Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Game of Thrones: Why Daenerys As Queen Is the End Game

Spoilers for anyone who has not read A Feast for Crows or A Dance With Dragons, or the released chapters of The Winds of Winter.

By now, viewers of Game of Thrones can see that the show's creators are beginning to shift the story toward its end game, toward the final Ice Zombie Apocalypse and One Who Wins the Iron Throne.  The outcome of most characters is highly uncertain.  Will Daenerys Targaryen fly her way back to the Throne on dragon wings?  Or will Jon Snow forge his way to the Iron Throne through a phalanx of ice zombies?  Or will it be stoic, meticulous Stannis Baratheon?  Or (f)Aegon?  Or Sansa Stark?  Maybe some combination of the above, like Jon and Daenerys, or even Jon and Sansa.*

Who do I think it will be?  Daenerys.

She seems like the obvious choice, which in the A Song of Ice and Fire universe usually means she is marked for death.  And I would not at all put it past Martin or the show's producers to kill her off before she sits on the Iron Throne.  Or, for that matter, after she sits on the Iron Throne, when we're lulled into thinking she's safe.  That said, there are a few reasons I think that she will make it all the way to the end.

The Second Dance With Dragons.  Even though Daenerys has been built up as the "savior" ruler, her path has not been easy.  And nothing underscores this more than the fact that (f)Aegon is being positioned to "save" Westeros in her place.  (f)Aegon, brought up to rule and to be a mighty warrior since birth, who takes Storm's End seemingly with ease, will be viewed as the "champion" and the true holder of the Throne.  By contrast, Daenerys will be chided as the one who is too late, too preoccupied with saving slaves in Essos.  Yet if the prophecies are true, Aegon is really fAegon, and Dany will need to wage a battle simply to get through him to the Throne.  Why go to such narrative trouble, making her really work and struggle to sit in that chair, and not have her be Queen in the end?

Targaryen House symbol next to the Blackfyre symbol.
Targaryen Lore Is Everywhere.  I didn't realize this until I reread the A Song of Ice and Fire series, but the references to Targaryen history are constant.  Aegon the Conqueror and the Targaryens' construction of the Red Keep.  The Targaryens' dragons, including the crypt of dragon heads.  The Blackfyre Rebellion.  The War of the Ninepenny Kings.  Tales about the fire at Summerhall.  While the series is filled with other histories, Targaryen lore is quite predominant for a dynasty that was supposedly disgraced beyond redemption.  And that's not even considering ancillary texts, such as the Tales of Dunk and Egg, or The Princess and the Queen, or The Rogue Prince, or The World of Ice and Fire.  It really gives the impression that Targaryens are the true rulers, and that Robert, Joffrey, and Tommen are just temporary seat warmers until their dynasty returns.  

Do Any of the Others Really Work?  We all have our sentimental favorites and our "surprise" victors, but let's think seriously on this.

Let's start with Jon.  Jon is the one probably most-frequently touted as the Dany alternative, due to his parallel coming of age storyline and possible Targaryen roots, but sit on the Iron Throne in King's Landing?  It would be highly ironic, given that as a man of the Watch, he is bound to the Wall.  His pledge to have no wife or family would work against starting a new dynasty.  Martin seems to like that sort of irony, but beyond that, could you really see Jon in King's Landing? Even a "winter is here," barren wasteland zombie-apocalypsed King's Landing?  After a while, the politics and intrigue would start up again, and Jon doesn't seem like the sort who can deal with it.  At least Daenerys has some experience with shadowy political intrigue in Meereen.  Jon seems like someone who would make an effective interim ruler before eventually retreating to his remote holdfast.

Then there's Stannis.  We may like him in spite of ourselves, but would he make a good, long-lasting ruler?  No doubt he would be grimly just, and effective in his own way, but there would be little love or trust for him, especially once he breaks out the fires to cleanse the "unworthy."  Moreover, based on Dany's visions in the House of the Undying and Gendry being prominently set up as Robert's oldest male bastard, Stannis's story appears destined to end short of the Throne, as well as (sniff) his daughter Shireen's.

(f)Aegon?  Book readers would cause riots, unless he impresses much more than he did in A Dance With Dragons.  Given that he has yet to appear on the television series, it's likely that he is little more than an obstacle in Dany's path, maybe even a descendent of Daemon Blackfyre.

Sansa's brutal education at King's Landing and with Littlefinger could make her a Queen skilled at intrigue, yet also capable of commanding love and respect.  At the same time, she does so much of her work behind the scenes, I have trouble seeing her as a ruler in her own right.  More likely, she would be paired with someone else.  Serving as Jon's consort would be rather ironic, given how much Sansa disdained him in the first novel.  Yet I think she has another destiny, one that causes her to embrace her Northern roots, but at the same time be far wiser than her father.  The television show referring to her as "Lady Stark" seems to hint at that.

So that leaves Dany.  Sure, there are dozens of other characters who could take the Throne, from Arianne to Littlefinger to Rickon Stark.  However, that doesn't mean they are legitimate contenders, or that there wouldn't be serious problems with their claims.  Daenerys is the one who has the whole package: a large army, charisma, intelligence, and compassion.  Moreover, she really seems like she's working at being a ruler, a good ruler.  She has already made difficult decisions in Meereen that go against her personal happiness for the sake of the realm.  Dany seems like she would be up to the grueling task of ruling Westeros for years and years.  The people would embrace her (at least initially) because she would herald the return of a celebrated dynasty, yet be untouched by the nastiness that had plagued Westeros over the past decade.  By contrast, even if Jon is Rhaegar Targaryen's secret son, it would take a lot for many great families to accept "the bastard's" legitimacy.

Maybe Martin is just trolling us by spending so much time setting up Dany as the final ruler, only to smash her before the end.  Yet if so, he is asking a lot of his readers by making us plod through so many chapters about Meereen.  Martin has focused so much on Dany because she will be the eventual Queen of Westeros.  She has all of the necessary attributes.    

Oh, and she has dragons.  Duh.



* At least if the rumors are true and she is really his cousin.  It's no more icky than him marrying his "Aunt Dany."

The above images are used under the Fair Use Doctrine.

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