With the second episode of season 8 about to hit screens, Game of Thrones inches ever closer to its finale - and the series' final villain may actually turn out to be none other than Daenerys Targaryen. From the start, Game of Thrones has never been a show with straightforward good guys and bad guys; the inhabitants of Westeros are gloriously complicated, with motivations that are nuanced and changeable.
Those that seemed the worst in the first season may be the ones that fans are rooting for by now: Jaime Lannister, once simply an arrogant, incestuous rich boy who pushed a kid out of a tower, has become a fan-favorite, giving up his family name to ride North and join the fight to save Westeros. Others have become darker: Sansa Stark started out as a naive girl who dreamed of nothing more than silk dresses and a prince to marry, and has now become a hardened and dangerous political player.
However, one character may yet be the biggest one to fall from hero to villain: Queen Daenerys, Mother of Dragons. Sansa and Sam both have concerns about her, and shocking news will likely cause Jon to reconsider his relationship with her. Jon has a rightful claim to the throne that Daenerys has been ruthlessly seeking for years - and she's not the kind of woman to let anything stand in her way.
Season 8's Premiere Frames Jon as a Hero, and Daenerys In A Darker Light
One of the few characters who has been purely heroic from the start, and who remains so now, is Jon Snow (a.k.a. Aegon Targaryen). This is in stark contrast to Daenerys, who started the first season as an innocent, and who grew to become a savior Queen, but now has become a whole lot darker. Jon's journey has seen him consistently make difficult, but just, decisions when thrust into positions of unasked for leadership - while Daenerys seeks out power, and struggles to balance her need to be respected with her desire to do good.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the season 8 premiere, where Samwell Tarly acts as the character who truly shows the audience the difference between them. As one fan pointed out on Twitter, Sam (as a character whose house has no real horse in this race, but who is deeply involved in the narrative) is a surrogate for the audience in the series, and the way that he sees both Jon and Dany in this first episode of the final season is incredibly telling.
At the end of 'Winterfell', Sam met Daenerys for the first time, and then was reunited with Jon - and in these scenes, he becomes the person to set Jon up as the hero, and Daenerys as the villain. Meeting her first, he learns that she burned his father and brother alive for refusing to bend the knee to her immediately. Suddenly, the people she sacrifices for power are not just minor characters, but are deeply tied to a character who is universally liked and respected by the viewers.
When reunited with Jon in the crypts, Sam tells Jon what Daenerys did, and reveals not only that he is the true heir to the Iron Throne, but that he would be a much better King. Passionately, he talks about Jon's devotion, his willingness to sacrifice himself, and the ways that Jon has shown that he will put duty to the higher good of Westeros over his own position. Sam asks directly if Daenerys, put in the same situation, would put her people over her position - and there's a good chance that she wouldn't. Her obsession with the Iron Throne has always taken precedence, and it may do the same now that the Throne is within her grasp.