If you’re like me, your Sundays are connected to a sprawling cast of fantasy characters and mythic beasts. No, I’m not talking about the weekend political-pundit shows, where a revolving lineup of spokespeople come out to dodge hard questions, create mythological scenarios, and generally practice voodoo economics and mass-media hypnosis. (And that goes for every side of the aisle! Disappearing truths and conjured lies have no political affiliations.) I’m ballyhooing my Sunday nights (after the kids are asleep, or at least pretending to be) and I watch my DVR’d episode of “Game of Thrones.”
Anyone who has followed my Plush Life ramblings knows that I adore the goings-on in this alternate reality. (Again, the D.C. comparisons rise to the top!) However, in this epic HBO series, we viewers get to sit back and watch things actually happen, and plans truly do come to fruition. Already at season 7 — next year is said to be its last — the most recent episode has to be the greatest of all time. And why is that? Dragons.
After years of seeing actress Emilia Clarke evolve into the Mother of Dragons, we loyal viewers were treated to the headstrong ruler riding one of her now-adult dragon children and using its hot breath to eviscerate and destroy an opposing army. It was not a pretty sight.
The character of Daenerys Targaryen has given dragons a high profile to mirror their aerial acrobatics. That has been evident at Toy Fair for about the past four or five years — dragons nestle beside teddy bears, bunnies, and kitties — and the 2017 Teddy Bear Artist Invitational shone a light on these reptilian wonders, too. Artist Diana Ussery has become a force to be reckoned with from her dragons that are regal and captivating. Dragons are there for the collectible taking and cradling. But what has never been evident, until the fourth episode of this season, is how deadly and unstoppable the dragons can be, and how stoic Daenerys has become.
Yes, in a few past episodes, the Breaker of Chains did have to deal with her prepubescent dragons coming into their own and wreaking havoc throughout the countryside. After all, if boys will be boys, then fire-breathing lizards will be fire-breathing lizards. Knowing her reptile babies had incinerated some livestock — and then a few peasant family members — Daenerys had to make a heartbreaking decision: turn a blind eye or raise a firm hand against her critter kids?
In a truly emotional past episode, Daenerys decided to ground her dragon offspring. And in the fantasy universe, grounding dragons doesn’t mean sending them to their lair without supper and no video games. Nope, she chained her children up, sealed them in a dark and foreboding cave, and turned her back to them. It was a sad and draining decision, and the audience felt as bereaved as Daenerys, who made that choice, and as perplexed as the dragons, who were punished for following their nature.
Now, it is a new dawn on “Game of Thrones.” You could say it’s Morning in Westeros, and the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea — Daenerys has a hundred titles — has released the dragons and is using them as a maneuverable arsenal. A total hands-on ruler, she doesn’t hover in the background and order her subjects to go out and fight and die for her glory. Rather than being cloistered in a tower somewhere, she hops aboard a dragon child and rides it like Slim Pickens straddling the bomb in the 1964 classic movie “Dr. Strangelove.” The Khaleesi isn’t afraid to die; in fact, her faith in the dragons and her own track record of escaping almost-certain doom (she has emerged unscorched from fire, earning her the title of the Unburnt One) has empowered her. She has no fear of death, because she doesn’t just walk through the shadow of its valley. No, she flies above it, meting it out.
And that is what was so amazing about the episode called “The Spoils of War.” We saw a battle become a heated-up disaster for one side, and then a twist of fate turned it around so that both sides were facing possible loss and devastation.
The dragons that have always soared above the clouds, and have been much-hyped but elusively seen players over the seven years, were given their due in this outing. We witnessed how just one dragon alone can destroy squadrons of men. A single dragon can cut a swath across a well-oiled, well-trained army. Their inherent fiery traits eclipse even the most accomplished military general’s intentions. It doesn’t matter how much an infantryman has trained to fight a marauding invader; he hasn’t been educated in how to defeat a dragon that is raining down fire from above.
This episode was definitely plotted to gain maximum support and cheering for the Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms. Daenerys has been touted as a selfless emancipator, a pure-of-heart female Abraham Lincoln. (I can’t help but think of “Wayne’s World,” and the goofy slackers coining the phrase “Babe-raham Lincoln.”) Everything was stacked to have HBO subscribers loudly cheering her sortie and her destruction of the lowly (mostly anonymous) grunts below.
However, two principal characters from the past seven years were caught down below in the cross fire. And though these two men — both conflicted, both complex, both NOT bastions of virtue and morality — are allied with the real villain of the show — Queen Cersei — we’ve grown to appreciate their humanity and their ability to change and to improve. Now, these two characters were facing obliteration from a dragon’s morning breath.
I won’t tell what happens at the episode’s conclusion, in case you haven’t seen it, but the last 14 minutes of the show were an unequalled riot of flames, shrieking, death, destruction, nobility, and sacrifice.
At the heart of it all is the dragon. Daenerys Targaryen, the wannabe ruler of the whole world, has a good shot at ultimate global domination courtesy of her dragon soul mates.
We’ve been led to believe that Daenerys is the most altruistic of the warring-factions leaders. We’ve seen all of the attributes that have been bestowed upon her, and the number of flattering titles that she has picked up along the way. We’ve heard her argue for the abolishment of slavery, the principle of individualism, and the notion of universal suffrage — but, still, when her single-minded devotion to becoming the queen of all, ruler of everything she can see and imagine, she took to the skies aboard her dragon child and handed out a cruel and painful death to her foes.
Remember, the opposing soldiers are all ordinary men. Many of these are the unwashed, the uneducated, the unimportant — they are extras to give the scene some heft and oomph. Still, these unnamed ordinary foot soldiers were set afire and died horrifically from the breath of the dragon and the unbridled determination of the Unburnt One.
It makes you consider just how selfless and kind Daenerys truly is. Does she show mercy and concern to people because she pays lip service to liberation? Despite her endorsement of liberation for all, her massive army has never diminished in size. Is it because they’re all loyal to her, or are they being held in her thrall? We don’t rightly know.
Like Jon Snow, the King of the North — an average guy raised to an improbably high perch — we don’t know much. Jon was always said to know nothing. We know slightly more.
We know that dragons are majestic beasts to behold; we know that to try to hold one and command one is a difficult and risky business. We know that while they look fantastic flying against the sun, or silhouetted against the moon, they are dangerous, wild animals. They can be cradled and cuddled by their one true mother, but they do not bend their will to strangers.
Keep that in mind when you add noble dragons to your hug at home. You’ve got to establish yourself as the Alpha Owner, the Khaleesi of Your Collectibles, the Lady or Lord of the Seven Kingdoms of Plush Pals — the House Mother of Dragons, if you will. Happy HBO-ing!