Here’s my prediction. I thought I’d share with you my awesome theory. Don’t read this if you haven’t seen up to S8E5. And don’t read if you don’t want this theory rolling around in your head in advance of the show tomorrow (or today as it’s already late here).
First, it’s worth saying that I’m really enjoying Season 8. Despite the hate on the internet—and granted, it’s the internet and so there’s always going to be hate—I think the writers, producers and directors have done a phenomenal job with this season. They’ve balanced the conflicting priorities of having to both wrap up dozens of story lines, and continue to develop main characters. I’m very satisfied with the story development this season.
And Arya killing the Night King? It was the greatest moment in television or cinema. Ever. I’VE NEVER FELT SO ALIVE!!
OK. On to the theory.
There’s one story line that fits the whole eight seasons, and two possible endings within that story, both equally tragic. First, the plot structure: Daenerys’ rage of destruction on the million innocent Kings Landing residents was intentional, and her intention is to see Jon Snow (aka Aegon Targaryen) rule Westeros.
As much as the show is working to build Daenerys into a power-hungry mad queen, what she cares about more than the Iron Throne is breaking the wheel. What she cares about is freeing people from the bonds of servitude, whether directly as slaves or indirectly as subjects of a tyrant. She even says so while sitting on the dragon glass throne in S8E5: mercy is our strength. The reason she wants to rule is to see a just ruler on the throne.
Westeros doesn’t love her. Westeros loves Jon. But Westeros respects power. And Westeros caves to military might—particularly in the form of fire raining down from the skies.
Daeny spent days brooding—and if you can out-brood Jon Snow, then you’re doing some serious brooding. While brooding, she came to the conclusion that she can’t rule the way she wants to: which is to be seen as a beloved liberator. Now that Jon’s secret is out, she’s a foreign invader with foreign armies and a subordinate claim to the throne.
She sees that she can only instill fear, but that the people love Jon. She comes to the same conclusion as everyone else: she and Jon rule together. Together they will be both loved and feared. That scene in front of the fire is her last-ditch effort to pull that plan together. If Jon could have gotten over the whole “sleeping with my aunt” thing then they would have ruled together and she wouldn’t have burned Kings Landing to the ground. When he pulled back, she made her decision: “let it be fear.”
She needs to straight-up rampage on the city in order to generate the maximum amount of fear and hatred. She wants the major houses to see what horrors she can deliver upon their houses, their castles, their entire country, unless they get in line and bend the knee. She does this knowing that Jon will end up on the Iron Throne. Her purpose is only to bend the seven kingdoms, and she knows that she will not be the one to rule them. She knows that one way or another, the ever-reluctant Jon will rule, and will rule justly.
And so Kings Landing burns.
At this point, as I mentioned earlier, there are two possible endings.
Ending 1. Daenerys has united the houses, and seeing the hatred and fear she has (intentionally) created for herself, contrasted with the love and adoration the people have for Jon, and with Jon continuing to refuse her advances… kills herself. Jon becomes king, the King. And Arya, having had enough of the god of death, rides her white horse to Storms End to live happily ever after with Gendry. As do the millions of residents of Westeros who find themselves under the benevolent rule of the ever-reluctant-to-rule Jon “last of the Targaryens” Snow.
Ending 2. Daenerys has united the houses, and seeing the hatred and fear she has (intentionally) created for herself, contrasted with the love and adoration the people have for Jon, and with Jon continuing to refuse her advances… plans to kill herself… only Arya gets to her first. In a dramatic moment, Daeny, about to kill herself, gets killed by No One Arya right in front of Jon. Jon becomes king, the King. And his first act as king is to execute Arya for regicide. And no one lives happily ever after. Except the millions of residents of Westeros who find themselves under the benevolent rule of the ever-reluctant-to-rule Jon “last of the Targaryens” Snow.
In the end, Varys was right, right, and wrong. He was right that Jon is the better ruler. He was right that Daenerys would commit horrible acts against the people. But he was wrong in thinking her true motivations changed. Daeny stayed true to herself as breaker of chains, and she was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to see that through. She was willing to make herself into the enemy in order to truly break the wheel.