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If there’s one thing the premiere made clear, it’s that Daenerys Targaryen, She of Too Many Titles to List, should absolutely not be queen. I’m not questioning her legal claims to the throne — although Jon secretly being a Targaryen may complicate that — nor her ability to take it by force. Whether or not she can seize the Iron Throne, what Daenerys has demonstrated throughout last season and the beginning of this one is that she has no business running a corner store, let alone seven varied, often bickering kingdoms.
Daenerys’ poor leadership comes down to two problems: Her complete lack of strategic planning, and her penchant for brutally murdering anyone who disagrees with her, both of which have been big knocks against the show’s previous failed tyrants.
Game of Thrones, at least in its peak years, has always understood that careful planning and cunning diplomacy decide the course of war more than knightly heroics. Daenerys, however, has the tactical mind of an orc. Her solution to any conflict can be summed up as: Get big army. Big army smash little army.
When the “throw more Unsullied at it” approach fails, her go-to plan is “Kill ’em with dragons,” which admittedly works in most fights, but doesn’t reflect a thoughtful approach (or, indeed, a merciful one).
Early on, Winterfell provides us with a clear illustration of Dany’s poor planning when Sansa points out that yes, it’s cool that they now have a massive army and two dragons to battle the White Walkers, but there remains the problem of how they’re going to feed all these troops.
“What do dragons eat, anyway?” Sansa asks.
“Whatever they want,” Daenerys replies.
OK, but actually, my liege? We’re trying to plan a war here. There are logistics involved. Do your dragons eat snow? Because that’s 90 percent of what we have up here.
Besides her conviction that allocating resources is unimportant because “Whatever, I’ve got dragons,” Daenerys’ campaign for the Iron Throne is hitting a snag. She has what modern political consultants would call a “likability problem.” While Daenerys may have a solid legal claim to the throne (and while dragons are pretty sick), the history of Westeros shows that you won’t last long in a leadership role if people really dislike you.
It’s not like the Westerosi are irrationally wary, either. Daenerys, having perhaps spent too much time among raiders and slavers, has a brutal, burn-first-and-ask-questions-later approach to dealing with malcontents, and that’s at odds with the chivalric culture of Westeros. Upon taking the nobles Randyll and Dickon Tarly hostage after a battle, rather than taking them prisoner, she has her dragons burn them alive because they won’t acknowledge her as their queen. This isn’t good leadership, it’s just petty retribution.
What’s more, it has very real consequences for her in Winterfell, when she meets Sam and reveals that she cooked his father and brother. Sam reacts by revealing to Jon that he is actually Prince Rhaegar’s son, and urging him to press his own claim for the throne — because people don’t like it when you roast prisoners of war like marshmallows.
Daenerys’ image problem isn’t helped by the fact that, whenever pressed on issues, her responses boil down to “I’m the queen” and “Have you seen my dragons? They like to burn and eat people.”
The people of Westeros have been through a lot, and once the battle with the White Walkers is over (if and when they win), they deserve a leader with a bold vision for the future — or at the very least, one who won’t incinerate them at a moment’s notice.
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