Warning: full spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 4 “The Last of the Starks”!
With the Night King now nothing more than icy dust in the wind, the characters of Game of Thrones didn’t waste much time getting back to, well, playing the game of thrones. However, while Daenerys started Episode 4 in a good position, by the end she lost momentum to the point where, despite being on the doorstep of King’s Landing, the Iron Throne couldn’t be further away.
The Death of Rhaegal
The single biggest blow to Dany this episode came when Euron Greyjoy launched a surprise attack from the Iron Fleet that resulted in the death of the dragon Rhaegal. While flying south to prepare for the assault on King’s Landing, the green dragon was pierced by a pair of scorpion bolts and crashed down to a watery grave.
As we all know, the dragons are more than fantastic beasts to Dany — they’re her children. She already suffered the loss of Viserion while battling the Night King, and now she’s down to just Drogon. But with the Iron Fleet’s decks and the walls of King’s Landing now armed with Qyburn’s new and improved dragon-slaying scorpions, even the mighty Drogon seems vulnerable.
With Jorah sacrificing himself during the Battle of Winterfell to save Daenerys’ life, our Dragon Queen lost one of her most steadfast allies. But Team Daenerys lost yet another member this week when Missandei was captured by Euron and then executed by the Mountain — right in front of Daenerys.
Queen Cersei no doubt killed this most trusted advisor in order to provoke Daenerys. Daenerys was already suffering, but Cersei knew if she continued to pour salt on her wounds, then it would likely affect Daenerys’ judgment and cause her to act rashly out of anger rather than strategic reason.
The Jon Dilemma
Ever since Jon told Dany the truth about his parentage, Dany struggled to maintain her claim to the throne only to watch it slowly slip away. First, it threw a cold bucket of water on their romance, then Jon told the truth to Arya and Sansa. Sansa is a student of Littlefinger when it comes to politics and manipulation, so she told Tyrion knowing he’d tell Varys. As the Master of Whispers and someone who has influenced the succession before, Varys is a powerful player in the game, but he’s clearly decided that Jon, not Dany, is what’s best for the realm, meaning Dany has yet another person playing against her.
There’s also the matter of how Jon has proven to be more well-liked by the Westerosi people. Dany was beloved across the sea, but the people of the Seven Kingdoms see her as a foreigner at best and the spawn of the Mad King and a return to the dark days where the Targaryens ruled at worst.
Speaking of the Mad King, Daenerys looks like she’s under so much pressure that she’s going to crack, which might unleash the “Dragon Madness” her family is known for. Between the traumatic losses of this episode and the mounting forces conspiring to compromise her claim to the throne, Daenerys is looking more and more like a rabid dragon backed into a corner, and if things get worse (and they most surely will) then she might just decide to “Burn them all” like the Mad King once tried to do. She rose up from being sold off by her abusive brother to a powerful woman leading a formidable army with a dragon at her side, all while believing the Iron Throne is hers by right. Now that her shot at the throne is disappearing before her eyes, she might decide that if she can’t have the throne, then no one can.
After all, during her trippy walk into the House of the Undying, Daenerys saw the destroyed throne room with what we thought was snow falling from the sky. With the Night King defeated, snow no longer seems like an option, so that could be ash falling from after she burnt it all down with Drogon.
Whichever way you slice it, Daenerys’s chances of winning the game of thrones have never looked worse.
For more from this episode, also check out what the Game of Thrones showrunners had to say on Jon’s dumb decision and why Missandei said “Dracarys” as her last word.
Joshua is Senior Features Editor at IGN. If Pokemon, Green Lantern, or Game of Thrones are frequently used words in your vocabulary, you’ll want to follow him on Twitter @JoshuaYehl and IGN.
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