House Of The Dragon Can Properly Explain Game Of Thrones’ Daenerys Twist

Daenerys Targaryen's descent into Game of Thrones' final villain was controversial, but prequel show House of the Dragon can better contextualize it.

The Game of Thrones prequel show, House of the Dragon, could better explain and contextualize the parent series’ controversial Daenerys Targaryen twist. Although Daenerys was built up as one of the major heroes of Game of Thrones, that all came crashing down in its final few episodes. Increasingly isolated in Westeros following the deaths of two of her closest allies, and sensing the Iron Throne she believed to be hers slipping away, Daenerys became the so-called “Mad Queen,” turning her fiery vengeance upon King’s Landing and all in her path. It was certainly a shocking moment, but also a divisive one.

There were certainly signs over the years that Daenerys could turn into a villain (at least of sorts), such as killing Randyll and Dickon Tarly, though often there was a sense of justification, however warped, because of how Westeros operates. Many, however, believed she would end up on the Iron Throne or be given a more noble, heroic death, neither of which came to pass. Mileage may vary on whether the turn was unearned, too sudden, or the right decision for the story and character, but with Game of Thrones ending there’s only room for debate, not developments, in terms of Dany’s story.

House of the Dragon, though, does at least offer the chance to cast what happened to Daenerys in some new light. Taking place around 200 years before Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon will be putting the focus squarely on House Targaryen. That’s something Game of Thrones could never do in the same way, because Daenerys’ journey is built around the idea of her being a Targaryen alone in the world (even if she’s not); the last ember of the dragon dynasty that had otherwise burned out long ago. There were many factors in Game of Thrones’ Daenerys twist, from the deaths of Jorah Mormont and Missandei to not being loved by the Westerosi people and, of course, Jon Snow’s parentage and real identity. But among them was ostensibly the idea of Targaryen madness being inherent, which is something House of the Dragon can address in more detail.

It’s said that when a Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin. That’s something viewers didn’t see much of in Game of Thrones. Alongside Dany, the only other Targaryens were her brother, Viserys, as well as Maester Aemon, Jon Snow, and (in flashbacks) the Mad King Aerys II and Prince Rhaegar. That actually works out as a reasonably neat 50/50 split – Aerys was dubbed the Mad King for a reason, Daenerys labeled the Mad Queen, and Viserys was cruel and sadistic; Aemon was kind and gentle, Rhaegar was beloved, and Jon was truly Ned Stark’s son in terms of honor. However, Daenerys was the only Targaryen main character in the truest sense – that side of Jon wasn’t explored much – and so House of the Dragon can fully explore the idea of Gods flipping a coin, because there’ll be so many Targaryens, many of whom could be considered villainous, and one or two even approaching madness.

The first trailer for House of the Dragon revealed there will be rivalries, hatred, and a war over who should become the next ruler of Westeros. A lot of these themes and character journeys echo Daenerys’ in Game of Thrones, and it’s through this lens that the prequel series can further explore her family history in a bid to make clearer her own turn at the end of season 8. Is madness inherent in the Targaryens? It might not be; it could simply be they are misunderstood by others or it’s a label meant to make them seem as though unfit to rule. Considering House of the Dragon will see a plethora of Targaryens throughout season 1, the series might finally offer an answer. The trailer already looks promising in that regard, showcasing House Targaryen as fully rounded people, and so their “madness” could come to light under certain circumstances.

For viewers disappointed in the Daenerys twist, it won’t necessarily fix things, but it may at least help put it in the context of her lineage – much of Game of Thrones is about avoiding sins of the past and family, but also how those things can be cyclical. The idea of the Targaryen line carrying the trait of insanity is itself arguably overstated, since relatively few could be deemed to have gone truly mad. But House of the Dragon, and the civil war at its core The Dance of the Dragons, can show how so many Targaryens reacted in times of war, when their rule was challenged, when they felt desperate, and what the weight of the Iron Throne and the dynasty can do. With all of that, there’s a real chance to explore the legacy of House Targaryen through this show, and with it Daenerys’ own actions. That’s not to make them defensible, but to perhaps further highlight how it happened in Game of Thrones – through genetics, obsession, and her own experiences – and that it wasn’t so surprising after all.

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