Where Team Daenerys Went Wrong
The fifth episode of Game of Thrones Season 8 polarized fans with disappointing villain deaths to Daenerys Stormborn finally going “Mad Queen” on Kings Landing. Danny’s character arc turning into an acute angle angered many fans despite the writers insisting that fans should have seen it coming for seven seasons. (The Take by Screen Prism published a video that nails this perspective).
I’m not going to go into how the recent personal losses of loyal and trusted advisers AND her beloved dragons, the chilly (pun intended) reception from the North, and the recent revelation that a male heir existed in the patriarchal country of Westeros led to Dany’s snap. I will, however, consider the collective failures of Team Dany that might have led to a different outcome.
I’ve long agreed with Daario that Daenerys is not meant for a throne, as she is more suited to be a conqueror. As Oelana Tyrell noted, she’s a dragon. Her go-to move is to scream and burn shit. She was wise to bring those with cooler heads into her employ. Less so to make them feel threatened when things didn’t go her way. However, as much as Tyrion is among my - and I’m sure many others - favorite character, he, Varys and others failed in critical ways, which given past successes they should have known better and avoided.
Throughout Game of Thrones both Cersei and Daenerys have gained an advantage from being underestimated, but up until the second most famous “snap” in popular culture, Cersei had the advantage in spades. Tyrion’s attempt to appeal to her “better nature” in the meeting after the Dragon Pit (in private no less) and at the wall were foolish. He gave her every opportunity to disseminate her side (fake news). Given their history, Tyrion should have known to execute these moments in a public forum with third-party witnesses. Imagine just how powerful it would have been if citizens of Kings Landing saw the wight or witnessed the standoff at the wall.
Contrast the missteps in Kings Landing with the brilliant moves made during the very public standoff with the Masters of Meereen. Firing barrels filled with slave collars at the city and putting them into the slave's hands, empowering those who were oppressed against those currently in power.
Overestimating the People of King’s Landing
As GOT has progressed, Dany has settled into her “Breaker of Chains” narrative believing that she can change the lives the people. She was ill-prepared for Westeros and mistakenly thought that the people’s hatred of Cersei would automatically factor into loyalty and open-arms for her. We’ve seen several times throughout the series that people of Kings Landing are a fickle lot. They don’t necessarily love the monarchy (they attacked Joffery and literally flung shit at Cersei), but they aren’t particularly incentivized to rebel - unless an opportunity presents itself. Team Dany depended on hunger to be the incentive. Tyrion, as good as he was at listening to find out what others wanted and catering to that want, dropped the ball when it came to people of Kings Landing. Other than manufacturing a food crisis, Team Dany had no other tactic to win the hearts and minds of people. Given that Tyrion had the opportunity to speak to a former resident of Flea Bottom while at Winterfell (Gendry) and Varys had years of access to “little birds” in the city, it’s shame that between the two of them they could not devise an effective Plan B based on their knowledge of the people.
Neglecting to have a Good Public Relations Advance Team
Another key to Dany’s success in Slaver’s Bay was good PR. She not only had red priestesses hailing her as the Lord of Light’s chosen but she also effectively used advance teams to further her cause. Sending in GreyWorm and the handful of Unsullied into Meereen to inspire, empower, and arm the slaves provided a inside advantage. Team Dany all knew that they would need to combat the stigma of the Mad King, so why not launch a covert positive spin campaign? Cersei was already leveraging her Targaryen legacy to her advantage and complementing that with a false pretense of caring for her people by opening up the Red Keep to them, effectively making them human shields. Why didn’t anyone, especially Varys, consider counteracting that narrative with a new one? While it’s true that Qyburn recruited his little birds out from under him while he was in exile, with one of the best smugglers at their disposal it may not have been too difficult to execute.
Given these strategic failures, I think we can agree that last week’s devastation in Kings
Landing was more of collective failure than the gods flipping a coin. And while theories abound, I’m going to avoid them for now and just know whatever happens tonight, it has been one wild ride.