There was no shortage of memorable moments in “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” the second episode of the final season of Game of Thrones. Bran revealed the Night King’s grand plan to wipe out all of Westeros, past, present, and future. Arya and Gendry spent what could be their last night alive knocking boots. And, as the title suggests, Brienne achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a knight of Westeros. But the most compelling scene from the episode revolved around Daenerys Targaryen, as the Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons saw her claim to the throne seemingly upended by the very man she loves. Is Dany destined to be an insane queen?
At the end of the last episode, Sam revealed to Jon Snow that he is, in fact, not Ned Stark’s bastard. He is Aegon Targaryen, the secret son of Dany’s brother Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark. And in this episode, Jon shared that news with Dany, who, upon first reaction, did not seem to take this bombshell very well at all. It’s not hard to understand why. Since the early seasons, Dany has staked her identity around the fact that she has the true and rightful claim to the throne and now that has been taken from her by Jon Snow, who has already bent the knee to her.
Unfortunately, just as Dany was processing this revelation, the bells of war rang. But assuming she and Jon both survive the fight against the White Walkers, the biggest question remaining for Dany is whether or not she is doomed to follow the path of her father to become the Mad Queen. After all, the show has been hinting for a while that Dany has inherited at least some of her father’s ruthlessness and love for burning things. So now that someone stands in her way to the Iron Throne, will she do whatever it takes to remove them?
Dany has long been one of the most divisive characters on Game of Thrones. While many viewers love her for her resilience and ambition, others have claimed that deep down, Dany is hiding the same madness that caused Aerys to nearly burn down all of King’s Landing rather than admit defeat. And to be fair, there has been no shortage of moments where Dany has shown a ferocity that borders on unstable. Most recently, she has faced much criticism for her decision to use Drogon to burn Sam’s father and brother after they refused to bend the knee in the Battle of the Goldroad, despite Tyrion urging her to show mercy and Jon telling her an earlier that if she just used dragons to show her strength she’d be “more of the same.” So will Dany finally embrace the wildfire inside of her and challenge Jon’s claim to the throne?
It’s certainly possible that Dany is destined to become the Mad Queen but despite all of the prophecies and magic, at its core, Game of Thrones has never been a show about destiny. It’s about choice. And while some criticism of Dany is completely fair, to paint her as a madwoman who only lusts after the throne feels entirely disingenuous. On her long and winding road to Westeros, Dany has learned how to become a leader and gained a following of people who genuinely love her and want to fight for her.
Dany has never been coy about the fact that she wants the throne but she’s also made it clear that, unlike Cersei or other ambitious leaders, she wants her rule to be one that benefits all the people of Westeros. She also has managed to separate herself from the Cersei’s of the world by checking her reckless impulses and listening to her advisers, like when Ser Barristan told her the truth about her father’s cruel nature in order to keep her from executing a man without a proper trial. Or even in this episode, when she decides to let Jaime, the man who murdered her father, to fight after he receives support from Brienne.
Time and time again, Dany has chosen to “break the wheel” of what is expected of her and while there is no doubt that she makes mistakes, she also learns from these mistakes in order to make herself a better leader. After all, in Game of Thrones, the best characters are the ones that don’t strictly fall into the reductive categories of “good” and “evil.” It might be easy to point to all of the poor decisions Dany has made over eight seasons but you could easily do the same for anyone, even Jon Snow.
So when the time comes, will Dany turn on Jon and escalate their lover’s quarrel into an all-out war for the Seven Kingdoms? It’s certainly possible and would even fit in neatly with George RR Martin’s claim that the story will have a “bittersweet” ending. But given all of the growth we have seen from her character, it would feel a little bit cheap if she just suddenly decided to become a bloodthirsty villain bent on chaos and destruction. Perhaps we are being naive but our best guess is that Dany will have a moment where she considers turning on Jon before ultimately deciding to do what’s best for the Kingdom and allowing him to take the throne (and maybe get married to his hot aunt?).
After all, one of the most prevalent themes in Game of Thrones is children choosing to escape their parents’ mistakes to build a better world for themselves. And wouldn’t the perfect encapsulation of that theme be Dany staring down the path her father blazed before her and instead choosing to create her own path built on peace and justice? Only time will tell but let’s hope that rather than simply repeating the deadly mistakes of her father, Dany can overcome them. Otherwise, it’s hard to imagine her making it to the end because when you play the Game of Thrones, you either win or you die.