In Season 8, Episode 5 of Game of Thrones, Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, one of the main characters – one of the main heroes – of the show went on a rampage with her dragons and her armies.
This direction for Dany's character isn't entirely surprising. But it's left a lot of fans shocked and angered – mainly because of how it's played out.
It's true that the signs of Dany's ruthlessness have always been there. But that does not equate to going mad or murdering thousands for no reason.
In the "Inside the Episode" after the show aired, the showrunners tried to argue that Dany's reaction to Viserys' death all the way back in Season 1 was a hint something wasn't quite right in her brain.
Here's the problem with that. Basically every single character has done violent, awful things and exhibited problematic reactions. Within the world of the show, those things aren't a sign that character is bad or mad.
For example, while much has been made of Dany's execution of the Tarlys, from her point of view, they were treasonous oathbreakers. They wouldn't obey her order to bend the knee.
Just look at the very first episode, in which we see Ned Stark execute a man for breaking an oath.
Later, Robb Stark not only willingly sent 2,000 men to be slaughtered at Whispering Wood, he also executed his men when they disobeyed his orders.
Jon Snow himself has executed many people, including a child, and Janos Slynt – you know, the guy whose crime was saying "no" to the job Jon assigned to him.
Arya Stark is, of course, one of the most accomplished killers on the show. She murdered Walder Frey's sons, baked them into a pie, made him eat it, then smiled as she slit his throat. Then she wore his face and poisoned the rest of his sons. She still got to be the "hero of Winterfell".
Even Sansa Stark – who the show keeps telling us is the smartest, most clear-headed character left – tortured and executed Ramsay Bolton and walked away from the grisly scene with a smile on her face.
To be clear – I love the Starks with my whole heart, and I cheered when a lot of the above deaths happened, because they felt like justice. That's how the show wanted me to feel.
My point is, I also cheered when Daenerys, for instance, killed slave masters and called that justice – because the show set it up that way too.
Yes, Daenerys has talked about returning cities to dust and taking what is hers with "fire and blood" – but far less than the showrunners and some fans are now suggesting.
And Dany is far from the only character to make threatening speeches – Tyrion, who was horrified by the deaths in King's Landing in "The Bells", once expressed his desire to murder all the inhabitants himself.
As for all the foreshadowing about Dany's fate, well, as this Tumblr user points out, some hints along the way do not equate to an adequate (or remotely nuanced) narrative arc.
All in all, the problem isn't necessarily in the concept of Dany as a Mad Queen – it's in the execution.
She may have been heading this way since the start, but in the past two seasons the writers have not done the work to show us Dany's internal conflict – especially how she went from trying to save thousands to actively killing them within the space of 1-2 episodes.
Game of Thrones has spent 7.5 seasons portraying Daenerys as a hero who cares about people, wants to do good, and has a "gentle heart".
Rather than allowing Daenerys' plot to unfurl with time and space, showing us her unravelling mental state, the show opted to make it a "shocking" twist that felt unearned.