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            Daenerys Might Turn into a Villain in Game of Thrones Season 8

            The evidence is stacking up.

            image
            HBO

            On Game of Thrones, betrayals happen faster than traveling around Westeros in Season 7. For years, fans have speculated that Daenerys Targaryen would eventually become a villain reminiscent of her father, the Mad King Aerys, and developments in the final season’s first two episodes hint that the Mother of Dragons could turn on our heroes, including Jon Snow and the Starks.

            In early April—before Season 8 even premiered—Redditor nanoelite theorized that Daenerys will be the next big baddie on the show with this compelling argument:

            Both the show and the book series seek to portray a fantasy setting in realistic terms, clearly displaying the grim aspects of medieval life, the brutality of warfare, and the grey morality of its characters. That's why I don't think that either the Night King (a supernatural entity with absolutely no characterization) or Cersei (a comically evil despot) will be the big bads. Both characters are too easy to root against, and having a clear conflict between good and evil doesn't seem in line with what we have seen from the first seven seasons.

            The Redditor also noted that Daenerys makes a more compelling villain than Cersei at this point in the story because she’s so powerful: She has two dragons (for now), powerful allies (for now), and a large army of Unsullied and Dothraki. Cersei might have the Golden Company, but she doesn’t even have elephants.

            Daenerys is just more of the same, believing her way is the only way, refusing to compromise, and slaughtering dissidents, only she has dragons and a moral banner to rally armies behind. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and ultimate power will ultimately corrupt Daenerys. Setting her up as the final villain would be a much more moving, and fitting, ending to the show, instead of having the power couple team up to kill the zombie army and the comic villain. —nanoelite

            Let's survey the evidence.

            Her Past

            Daenerys’s thirst for the Iron Throne has been the driving force behind everything she’s done throughout the entire series, from the death of her brother Viserys to the burning of the Tarlys last season. While she has shown kindness to many characters—Missandei, Grey Worm and the Unsullied, and all the slaves she freed in Slaver’s Bay—she purchased the Unsullied based on her need for an army to win the Iron Throne. If Khal Drogo hadn’t died and she hadn’t subsequently lost his Dothraki army, she would've found boats to sail straight to Westeros. She does just that at the end of Season 6, abandoning Slaver's Bay even as the enslaved people she freed struggle through a period of reconstruction. She leaves Daario Naharis, a sellsword of the Second Sons with zero experience ruling a city, in charge of Mereen.


            Jon and Daenerys clash when they first meet at Dragonstone in Season 7 Episode 3. Jon refuses to bend the knee and tells her she is “more of the same,” but Daenerys asks him not to judge her based on the sins of her father. Ironically, two episodes later, Daenerys burns the Tarlys alive, an act eerily reminiscent of how her father killed Jon’s grandfather Rickard Stark and uncle Brandon. Daenerys states constantly that she's not like her father, but she certainly isn’t the just, fair ruler she thinks she is.

            In the Season 8 premiere, Samwell Tarly learns Daenerys executed his father and brother because they wouldn’t pledge their loyalty to her. This horrifies Sam, yet Daenerys doesn't show any remorse or sympathy; in fact, she appears insulted that Sam doesn't beg for mercy. Even Jorah seems horrified by Dany's cruelty. The scene suggests to people outside of Daenerys’s inner circle that she is a ruthless, merciless invader, and makes clear that without sound advisors like, Jorah Mormont, Varys, and Tyrion Lannister at her side, Daenerys would let Westeros burn to get what she wants.

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            HBO

            The Northern Problem

            In the Season 8 premiere, Jon and Daenerys arrive at Winterfell. Dany notices Sansa is skeptical of her, and tells Jon that if this doesn’t change, there will be consequences. Daenerys is incredibly unfair here; in Game of Thrones and in real life, it’s pretty standard to not implicitly trust someone you just met. In fact, Daenerys has been skeptical of many strangers, including Jon, in the past. Yet now, she expects glowing praise from anyone within her sightline. In Episode 2, Jorah convinces Daenerys to ask Sansa to talk privately. Dany hopes to set aside their differences, and Sansa is cordial but again skeptical. When Sansa—the best political mind in Westeros right now—asks Daenerys what happens to the North once the battle with the Army of the Dead is over, Daenerys grows cold. She still expects to rule the North, and expects the North to be happy with that—a failure to recognize her family’s tragic history with the Starks and the region.


            Jon as the Targaryen Heir

            Sam reveals to Jon the details of his true identity as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen in the Season 8 premiere. Rhaegar was Dany's older brother and the heir to the Iron Throne after their father, the Mad King Aerys. This truth, of course, makes Jon the rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Sam points out to Jon that while he bent the knee to Daenerys in order to save his people, he doubts whether she would do the same.

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            HBO

            In Episode 2, Jon tells Daenerys the truth, and her face and body language convey her clear displeasure. Jon may not even want to sit on the Iron Throne, but she’s still threatened by his claim, and could view him as an enemy all the same. Sitting on the Iron Throne is more important to her than anything—including the people of Westeros, whom she plans to rule. If the living are successful in the battle against the Night King, Daenerys may very well turn on her lover/nephew/ally, intimidated by his identity, following, and claim.

            Game of Thrones has always been a show that intentionally blurs the lines between good and evil to heighten the stakes. Turning one of the protagonists audiences have been rooting for since the beginning would be a fitting (though upsetting) end to its final season.

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