Daenerys Targaryen is one of Game of Thrones’s best and most beloved characters. She has undergone more character development and growth than perhaps any other character in the series. She is also a well-written and empowered female character in a fantasy story; which is a genre desperately in need of more of those. On top of that, her effortless command over the nearly unchallenged power of her dragons is breathtaking and will doubtlessly inspire other fantasy works for decades.
However, despite all of this, Dany is also one of the show’s villains.
Her ultimate status as a bad guy is due to three elements of her character that have become more prominent as the show has progressed. Dany has frequently gone to unnecessarily violent lengths to crush her enemies. The privileges granted to her as a Targaryen have caused her to become egotistical and prideful. And there is a clear hypocrisy between her promises to help the common people of Westeros and her actual actions and interactions so far in the show.
In the course of gaining her armies and building power, Daenerys has destroyed and mutilated many cultures and people. One of the most intense and needless instances of this occurred after she gained control of Meereen. This city and its ruling class gained wealth and power through the slave trade and was responsible for an immeasurable amount of pain and suffering. Daenerys was completely in the right when she took control of the city and made herself the ruler.
However, she went too far in her pursuit of justice. After her victory in the Siege of Meereen, Dany crucified 163 former slave masters as a show of power and to avenge the 163 slave children that were killed to intimidate her. While we as an audience mostly see the mass torture as fully justified from Dany’s perspective, we see that this was a horrendous and ultimately foolish decision. Her extreme actions inspired the Sons of the Harpy to begin a guerrilla war with Dany, that lead to the deaths of hundreds on both sides.
More importantly, though, this act of extreme violence and vengeance is perfectly in line with something her father, the Mad King, would have done. Before the show began, Daenerys’ father ruled over Westeros as a tyrant. He punished any crime to the most brutal extent possible and was undoubtedly a villain. Dany’s ill-advised slaughter of Meereen’s former ruling class made it clear that she is quickly following in his footsteps.
Daenerys Targaryen, holder of many titles, has accomplished many astonishing feats in the course of her journey to the Iron Throne, due to the privileges she was born with. Her dragons, which make up the most impressive and mightiest force in her army, were gifted to her as eggs when she agreed to marry Khal Drogo. Her immunity to fire, which allowed her to become a god-like figure to the Dothraki, is solely the result of her heritage. She even gains many powerful allies such as Jorah Mormont and Daario Naharis, due to her being born into a position of power and an attractive woman.
Dany and those around her have convinced her that she, and she alone, has the right to rule over her fellow man. This makes her one of Game of Thrones’ many egotistical villains. She has never questioned her right to rule or even pondered if the vast majority of people would be better off without her seeking power.
She demands loyalty from those that she has defeated and kills those that do not pledge it, as made clear when she murdered Randyll and Dickon Tarly for failing to bend the knee. This was downright evil and in the episode “Beyond the Wall“, even Tyrion scolded her for her impulsiveness in dealing with the Tarlys failing to bend the knee. But it is yet another example of Dany making choices based on her belief that she deserves the respect and loyalty of those around her, rather than doing what is best for her people.
This distorted view of herself and the world have allowed her to commit all of these villainous deeds while feeling completely justified in her actions, which is the mark of a villain.
Dany’s ultimate goal is to ‘break the wheel’ of warring and plotting noble houses that have caused untold pain and suffering to common folk for generations. Well, at least she says that it is. In reality, she has admitted that she has no concept of what system of government she will put in place once she comes into power or even how to sustain this new system. This makes a lot of what used to be character depth and motivation for Daenerys nothing more than empty rhetoric.
Previously, Dany really made it seem like she cared about the common people. She claimed she was going to such extreme lengths to keep them from having to suffer under rulers that didn’t care about their well-being in the slightest. It’s clear now, though, that this is a lie. She wants to be Queen for no other reason than because she believes she is better than those around her and more deserving of the throne. We see this in every interaction she has with someone where she precedes the conversation with a string of titles that elevate her to a status above the other person.
Daenerys has convinced thousands of commoners to fight for her so she can create a better world for them. However, she has put virtually no thought into how she will help these people as a ruler and has instead just focused on gaining power. This is evil and a betrayal to everyone who died believing in her cause. It also makes it clear that Dany is a hypocrite, as well as a villain.
Daenerys the Villain
Daenerys Targaryen is a remarkable fantasy character that future storytellers should critically examine and study. She is a bad guy, though. Her actions and motives, while supposedly morally just, are rooted in unnecessary violence, her privilege allows her to justify any atrocity that she commits, and her core philosophy is nothing but hypocrisy. She is obviously and indefensibly, a bad person.
However these villainous attributes make her a far more compelling character than if she were a straightforward hero. This complexity helps Daenerys cement her place as one of the best villains and female characters in the entirety of fiction, and worthy of analysis and debate far beyond this article.