If we learned one thing at the Battle of Winterfell, this is it.

By Kristi Pahr
Updated: Apr 29, 2019 @ 3:29 pm
HBO

The much-hyped and highly anticipated Game of Thrones episode “The Long Night” aired last night to mixed reactions from fans. We saw fire and blood; we saw long, slogging montages; and we saw women kick ass and take names. What we didn’t see much of at all was Daenerys Stormborn (Emilia Clarke) being an effective leader.

Now that the dead are vanquished and the Night King is taking his final rest — thank you very much, Arya Stark and Arya Stark only — what should fans expect as the battle for the Iron Throne moves south? For the past few seasons, it’s been Dany’s sole mission to reclaim the throne, reinstate Targaryen rule, and according to her, “break the wheel of power” in Westeros. And while we may have been wooed by her gorgeous hair, her clever outfits, and her flirty relationship with her nephew Jon Snow, if you take a beat to think about it — she really hasn’t given us much reason to have faith in her leadership abilities, has she?

If we look back over Dany’s history of conquests in the east, it’s easy to see that maybe she doesn’t have a head for ruling, and perhaps the series ending will pull the pieces together to show us that we, like the increasingly dense Jon Snow, have all been bamboozled by her charms. The multi-season liberation of the cities around Slaver’s Bay, Astapor, Yunkai, and Meereen, ended up at best, ridding the world the problematic Great Masters and at worst, an unrelenting disaster that didn’t accomplish anything but upsetting the balance of power for a minute and making things much worse for the people she “helped.” Well, it landed Dany the Unsullied and Missandei, and gave fans the Grey Worm/Missandei matchup to ship.

RIP, Jorah. You were Dany's only hope.

HBO

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It’s in these uprisings that we first catch a glimpse of the mad tyrant Dany has in her heart. She ordered the crucifixion of hundreds of slavers as well as the Great Masters and used Drogon as a blow-torch to immolate anyone who dared disagree with her, even as Jorah, and later Tyrion, and then Jorah again, counseled her to chill out. It was easy to cheer for her when she burned all the Dothraki Khals alive in Season 6 or when she ordered the Great Masters’ crucifixions because she was one of the good guys, freeing slaves and having her dragons roast the oppressors. But across the Narrow Sea, the lines between good and evil blur as Dany torches the Tarlys for refusing to bend the knee, murdering them for their loyalty to the crown and hesitance to commit treason, and lays waste to the Lannister army with one fell swoop of her dragon.

Which brings us to The Long Night. To say that the Battle of Winterfell was highly anticipated would be understating the extreme level of hype leading up to Sunday night’s season 8 episode 3. Fans were expecting an emotional combo of zombies, main character deaths, and epic battles between good and evil. We braced for another Red Wedding, and what we got was a couple minor character deaths and watching Bran hang out white-eyed under his favorite tree.
At least there was plenty of carnage, with mid-air dragon fights, zombies swarming Winterfell, long-dead Starks breaking through their crypts, and the hints of a soon-to-bud romance between Sansa and Tyrion — but where the heck was Dany?

She and Jon flew around on her two remaining dragons to await the arrival of the Night King, but she didn’t deploy one of her most effective weapons — dragon fire — against his army of white walkers. Instead, she allowed thousands of troops (specifically the brown-skinned ones, as many have pointed out on Twitter) to be slaughtered while she … just waited for the boss battle. Then she abandoned the “wait for the boss” strategy to, who knows, fly around in fog with Jon for a while? It’s unclear what she thought she was doing, but she certainly was not saving her armies of Dothraki, Unsullied, or any of the sitting-duck civilization at Winterfell. Arya saved the day killing the Night King and all his zombie kids with him; a literal child had the most epic, courageous death of the night taking down a giant and earning Lyanna Mormont the title of “that bitch” alongside Arya — and Dany pretty much blew it.

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Now that what Daenerys called “Jon’s war” is over (save for the cleanup), and the civilized world is safe from a zombie apocalypse, all eyes look south to King’s Landing and everyone’s favorite villain, Cersei. After Daenerys’ dismal performance as a military leader at Winterfell and the loss of her entire army, where does she go from here? Without Jorah “Moral Compass” Mormont, it’s probably safe to say, she goes full-on tyrant. In the final three episodes, it seems pretty certain that between Jon’s legit claim to the throne, Jorah’s death, and Tyrion taking back up with Sansa, Daenerys is likely to prove just how unfit a ruler she really is. Her Targeryen-level madness is already showing, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that she’s never had much of a plan beyond conquest.

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Immediately following her meme-inspiring heart-to-heart with Sansa in Season 8 Episode 2, the good guy inner-circle gathers ‘round the war table to hash out a plan. Everyone chips in with the notable exception of Dany, who just stands quietly by and listens to grown-ups decide how not to die in the upcoming battle for the fate of the world. This is a stark contrast to Sansa and Arya, who went deep undercover and hatched an almost season-long subterfuge to trap Littlefinger and finally throw out that trash. Daenerys’ apparent lack of forethought beyond whose fealty to demand next, and her reliance on Tyrion for anything resembling a plan, make it increasingly clear that she would make a horrible queen — and more likely we’ll never see her get the chance to prove just how horrible.

The only question that remains is who will kill her in the finale.
 

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