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Daenerys Targaryen is known by many titles, and on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, she gained another one, a name she insisted she would never take on, as long as she could help it. Here's how the twist went down and what it all means.
Daenerys admits she has only known fear in Westeros, not the love that her nephew, boyfriend, and potentially rival claimant to the Iron Throne Jon Snow has come to receive. This realization, combined with her newfound knowledge that her Master of Whisperers Varys committed treason against her in shifting his loyalty to Jon, plus the recent death of her trusted adviser Missandei, pushes Daenerys past her breaking point.
The Mother of Dragons dives head-first into the madness that her father, the so-called "Mad King," suffered when he sat on the Iron Throne amidst Robert's Rebellion. In Episode 5, Dany became "The Mad Queen," destroying King's Landing and killing thousands of innocent men, women, and children on her mission to unseat Cersei Lannister and take the Iron Throne herself.
Dany time and again has stated that she's not a carbon copy of her father, and she wouldn't make the same mistakes he did.
But that's exactly what wound up happening during this latest episode, in a moment many viewers felt was a wild twist. However, in the eyes of Game of Thrones showrunners, Daenerys going mad wasn't exactly a big shock.
David Benioff and Dan Weiss explained during the show's "Inside the Episode" featurette that Thrones had long foreshadowed Dany's spiraling into instability, and that there are plenty of clues sprinkled throughout past seasons that signaled this dark turn would happen eventually.
One such clue is the death of Daenerys' brother, Viserys, back in Season 1. Dany didn't second-guess her decision to have Khal Drogo pour molten gold over Viserys' head and refused to look away when the deed was carried out, wanting to watch him suffer through the pain.
Daenerys has a history of killing, or ordering others to kill on her behalf, and exhibiting no signs of hesitancy or remorse. She burnt a witch alive and almost relished in her cries; she sentenced people to die in a vault and didn't think twice. Daenerys also burnt a slave-owner alive and was thrilled to do it. She gave a chilling speech about how she deserved to rule just before she burnt a horde of Dothraki warlords to death. And who could forget her ruthless flaming of Samwell Tarly's brother and father, plus her execution of Varys that came at the top of this very episode?
The series has shown time and time again that Daenerys isn't afraid of doling out death sentences, and she's been pretty clear about her intentions from the start.
But that attitude contrasts harshly to the other side of her personality, the side that frees wrongfully enslaved people, liberates cities, and promises to "break the wheel" of oppression instead of simply taking her own turn as the person in charge. Dany turning into the person she said she would never become, the woman who strikes fear in the hearts of the Westerosi people, the Queen of the Ashes, the spitting image of her father, was shocking to behold even if there were some breadcrumbs leading up to the snapping point.
Dan Weiss has said he doesn't feel that Daenerys always intended to burn King's Landing and its citizens to a crisp, though there was a lot of build-up that would show cause for her doing so. Rather, Weiss noted that Dany decided to take that course of action the moment she arrived in the capital city.
Benioff added that Daenerys may never have become the Mad Queen if her journey to the Iron Throne had played out differently.
Unfortunately, this side of Daenerys Targaryen did come out, and it will probably be her undoing. It's tough to imagine the people of Westeros rallying behind Daenerys after she needlessly murdered thousands of people via dragon fire and decimated the capital. Now that she's gone full Mad Queen, Dany likely can't go back to the person she used to be. Her dream to sit on the Iron Throne may never come true, despite her greatest enemy, Cersei, dying in the chaos of the siege and Jon constantly saying he will always support Dany.
It will be an intense fight to the finish during the final episode of Game of Thrones. As Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke told The Hollywood Reporter,
"It's the car crash of every emotion you can possibly imagine. It's like a nuclear bomb."