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Who Is Game of Thrones' Real Mad Queen: Cersei or Daenerys?

It's not even close

Amanda Bell

Welp, it's all but official. Game of Thrones is about to turn Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) into the Mad Queen everyone feared she'd become.

Here's a status check on the Mother of Dragons, after the events of Season 8, Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks":

    - Her most cool-tempered and trusted advisors have been ripped from her and the ones she has left -- ahem, Varys (Conleth Hill) -- are already secretly hissing about a better option.
    - She's lost dragons and most of her army by playing nice and helping to save the realms of men, and all she's gotten in return are snide remarks from the Starks.
    - Her claim to the Iron Throne, and thus her very identity, has been weakened by the news of Jon Snow (Kit Harington)'s heritage.
    - Her upper lip has been working overtime with all the snarling she's done over Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey), whose red threads she's even starting to mirror.
    - Cersei has turned her people into props to ensure Dany does something unforgivable.
    - Characters have dropped approximately a dozen unsubtle reminders over the last few seasons that she's the descendant of the Mad King, who wanted to "burn them all".
    -And, there are only two episodes left, and this show is clearly out to destroy her quicker than Drogon can level King's Landing.

    Apart from Daenerys' series-long ambition for the Iron Throne, most of these are very recent developments, so Game of Thrones fans would be forgiven for suffering a case of whiplash over this rushed arc.

    Game of Thrones Season 8 Complete Coverage

    Throughout the series, Daenerys has become a lot of things -- Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, Queen of the Andals and the First Men, Protector of the Seven Kingdoms, the Mother of Dragons, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains -- but she has not become a Mad Queen. She is mad, as in angry, right now, but she's also the person who freed slaves and just sacrificed almost everything to save the realms of men, with little thanks to show for it. The fact that her father was a lunatic simply isn't enough, and neither is her unbridled ambition to take the Iron Throne. What's worse is that the only person she wants to destroy right now really is a Mad Queen.

    Sure, Daenerys has had a few slips along the way to earning power, but Cersei is positively diabolical. Let's compare notes about who's the real Mad Queen right now.

    Daenerys Targaryen (​Emilia Clarke) on ​Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks"

    Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) onGame of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks"

    HBO/Helen Sloan

    Daenerys the Imperfect

    Daenerys is not infallible, of course, and there've been a few key moments when her temper got the better of her, like so:

    The punishment of Xaro Xhoan Daxos: If not for Xaro Xhoan Daxos (Nonso Anozie), Daenerys, her dragons, and her ailing khalasar would be but bones in the Red Waste by now. They were starving and hopeless after the death of Khal Drogo, so he invoked the custom of Sumai to let them in, above the protests of others in The Thirteen. The Spice King still betrayed her by stealing her dragons, though, and instead of showing him mercy, she locked him and her two-faced handmaid away to starve/suffocate in an empty vault and stole everything of value in Qarth.

    The beheading of Mossador: One instance where Daenerys gave her own advisors some pause about her true nature came along when she decided to behead the former slave Mossador in Meereen after he executed one of the captured Sons of the Harpy without her permission. That decision caused an immediate riot and seemingly undermined her previous conversation with Ser Barristan about how different she is from her dad.

    The burning of the Tarlys: Dany's instinct to retaliate for the sack on Highgarden by razing the loot train was completely on point because the Lannister forces were no match for her dragons and the Dothraki army. However, she also revealed a willingness to rule with fear by flaying Randyll and Dickon Tarly alive to show that there'd be no forgiveness for failure to bend the knee. That choice would come back to bite her, of course, when she finally met Samwell (John Bradley) and had to tell him of his family's fate, causing him to question out loud her fitness for the Iron Throne.

    All three of the above acts were arguably cruel missteps on her part. Arguably. Fine. Now, let's talk about the queen she hopes to replace.

    ​Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4​

    Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks"

    HBO/Helen Sloan

    Cersei the Sinister

    From the very beginning, Cersei Lannister has made no bones about the fact that she'll stop at nothing to keep her power. Actually, there were many bones made as a result of that posturing, but you get it. A sample of the worst things she's ever done:

    The assassination of the Hand: Before we even officially met her, Cersei had blood on her hands, as she was part of the conspiracy that took down Jon Arryn, who had discovered a bit too much about her bedroom behaviors.

    The execution of Lady: Nymeria was the direwolf that bit Prince Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), but Cersei showed she could be mean just for the sake of it by demanding Sansa (Sophie Turner)'s pup be killed in her stead.

    The attempt on Bran: But of *course* Cersei was behind the catspaw assassin's attempt on Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright)'s life, after Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) failed to kill him by throwing him off the tower. Her heartlessness was made even more obvious by her speech of feigned sympathy to Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) over Bran's comatose body.

    The death of Ned Stark: Once Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) found out about her incestual relationship with Jaime, he advised her to split with her kids and let him serve as Protector of the Realm, as Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy) had decreed. However, Cersei was too shifty and bereft of morals for that, so, instead, she ensnared the most honorable man in Westeros in a trap which ultimately led to his public humiliation and eventual execution.

    The torment of Sansa: It was Queen Cersei who insisted that Joffrey keep Sansa as his intended, even after Ned's death, but she wasn't doing Sansa any favors, and she knew it. Sansa was but bait for her brother, but Cersei also seemed to enjoy seeing the "little dove" suffer.

    The Red Wedding: The last thing Robb Stark (Richard Madden) heard before his wife, unborn child, and mother were all murdered by the Freys and Boltons was "the Lannisters send their regards." Granted, Cersei can't be directly blamed for the conspiracy that brought them down -- that'd be the handiwork of Tywin (Charles Dance) -- but she certainly relished the massacre.

    The other wedding: Cersei refused to allow Sansa a happy ending with Ser Loras and instead forced her to marry Tyrion. She didn't foresee the level of respect Tyrion and Sansa would eventually have for one another but instead wanted to make a mockery of both of them and exhibit her complete control over their lives.

    The Sept of Baelor: Jaime slaughtered the Mad King for his intention to use that wildfire, and lo, that's exactly what Cersei did to her enemies at the Sept of Baelor when she was scheduled to be tried for her crimes against the Seven. It doesn't get much clearer than that, but let's keep going.

    The shame, shame, shame: Cersei reserved one of her cruelest moments for Septa Unella, who'd led her on her walk of atonement after repeatedly demanding her confession. Instead of merely letting her burn to death with the rest of the Faith Militant, she locked her away to be violated by The Mountain in perpetuity.

    The refusal to fight wights: Unlike Daenerys, Cersei lied and kept her forces far away from the action up north and snickered at the prospect of the Night King destroying all the people of Winterfell.

    The execution of Missandei: This show of force cost the Realm one of its purest souls in Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel). Why, though.

    The stacking of innocents: Even if she believes she's lost, Cersei wants to ensure that the usurper looks bad in the process of taking her down, no matter how many lives are lost in the process.

    We could go on, but you get the idea. Daenerys strives to break that wheel and offer justice and peace to the Seven Kingdoms and has made few calculation errors in that effort, most of them at cost to herself. Meanwhile, Cersei would destroy everything and everyone in the world if it meant protecting herself. No matter how many red stripes you put on Daenerys' cloaks, these two things will never be alike.

    Game of Thrones is obviously propping the next episode to be some kind of clash of Mad Queens, and given how much she's lost in the process of trying to do this the peaceful way, Daenerys very well might dracarys the Red Keep before it's all said and done. Even if she did, though, it's still going to require some serious suspension of disbelief and out-of-character behavior for Daenerys to be anywhere near the monster people think she is after all that we've seen from Cersei.

    Put simply, if Game of Thrones really does destroy Daenerys Targaryen's body and soul in these last two episodes, just because she wants to oust the real Mad Queen from the Iron Throne, the show will have completely jumped the shark -- er, dragon. Here's hoping this is all just an elaborate bit of misdirection.

    Game of Thrones airs on Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.

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    PHOTOS: Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4: "The Last of the Starks"

    Game of Thrones: 'The Last of the Starks'

    Missandei, Daenerys Targaryen, and Varys in Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4, "The Last of the Starks."