HBO explains why Daenerys did what she did on Game of Thrones

OK, I'm listening.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
2 min read

Anger issues.


The penultimate episode of Game of Thrones season 8 left fans reeling after downing a buffet of violence. Most of the bloodshed and terror stemmed from the actions of one person, and we all want to know: Why?! Spoilers ahead.

Queen Daenerys Stormborn of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals, etc. wiped out most of the town of King's Landing with her fire-breathing dragon. 

Soldiers, royalty and innocent families alike were burned or crushed in the rubble. That was quite a sharp change from Dany's slave-freeing, women-and-children-protecting ways from earlier seasons. 

The internet called out what many people felt was a character swerve rather than a character arc. As if anticipating the backlash, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss appeared in an HBO Inside the Episode documentary to explain the Mother of Dragons' decision to massacre thousands. It's complicated, and I've added my own thoughts on their justifications. 

Benioff kicked off the video by noting how Dany's closest friends and advisors have either turned on her or died. "That's a dangerous thing for someone who's got so much power to feel that isolated," he said. Okay, that's one point. But she didn't need close advisors to steer her towards protecting women and kids when she was with the Dothraki.   

Next up, Benioff said Dany feels betrayed by Jon Snow, who told others of his true identity as a Targaryen. She also no longer has his affections since that whole aunt thing got in the way. 

"I think when she says, 'Let it be fear,' she's resigning herself to the fact that she may have to get things done in a way that isn't pleasant," said Weiss. 

You know what wouldn't be pleasant? Strategically torching the Red Keep with dragon fire. But instead she lit up the entire town, which falls firmly into unconscionable war crimes territory. 

Enlarge Image

This Dany's watching-her-brother-die face from season 1.

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Benioff looked back to the first season when Dany dispassionately watched her nasty brother receive a "crown" of molten gold. "There is something chilling about the way Dany has responded to the death of her enemies," he said. Key word: "enemies."

Now we move into even more interesting territory. "I don't think she decided ahead of time that she was going to do what she did," said Weiss. He said she saw the Red Keep as symbol of everything that was taken from her and decided at that point to "make this personal." And slaughter innocents.

Benioff and Weiss have worked hard to try to land this massive, wiggling, spitting-mad dragon of a series in a very short amount of time. Dany's shift to Mother of Mass Destruction makes sense to them. Fans will likely remain divided. 

See all the Game of Thrones season 8 photos

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Watch this: Game of Thrones season 8 episode 5: Everybody hurts