Poor Daenerys was so sure she had it all figured out. She knew her birthright. She knew her destiny. She knew she was the woman for the job. She knew exactly what needed to be done. And she absolutely knew that she knew best. But there was one fatal flaw in it all right from the very beginning. Daenerys never stood a chance of making her vision a reality. She was doomed from the start for one crucial reason.
As always, the clues lie seeded throughout George RR Martin’s original books.
Back in her most idealistic days in A Storm of Swords Dany tells Jorah Mormont: “A queen must listen to all. The highborn and the low, the strong and the weak, the noble and the venal. One voice may speak you false, but in many there is always truth to be found.”
Daenerys was always motivated by two things, her drive to reclaim the Iron Throne – which she saw as her absolute right – and her desire to ‘break the wheel.’
It was totally and completely impossible for her to achieve both.
Her experiences in Astapor and Yunkai were the start of a rude awakening. After overthrowing the masters and freeing the slaves in both cities she moved on to Mereen. Meanwhile, the other two cities descended into chaos and further bloodshed before equally tyrannical rulers reemerged.
Things are hardly that much better in Mereen. Dany established some form of order but only because she has a standing army and fledgeling dragons. She completely fails to accept that human nature will generally always revert to self-interest and the oppression of others.
Furthermore, she is already starting to ignore her earlier idealism and she may listen to everyone but she rarely shows mercy if she does not like what they say. She is already becoming a tyrant dressed in a saviour’s clothing.
And when she sails to Westeros she will ignore the fact that Mereen will also revert to chaos and those she freed will almost certainly end up worse than when she came. She has broken no wheels in Essos and her obsession with the Iron Throne reveals the core of her true nature.
She could attempt to install councils in Essos because they weren’t her people, she never wanted their thrones. She just hasn’t admitted that to herself.
She already predicts her own failure when she thinks to herself in A Dance With Dragons: “Mother of dragons, Daenerys thought. Mother of monsters. What have I unleashed upon the world? A queen I am, but my throne is made of burned bones, and it rests on quicksand. Without dragons, how could she hope to hold Meereen, much less win back Westeros? I am the blood of the dragon, she thought. If they are monsters, so am I.”
She still constantly talks about breaking the wheel but does she really mean it? Even if she does, how does she think it will be possible? Even worse, is she actually the right person to do it?
The worst thing is she almost certainly believes what she says, but she is deceiving herself.
Her exchange with Sansa at Winterfell (although heavily manipulative to make the audience start to distrust Dany and root for the future Queen of the North) highlights the Targaryen’s rising dictatorial nature.
And then, in those last moments of her life, when Jon desperately asks her “What about everyone else? All the other people who think they know what’s good and right?”, she replies, “They don’t get to choose.”
Dany will never actually break the wheel. On some level, she knows human nature can’t be trusted which will require her to remain in charge to enforce her vision. She will exchange one oppressive system for another. She is trapped by her own nature and her experiences.
Firstly, you can’t force people to choose what you think is right. Secondly, she does not know how to work with human nature and help it grow into something better. Thirdly, is she really capable of giving up the Iron Throne, anyway, once she has it? Highly unlikely.
Dany was wrong all along because she herself was the wrong person to break the wheel.
The terrible tragedy is that her death was what was needed, not her victory. In death, she achieved what she could never do alive.