“All right then. Let it be fear.”
Full SPOILERS ahead for Game of Thrones, Season 8, Episode 5, “The Bells”!
The Mother of Dragons, the daughter of the Mad King, finally went to the dark side on.the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones’ final season, “The Bells”.
Daenerys Targaryen destroyed King’s Landing, killing nearly every man, woman, and child, combatant or not, and unleashing her dragon-son Drogon to utterly level the city in wave after wave of fiery destruction.
Many fans will no doubt be torn by this decision to have a character who had been so beloved by so many at times — a protagonist that people in real life even named their own kids after — committing such atrocities. On HBO’s “Inside the Episode” aftershow, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss explained why Dany chose to destroy King’s Landing.
At this point in the saga, Dany has lost nearly all her friends and advisers, and doesn’t even trust Jon Snow anymore. “Jon Snow is someone that she’s fallen in love with,” Benioff said. “And as far as she’s concerned, by this point, Jon has betrayed her by telling people about his true identity, and also the fact that he’s unable to return her affections at this point.”
She feels alone and unloved, by Jon and by the people of Westeros. So Dany has opted to embrace Niccol Machiavelli’s maxim that it is better to be feared than loved.
As Weiss explained: “I think that when she says, ‘Let it be fear,’ she’s resigning herself to the fact that she may have to get things done in a way that isn’t pleasant. And she may have to get things done in a way that is horrible for lots of people.” Benioff added, “She chose violence. A Targaryen choosing violence is a pretty terrifying thing.”
This brutal side of Dany, especially towards those she feels are not on her side, is in keeping with her character, according to Benioff, who referred back to Season 1, Episode 6 (“A Golden Crown”) to illustrate that her ruthless streak has always been there.
“Even when you look back to Season One, when Khal Drogo gives the golden crown to Viserys, and her reaction of watching her brother’s head melted off and he was a terrible brother, you know, so I don’t think anyone out there was crying when Viserys died, but there is something kind of chilling about the way that Dany has responded to the death of her enemies,” Benioff said.
“And if circumstances had been different, I don’t think side of Dany ever would’ve come out. If Cersei hadn’t betrayed her, if Cersei hadn’t executed Missandei, if Jon hadn’t told her the truth. Like, if all of these things had happened in any different way, then I don’t think we’d be seeing this side of Daenerys Targaryen.”
For his part, Weiss believes Dany didn’t set out to burn King’s Landing to the ground, despite these wrongs that have been done to her. So what triggered Dany’s rampage?
“I don’t think she decided ahead of time that she was going to do what she did. And then she sees the Red Keep, which is, to her, the home that her family built when they first came over to this country 300 years ago,” Weiss explained. “It’s in that moment, on the walls of King’s Landing, where she’s looking at that symbol of everything that was taken from her, she she makes the decision to — to make this personal.”
In the spirit of making things personal, the episode’s creative team opted to keep the point-of-view of the attack at ground level with the citizens of King’s Landing. “We wanted her to be just death from above, as seen from the perspective of the people who are on the business end of that dragon,” Weiss said.
He continued, “In most large stories like this, it seems like there’s a tendency to focus on the heroic figures and not much attention to the people who may be suffering the repercussions of the decisions made by those heroic people, and we really wanted to keep our perspective and our sympathies on the ground at this moment ’cause those are the people who are really paying the price.for the decisions that she’s making.”
For more on Game of Thrones, check out our review of “The Bells”, who died in the episode, watch the preview for the series finale, how Jamie’s big scene was a major callback, the showrunners on the Hound’s big scene, and why Dany’s arc stays true to the spirit of the books.