaps a few more not to mention the Night King and all his minions. Other villains in the story either show some goodness left in them or never really cross the line of being truly lost even though being close. We do not hate Petyr Baelish, or Tywin Lannister. Even Cersey does not always make us feel like ‘somebody, please, kill this cunt’ every time she is on screen. The more a character gets closer to the values of the Night King, the more lost in the darkness they get.
But what happened to Daenerys? Yes, she shows erroneous signs when, according to her and against the counselling, she punishes injustice with justice. She alludes to having intentions to burn some city to the ground one day; but why Kingslanding? The place where the Iron Throne stands, the only thing she’s ever wanted since the day Viserion gets crowned with a different crown that what he imagined would be.
Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady of the Seven Kingdoms and Protector of the Realm, Lady of Dragonstone, Queen of Meereen, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons got lost in fire.
Missa, missa, called people in Yunkai when she freed them from slavery. What if missing this in the list of her titles was the pillar stone needed to balance out from being a storm born, a Khaleesi, and a breaker (all words entangle a destructive force)? Yes, she is called Protector of the realm, but that is rather vague since that does not imply what would she protect them from. And in fact, she does protect the kingdom when facing the army of the dead. She is a lady and a queen, but that does not signify righteousness. Daenerys makes mistakes when ruling and does not always make morally right decisions. She is a mother, but a mother of dragons, the beasts that breath fire and spread death in a single gust. The heartfelt shout of missa missa from the people of Yunkai remains unheard and doesn’t make to the list.
With one single emotion of extreme loneliness immersed with grief and anger followed by the sensation of power pushes Daenerys over the cliff, and now she is truly lost. All this emotional mingle sweeps away her deeds, and there is no more missa missa echoing in our memory. She is the Mad Queen, the name she will be memorized by the generations that will read the history of Westeros. Like father, like daughter, people will say — a daughter who satisfies the last will of her father and burns them all.
Theon, who is one of the characters who get truly lost, does not need to pay the highest price for it. He suffers a lot, he pays for his erroneous actions the iron price, but he gets his atonement and comes back knowing how to judge the good from wrong. This raises a question whether there was a chance for Daenerys to return from being truly lost too? We are confronted with the idea that the different powers do not mean they are antipodean. The fire is not holy, but rather another evil power people might face. The battle at Winterfell against the Night King is a fight against death, also representing external threat and danger that chases us all. However, the seizing of Kingslanding is a fight against what we might become, the inherent hazard that yielding to it, destroys not only us but also the ones around us.
A friend told me a story once. It was a story about his close friend and how one day he was told that his friend got arrested, taken into custody because of accusations of paedophilia. My friend couldn’t believe it. No one could. The guy continued pleading not guilty until some dense proves were presented to him. He admitted and started telling the truth in exchange for a shorter sentence. Thus, all his sins came to light. It was a shock or his relatives and friends, desperation, followed by ceaseless thoughts whether there were any signs of his true nature. The most challenging part for them was that their memories about this person suggested him being a decent person. They needed to accept that they never truly knew him, or that he was not a person they imagined he was. There was guilt whispering that what if only the truth was discovered earlier, many would have been unhurt.
It is somehow true that no one is entirely good or bad. We are all troubled with thoughts and everyday choices for our actions which define what kind of people we are. Even saints make bad decisions that hurt others and villains might experience true, innocent love that makes them do good deeds. You are as good as your worst sins are.
Daenerys does something dreadful. She neglects the inherent morality that we are all witnesses she possesses and razes the city with all its innocents. Even if she rebuilds Kingslanding and afterwards does only good deeds, can the death of thousands be forgotten and forgiven? Once you burn it all (or freeze it all) and choose a path towards darkness, it’s complex to find the way back. As for Daenerys, the Fire wins this battle, and now she is truly lost, she is the Mad Queen, and that’s the name she will be remembered for.
So what do we learn from Daenerys’ story? Many fans were disappointed by the ending. However, I think that without Daenerys breaking bad, the whole Song of Ice and Fire would be incomplete. We’ll read how G.R.R. Martin finishes his story, but when it comes to Daenerys, I doubt she will receive a happy ending. She was determined to burn the city to the ground, and she loses the internal fight, as the Night King lost the external one when facing the Children of the Forest. Both, as major representatives of the major forces, get absorbed by the power that is stronger than a human can be. So what is the main point here? I believe the moral is a bit similar to what the daoistic yin and yang philosophy represents. Harmony, whether it’s external or internal, can only be reached when living in balance between yin and yang and all that these two sides of the duality represent. Submitting to one side over the other will only turn out in chaos anyway. Thus, the cure, the goal and the dao are to be a master of living in the balance of the two.