This post will be talking about Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, Lover of Long Ass Titles. She’s the Khaleesi on HBO’s Game of Thrones, okay? If you’re not up on the show, then expect spoilers to be contained within.
The last time I wrote about Daenerys specifically, she had just overtaken Yunkai, the second city along Slaver’s Bay, with her army of Unsullied, her mercenaries, and her two Westerosi knights.
Seasons 4 and 5 have had her ruling the largest city on the bay, Meereen, where her emancipation proclamations were met with resistance from the Meereenese culture, and her dragons have transitioned from wartime assets to peacetime liabilities.
I thought it was time to talk a little bit more about the last Targaryen. (Wink wink… er, just something in my eye. Not implying anything…)
Daenerys is the Last Targaryen? She’s Clearly the Worst Targaryen!
Okay, I don’t think she’s the worst, but there’s a vocal segment of the audience that just isn’t into Dany’s story. Either she’s too petulant, or too entitled, or her story is too removed from the rest of the storylines, or it’s just boring.
These complaints remind me a lot of the complaints I heard about Jon Snow, after season three. And his story turned around!
Well, then his story somewhat took a bit of a setback. But Jon’s recent adventures were exciting and closely connected to the big story going on in Westeros; maybe not so much the dynastic control of the throne story, but his story was definitely in deep with the dangerous demons from the desolate … north. (Damn, I ran out of D-words. Direction! I should have used that word. Too late…)
Anyway, although Jon’s story wasn’t really paced the same way as, oh, Tyrion’s, it picked up momentum and stakes as it went along. I assume a similar situation will be happening with Daenerys and her overseas adventuring.
And I’m not so sure her story has been boring. Okay, I can only speak for myself. But if we isolate her adventures, free of the distractions of things happening in King’s Landing, and crazy murder weddings, and so on, it’s actually quite epic. Dragons! Intrigue! Warlocks! Robot-like eunuch warriors!
But Dany’s detractors aren’t entirely off base. She is kind of a mess on handling certain things.
Targaryens on the Throne: Like Father, Like Daughter.
I don’t want to chastise Dany’s good intentions; I respect her anti-slavery stances. She cleverly dealt with the slave masters of Astapor, she made the most of her opportunties at Yunkai, and she smoothly captured Meereen.
But her reign as Queen of Meereen hasn’t been super great.
She started things off by executing several hundred slavemasters. That seemed like poetic justice, since before her taking the city, the Meereenese upper class thought to mock and goad Dany by crucifying a huge number of slaves as signposts.
Come this way, if you dare, yo.
She dared. Veni Vidi Vici, yo.
For every slave that had been crucified as part of this hellish public works project, a slave master was crucified in return.
But the issue with her reaction (other than the usual arguments against capital punishment) is that there really hadn’t been much due process in selecting which slave masters to punish.
Afterwords, Daenerys was petitioned by the young and eloquent nobleman Hizdahr zo Loraq, who explained that his father had argued against the original torturous murder of the slaves, but had ended up nailed to a signpost when Dany took the city. Dany couldn’t adequately be sure that the guilty hadn’t escaped punishment or if the relatively innocent had been nailed up.
This wouldn’t have been the first time in history that a Targaryen monarch had demanded collective punishment against a group. At least Dany appeared to exhibit some self-reflection based on Hizdahr’s petitioning.
Daenerys’ queensguard, Barristan Selmy, made a direct reference to the Mad King for his queen when discussing due process and rule of law. A member of the Sons of the Harpy had been captured after an Unsullied’s assassination. Members of her ruling council wanted the accused executed immediately, but Selmy convinced Daenerys that there should be a trial, the process would be a useful exercise of justice for all to see and reflect on. Something Mad King Aerys had had no interest in, to his detriment.
Unfortunately, the former slave Mossador on the council was either too impatient or too concerned that the Harpy would somehow escape proper punishment. So he took matters into his own hands, and had the Harpy killed.
In response to this willful circumvention of justice, Dany ordered that Mossador be publicly executed, which elicted a negative reaction from the masses who were sympathetic to Mossador’s actions.
This is pretty inconsistent and confusing behavior from Dany.
On the surface, punishing Mossador makes sense, and I don’t know if showing him clemency would have been the right thing to do. But based on everything that the show presented, Dany ordered his execution without benefit of a public trial, a trial that she had ordered for the Harpy. Mossador’s extra-judicial killing of the Harpy circumvented her opportunity to establish a precedent for justice to take priority over revenge in these matters.
That’s bad on Mossador.
But her swift execution of Mossador was another lost opportunity for demonstrating the process of justice, not only in regards to Mossador, but also in regards to the Harpy. A public trial of Mossador could have doubled for the trial of the Harpy, which would easily have established that the insurgent would have been found guilty and legitimately punished, and therefore Mossador’s assumption of executive powers was unnecessary, unwarranted, and a grave offense.
THEN they could have punished Mossador. Failure to do so falls on Dany.
Dany’s dilemma in regards to Mossador’s revenge-killing of the Harpy was very similar to Robb Stark’s execution of Lord Rickard Karstark, who was sentenced to death for the killing of Lannister hostages. Both executions were justified, but neither ruler managed to establish the authority and legitimacy of the actions they took. For Robb, that became a huge problem. It could become of problem for Dany as well.
And Dany has other problems. Scaly, hungry, fire-breathing problems.
Mother and Chainer of Dragons
For most of the seasons, Dany’s dragons were assets. They opened doors for her in Qarth, they were useful as warlock exterminators, they were instrumental in Dany obtaining an army in Astapor, and they’ve been handy during negotiations when intimidation is called for.
But they haven’t been great for Dany during her peacetime rule. Her babies are getting older and they are starting to do what dragons do. Whatever they want.
Daenerys received some flak from show watchers for locking up Rhaegal and Viserion after Drogon ate a child. Yes, it wasn’t the other dragons fault, but Dany wasn’t punishing the dragons. This isn’t a case of Cersei having Sansa’s direwolf Lady killed because the vengeful queen couldn’t get her claws into Nymeria.
Dany was obviously chaining up her other dragons because eventually they’d be eating children on their own. And I’m not so sure Dany is too wrong in what she’s doing. There is a precedent for how to house dragons, set in the very layout of King’s Landing.
That Targaryen-founded city was built on three hills. The highest hill supported the Red Keep where the monarchy lived, the second highest supported the Great Sept, and the third hill was the site of another famous structure: the Dragonpit.
That’s where the Targaryens chained up their dragons, to keep them from flying around eating children in the Westerosi fields.
Obviously, there’s a difference. Unlike Daenerys, the Targaryens and the other Valyrians before them had their dragons trained and under control.
Ser Jorah might disagree…
They are dragons, Khaleesi. They can never be tamed. Not even by their mother.
No Jorah. Not unless the Valyrian Freehold that effectively conquered the world from the backs of dragons happened to do it by accident. Their dragons weren’t wild.
I’m not inclined to chastise Dany from following in the Targaryen ancestral footprints in regards to boarding her creatures, but she does need to get on the stick about training them. Unless she was planning on keeping them locked up forever, fed on cattle and the occasional Meereenese nobleman.
But she needs someone other than Ser Jorah, with his inaccurate picture of the potential for training dragons, to provide her advice on rehabilitating her children, including wild Drogon.
Someone theoretically well-read and who has an interest in dragons.
There has to be someone who fits that description.
Of course, her biggest issue at the moment would be getting back to safety from the Dothraki Sea, and hopefully with Drogon.
How About Back to Westeros?
As I mentioned before, one of the complaints that people have with Dany’s story is that it’s unconnected with all that great intrigue happening in King’s Landing, or the action happening up at the Wall. Or even the stuff happening with Arya, who happens to be on the same continent as Dany, but that might as well be occurring in a completely different book series.
At least there has been mention of Dany in King’s Landing, and Dany’s making noise about coming back to Westeros.
But she’s operating on a different time-scale than everyone else. Dany has been more or less leisurely making her way across Essos, gaining and losing, consolidating her position and considering her plans. For people to complain about her not rushing to Westeros makes me feel as if they’re watching the second episode of HBO’s ROME, and are angry that Caesar isn’t getting stabbed by Brutus.
Why’s he still in Germany? Why are we spending time with this guy Pompey? Are we supposed to care about Lucius Verunas and Titus Pullo? When’s Caesar going to get stabbed already?
Just ease up, people. We don’t know what Dany’s storyline will be, but I think we all assume that eventually she’ll be arriving in the Seven Kingdoms, with some number of dragons and an army. We assume that it’ll be at a time when it’ll be relevant for the plot, and not just a big distraction.
High Sparrow: Okay, it’s time for the trial. But I think I’ll have an hour-long sermon or something, because I love giving those.
Cersei: Oh, let’s skip past that. I demand trial by combat. I choose the reanimated zombie-like monster Ser Gregor Clegane to be my champion.
High Sparrow: I beg your pardon?
Cersei: Oh, I meant to say “the large but completely human and non-monstrous Ser Robert Strong to be my champion.”
High Sparrow: Very well. In that case, the church nominates a special guest champion, Prince Oberyn Martell.
Oberyn: Ah ha! We meet again, Queen Cersei!
Qyburn: Oh, didn’t I mention that before I was kicked out of the Citadel, I pioneered the field of facial reconstruction? Prince Oberyn turned out to be too sexy to die.
King Tommen: THIS IS GOING TO BE GREAT!
Random Faith Militant: High Sparrow! Dragons are attacking King’s Landing! And an army of implacable eunuchs are swarming over the walls!
High Sparrow: Court is in recess, I want to see this unfold.
King Tommen: But I want to see Prince Zomberyn and Ser Gregorstein fight!
I think we have to have some of these threads wrapped up before a Targaryen invasion should happen. But I’m pretty sure it’ll happen.
Dany’s always breaking stuff – some people draw the line at wheels.
Along the lines of Dany returning to Westeros, she and Tyrion Lannister had a discussion centered on that topic. Tyrion implied that many of the Great Houses would not support her claim.
Dany gave a short speech about the other houses and used a wheel-analogy that was the target of some criticism from viewers.
Daenerys: Lannister, Targaryen, Baratheon, Stark, Tyrell. They’re all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing those on the ground.
Tyrion: It’s a beautiful dream. Stopping the wheel. You’re not the first person who’s ever dreamt it.
Daenerys: I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.
People seemed to have issues with her statement about breaking the wheel, and I’m not exactly sure why. They said it didn’t make sense, but it makes sense to me.
Tyrion interpreted her metaphor (or so I believe) along the lines of the medieval wheel of fortune concept, that people naturally are on some point of a wheel that it in its rotation raises them up, and then brings them down, and there is very little that can be done about it.
That doesn’t sound like what Dany is describing to me, since she labels the various houses (including her own) as spokes on a wheel. They’re part of something that is crushing people on the ground. Spokes don’t get crushed, they support the outer tread that does the crushing.
Dany’s statement comes across very revolutionary (the pun of a wheel revolving is not intended.) The Great Houses are part of a system that oppresses and abuses the people on the ground, the common folk. It sounds to me that Dany is suggesting a different system of power, where the Great Houses aren’t able to do all that crushing.
There’s a lot going on that might suggest where the show’s future might take when Dany arrives in Westeros. After all, Tyrion only mentions a handful of Houses: Lannister, Stark, Baratheon, and Tyrell.
He doesn’t mention Martell, Arryn, Greyjoy, or the new power in the North, the Boltons.
The Martells have no love for the current Lannister-controlled regime, and even though Prince Doran has stated he does not want war, he might have a war regardless, since Oberyn’s paramour poisoned Cersei’s daughter, the princess Myrcella. House Arryn is mostly controlled by Petyr Baelish, so it’s anyone’s guess what he will do if Dany made her move west, but the Greyjoys have seceded from the Seven Kingdoms and unless Dany wants to try and conquer them first, it might be in their interests to support her with their independence as a bargaining chip.
The Boltons are in a similar position, since their marriage to Sansa Stark as a key to controlling the North definitely puts them at odds with the Lannisters, effectively sliding into a state of “we’re rebelling, what are you going to do about that?”
It would be terrifying if Dany thought allying with House Bolton would be a good thing, but it might be the thing to have happen in the face of the White Walker threat.
That covers the other Great Houses (I’m really being charitable to the Boltons and including them as one. Boo Boltons!) but Dany’s breaking the wheel analogy suggests two other potential allies.
The High Sparrow of the Faith of the Seven has already threatened Lady Olenna of Highgarden with the idea of a popular revolt. “We are many, you are few” might as well be a slogan from Occupy Westeros.
The Faith currently control King’s Landing (more or less, they have presented themselves as powerful in the streets, and as yet the Lannisters have not had the will to use military force against the Faith Militant.) The Lannisters are particularly bankrupt on love when it comes to this particular demographic, and it’s possible that should Dany return, the church of the New Gods would herald her return as the rightful heir. After all, her Targaryen ancestors were practictioners of the faith established by the Andals in Westeros, and the religion of the Seven appears to be the most popular of the various beliefs in the Seven Kingdoms.
Another group would be the Wildlings who have immigrated south of the Wall, let in by Lord Commander Jon Snow (before his assassination, which may or may not stem the tide of Free Folk refugees.)
The Wildlings were not interested in bending the knee to Stannis, their knees don’t bend easily, but it might be a different situation if Dany is not expecting traditional fealty, if she’s planning on a system that would be more to the Wildling’s liking, one without lords and vassals.
But honestly, I don’t think the Wildlings would be well suited for any more advanced system of government. The Wildlings are largely anarchical survivalists, and the only reason that Mance Rayder could get them to cooperate was because of the danger of the Others.
Should Dany and her dragons manage to defeat the White Walkers, the Wildlings might not be all that useful as a means of support for her conquest of the Seven Kingdoms, or in the aftermath and reconstruction.
But they might surprise me.
Of course, this is only speculation, in the event that Daenerys ever actually leaves Essos for Westeros.
Go West, Young Woman
I mentioned already that from a narrative perspective, it probably isn’t the right time for Dany to head west and invade the Seven Kingdoms. It’s also not convenient for her to do so, since she’s currently in the wilderness, possibly a captive of that encircling Dothraki horde. But lets assume she returns to Meereen unscathed, and with a cooperative Drogon, for good measure.
She still has two wild dragons locked up. With Tyrion’s help, maybe she could get them manageable. But there’s still an issue keeping her from packing her bags and traveling. Slaver’s Bay.
Dany has invested a lot of energy and monologues on her vision of Slaver’s Bay being something more like Justice and Equality Bay, or Freedom Bay, or Liberty Bay. Those are all reasonable names to reflect her new anti-slavery policy. But will the mapmakers bother to change the labels if she’s going to leave?
Astapor and Yunkai backslid into chaos once Dany left, even though she felt that she had set up a reasonable governmental body before moving on. Her rule in Meereen is currently contested by the secretive and seemingly well-organized Sons of the Harpy.
I think it’s a given that either things have to get so bad in Slaver’s Bay that Dany feels it worth her time to leave while she can, with her regrets and lessons learned, or things have to stabilize and she’s willing to leave with some confidence that order will be maintained.
For her to leave Meereen and the environs, she’d need to have two armed forces loyal to her. One that would be left behind to enforce her will or the will of her designated associates, and a second army that would help her take the Seven Kingdoms (or at least enough to establish a foothold. Aegon the Conqueror didn’t take over Westeros all at once. It took some time.)
The appearance of the Dothraki might be fortuitous, if her mastery (let’s be charitable about that and say Drogon behaves in this regards) of a dragon cows the horselords into submission. Then she’d have a cavalry that could help her with Westeros, should she want the Unsullied to stay behind, possibly supporting Missandei and Grey Worm as administrators. (It’d be good for Tyrion to remain in Meereen, helping those two run the place, but I don’t think the audience would stand for Tyrion not heading back to his homeland, and where all the action is.)
I guess as an alternative, Dany might convince Jhaqo or whomever is in charge of that khalasar (unless Drogon eats Jhaqo) to keep her peace in to-be-renamed Slavers Bay, but I don’t know if I’d trust the Dothraki to pay that much attention to details, the way the Unsullied might.
Season Six – Still in Essos
Whatever Dany does, I doubt they’ll get her over to Westeros in the next season. With two more seasons to follow, it seems like they’d be rushing things to bring her over too soon.
I know that might not make everyone happy, especially those who have been waiting since Season Two.
We’ll see if my reading of the tea leaves is better at predicting the future than Melisandre‘s prophetic powers.
Maybe Stannis should have listened to me instead of his hot red-headed advisor. (Don’t burn the kid, Stannis!)
Okay, even though I enjoy Dany’s storyline and her role as a character in Game of Thrones, I appreciate that not everyone likes her, and I’m happy to hear people’s opinion. Pursuant to that, here’s another Daenerys poll:
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)
Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.) Except for the shot of Nux holding his steering wheel from Mad Max: Fury Road. (WITNESS ME!!!)
I make no claims to the artwork, but some claims to the text. (Obviously not the line of show-dialogue from Jorah.)
If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.
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