[Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Game of Thrones]
Khaleesi. Mother of Dragons. Mhysa. The Unburnt Queen of the Andals… She has more names than anyone in Westeros, and more dragons, too. Daenerys Targaryen is arguably one of the most interesting and well-developed characters in the Song of Ice and Fire universe. Starting as a low power player in the Game of Thrones, she quickly ascended into one of the strongest characters in the series the moment she stepped out beneath her abusive brother’s thumb. Since then, she has been hatching dragons, freeing slaves and taking over to “do what queens do best,” which is rule.
Although Dany has had her share of hard times and bad decisions, from her Moses-like trek in the desert to her missteps as a fledgling leader, overall she has proven to be one of the most competent and capable people in the entire Game of Thrones universe, with perhaps only Tyrion Lannister out-performing her in terms of leadership. Considering the dozens of times she has made audiences sigh, gasp or pump their fists in the air, here are the 15 most awesome Daenerys Targaryen moments in the series.
15. Giving Viserys the Hand
It is difficult to choose which character in the Game of Thrones universe viewers and readers love to hate the most, but Viserys Targaryen definitely made the top 10 list during the first season. Aside from being an entitled, whiny little worm, Viserys was an abusive sadist who enjoyed tormenting his little sister, who happened to be Daenerys. Watching him degrade and molest Daenarys in both the novel and the show made it easy for fans to see why the citizens of Westeros demanded the death of his family.
When Dany finally stood up to her older brother as a Khaleesi, audiences stood as well–to cheer her on. She told her would-be king brother that it was she who was actual royalty and that he had better remember it when she smacked him across the face with a strand of heavy gold. This was the very moment the khaleesi seemed to become aware of her status and some of the power that came with it. Unfortunately for Viserys, her message fell on deaf ears, and he suffered greatly for not listening to it, ultimately dying beneath the smoldering heat of his own “crown of gold,” courtesy of Dany’s new husband, Khal Drogo.
14. Becoming Khaleesi
Most viewers forget that Daenerys is a teenage girl in George RR Martin’s first installment of A Song of Ice and Fire. An arranged marriage is unbearable enough for a grown woman like Cersei Lannister, but for a child, it is terrifying. She explicitly told her brother, “I don’t want to marry him. I want to go home.” Each step Dany took toward becoming one of the Dothraki and marrying Khal Drogo, a grown warrior of a culture completely unknown to her took every ounce of strength she had, from the moment Viserys warned her about “waking the dragon” when she hesitated about preparing to meet the khal, to the ceremony and subsequent violent consummation itself, which was more consensual in the book but a rape on-screen.
Even the first steps taken toward her new role made in a too-hot bathtub demonstrated just how fierce and unflinching the Mother of Dragons is. She faced her fate with a stoic acceptance that most adults might not be able to muster, let alone children, while foreshadowing just how strong she would prove to be. Who could predict that by stepping into a steaming bath, Dany was also delivering the prequel to her story of blood, fire and triumph?
13. Horse: It’s What’s for Dinner
Eating horse meat cooked on a stove or even over a roaring fire may not be a strange custom, but the beast’s raw heart is a horse of a different color. In order to fully be accepted among the Dothraki and to ensure that her son will be strong, she has to down the entire thing. In the book, Daenerys has to eat the heart to ensure that the child is not deformed or born female, and she prepares to consume it by not eating for a full day and night. She also practices by eating clotted horse blood.
Throughout the entire ceremony, Dany’s struggle is apparent on her face. Although Ser Jorah Mormont assures her brother that she is “doing well,” there are moments during the ritual when she is obviously resisting gagging to the best of her ability. It is, after all, a bloody stallion heart. After nearly tossing her cookies, the khaleesi manages to stomach the whole thing, earning her the love of her new people. In the text, Khal Drogo is so enamored with her in that moment that he hoists her up and has sex with her while carrying her.
12. The Dothraki Advocate
Standing up against the khalasar’s standard post-war activities like raping and pillaging would garner the average person a death sentence. It might as well be suicide. Dany condemns the Dothraki’s spoils of war, claiming and providing each slave with her protection and angering the khal’s warriors in the process. She asks that the men at least marry the new slaves if they wish to rape them, giving them a chance at a better life. Drogo is amused by his wife’s boldness and acquiesces to her queenly request, saying that it is the fire of his son inside her fueling her growing audacity.
When Dany first asks her Sun and Stars to forbid his men from taking part in the custom, she steps into her new role of advocate and protector, one that she will reprise again and again as she gains more power in the Song of Ice and Fire.
11. Saving and Killing Drogo
As paradoxical as it sounds, both the acts of saving her husband, Khal Drogo, and killing him were among Daenerys’s best moments. In saving her husband, Khaleesi made the first poor decision for a good reason in her reign, one that would preface many others as she learned to rule as a queen in various capacities. The friction stemming from her ignoring the will of her people in favor of her own agenda also readied the young khaleesi for the political challenges she would face along her journey, as well as their many consequences.
Killing Drogo took even more courage than the keeping him alive, as she forced herself to accept that her man was nothing more than a vegetable before she smothered him to death. Daenerys learned much about sacrifice, compassion, trust and betrayal as she was forced to kill her first love, and demonstrated more strength than ever before.
10. Going Broody
When Khaleesi decides to join her burning lover on his funeral pyre, her decision is understandably met with a myriad of reactions. Her khalasar largely seems to be content with the idea after she ignored their wishes and let a witch render their leader brain-dead, while Mormont, forever the unrequited lover, begs her to reconsider. In the show, she seems to know exactly what she is doing; in the book, the flames, which were “so beautiful, the loveliest things she had ever seen,” lured her in. Even so, she had previously played with the idea of hatching her dragons through fire, and that is exactly what she did.
Walking into those flames alone made her look like the gutsiest character in the history of the Seven Kingdoms, but seeing her emerge from the flames untouched, coated with ash and surrounded by baby dragons made her legendary. Her words condemning her brother for burning rung in the audience’s ears: “He was no dragon. Fire cannot kill a dragon.” Her position as the true heir of House Targaryen is solidified in this moment.
9. The Meereen Coup
During the Siege of Meereen, viewers are treated to more justice, Daenerys-style. Unlike other big, bold moments in her political career, there is no fire from her part, no big battle with the Unsullied fighting in her name. There is a literal peeing contest in which Daario Naharis quickly dispatches the city’s victor with very little fanfare, but even with that, Khaleesi makes it clear that she does not care if she wins or loses this small match. It is the slaves’ attention she wants.
She clearly states that she is there to offer them the choice of freedom. “I am not your enemy. Your enemy is beside you. Your enemy steals and murders your children. Your enemy has nothing for you but chains and suffering, and commands. I do not bring you commands. I bring you a choice. And I bring your enemies what they deserve.” After a bit of persuasion, she not only gets the slave owners in the city overthrown, but she also dispatches them in the same manner they had previously done with slave children as a warning to her: by crucifying them and leaving them to die. She then declares herself queen of Meereen, unfurling the Targaryen flag over the harpy on top of the city’s Great Pyramid. It is her first official gesture relating to her House and the throne she ultimately seeks.
8. House of the Undying
When Daenerys Stormborn demands, “Where are my dragons?” people tend to scatter. Unlike Joffrey, the most powerful youngling in Westeros, who is obeyed out of sheer fear, Khaleesi has earned the respect of those who obey her. From the painful visions of the past, present and future through the tower to being chained up by a naive warlock, she overcomes several challenges in the tower in order to get her dragons back and further show just how capable of a leader she really is.
While fans were treated with a vision of Dany with Drogo and their child in the television show, the two were absent from the Mother of Dragons’s visions in the book. Instead, she beholds over a dozen confusing images, ranging from the death of the Targaryens to the Red Wedding. She still manages to escape the death that the Undying Ones had intended for her with the help of her dragons.
7. Valar Morghulis
The entire time Daenerys toured Slaver’s Bay, she faked requiring a translator, fooling everyone around her while she secretly collected intelligence from the maters’ own mouths. When she reveals that she can of course speak Valyrian, it is more than a fun “Gotcha!” moment to entertain the crowd. It is solid proof of her cunning and strategical skill set as a leader. It is also the first time she truly outwits not only her own company but every elder person in the scene, which is testament to her efficacy no matter her age.
When her translator, Missandei, reminds her that valar morghulis, the young queen responds in her cryptic fashion, “Yes. All men must die. But we are not men.” Dany’s response not only gave the show one of its most quotable quotes, but it also foreshadowed her plans. A lot of men have already died on her way to the throne and once she reaches Westeros, many more will presumably join them.
When asked to cite their favorite Daenerys Targaryen moment, many fans will not hesitate to say, “Dracarys.” The word refers to the scene at the end of Dany’s time in Astapor, during which she simply uttered, “Dracarys,” and watched her dragon, Drogon, burn the slave master Kraznys alive. Known as the Sack of Astapor, the scene also included Daenerys commanding the army of Unsullied to dispatch all of the other masters and to join her as free men.
The scene is incredibly satisfying to the audience after witnessing the cruelty unleashed upon the Unsullied army, but it is also a huge moment for Dany. It is her first major victory. When she tosses the whip almost casually beneath the army’s feet as they march from Astapor, it symbolizes what she thinks of slavery and abuse. Although Ser Jorah had advised her that buying slaves was her only option to take back Westeros in the name of the Targaryens, she was able to prove that she could do so without taking slaves in the process.
During the episode “Mhysa,” Dany became more than the Mother of Dragons. She became the Breaker of Chains, the Mhysa, or mother, of those she freed. With the help of Daario Naharis, who murdered his own co-leaders in order to serve her, Daenerys takes Yunkai quickly, but worries that the slaves there, which were better treated than those in Astapor, will not come out of the city willingly to join her. Not only are the former slaves ready to embrace her; they also deem her their new mother, changing “Mhysa!” as they reach for her.
While the slave cities ultimately do reinstate slavery later, teaching Dany that some problems must be dealt with multiple times before they are truly solved, “Mhysa” both gave fans a hopeful season finale following the devastating Red Wedding, and illustrated Dany’s further commitment to offering freedom to any slaves that she encounters as long as they want it.
4. Girl on Fire
When Dany set the Dothraki temple ablaze, she proved once again that she is a force to be reckoned with, but the statement travels farther with this inferno. This time, no dragons were necessary to impress the populace. Plenty of people–both in the Seven Kingdoms as well as those who make up the viewership–complained that Daenerys was a weak leader dependent on her dragons. In “Book of the Stranger,” the Queen of Meereen proved her naysayers wrong as she took out the fiercest warriors who threatened her all on her own.
Not only did Khaleesi face the captors making misogynistic comments about her and threatening to rape her as steadfastly as ever, but she also reveals that she was never in danger to begin with. “I will never run from Dothraki,” she said. She was only waiting for the right moment to burn the place to the ground, not for the rescue that Jorah and Daario had orchestrated.
3. The Advocate, Take 2
Once her ships had burned in Meereen, Khaleesi’s situation seemed more precarious than ever. The approach of the Ironborn siblings, Theon and Yara, and their request for an alliance gave Dany the ships that she needed to finally take her to Westeros, a moment that fans have been waiting for years to see. Negotiations with the Mother of Dragons do not come cheaply, however, and she expects the best from her allies.
Wherever Daenerys Stormborn goes, justice follows. She requests that Yara implement more just laws among the Ironborn. Just as she demanded that the Dothraki cease raping and pillaging, she, too, made the request of the Ironborn before allowing them to join her cause. The issue with this awesome moment is that viewers will have to wait until next season to see if Yara keeps her promise to change the traditions of her people–as well as how her people take the news once they are engaged in battle.
2. Battle of Meereen
Fans may have enjoyed the bloody Battle of the Bastards much more, but the Second Siege of Meereen gave viewers a few firsts in the series. One of these was Daenerys demonstrating her ability to listen to counsel while still making her own decisions. Her instincts told her to wipe out every slave master again, but she decided to listen to the Hand of the Queen, Tyrion Lannister, this time. Having earlier claimed that she is a queen and not a politician, she demonstrates that she does understand diplomacy. Although Tyrion’s counsel may have been sage in Westeros, it was not in Slaver’s Bay, a place that Dany knew much better than he did.
1. Sailing for Westeros
With her new hand, Tyrion Lannister, by her side and a fleet of Greyjoy ships to command, Khaleesi ended the sixth season of Game of Thrones doing exactly what viewers have demanded for several seasons: setting sail for Westeros. Leaving her lover, Daario Naharis, behind to rule in her stead, she put her duty to rule ahead of her own personal desires. After finally amassing an army worthy of the task and practicing her rule, Dany surveys the sea, ready to take what is her birthright.
The scene unifies some of the key power players, including Lord Varys, the Greyjoys and Tyrion Lannister, bolstering Daenarys’ claim on Westeros and symbolizing the unification of the kingdoms. With the Unsullied, the Dothraki and the Ironborn, both female and male warriors surrounding her, horses securely stowed upon her ships and dragons flying above them, Daenerys stands to rule the Western world. Fans will just have to wish her smooth sailing until next season.
What other badass Daenerys moments should be on this list? Let us know in the comments!