By Valerie Tejeda
Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4 ("The Last of the Starks").
If you thought we were going to get a break after the heart-pounding, terror-filled battle that was “The Long Night,” think again. Instead, the fourth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 took two more beloved characters from us (R.I.P. Missandei and Rhaegal), and reminded us how truly evil Queen Cersei can be. So maybe it’s time the Mother of Dragons embraces her "Mad Queen" alter ego to even the score?
When we first watched Daenerys Targaryen submerge herself into scalding-hot water in the very first episode of Game of Thrones we were immediately intrigued by this silver-haired protagonist. And by the end of Season 1, after that iconic moment Dany emerged unburnt from the smoldering ashes with her newly hatched dragons, she cemented herself as a fan-favorite for the Iron Throne. But she’s been plagued by her lineage since before she was born, and throughout the seasons has had to constantly prove to others — especially her male advisors — she’s not like her father, the "Mad King" Aerys II that came before her. Tyrion Lannister, now the Hand of the queen, and Varys have for the most part “tempered her worst impulses” and worked hard to keep her from following in her father’s footsteps. “The objective here is to remove Cersei without destroying King’s Landing,” Tyrion advises Daenerys in the most recent episode. And Varys later tells her, “Do not become what you have always struggled to defeat.” While Dany has made a few missteps along the way (she burned the Tarlys alive with dragon fire for not bending the knee, for example) she has for the most part shown she doesn’t immediately act in violence. The same, however, cannot be said for Cersei Lannister.
Cersei is the one true villain on Game of Thrones, a greater threat than even the army of the dead that our heroes once so greatly feared. She’s always one step ahead of everyone (which apparently only Sansa’s aware of) and always has her own best interest in mind, using violence to protect that, at any cost. She's the queen of manipulation; she plotted the death of her first husband King Robert Baratheon, murdered countless Westerosis when she exploded the Sept of Baelor, lied about sending help to defeat the Night King, and most recently shot down one of Dany’s dragons and beheaded her loyal advisor and dear friend Missandei — whose last words to Daenerys, by the way, were "dracarys" (the High Valyrian word for dragonfire).
Dany has officially reached her breaking point, and it appears she is about to go all “Mad Queen” on King’s Landing. But is that such a bad thing if it means getting rid of Cersei?
While there is merit to many of Tyrion and Varys's concerns, Olenna Tyrell gave the Mother of Dragons some sound advice in Season 7 in regards to listening to her male advisers who were trying to tame her: "The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You’re a dragon. Be a dragon." But being a "dragon" means embracing a part of herself that she’s been told to lock away.
Dany is not a tyrant, or a monster. She doesn’t want to become the Mad Queen. She isn’t here to "burn them all" like her father — she’s here for vengeance on Cersei and peace in the realm. She's claimed she’s wanted the Iron Throne so she can break the wheel, not become another cruel monarch that continues to oppress the innocent. Daenerys said it herself during Sunday night’s episode: "I’m here to free the world from tyrants. That is my destiny and I will serve it, no matter the cost."
That cost has real potential to be the death of many innocent people, should Daenerys make it rain dragonfire over King's Landing. If the Mad Queen is to be let loose, then she’ll at least have to be strategic about it. But Dany has a better head on her shoulders than people give her credit for. Tarlys aside, she doesn’t have a pattern of killing innocent people like Cersei. At this point, it doesn’t appear that there’s another way to defeat Cersei besides a direct attack, but hopefully Daenerys can find a way to "rip her out, root and stem" without harming the human shield of innocents Cersei has placed inside the walls of the Red Keep.
Regardless of how next week’s episode goes, we're getting the feeling that Daenerys may not be around by the end of the series. It seems they are setting her up for her Mad Queen undoing (a self-fulfilling prophecy from her advisors, perhaps?) and with less and less people rallying around her (since most of them are gone at this point), she may not even be able to take the throne if she gets Cersei off it.
Let’s just hope that if the show does kill Daenerys off, they wait until she is has the chance to make some great progress for the Seven Kingdoms. It's the destiny she was meant to fulfill from the very beginning.