As we approach the finalé of the most successful television show of all time, fans are starting to vocalise their disappointment at seeing the strong women who made Game of Thrones great, crumble one by one.
But it’s Daenerys’ decline that feels most disappointing and a sad representation of the struggles so many women face when trying to lead in a world dominated by men.
Khaleesi: mother of dragons, breaker of chains, doer of good. She rose from being sold as a slave wife to gathering the support of thousands by being a great leader, someone who cares about people, fights for injustice and was determined to create a better, fairer world. But in the end, it wasn’t her enemies’ weapons that got the better of her, but her exhaustion at fighting the patriarchy.
There was a scene in episode in season eight, episode four which could have been taken from any workplace, anywhere in the country – coffee cups and all. Daenerys had led troops to defeat the army of the dead, when Ser Davos hails her victory, she humbly gives credit to Arya, the “true hero of the Battle of Winterfell.”
But it was neither her nor Arya that were being celebrated by the troops over a post-victory pint. Instead Jon Snow is the guy getting the the thumps on the back by the lads as Dany looks on, alone, stoic and internally fuming. The boys club is real, even in Westeros.
Sure, Jon is a stand-up guy. He’s fair and in almost drone-like fashion insists Dany is his queen. But he does little to quash the support of the patriarchy building around him. He may insist that he doesn’t want the throne, but it takes him all of five minutes to tell people that if fair was fair, he would be the king.
As a woman who has worked tirelessly to achieve her goal of Queen of the Seven Kingdoms, it is no surprise that Jon’s revelation has sent Dany over the edge. To triumph so many times just to have some bloke – a bloke you trusted, no less – to come in and steal it from you for just because he’s got a penis is the real injustice of the show.
We were lead to believe the fight for the iron throne was a battle of good and evil – Dany Vs Cersei – but in fact, at the eleventh hour, our hero has been tarred with the ‘mad woman’ brush, the programme urging fans to turn their allegiance to The Reliable Man, who thank God, is waiting in the wings to sort everything out.
But Daenerys’s truth is that she’s a complex, determined, human being: a woman who has had to fight to get where she is. She’s done what so many women have done before her: embody male traits of being tough and ruthless because they’re deemed by society – Westerosi or otherwise – as being the marks of a good leader. Somewhere along the way – and only after suffering great loss – she has lost sight of where the line is drawn and forgotten that it was her compassion that made her great in the first place. Not all leaders need to be arseholes, but when everything is an uphill struggle, it’s so easy to fall into that trap.
Back here in the one realm, in the wake of Weinstein and the structural sexism that still exists in most large organisations across the western world, we could learn from Dany’s downfall, and do well to remember that compassion must be celebrated, what may seem like lads banter can be exclusionary and that great leaders need support and kindness, just as much as those they govern.