WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for that latest episode of Game of Thrones, "The Bells," which aired Sunday on HBO.
Following the shocking chain of events in the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones' Season 8, it's official: Daenerys Targaryen is indeed the Mad Queen we all feared she'd become. "The Bells" sees her finally getting what she's wanted since the show debuted, using the alliance of the North, Unsullied, Dothraki and, of course, Drogon, to raze King's Landing.
However, Dany's actions killing thousands of innocents, along with her enemies, doesn't just cement her as a villain who made a heel turn simply for shock value. In fact, it actually brings to light something many fans have denied throughout the series. Dany has always been a villain, and as of Sunday night's massacre it's clear she's the greatest one the show's ever had.
It's easy to muster up sympathy for her, or even empathize with her. After all, her family was driven from King's Landing following the coup that deposed the Mad King, her father, Aerys. And, sure, she's done good over the years, hence why many bought into her title as the Breaker of Chains, freeing slaves and whatnot, but, like it or not, Dany has been fueled by self-interest and motivated by greed from the get-go.
She's been obsessed with the throne since her youth, never once admitting it was her family's to lose once Aerys became a homicidal maniac. Even her brother, Viserys, felt her wrath when Khal Drogo, on Dany's command, ended her sibling's life. Since then, she's come from a place of privilege and entitlement, thinking the Iron Throne and rule of Westeros belongs to her and her alone.
This greed affirms she's always been a villain at heart, it's just that the benevolence she's shown throughout the show -- the politicking and such -- distracted us. Of course, it helps that actor Emilia Clarke has been winning us over as a feminist hero off-screen, but her on-screen character's motivations unravel under even modest scrutiny.
Dany's execution of Varys says it all. She kills a man to silence Jon Snow's more immediate claim to the Iron Throne, not to mention she threatens Tyrion if he can't take her to victory. These are two men who helped her survive and provided counsel when she was down. To make matters worse, she clearly went against her prior claim that she didn't want to be known as "the queen of ash," and she broke her promise that she'd stop her assault once King's Landing surrendered.
Jon, Tyrion and Ser Davos watched her rage pour out, no doubt a repercussion of losing her dragons (Rhaegal and Viserion), as well as her inner circle, such as Missandei and Jorah. But the fact she lumped the King's Landing townsfolk in with the likes of the Night King and Cersei speaks volumes. Ultimately, though, such a genocidal act isn't a spur of the moment thing, or an overly emotional choice -- that's simply someone's character.
Don't get us wrong, some, especially those who egged on Ned Stark's beheading, deserved it. But, as Arya saw and Varys warned, mothers and children who didn't warrant such a nasty fate paid the price. While many think this final season revealed a surprising heel turn, once you dissect what happened throughout Dany's journey, you'll see this was always in the cards.
Her charm, beauty and overall skill in luring people to her cause, whether genuine or not, has always been about creating a facade, someone you wouldn't mind seeing win even if they lose the plot and go crazy. And everyone Dany's recruited along the way has been nothing more than a pawn.
Just look at how she sent away her lover, Daario Naharis, for fear he'd stunt her march on the throne, or exiled Jorah for being a spy. She's never really been one for compassion or trials, or, as we're now witnessing, listening. Dany's been judge, jury and executioner (as seen with the slaughter of slave masters in Season 4 and the khals in Season 6), and it's what Olenna Tyrell picked up on when she told her to "be a dragon."
So, the Stormborn has finally embraced the role, becoming the alpha she's always had simmering beneath her fair skin. When she told Tyrion the death of the innocents at King's Landing was written in the cards from the moment they fell under a tyrant's grip, it became clear how merciless she was.
She's always loved ruling through fear, masking it with love. Hence why the narcissist in her loves telling the story about the slaves in Meereen rising up against their masters. It's why she enjoyed them screaming her name and passing her through the crowd like Jesus Christ, because Dany's ego has always had a queen's appetite.
And so, by winning over and gagging the truest hero of them all, Jon, we're seeing her true colors as a beautiful politician. Sadly, it's taken mass murder for him and everyone else to realize it. Alas, pushed by revenge, she's gotten what she wanted and is now backed by an unstoppable army, which leaves Jon between a rock and a hard place, because it's clear now they've installed a tyrant to rule the Seven Kingdoms, one who won't be easy to overthrow or reason with.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.