After the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones, a fair number of fans were upset with Daenerys's heel turn, after she laid waste to King's Landing.
My initial thought was, "I guess they could have done a little bit more to show her conversion". Perhaps after Rhaegal died they could have spent a minute showing her depression. Perhaps after Missandei's death there could have been a short seen between her and Grey Worm showing her sinking depression. But I didn't think the turn of events was that terrible.
Many fans were far more upset about it, and as I thought about it, I realized that Daenerys's heel turn was far more obvious than I originally thought. And the show did a great job at hiding it.
I want to concentrate on the following.
- Dany sacks Astapor, Yunkai, Meereen (S3 & 4)
- Dany had Drogon burn Kraznys alive (S3E3).
- Dany has the masters crucified (S4E4) (against the suggestion of Selmy).
- Dany feeds masters to her dragons (S5E5).
- Dany tells Tyrion she will lay waste to cities (S6E9) but Tyrion convinces her otherwise.
But the question is why did we not think Dany evil? Despite all of the above, why is she "good"? Why is Cersei "bad"?
Then it finally hits me, and I think it's wonderful storytelling in the end.
The reason is that all of the above are related to slave cities or slave masters. Subconsciously, we don't view mountains of these actions as "evil" or "bad". We subconsciously think of the actions as justified or "ok".
- Kraznys is a slave master and an asshole to boot, so we are happy to see him dead
- Crucifying the masters is A WAR CRIME. She has taken over Meereen, has
taken prisoners, and doesn't elect to imprison them, doesn't elect to
execute them quickly, but specifically chooses to crucify them. But we don't seem that upset because they were slave owners.
- If she wants to burn down cities to the ground, we're sort of ok with that b/c it's slave cities.
- Are all innocents spared in Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen? I doubt it. We just don't see the sacking of the city, unlike the sacking of Kings Landing.
- Did we forget that Dany decides to go to Astapor in the first place? Apparently she had little qualms of even visiting such a city to inquire about purchasing slaves?
I suppose there's other subtleties as to why we consider Dany "good". The fact that Dany was "poor" and had to bring herself up on her own is part of the tale. The Game of Thrones tale naturally having our hearts and minds view her as "good", and somewhat ignoring mountains of evidence to the contrary. This is in contrast to Cersei, who is trying to maintain her power.
Here's a few other evil things Dany did that I could remember:
- Dany has burns Mirri Maz Duur (S1E10) by her own hand.
- Dany burns khals and others alive by her own hand (S6E4). This includes innocents.
- Dany locked up Xaro Xhoan Daxos and Doreah to die of starvation in a vault (S2E10).
- Dany executes Randyll & Dickon Tarly (S7E5).
How is locking up people in a vault that different than Cersei's imprisoning people in the dungeon? Or how is the burning of the Khals that different than the destruction of the Sept of Baelor? The execution of the Tarlys is again a war crime.
As I thought about the series further, I realized that Dany may have been equally evil to Cersei from the start. However, minor subtleties in the story made her look like "good" vs "bad." We can begin to look at some of her actions differently.
I actually began wondering, does she care about freeing slaves? Or is freeing slaves simply a means to an end to raise an army? If she really cared about the unsullied and their freedom, shouldn't she have them live a good remaining life? Instead of having them sail across the sea to die, she could have just had them keep the peace in Meereen and she could rule there.