Oh, those crazy Targaryens. Even though there are presently only two definite members left, (thanks to George R.R. Martin’s expansive world building), we’ve gotten to know the family pretty well over the years. Despite being an ensemble piece, there are a few characters in Game of Thrones that seem to get more attention than others, and Daenerys Targaryen is one of them. She’s poised to become the series’ main character when all is said and done.
Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar, and the First Men; Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Empress of the Repetitive Storyline, Breaker of Chains, the Mother of Dragons, and the Queen of Meereen. You don’t get that many titles without making a few enemies along the way, and you don’t survive those enemies without doing some heinous things. Given that she’s about twenty-two in the show (and younger in the books), this makes her pretty badass—or a complete psychopath (your mileage may vary).
But now we only have a handful of episodes left, a fact that is causing many to curse the Lord of Light. With the majority of the series behind us now, we decided to look back on one of the most controversial characters in the ever-expanding Game of Thrones universe. From uncooked horse hearts to mass crucifixions, these are the 15 Most WTF Things Daenerys has Done.
15 Eating a raw horse heart
Always start these lists with an appetizing entry. If prepared correctly, raw meat—steak tartare, for instance—is a real delicacy, but we somehow doubt the culinary prowess of the Dothraki. Early on, Daenerys gained our sympathy and respect by going through an important ritual. Having become pregnant by Khal Drogo, she had to eat an entire stallion heart. If she vomited, it would be considered a bad omen for the baby’s health.
Regardless of their backward superstitions, Dany ate the entire damn thing without so much as agita. We, of course, can only speculate that she also managed to avoid nearly guaranteed E. coli. Still, the scene of the young Khaleesi, caked in blood, scarfing down that horse heart is compelling (and disgusting) and cemented her as a fan favorite, if only because of her constitution.
14 Ordered her brother’s death
To be fair, she did the right thing. Viserys was human garbage of the highest order. While he may not have had his father, Aerys II Targaryen's, trademark mental instability (though that’s debatable), he had the family brutality and entitlement down to a science. An obnoxious, whiny Targaryen. Despite it all, Dany still loved him, but when he went on a drunken tirade, threatened her baby and attempted to steal her dragons—God, that plot line just wouldn’t die, would it?—so Dany suggested he needed to be calmed down. And by calmed down we mean killed. Drogo covered Viserys in melted gold, “crowning him,” until the trauma and sheer gaudiness of becoming a golden cake pop killed him. Who knew the Dothraki had a sense of irony?
Dany watched the whole thing go down in a mix of sadness and relief. It was a cold-blooded thing to do—your sibling is your sibling—but Viserys was, well, a typical Targaryen, and you just can’t have too many of them running around with any power.
13 Fair trials are for suckers
Case in point. Daenerys wasn’t exactly invited into Meereen. She kinda sorta absolutely invaded through deception, intimidation, and murder. Daenerys lied, people died. For some reason, some of the survivors didn’t take too kindly to it. When the Sons of the Harpy insurgency began killing members of Dany’s army and one of the Sons was captured alive, a message needed to be sent. No, no, not from the moral high ground—roaming charges were too high.
Rather, she and Mossador wanted to execute the Son and publicly, because, you know, that’s how you show the people you conquered that you aren’t a savage—by being savage. Daenerys Stormborn is the breaker of chains until she has you put hers on. It was only after Barristan Selmy told her that all that propaganda she heard about her father the Mad King was true that she agreed to let the guy have a trial. But the fun didn’t end there!
12 Executing Mossador
Poor, poor Mossador. Born a slave, he dreamed of overthrowing the Masters. Despite the apathy of older slaves who remembered the many failed uprisings of the past, with the help of Grey Worm and Daenerys, Mossador helped free his people. After that, he wasn’t so much loyal to Mother of Dragons as much as he worshipful. When he executed a captured Son of the Harpy without trial, she, in turn, had to have him killed as well, so as not to set a precedent. Except, you know, how about setting a new precedent by giving him prison time?
What Massador did was wrong, though he did it for the right reasons. He did it out of loyalty and affection, believing it be better that he take on the guilt and burden rather than Dany. Her decision, too, was at least somewhat understandable, but given the riots that followed, it probably was not a win in her good governing column.
11 Not using her dragons, using her dragons, not using her dragons
This one isn’t technically her fault. The narrative of the series needed time to catch up to where Dany was in her own arc. That, unfortunately, meant we had to sit through repetitive storylines with her just to keep the character fresh in our minds. Dany’s dragons get taken. She makes a governing mistake and learns from it. She makes the same mistake again. Her dragons are gone, etc.
The biggest problem is that the dragons are used as a magic reset button to force the plot to move along, only to get stolen, chained up, or go AWOL when the plot has moved too far ahead. This makes her decision-making spastic and doesn’t lend credence to that idea that she’s a good leader if she’s constantly changing her mind on the same topic. It also doesn't help that she essentially has three nuclear weapons she can't quite control. The idea that she’s a good leader falls apart if her leadership depends on her dragons that are not fully within her control, or depends on her strength as a leader without the dragons, which she doesn't seem to fully possess.
10 Exiling Jorah...
Poor Jorah Mormont couldn’t make a good decision if it kicked him in the nethers. He was stripped of his land and titles when he was caught trafficking slaves because he needed more money for his wife’s high-end tastes. Naturally, she left him after the money ran dry. Then, he hitched his ride on the coattails of Daenerys, with whom he was in love. Naturally, she preferred to be with Daario because he was young and handsome and Jorah looked like Jack Palance had been left out in the sun to prune. Then he was revealed as a spy for Varys who was on Dany’s side anyway.
Despite saving her life many times, coming clean about his betrayal and, you know, repeatedly saving her life, she chose to exile him. All things considered, given the way she tends to handle setbacks, he got off pretty easy. Had Daenerys been in a worse mood, Missandei might’ve passed his crucified remains on the way to Yunkai to smooth over one of her queen’s latest spite-jobs with actual diplomacy. But at least Dany didn’t do anything worse to him, right?
9 ...then demanding him to cure an incurable disease
Well, crap. Poor, dumb Jorah spent the next little while perusing courtesans who looked like Dany and drinking himself stupid(er). Then, prior to a grand romantic gesture (murdering people in a pit for her approval), he accidentally contracts the fatal Greyscale disease while winning back her trust. When they finally meet up again after saving her life for the umpteenth time, Jorah declares his love for her.
Not because of his contagious nature, but because she wants him to find a cure and return to her because she’ll need him in the coming war. Well. That was certainly the loving reaction he was hoping for. All the warmth of a mother-in-law’s kiss, that one. There was an obvious sense of affection there, but way to tease the man in his dying days. In all fairness, early stages of the disease are treatable if caught soon enough and you have the right mix of money and access to specialists. Father of the Year Stannis Baratheon had all the resources in the world and was barely able to keep his daughter alive after she contracted Greyscale. Of course, if you’re Jorah, you’ve never had much money. In that case, he gets to look forward to several years worth of pain and suffering. Yay!
8 She dropped Daario like a bad habit
In Dany’s defense, maybe she noticed how quickly Daario had changed. He used to be much taller, and his eyes were a different color. It’s as if someone else came in and replaced him but nobody noticed. Darrin Stephens Daario Naharis was the first man after Drogo whom Daenerys loved. He is handsome, smart, brave, kind, and is one of the best fighters around. Naturally, she was attracted to him.
However, after their fling turned into an actual relationship, she broke up with him suddenly. It was at the prompting of Tyrion, who—being very genre savvy—made Dany realize that as her lover, he would be a target once they land in Westeros. Given this late in the game (of thrones), Dany has been hardened by difficult decisions, losses, and meandering subplots, it was a strong scene to reaffirm her compassion. However, the speed of it, and the mostly off-screen development was jarring as much for us as for Daario.
7 The Vault
We’re totally on Dany’s side this time. Qarth was home to one of the earliest betrayals she had to deal with, and it was a major one. The charming and loquacious Xaro Daxos and Pyat Pree committed the ultimate carnie/Nigerian prince scam. Daxos tricked Daenerys and her team with the illusion of fortune and an army only to gain their trust, steal their dragons, and kill a few familiar extras. What probably hurt the most (aside from kidnapping her dragons), was Doreah’s betrayal. She helped her Queen (ahem) “communicate” with Drogo in the early days of their marriage and was a confidant through the first two seasons. Finding Daxos and her in cahoots along with the reveal that his famed vault of fortune was empty didn’t sit well with the Mother of Dragons.
In another ironic twist (or at least mean-spirited one), Dany had Pree burned to death (a recurring theme) and had Xaro and Doreah locked in the vault together so they could starve, suffocate, or smother. Variety is the spice of life, after all.
6 6. Burn, Baby Burn (The original version)
Part of Dany’s arc in season 1 was the learning curve of leadership. In one of her first attempts at true compassion and trust, she was met with betrayal. Gracefully, the Mother of Dragons took this loss and turned it into a win: by burning the woman who betrayed her alive (as Targaryens are wont to do). During the Dothraki siege against the Lhazar, Daenerys saved a mystical healer named Mirri Maz Duur from being gang raped by a group of Dothraki soldiers. She hoped Mirri would save her sickly husband. However, using her pagan witchcraft, she made sure that Daenerys miscarried, and Drogo ended up braindead.
Mirri’s reasoning was simple: the Dothraki wiped out her home and everyone she loved; although Dany saved her from being gang raped by that one group of Dothraki, she wasn’t there for the previous violations she suffered. This was all revenge. You really can’t blame Mirri for her reaction or Dany’s reaction to her reaction, but Jesus, that was some brutal stuff. Particularly seeing that austere coldness shift over her face. Is that the beginning of a wise leader or a brutal dictator? This is Game of Thrones—what do you think?
5 She leads hordes of Dothraki savages
As mentioned above, Dany was with the poor man’s Klingons Dothraki for most of season 1. To say that they’re barbarians would be an understatement. All they do is kill and screw. Once in a while, someone might eat or take a nap, but in general, those are their two big pastimes. They are difficult to command and, as we covered, fond of sexual assault. Dany herself is bothered by this, but not enough to do anything about it.
She has a problem: she needs an army, and this is what’s available. She can tell them to behave, but this isn’t exactly the regimented and obedient Unsullied. There will be a great amount of suffering brought to the civilians whose cities they pillage in Westeros. For someone who wants to bring freedom and fight for the voiceless, she has no problem letting a bunch of those little people be violated or killed along the way. As Daario said, “All rulers are either butchers or meat.”
4 Burning every Khal
Well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs. In yet another repetitive Daenerys storyline, she was once again in the custody of the Dothraki, who wanted to harm her by killing her or boring her to death by being forced into a widow’s rest home in the Dothraki version of Boca Raton. This time ended much like it did last time—she burns others but doesn’t get burned herself, and then gives a bland speech about leadership and change and finally making it to the World Series or something to that effect. All in all, it’s pretty typical Dany stuff, but the way it’s presented, well, that’s just plain fun.
The Khals run the Dothraki armies. At the Khalar vezhven, she gathers all of them—dozens of them—together. She tells them where to stick their ponytails and then sets the whole room on fire, watching them all burn to death with a giddy smile on her face that definitely isn’t indicative of any currently assassinated psychotic king to whom she’s related. Look, love her or hate her, that scene was the series at its best and brought us to where Daenerys needed to be for a long time.
3 All of Meereen
Meereen was where Daenerys Targaryen went to cut her teeth as a ruler. Things did not go swimmingly. She and the old leadership were constantly at odds, using the Chicago Way method of attrition to thin out the herd. We already covered how Dany had to be talked into giving a Son of the Harpy a fair trial, but we left out some of the juicier incidents. When the Slaver fleets from the city-states of Yunkai, Volantis, and Astapor besieged Meereen, Tyrion had to talk the Breaker of Chains out of “returning their cities to the dirt.”
When she first started freeing slaves, the Masters crucified 163 child slaves and spread them out like a roadmap for her. Ol’ Hammurabi Stormborn replied by gathering up 163 random Masters and crucifying them as well. Dany is many things, but subtle, measured, and diplomatic—no, not some of her more finely-tuned qualities.
Look, out of all the places in Game of Thrones, we can all agree that Dorne is the most boring, but compared to all the other places, boring is looking pretty good right now. Also, it’s summer all the time there. Seems like a good choice. Wait. They’re aligned with Daenerys now? Uh-oh.
2 Breaking the wheel and replacing it…with a new wheel
“I’m not a politician; I’m a Queen,” Dany said.
Fast forward to next season.
“I’m not a Queen; I’m a Khaleesi.”
Not to split the silver wig hairs, but whatever Daenerys is calling herself this week is pretty irrelevant. She is a conqueror and brutal fascist. She also burns people alive and crucifies them. There isn’t a sense of sadistic joy that Joffrey or Ramsay Bolton took in similar actions, the religious fundamentalism of Stannis Baratheon. Rather, Dany is the same hypocrite that all of these leaders are: she comes in to break an old system and replace it with her own broken system—but this one is better because she’s the one in charge. You can easily compare her to Cersei Lannister. Both have a compelling argument for sitting on the Iron Throne, both have a sense of entitlement, and that entitlement has made them both very, very dangerous. As a matter of fact, there’s an argument to be made that we’re actually watching a Middle Earth version of Breaking Bad, because the truth about the Khaleesi is that…
1 She's becoming the villain
When you look at their actions, there are very few differences between Dany and Cersei. She isn’t as jaded as Cersei, who is deep into her Bloody Mary/Marie Antoinette stage, but her bloodiest actions (several of which made it onto this list) are no different than any other villains’ in this series. Take her character out of it and just think about the actions. Someone who has to be reminded of human rights, who tortures her enemies, burns cities, invades foreign lands and forces her morality on her new subjects—who will be threatened with torture and execution if they disagree with her. This is turning into a remake of Fire is Pretty starring Aerys II Targaryen.
If she invades Westeros with her mixed army of eunuchs, rapists, and dragons, they’ll wipe out King’s Landing and take the throne. The only problem with that is, maybe about sixty people are worth killing there. The rest are largely innocents. And, honestly, the invading army is rarely the good guys. “They can live in my new world, or they can die in their old one” is not the rallying cry of a great new leader, it’s the same old despot we’ve seen wholesale in the Game of Thrones universe.
Did we miss out on any crazy Dany moments? Do you think she's the hero or the villain of Game of Thrones? Let us know in the comments.