For a couple seasons now, we’ve been waiting for the Mad Queen Daenerys to implode her own chances at the throne. Now, finally, the Season 8 premiere and promo for next week’s episode hint at just how it might happen.
Poetically, it’s an act that directly parallels the downfall of her father, the Mad King Aerys. Apparently, Targaryens never learn to stop playing with fire.
Daenerys started showing her most concerning “burn them all” tendencies in Season 7. The Loot Train Attack on the Lannister armies was fair game, because that’s just war (and it was rad). But her hot-tempered cruelty was on display for all to see in the aftermath of the battle, when she didn’t give a second thought to turning Randyll and Dickon (lol) Tarly into Drogon BBQ for not kneeling.
Neither Dany nor the audience grasped the consequences of this choice at the time, despite Tyrion’s best attempts. But now all the biggest players left alive in the Westeros are convening in Winterfell. And Daenerys’ questionable Mad Queen ruling style will finally come under question, particularly thanks to the arrival of Kingslayer Jaime Lannister.
But before we speculate on his role, it’s worth noting that we already saw this execution weaken one of Dany’s key alliances.
Learning what happened to Sam’s family seemed to sow a significant seed of doubt in Jon about whether his new love and queen actually deserves the crown. That will add even more potentially catastophic tension to an upcoming bombshell, when Daenerys is told her lover boy actually has a stronger claim to the throne than she does.
Even more importantly, a Targaryen already lost a crown for the exact same mistake — the unnecessary, fiery public execution of two respected male members of a noble house. Only last time it was Rickard and Brandon Stark, Ned’s father and brother. And it was the final straw that led to Robert’s Rebellion, which eventually ended the Targaryen dynasty’s centuries-long reign.
The execution of the Stark men has been mentioned several times on the show before. As Captain of the King’s Guard, Jaime had been present, and painted the bleak picture of what happened to Ned in Season 1.
After Rhaegar “abducted” Lyanna Stark, the Stark men rode south to King’s Landing to demand answers. Lyanna was already bethrothed to Robert Baratheon, so her alleged rape and kidnapping added to the growing list of the Targaryens overreaches in power against other noble houses.
But instead of answering for Rhaegar’s crime, the Mad King arrested the Stark men for treason, setting them both on fire right there in the throne room. Hundreds stood and watched as the Mad King laughed while the lord and the heir to Winterfell screamed in agony.
The rest, as we know, is history.
It was that act of merciless madness that finally pushed the realm over the edge, making the other houses more willing to turn against the Targaryens in support of Robert. Unnecessarily executing a lord of Winterfell was stupid enough when Joffrey did it to Ned decades later. But doing it to both a lord and his heir is sure to give you a reputation as a mad dog threatening the entire system.
As for Jaime’s arrival, well, he’s one of the last people alive from that era who can speak to the striking similarities between Daenerys and her father.
The promo for episode 2 makes it seem like Jaime is the one in the hot seat. “When I was a child, my brother would tell me a bedtime story about the man who murdered our father,” Daenerys says to him. “Of all the things we would do to that man.”
But Viserys was a twisted asshole with a very warped view on the war — one shared by almost no one else in Westeros. If Daenerys starts trying to serve Viserys’ idea of justice, it won’t win her any favors with the people doubting her ability to be a good queen.
It won’t win her any favor with the people doubting her ability to be a good queen.
And Jaime could very turn this line of questioning against her, by finally revealing the truth of what lead him to become a Kingslayer.
As he told Brienne privately in Season 2, that supposedly dishonorable act of treason was actually done to save hundreds of thousands of innocent lives. Daenerys’ father had instructed Jaime to “burn them all,” by setting the caches of wildfire all around King’s Landing ablaze and killing every man, woman, and child. Jaime knew the only way to prevent this was to break his oath and kill the king he’d sworn to protect.
It wasn’t Jaime’s only selfless act against a Targaryen for the good of the realm. After he saw the destruction Daenerys’ dragons could bring during the Loot Train Attack, Jaime very stupidly charged after her and Drogon. He was once again willing to sacrifice his honor and life to ensure the Mad King’s daughter couldn’t fulfill the destruction Jaime had prevented.
Some even theorize that, if Daenerys goes full on Mad Queen, Jaime will add Queenslayer to his list of titles (check out how Bran’s Season 6 visions might’ve foreshadowed that here).
If the realm finally learns the truth behind the Kingslaying, it will leave Daenerys with a choice: either condemn her father’s madness, or fall further into it herself. Either way, bringing up her problematic family history is sure to leave her in an even tougher spot at Winterfell.
Daenerys has revealed again and again that she makes for a great conquerer. But she’s repeatedly failed to learn lessons from the past that would make her a great queen.