Game of Thrones endured a lot of controversies during its eight-season run. Among the things that people had a problem with was Daenerys' death. Why did so many people take umbrage with it? Answering this question requires a deep dive into the highs and lows of Daenerys’ final episodes and her disastrous last stand.
By the time that Game of Thrones ended, not every character was in spinoff-ready shape. After unleashing hell on King’s Landing in the way of a massacre while riding a dragon, Daenerys embraced the beginning of her reign. Daenerys felt no remorse for her actions, and upon realizing she had become a tyrant, Tyrion made his move.
The smooth-talking Lannister talked to Jon Snow about the situation and urged him to kill Daenerys. All of this, even though Tyrion had successfully killed his own father, arguably the craftiest character in Game of Thrones’ history. Jon ultimately agreed with Tyrion and realizing he had to stop Daenerys, became the death of her.
Why do so many people have an issue with Daenerys’ death? A lot of it has to do with the lead-up, both on and behind-the-scenes. The controversy surrounding Daenerys’ Game of Thrones ending has been part of making it a prime example for others that hope to avoid leaving a similar mark. Without further ado, it is time to get into what created it!
The Argument: The petition to remake Season 8 took off after the massive Daenerys twist that saw her go on a shocking rampage. For many Game of Thrones viewers, Daenerys’ descent from heroine to villain took place within the span of a single second as Daenerys looked down upon a surrendering King’s Landing.
Fans of the character felt that the switch was turned in that episode as opposed to building throughout Game of Thrones’ eight seasons and final six episodes. For them, seeing Daenerys turn into the “Mad Queen” came out of nowhere, and it needed more time to properly be developed.
My Opinion: When it comes to Daenerys, Game of Thrones’ eight seasons were all about her struggle to lead without turning to tyranny. The writing was on the wall many times through the years as Daenerys made brutal decisions that fans often cheered on. Peter Dinklage has pointed this out since the controversy arose.
The director of the episode wherein Daenerys committed her war crime explained Daenerys’ actions as that of someone who snapped. It is my opinion that Daenerys had been unraveling for some time on Game of Thrones, especially any time her grip on power was questioned. For instance, when Jon Snow gently revealed his true parentage.
The Argument: For many fans, Daenerys lived up to her long moniker due to the good deeds that she had done leading up to Game of Thrones’ final season. The idea that someone who seemed to be so high on moral ground would mercilessly burn people, including children, was incomprehensible.
Before “The Bells,” Daenerys seemed like the better choice between her and Cersei. Once she got the power with the ringing of the bells, it was all hers, and she burnt the world around her to ash, instead of leading them like she had long talked about on Game of Thrones.
My Opinion: Before Daenerys committed the mass murder in Season 8, she killed all of the Khals without any mercy, before walking out of the flames. That killing happened all the way back in Season 6. How many episodes does it take to prove that someone is heading down a dark path?
In truth, I do not think that there were ever going to be enough Game of Thrones episodes to convince a fan that Daenerys’ conclusion had long been teased. If you see Daenerys as a hero and she commits an inexcusable atrocity, you have to admit she is not one anymore. For a fan, it can be a hard to impossible thing to accept. That said, The Simpsons saw it coming.
The Argument: Instead of her storylines leading somewhere happy, Daenerys’ ended with her becoming one of Game of Thrones’ biggest villains. She was also killed by Jon Snow, who she loved. Fans expressed frustration that Daenerys went out on such a nasty note as to become a mass murderer. Emilia Clarke had shared her sadness over Daenerys’ descent being the last “taste” viewers had of the one-time heroine.
One person I spoke to in-person shortly after the finale aired said that Daenerys did not deserve to die for what she did. Yes, even though she killed innocent children, including one of Varys’ little birds/helpers, and adults who had surrendered to her. Fans had rooted for Daenerys to at least take the Iron Throne. Instead, she was killed right as she reached it.
My Opinion: Assuming you accept Daenerys murdering a ton of innocent people as actual Game of Thrones canon, it's my personal opinion that it is impossible to argue she deserved a happy ending. Jon Snow did the right thing, and he did not deserve any punishment for it. He spared the world the reign of a tyrant, who would have likely killed more innocent children. That could not be allowed to happen.
Daenerys’ outburst would not have been a one-time thing had she been allowed to live, and her efforts to regain power would have been indefatigable in prison. I am still a little stunned that no character satisfactorily argued that Daenerys had gotten what she deserved during Game of Thrones’ finale. It was treated as though she had done nothing except her first business as Queen of the Seven Kingdoms.
In writing this feature, it is crazy to think about how Daenerys’ death met with such little fanfare on Game of Thrones itself. She went from being raised on people’s shoulders to not having a funeral. As for Daenerys’ descent into becoming the “Mad Queen,” the show did not need a deleted scene to foreshadow it. She had been talked down multiple times during Game of Thrones’ run.
While I enjoyed Daenerys during the early seasons, it was clear she was coming apart at the seams with every installment. Two vital clues hinted at her dangerous mindset. She indicated that Jaime Lannister should be killed for executing her father in Season 8. This, despite Jaime stopping her father from murdering thousands of innocent people with wildfire.
If she thought Jaime saved the world, she would have promptly thanked him despite her relation to the madman. Accordingly, when Jon Snow met Daenerys, the Targaryens’ history with the Starks was mentioned. Daenerys’ father murdered Jon’s grandfather and uncle. She sincerely apologized but insisted she and her House still deserved to reign despite its disturbing history on the Iron Throne.
It spoke volumes that Daenerys never really struggled in her belief she should reign, and it was a hint of what would come. Daenerys did not see how much like her father she was. Eventually, her path aligned with his, creating calamity and suffering for countless people. Thanks, Tyrion! Was the bloody motto she lived by not enough of a hint?
The upside is you can still watch Emilia Clarke’s outstanding (and Emmy-worthy) performance as Daenerys from beginning to end in Game of Thrones on HBO Max. If you want more, lots of summer premieres are coming to television while you wait for the spinoff featuring Daenerys’ relatives (House of the Dragon).