As Game of Thrones fandom continues to debate the heel turn taken by Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in the penultimate episode of the HBO series, two people who seem fully confident in the decision to have the Mother of Dragons morph into a genocidal despot are creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss.
Speaking on HBO's Game of Thrones Inside the Episode post-episode feature, Benioff and Weiss chalked up Dany's decision to torch King's Landing and its innocent citizens to a sense of loneliness.
"Dany is an incredibly strong person, she's also someone who has had really close friendships and close advisors for the entire run of the show," Benioff said. "You look at those people who have been closest to her for such a long time and almost all of them have either turned on her or died. She's very much alone. That's a dangerous thing for someone who has got so much power, to feel isolated. At the very time when she needs guidance and those kinds of close friendships and advice the most, everyone's gone."
Numerous viewers have found Dany's Season 8 character arc to be rushed and in direct opposition to the person who spent the previous seven seasons as a fan favorite. But according to Benioff, the show has established that her reaction to death is sometimes a bit ... off. "There is something chilling about the way Dany has responded to the death of her enemies," Benioff said, citing her brother's demise in Season 1. But, he said, there would have been hope for Dany to avoid the Mad Queen moniker if not for a few unfortunate decisions. "If circumstances had been different, I don't think this side of Dany ever would come out: If Cersei hadn't betrayed her; if Cersei hadn't executed Missandei; if Jon hadn't told her the truth. If all of these things happened in any different way, I don't think we'd be seeing this side of Daenerys."
During Sunday's penultimate Game of Thrones episode, "The Bells," Dany and Drogon destroyed King's Landing, killing thousands in the process. According to Weiss, her actions weren't necessarily premeditated. "I don't think she decided ahead of time that she was going to do what she did. Then she sees the Red Keep, which is to her the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago. It's in this moment on the walls of King's Landing where she's looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her when she makes the decision to make this personal."
While fans have been dreading Dany's Thanosian turn all throughout the final season, a break bad didn't totally come out of nowhere. Readers of George R.R. Martin's source material have long suspected things could go sideways for Daenerys, much like they did for her father, Aerys Targaryen. And actress Emilia Clarke, who plays Dany, foreshadowed her character's fate in an interview with Vanity Fair last year — not that anyone actually noticed at the time. Speaking to that publication for a cover story pegged to Solo: A Star Wars Story, Clarke offered this brief thought on the final Game of Thrones episodes. "It f---ed me up," she said. "Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone's mouth of what Daenerys is..."
Game of Thrones' final episode airs on Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.