[Editor’s note: The following post contains spoilers about the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” entitled “The Bells.”]
Daenerys Targaryen completed her full transformation into the Mad Queen during the penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones,” in which she attacked King’s Landing and made the polarizing choice to kill thousands of innocent civilians despite the rival army’s willingness to surrender. “Thrones'” final season has been full of choices that have divided fans (from Arya and Gendry’s sex scene to Jaime’s abandoning of Brienne), but the reaction to Daenerys’ dark turn in episode five, entitled “The Bells,” has been met with some of the most extreme criticism the show has ever seen.
“David Benioff and D.B. Weiss just ruined 30 years of George R.R. Martin’s work in 90 minutes,” Annapurna founder Megan Ellison wrote on Twitter after the episode aired. “They are obviously sexist fucks and obviously NOTHING without George R.R. Martin. There was no motivation for Daenerys to lay Kings Landing low after a lifetime of her saving innocents.”
While Ellison admitted her real-time reaction was “a touch emotional and harsh,” her criticism that the writers “poorly set up” Daenerys’ transformation into the Mad Queen has been shared by many fans across social media. While it can be tough to watch a beloved character turn into a villain, complaints against “Thrones'” latest twist have less to do with the twist itself and more to do with the show stumbling to make Daenerys’ dark turn feel authentic and earned for the character.
“If Dany went berserk and lit city on fire with a decent character build up, I would have bought it. This. Nope,” television reporter Carla Day wrote. “They moved through story this season too quickly and never established character development to support this. From honorable, freer of slaves to this?!?”
Daenerys’ Mad Queen turn isn’t entirely unfounded, as the character has proven to be quite hot-headed when things don’t go her way (had it not been for advisors like Tyrion she might have done something this unforgivable at an earlier time), but the final season episodes have rushed to set up the character as the series’ final big bad. The transition has been jarring since most of the series’ eight seasons have been devoted to showing Daenerys as a hero who cares for others and liberates slaves. That’s not to say Daenerys has been perfect (again, her impulsive side has always threatened to derail her), but the show’s final season has more aggressively explored the character’s dark side and many fans feel betrayed by the twist.
“Game of Thrones” airs its final episode this Sunday at 9pm ET on HBO.
Ok, in the light of day I was a touch emotional and harsh but fuck was the character turn poorly set up. I really wish they hadn’t rushed this but I don’t think they could handle it any other way without the source material to guide them.
— Megan Ellison (@meganeellison) May 13, 2019
Usually when a show doesn’t fully develop a character or storyline, it’s bc of production, studio, or network restraints and writers do the best w/resources (time, money, ep count) they have. This is all on Benioff/Weiss. HBO would have given them more time/eps #GameofThrones
— Carla Day (@CarlaDay) May 13, 2019
Yes, they’ve been foreshadowing Daenerys as the Mad Queen for literally the entire series, but that doesn’t mean they stuck the landing. I wrote about why Dany’s heel turn felt totally inevitable yet completely unearned: https://t.co/mlRUcvyRIR
— Riley McAtee (@RileyMcAtee) May 13, 2019
And the “she’s a Targaryen shrug emoji” excuse doesn’t work either. As Varys said, with targaryens you flip a coin. She wasn’t destined to be a mad queen. They didn’t write her that way for 6 seasons! She got a bit big for her britches in S7, but genocide? Nah #GameOfThrones
— Imani Gandy (@AngryBlackLady) May 13, 2019
It’s been alluded Dany has mad king tendencies. Fine with that.
It’s also been established for 8 seasons that Dany has a heart and cares about people.
If you’re gonna tell this story in which she *wins* and suddenly decides to nuke everything just cuz, I’m gonna reject it 🤷🏻♀️ https://t.co/idyC6P2OIG
— Alicia de Artola (@PenguinOfTroy) May 13, 2019