Spoilers up to episode 8.4 of Game of Thrones
I’ll be honest, I’m writing this on the Sunday before Episode 8.5 of Game of Thrones has aired, so I don’t know if Missandei’s death has been avenged. I’m writing this because I’m still upset about Missandei’s execution at Cersei’s hand (and The Mountain’s sword) in Episode 8.4, “The Last of the Starks.” Missandei was taken prisoner by Euron Greyjoy and brought to Kings Landing. She was used as a plot device to show that Cersei will do anything and that Daenerys is mad and “going mad.” Missandei was a slave freed by Dany, who then chose to work for Dany. She was loyal and unproblematic and the only woman of color on the show. And her character was put back into chains, and she died in chains, yelling “Dracarys!” As I said, I’m still not over it. Nathalie Emmanuel isn’t really over it either, but she’s not mad. Nathalie gave a lengthy interview to Elle Mag to talk about Missandei’s death and her new show (Nathalie’s new show), a Mindy Kaling-produced Four Weddings and a Funeral reboot on Hulu. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:
Where she found out about Missandei’s fate: “I was on a flight from New York and I loaded up a couple of scripts—I think I had episodes one through four at the time. I read them and basically cried all the way from New York to London. It was really emotional. As soon as I read that she was captured I was like, Oh, okaaay. I knew. But I was pleased that they gave her death such a moment. It was a game changer for the direction of the general story. I’ve always expected her to die at any moment. Every time I’ve gotten to the end of a season I’ve thought, Oh wow. She made it. It was always a surprise for me, in a show where people go constantly. So I wasn’t particularly upset about her death, but I was upset for the character because I love her. She’s a good person, and she goes out in such a brutal way, in chains, which is obviously hugely weighted because of the fact that she was once enslaved.
Missandei’s final word, “Dracarys”: “I went back and forth about how I would deliver that line. Missandei is going to die. She’s leaving the only man she’s ever loved and her best friend. She’s only been free for a short amount of her life and now it’s over. If that were me, I’d be begging for my life in a flood of tears. But Missandei had survived a lot of horror and brutality…I really thought hard about how she would deliver that line, how she would be in her final moments. Yes, she would be afraid, but I didn’t want her to be crying. Not that being vulnerable would necessarily make her weak. But I wanted to feel her strength and her power and her agency in this moment… In a way it was her own war cry, to her friend and her queen. It’s so funny because she’d told Grey Worm earlier, “My people are peaceful.” But in her last breath she’s like, “Burn them all! Burn these f–kers to the ground.”
The complaints that Missandei’s death was in service to the “white savior” narrative: “It’s fair that people are frustrated that she was killed. At the end of the day, it’s like I said, there aren’t many of us [people of color] on the show. So to lose one of them—one of two—is hard. But if I immerse myself in Missandei’s place in the story, she is somebody that is very close to, and important to, Daenerys. For someone to capture her and to use her in this way is a really strong move in this chess game they’re all playing. She is naturally a target anyway just for being so close to the Dragon Queen…I’ll be honest, this conversation will make me cry very easily. The fact that people looked to Missandei in that way—I knew what it meant to be there. Because I’ve had those conversations, the ones being had all the time, surrounding representation. Now that she’s gone, I’ve really felt her impact. You come up in this industry and you come up in life, and you want to see yourself onscreen. Often, I didn’t. The idea that I was that for our audience has been overwhelming and amazing.
Dying in chains: “It was a punch to the gut, is what it was. I found shooting those scenes in chains really hard, really emotional. Being shackled—even though it’s make-believe and somebody comes straight away and lets me out of them—is really heavy. As a person who has ancestry of slavery, the impact wasn’t lost on me. The fact that this was her journey, she was free, and now she’s found herself back in chains. It was cruel, as you said. But this is the brutality of the world that we’re in. As much as we love these characters—”She’s been through so much!” “We’re rooting for her!” “She didn’t deserve it!”—nobody deserves it, but it doesn’t mean the bad guys won’t get them anyway.
This made me feel even more gutted, honestly. “Nobody deserves it, but it doesn’t mean the bad guys won’t get them anyway.” It’s true, and it’s devastating. I like how Nathalie really talks about what it meant to get to play Missandei, even though she was initially written as such a sidenote, a truly supporting character to the larger dragon-queen narrative. But again, it felt like Missandei was a special part of Dany’s life, perhaps the only person who brought out a certain side of Dany. Ugh. This series.
PS… Now that I’ve seen episode 8.5, I feel like so much of what Daenerys did was to avenge Missandei, honestly.
Photos courtesy of WENN, HBO, EW.
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