The Trauma of Daenerys Targaryen
Jonathan Michael Erickson, writing on Medium, has put together an in-depth study of the Daenerys Targaryen character arc. Erickson has his doctorate in depth psychology focusing on embodied psychology, the unconscious mind, and imagination.
His analysis is spot on and something I had not thought of throughout the course of her story.
And in the heat of that moment, I don’t think Dany really knows what she’s doing. Calling her the “mad queen” implies that she has genetically inherited some psychosis from her father. But maybe she’s simply the Traumatized Queen? Among the most insidious aspects of trauma is that it can collapse time, confusing what is actually happening in the present, while also dissociating us from ourselves. In this sense, trauma is really the opposite of “character development,” because it throws us outside of ourselves, the people we have become, and leaves us trapped in the past. In season seven Olenna Tyrell tells Dany that she should “be a dragon” — and that’s what we see here: her humanity swallowed by her inner monster, she becomes death from above, and we no longer even get to see her face.
And it’s absolutely heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking to see this powerful woman with so much potential for good become consumed by her own shadow. It’s awful to see a person we believe in betray their deepest values. To watch Dany transform into the very monster she set out to destroy. It’s so painful that to really let it in might be hard to bear. Many have complained that the final season of the show lacks emotional resonance, but when dealing with material this dark, I wonder if in part we don’t want it to resonate? If on some level, the expectation for another Marvel movie about heroes runs so deep that when we are presented with a genuine tragedy instead, we want to throw things at the screen?