‘Game of Thrones’: How Emilia Clarke Justifies Season 8 Daenerys Targaryen

Many Game of Thrones fans aren’t happy about the character transformation Daenerys Targaryen undergoes in Season 8. Our once Breaker of Chains is now killing innocent people by the thousands, and it happened so quickly. At least, that’s one school of thought. The other is that the show’s been leading up to Dany’s slip into madness, hinting at her merciless violent streaks here and there through the years, always a little less justified each time.

Emilia Clarke | Taylor Hill/Getty Images
Emilia Clarke | Taylor Hill/Getty Images

As the actress who portrays Daenerys Targaryen, Emilia Clarke had her work cut out for her when it came to wrapping her mind around why the beloved character she’s portrayed for nine years would commit such brutal acts.

Emilia Clarke was shocked to learn Daenerys Targaryen isn’t a good person

When she first read Season 8, she told EW that she called her mom and asked her if there was ever anything Dany could do that would make her not love her.    

“I genuinely did this, and it’s embarrassing and I’m going to admit it to you,” Clarke told the publication. “I called my mom and: ‘I read the scripts and I don’t want to tell you what happens but can you just talk me off this ledge? It really messed me up.’ And then I asked my mom and brother really weird questions. They were like: ‘What are you asking us this for? What do you mean do I think Daenerys is a good person? Why are you asking us that question? Why do you care what people think of Daenerys? Are you okay?’”

She continued: “And I’m all: ‘I’m fine! … But is there anything Daenerys could do that would make you hate her?’”  

Clarke says that justifying Daenerys’s actions wasn’t easy. She was always taught to empathize and believe in where her characters were coming from. She says it was hard to get there for Daenerys in Season 8.

“It was a f****** struggle reading the scripts. What I was taught at drama school — and if you print this there will be drama school teachers going ‘that’s b*******,’ but here we go: I was told that your character is right. Your character makes a choice and you need to be right with that. An actor should never be afraid to look ugly. We have uglier sides to ourselves. And after 10 years of working on this show, it’s logical. Where else can she go? I tried to think what the ending will be. It’s not like she’s suddenly going to go, ‘Okay, I’m gonna put a kettle on and put cookies in the oven and we’ll just sit down and have a lovely time and pop a few kids out.’ That was never going to happen. She’s a Targaryen.”

How Emilia Clarke made sense of Daenerys’s actions in Season 8

But she got there. She mapped out all of Dany’s breaking points and let them build upon one another. Losing Missandei was a huge turning point for her character: “There’s nothing I will not do after losing Missandai and seeing the sacrifice she was prepared to make for her.” Varys? She believes he had it coming: “She f****** warned him last season.” Burying Cersei in the rubble of the Red Keep? “It’s a complete no-brainer.”

Once there, once at the point she needed to get to–the point where she understood all that was happening in Daenerys’s head and how she got there, Clarke says she still stands by the character she’s so intimately gotten to know over the last decade.

“But having said all of the things I’ve just said…” Clarke told EW. “I stand by Daenerys. I stand by her! I can’t not.”