Yes, Daenerys went full metal Targaryen on King’s Landing. Yes, she slaughtered hundreds — probably thousands, maybe even tens of thousands — of innocent men, women, and children. Yes, it was terrible thing for her to do.
But no, I don’t think laying waste to King’s Landing necessarily means she’s gone mad. In fact, I think there’s an excellent chance Dany torched that city because she knows she should have done it earlier.
She wanted to. She suggested it shortly after she and her army landed at Dragonstone. Tyrion, however, talked her out of it, saying she’d be slaughtering innocents. He was right that a LOT of King’s Landings folks would die. But I think it was a mistake strategically. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not an advocate for killing civilians — even on television or in the movies.
But look at this from Dany’s perspective. Look at what’s happened to her as a result of NOT attacking King’s Landing. First, she gets sidetracked by fighting against the White Walkers. It was an admirable decision, but she’d already lost a dragon to those fuckers. The battle at Winterfell also cost her most of her Dothraki, and at least half of her Unsullied. Not to mention Jorah.
To make matters worse, when she started south to prep for dealing with Cersei, she learned that the Wildlings were staying behind. Okay, they weren’t a disciplined army, but they were enthusiastic, and that counts for a lot. And THEN? Then just as she’s getting home, she gets dough-popped by Euron. That cost her yet another dragon, a few more boatloads of troops, her supporters from Dorne, and her last real friend, Missandei.
After that, she 1) discovers Varys is plotting against her, 2) her boyfriend has a better claim to the Iron Throne, and 3) he refuses to keep his real name secret. Basically, she’s far worse off than she was just a few episodes earlier. Even the Breaker of Chains would find that discouraging.
And Tyrion is still advising her NOT to alienate the people (who, let’s face it, haven’t shown her a bit of love even though she risked everything to keep them from being turned into fucking zombies) by slaughtering everybody in King’s Landing.
On a more positive side, if Dany had leveled King’s Landing like she wanted to, she’d probably still have at least a pair of dragons, most of her Dothraki and Unsullied, as well as Jorah and Missandei.
And hey, it didn’t take long for her to destroy the city. Maybe four, five hours. If she’d torched the place when she wanted to, Dany would still have had plenty of time to tell the rest of the Lannister army to take the knee then march them north to fight Winter zombies. Plus, she could probably have persuaded House Tyrell to cough up some troops, and she already had an agreement with Dorne.
In other words, if she’d done what she wanted to do, she’d have two dragons, a bigger army, more trustworthy advisors, AND she wouldn’t have to fret about Cersei stabbing her in the back. Laying waste to King’s Landing would have been a horrible thing to do, but a smart strategic move.
So I rather think that instead of ‘going mad’, Daenerys may have simply thought, “If I do this now, folks will probably be a lot more amenable to a change in management.” The citizens of other cities, when it was time to formally bend the knee, would be saying to themselves, “Jesus suffering fuck, did you SEE what she did to King’s Landing in, like, half an hour? Bend the knee? I’ll lay flat and kiss the hem of her goddamn skirt.”
Again, this is not a blanket approval of using dragons against civilians. Just an acknowledgement that you can’t win the game of thrones without breaking a few eggs.
Don’t forget, Varys tried to poison her in the beginning of the episode. If she torched Kings Landing before, the Red Keep would not have been packed with thousands of people, either.
When you’re a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.
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..or maybe insanity runs in the family. What’s the official term for someone who likes to burn towns to the ground? ;-). I realize they have to wrap up GoT and what they did is consistent with past inconsistencies where the calm following the resolution of a seemingly impossible task is soon followed by something equally massive or even more so. It’s not a Disney product, it doesn’t have to end happily ever after.
I suppose we’ll find out in the next/last episode if Dany has actually gone mad, but I think that whole ‘Targaryens are all insane’ trope would be lazy writing. Worse, it wouldn’t be very interesting.
BUT if torching the city was a cold, calculated strategic move, it makes her a more interesting character, even if it makes her a villain. From the moment she decides her brother wasn’t fit to sit on the Iron Throne, she’s been very clear about her goal — to take back the throne through fire and blood. Purposely destroying a city tells the people of Westeros that she’s not fucking around, and their options are to accept her or die.
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As they say, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!” I don’t think she has the madness gene, she’s just mad.
Now that I’ve read several reviews it seems the show runners just wanted bring it to an end with lots of dragon fire and not a lot of loose end tying. I’m curious as hell to see what they decided on, but the way they are doing it is going to make it easier to not miss as much as I thought I would. If the last episode is titled “Tough Love”, I’ll not be surprised. ;-)