If anybody was worried before about Daenerys Targaryen becoming some kind of Mad Queen by the time Game of Thrones ends in a few weeks, it just became a virtual certainty after Season 8, Episode 4 devastated and isolated Dany more than ever before.
Full spoilers follow for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4.
Most of Episode 4 explores the fallout of Episode 3’s battle against the Night King. Both the Northern armies and the Dragon Queen’s armies are depleted by at least half, leaving someone to remark that the odds are about even now in the war against Cersei. But by the time the episode ends, a huge number of Dany’s ships are destroyed, another dragon dies, and Missandei is killed.
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“She’s really back where she was at the beginning,” co-showrunner D.B. Weiss said of Daenerys in the “Inside this Episode” featurette. “Emotionally, she’s alone in the world, and she can’t really trust anybody.” Not only is Dany dealing with extreme repeated loss, but the political climate is turning against her behind the scenes.
Here are six key moments from Episode 4 that signal a huge shift for Daenerys that could lead to her becoming a Mad Queen in Game of Thrones Season 8.
1. Dany Fails to Gain Favor By Legitimizing Gendry
One crucial early scene for Daenerys happens at the feast when everyone is celebrating. She publicly legitimizes Gendry, establishing him as a full Baratheon and the Lord of Storm’s End — so a no-name blacksmith just became one of the most powerful lords in the North. Decades ago, Gendry’s father brutally killed Daenerys’ brother (Jon’s father) at the Battle of the Trident, so this is a huge deal, and a humbling moment for Dany, that’s also a brilliant political maneuver. However, she quickly realizes how fruitless it feels.
“As the queen, she’s giving people permission to celebrate what they’ve done,” Weiss said of the scene.
But Dany quickly realizes that even with this gesture, everyone in the North worships Jon.
“He has love and respect from these people that even with the gesture she’s just made, she can’t ever equal,” Weiss added.
As viewers, we’ve known for years who Jon’s parents were, and even if we saw Dany learn this two weeks ago, for her it’s been only a few days. As her supporters dwindle and Jon’s gain fervor, she worries more and more about what that might mean. So far, very few people know he has a stronger claim to the throne. Unfortunately, that doesn’t last.
2. Dany Begs Jon Snow to Keep His Lineage a Secret
Early in Episode 4, Daenerys makes an impassioned plea with Jon Snow to keep his lineage a secret, but it doesn’t seem to work. Jon fervently promises Dany she will always be his queen, but he can’t quite stomach lying to his family and keeping this a secret. Nothing too dramatic really happens in this scene, but ultimately, we’re witnessing what feels like the end of Jon and Dany. They both seem somewhat put-off by the incest part of their relationship, but again, the political implications of Jon’s status are the bigger issue here.
The subtle political machinations on this show often have the greatest consequences, and this particular scene is crucial. Whatever peace they might have found by burying Jon’s secret dies here, when Jon decides in his heart that honor and honesty are more important than love and loyalty to Dany.
Not only did Dany just lose her best friend, Jorah Mormont, but here she basically loses the love of her life.
3. Jon Snow Tells Arya and Sansa Stark His True Identity
Jon decides to tell Arya and Sansa the truth seemingly the day after his conversation with Dany. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to any of us given the previous scene, but if Episode 4 does anything well, it’s in how exhaustively it demonstrates the speed with which gossip travels in Westeros. Bran and Sam probably could have kept Jon’s parentage a secret, but Jon telling Arya and Sansa all but guarantees that he’s willing to make this public knowledge. (Even if they “swear” to keep it a secret.)
Ned Stark died because he played the titular game of thrones in an honorable way, and even Jon Snow died once for doing the same. Despite how many times Jon proclaims Dany his queen, his allegiance is always to Loyalty and Honor. He believes Arya and Sansa when they swear in the godswood they’ll never tell a soul.
Is it dishonorable when Sansa almost immediately tells Tyrion Lannister? It’s almost comical how quickly Sansa tells Tyrion, who then spends half the episode scheming with Varys. If Dany already seems a bit unhinged and full of wrath, wait until she finds out that literally everyone is talking about her behind her back.
4. Tyrion and Varys Actively Contemplate Treason
Varys: “I worry about her state of mind.”
Tyrion: “We are advisors to the queen; worrying about her state of mind is our job.”
Varys and Tyrion have worried about Daenerys’ temper since the very start of Season 7, and they worry now that they’re all approaching King’s Landing. These two spend several scenes this episode discussing Jon Snow as a contender for the Iron Throne, whether or not Daenerys can temper her wrath, and even the possibility that Jon and Dany might just get married.
As time passes and more tragedy strikes, Tyrion doubles down on his impassioned support for Dany, but Varys seems increasingly likely to turn on her outright. Behind the scenes, Varys has been on Dany’s side for longer than almost anyone, so for him to now be fully against her is a huge blow to her support system.
5. Daenerys Loses Another Dragon, Rhaegal
The initial war plan is for Daenerys’ fleet to blockade the port of King’s Landing while the Northern armies approach on the ground to do the same, but the fleet is ambushed by Euron Greyjoy’s ships that have anti-dragon Scorpions rigged to them.
Rhaegal (the green one) is shot and killed with multiple spears before we can even make sense of what’s happened. For a tense and horrifying moment, Dany dives towards the ships with Drogon, but pulls away at the last second rather than face certain death.
Dany wanted to kill Cersei before, but now she’s directly responsible for killing Rhaegal. At this point, Cersei’s defeat feels like a certainty. The real question is how much death and destruction these two will cause in the upcoming battle?
6. Missandei’s Last Words: “Dracarys!”
On top of everything else that’s going on, Cersei’s forces managed to capture Missandei in the chaos of the ocean battle. During tense negotiations in which Cersei and Dany both demanded that the other surrender, Cersei has the Mountain execute Missandei in front of everyone. She’s goading Dany, but Missandei’s last words are hugely important. “Dracarys” is all she says.
In High Valyrian, “dracarys” literally means “dragonfire,” but since the three dragons first learned to breathe fire, Daenerys has used “dracarys” as a verbal command. In a figurative sense, Missandei is boldly saying, “Burn these bastards.”
“I think what’s probably echoing in Dany’s head in those final moments would be Missandei’s final words,” co-showrunner David Benioff said of this scene. “Dracarys is clearly meant for Dany. Missandei knows that her life is over, and she’s saying, ‘Light them up!’”
Lighting them up is exactly what Dany plans to do in Episode 5, which looks to be the Battle of King’s Landing. But will she have to destroy enough of the city that the people won’t follow? Even if Dany survives this battle, what will her claim look like when the dust settles? For all we know, Dany as a Mad Queen could be just as bad for Westeros as any other ruler we’ve seen.
Game of Thrones airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern.