Emilia Clarke on the finale: ‘I stand by Daenerys. I stand by her! I can’t not’

The Chelsea Flower show

SPOILERS for Game of Thrones.

Entertainment Weekly had Emilia Clarke’s “exit interview,” as they have done for all of the major character deaths on Game of Thrones. Going into the finale, I wondered which one of the main actors would die, and I had convinced myself it was Tyrion. It was not. Jon Snow stabbed Dany as he kissed her and called her his queen. It was f–ked up. Anyway, this EW piece is good because you can feel Emilia really trying to avoid saying “the writers massively f–ked up this season.” You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

When she first read her death scene: “What, what, what, WHAT!?” the actress recalls thinking. “Because it comes out of f—king nowhere. I’m flabbergasted. Absolutely never saw that coming.”

Once she absorbed the scripts: “I cried. And I went for a walk. I walked out of the house and took my keys and phone and walked back with blisters on my feet. I didn’t come back for five hours. I’m like, ‘How am I going to do this?’”

How Emilia sees Dany’s arc: “She genuinely starts with the best intentions and truly hopes there isn’t going to be something scuttling her greatest plans. The problem is [the Starks] don’t like her and she sees it. She goes, ‘Okay, one chance.’ She gives them that chance and it doesn’t work and she’s too far to turn around. She’s made her bed, she’s laying in it. It’s done. And that’s the thing. I don’t think she realizes until it happens — the real effect of their reactions on her is: ‘I don’t give a s—t.’ This is my whole existence. Since birth! She literally was brought into this world going, ‘Run!’ These f—kers have f—ked everything up, and now it’s, ‘You’re our only hope.’ There’s so much she’s taken on in her duty in life to rectify, so much she’s seen and witnessed and been through and lost and suffered and hurt. Suddenly these people are turning around and saying, ‘We don’t accept you.’ But she’s too far down the line. She’s killed so many people already. I can’t turn this ship around. It’s too much. One by one, you see all these strings being cut. And there’s just this last thread she’s holding onto: There’s this boy. And she thinks, ‘He loves me, and I think that’s enough.’ But is it enough? Is it? And it’s just that hope and wishing that finally there is someone who accepts her for everything she is and … he f—king doesn’t.”

Emilia saw Missandei’s murder as a huge break for Dany: “There’s a number of turning points you see for Daenerys in the season, but that’s the biggest break. There’s nothing I will not do after losing Missandai and seeing the sacrifice she was prepared to make for her. That breaks her completely. There’s nothing left to making a tough choice.”

On executing Varys: “She f—king warned him last season. We love Varys. I love [actor Conleth Hill]. But he changes his colors as many times as he wants. She needs to know the people who are supporting her regardless. That was my only option, essentially, is what I mean.”

On Cersei dying: “With Cersei, it’s a complete no-brainer. Lady’s a crazy motherf—ker. She’s going down.”

What she really thinks about Dany’s fate: “You’re about to ask if me — as Emilia — disagreed with her at any point. It was a f—king 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 bulls—t,’ 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. I thought she was going to die. I feel very taken care of as a character in that sense. It’s a very beautiful and touching ending. Hopefully, what you’ll see in that last moment as she’s dying is: There’s the vulnerability — there’s the little girl you met in season 1. See? She’s right there. And now, she’s not there anymore… But having said all of the things I’ve just said… I stand by Daenerys. I stand by her! I can’t not.”

[From EW]

Entertainment Weekly also reconfirms that this is part of George RR Martin’s plan for the final act, and that he showed Benioff and Weiss the outline years ago, but obviously everything was not perfectly canon with Martin’s orginal vision, so whatever. I feel for Emilia – I know everyone thought she was a bad actress several seasons ago, but I felt like she did a great job with Dany overall, and she did the best she could with some f–king scripts and character development. Mostly, I’m depressed that by Season 8, Dany was barely allowed to tell her own story, we had to be spoonfed narratives ABOUT Dany from other characters. It bugged.


Photos courtesy of HBO/Game of Thrones.

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43 Responses to “Emilia Clarke on the finale: ‘I stand by Daenerys. I stand by her! I can’t not’”

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  1. CharliePenn says:

    I liked it! I haven’t read the whole wide internet as of yet so I don’t know if I’m alone in this. I was happy that in the end you felt hope for the people on the ground, the people of Westeros who now have a scientific, unemotional, enlightened king with an enlightened council (except braun. Sorry I wasn’t feeling him at that table).
    I wasn’t as bothered by Dany’s ending as some. The power took over her and got away from her, that’s how I interpreted it. The scenes with the dragon after her death were great and sad and very very “fantasy”!
    It was a hopeful ending and one that felt good. The closing scene reflected the opening of the show, it felt good too. Each Stark followed her or his own destiny in the end.
    It helps that I always saw this show as entertainment value and little more. Comparisons to Tolkien always irk me. Tolkien’s works are masterpieces in the annals of human literature. This is an HBO show, people! Just enjoy it!
    Thanks Celebitchy for having been a place to read and hear opinions etc on this show!

    • Kerfuffles says:

      I very much enjoyed the ending as well. I think Dany’s arc towards maniacal dictator was a little rushed but nonetheless was believable and inevitable. She has always been going that direction And I like how they had her believing that what she was doing was right…that she was “freeing” these people by burning their cities down. When she said she would be “freeing” Winterfell next…I was like “oh hell nah.”

      I cheered when Drogon melted the throne. I gasped when Jon stabbed Dany. I cheered and cried when Sansa was declared the queen in the North. And I clapped when Jon headed North of the wall with the wildlings and Ghost. It is what Jon wanted. He said so when he told Tormund in Episode 4 “I wish I was going with you.”

      And it was indeed hopeful when the Small Council was talking about things like providing clean water for the city.

      I realize it was not perfect and I understand why fans of Jon and Dany together are upset, but I just really liked it overall.

    • Alyse says:


      I think the pace of the season was totally off, but was happy with where everyone ended up (though v surprised Tyrion was alive at the end)

      Only major plot point I strongly disliked was Jaime & Brienne sleeping together

  2. IlsaLund says:

    Count me as one who thought Emilia’s acting needed improvement. But she truly showed what a good actress she is this season. She did an outstanding job conveying Dany’s emotions in-spite of the bad writing. I hope she wins an Emmy.

    • Shirurusu says:

      I have a forever crush on Harry Lloyd who played Danys evil brother in the first seasons, sooo sad that he didn’t get to live longer lol, I think he made her character more interesting!

    • Jenns says:

      I agree. She was so good last night when she was delivering her speech.

    • Lauren says:

      If she seemed flat in previous seasons, it was the writing, not her. This season clearly shows how much range Emilia Clarke has – she just wasn’t given enough.

    • Loretta says:

      I agree and she really deserves the Emmy.

  3. Brooke says:

    I think she was out of character this entire season. I never thought she would be queen because that was too obvious. I just didn’t think it would end like that. I don’t think Jon wanted to kill her and I don’t think he would have if it wasn’t for Tyrion. I feel like the turning point was when he brought up Sansa and Arya. I think as much as he loved Dany and thought she would (eventually) be a good queen, he loved his sisters more.

    • Bella DuPont says:

      I feel like the Starks gave him up too easily. Especially Sansa. He killed his Girlfriend/Aunt for them and they negotiated him away as fast as they could. They let Greyworm bully them into giving him up. I feel so bitter for him.

      I’m ambivalent about the end in general, I definitely feel like it could have done with a little more “sweet”.

      • ByTheSea says:

        I felt that, too, until someone in the other thread explained that Jon’s destiny was always to be the king north of the wall. He loved the wildlings and we know Ghost belonged north of the wall, so that’s where Jon was always meant to be. I’m okay with that now.

      • Nona says:

        I think if the Starks would have framed their reasons differently—not “this was the only way to keep peace” but “this was the only way to keep you alive,” I would have been more ok with their decision to give Jon up. But then I thought, it makes sense in this story. Their decision is part of the corruption of power. They got the power and/or freedom and gave up the one guy who, along with Dany, made it possible for them to still be alive.
        Plus, it turned out ok for Jon in the end. He was always going to be happier up north with Ghost.

      • entine says:

        It is OK, because Jon was really too much like Ned to fit in a society like that, even having Bran next to him telling him the behind the scenes.
        The wilding / free folk are more open, less hypocritical, he felt right at home after dealing with a few violent wilding, and now all of them love him because of his mercifulness and willingness to help them and try to save as many wilding as they could, (Hardhome) even after the fight with the king beyond the wall.
        He’ll be alright, he would’ve been a king with a wohle range of emotions showing, hey, he might’ve cousins with Kristen Stewarthttp://www.mtv.com/news/2110581/kit-harington-jon-snow-sad/

  4. Tade says:

    The ending was almost criminal! It was a devastatingly, complete separation from the last seven years of story line development, plot progression, historical foundations, the understanding of bloodlines, heirs and rightful heirs. It was a horrendous, anticlimactic, culmination of several out of character portrayals.”When a character acts out of character, what this really means is that the writer has failed to sustain the causal believability of his character’s actions.” They shouldn’t have shifted Dany’s character into the mad queen after building her up from the ashes to become the mother of dragons, a promised ruler who would free the slaves and fight for the innocent. As we know, all of these years, the story has built up to Jon’s revelation that he is the rightful heir. Bran’s big reveal to Jon’s sister’s, stating that Jon was the rightful heir was slashed to pieces with Bran, all of a sudden being crowned king in the last episode as if it was always meant to be, when the story line and plot of the last seven years never built up to that at all! A possible, more consistent ending with Dany and Jon maintaining their characters, completing the 7 year’s long established “believable” story line and plot, would have been in the next to the last episode, that Dany would save King’s landing after the surrender, head to the Red Keep with Jon, Davos and Grey Worm at her side and pursue Cersei and Jaime who were trying to escape down into the cellars of the Red Keep where the dragon’s skulls were. They overtake them, and Jaime attempts to protect Cersei by drawing his sword and ends up fighting with Jon. There is a moment when the fighting comes close to Dany; Jon stumbles backwards on a scull or rock, losing his sword. Just as Jaime is about to stab Jon, Dany impulsively steps in, and Jaime stabs Dany, instead. Grey Worm, in turn, stabs Jaime. He dies quickly, while Jon is holding Dany in his arms, all choked up. Davos restrains Cersei as she cries out for Jaime. As Dany is dying, she tells Jon that he is the rightful heir, she knows that he will make a great king. She tells him that she will always love him and dies in his arms. She is brought up, being carried by Jon and gently laid in full view of her army and the people. Her dragon sweeps down and expresses his grief by scorching some of the area, bellowing out his anguish in a dramatic display. After this, the dragon, comes close to Jon’s face and bows in acknowledgement that he swears his allegiance to him and takes a couple of powerful steps behind Jon, as if to say, “I am behind you, now, as you are the rightful heir.” Last episode, Jon is crowned king, sits on the Iron throne and finally gives Cersei the dramatic, long awaited sentence that she deserves and that the fans have all been waiting for: to see her come to a bitter end. Samwell becomes the maester, standing by Jon’s side as he sits on the throne with his sisters close, the North men, the whole lot of them are there for the coronation. At least something along this line and then fill in the blanks of all the other sub plots and this would have been a much more believable finale than the ridiculous enormous, agonizing let down we all endured.

    • Hermione says:

      That’s some serious fan fiction.

    • ByTheSea says:

      I actually love this alternate ending. it would make the most sense. Tyrion should have also burned.

    • Bella DuPont says:

      We didn’t even get a single romantic sub-plot. Unless you count the most evil couple in Westeros dying together in rubble romance.

      F-cking pricks. 🙁

      • Stacy Dresden says:

        Seriously! I thought this was going to have a powerful love story and instead he stabs her to death!

    • Michael says:

      That was so good. It is the ending everybody deserved

    • jj says:

      I like your ending much, much better. I didn’t watch because I heard the spoilers and it upset me to see what they did to Dany’s character. She probably was going to die but not as a mad queen, so out of character. Also, Cersei’s death was such a letdown, she should have been burnt to death. The whole 8th season was a letdown. I just hope Martin finishes the books with a better ending.

    • Lou says:

      No way! That’s definitely not a GRRM ending and I would have been so disappointed with that. Total fan fiction ending.

  5. dsgd says:

    she sounds heartbroken in all her interviews
    they did her so dirty

  6. Valiantly Varnished says:

    This. Everyone is TELLING us who Dany after seasons of us seeing who she is. This entire season blew. I felt like it was an utter betrayal of not just the audience but the characters and who the show has told us they are for seven seasons. The writers basically wanted us to forget all that and buy into this new trajectory without laying any REAL groundwork for it.

  7. Skeptical says:

    In a context where every human being has been subjected to dehumanizing experiences, I can’t give Dany a pass for genocide.

    I’ve never found Clarke’s acting very good, but I give her a pass this year because the writing was so execrable, there wasn’t much to work with.

  8. Div says:

    The big problem was the execution. Dany burning King’s Landing—I could see it because the signs were there in the books that she was capable of it and possibly unstable. However, there’s very few hints in the TV show. Not only that, it almost looks like Jon flinching away from kissing her sets her off…like being spurned by mopey Jon Snow is the final straw? It’s infuriating.

    Someone on twitter said about the books that Dany is the stereotypical revolutionary (with ugly hints of colonization) who has good intentions but will become blinded/fanatical and do bad things to reach her goals. A small fix, which would have changed it dramatically, would be to not have King’s Landing surrender and for Dany to decide that the only way for her to win was through fire and blood…basically to burn them until they surrender. A more extreme version of when she burned the Reach/Tarlys last season, except in this case it wouldn’t be soldiers but civilians. It still would have been horrifying but not nonsensical. Her going fire happy AFTER they surrendered…just doesn’t seem like her style.

    I’m mostly angry that even in death they made it about Jon, and that her character’s arc didn’t have an impact because the same system, just an elected monarchy this time, kept rolling on. At least if there was independence in all seven kingdoms, or even a semi-democracy EU type of system, one could argue that she managed to “break the wheel” even if she died. But…nope.

    And Drogon should have roasted Jon’s b*tch ass..that was a low down dirty way to kill Dany. I’ve never even been a Targaryen or Dany fan, but I’m mad at how dirty her character was done…especially at how they stripped her of purpose.

    • Becks1 says:

      I think Jon pulling away from her was the final straw, but not because “Jon Snow wont kiss me,” but more that she wanted the people to love her, and she wanted to be hailed as a hero, and they didn’t. And this was just the final straw – not even the man she loved was willing to love her in return.

      • Div says:

        I understand that it wasn’t so much Jon not kissing her, but that she wanted to be seen as the hero and Jon was the last person she had in her corner and he rejected her. But the romantic nature of her relationship with Jon made the optics look terrible—especially as she acted so irrationally right after it occurred.

    • Isa says:

      I agree that would’ve made more sense than just burning innocent people that are running away, and giving time for your true mark (cersei) to escape.

  9. Lucy says:

    Bless her. She was absolutely fantastic this season. Then again, I’m one of the few people who always enjoyed her as an actress. Thank you for being Dany, Emilia! I’ll always remember you both.

  10. Mike says:

    Emilia is pissed off. I have never heard her talk like this in interviews. Can’t say I blame her. I wanted her character to rule and I thought she would be stern but good as a Queen but I guess that was a bridge too far for the writers and show runners.

  11. Malificent says:

    Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. How many times have we seen in history when a new leader is hailed as a savior for their people, only to morph into a brutal dictator? And women are not exempt from that lure either.

  12. Lindy says:

    Regardless of how I feel about all the neat, tidy (improbable) endings for everyone, and the sh!tshow the writers created by doing away with or sidelining the majority of the interesting women, I think what really bugged me about last night’s episode was the utterly juvenile and hammy dialogue in the “let’s choose a ruler” scene.

    It felt like a dull board meeting, not a momentous decision point for the future of Westeros. The weird jokey moments (Uncle Tully being gently mocked, the har-har-har laughs at Sam’s suggestion of democracy, Grey Worm’s petulant sigh and eventual agreement that, yes, fine, you can pick a king already) just totally wrecked any gravitas for me.

    The showrunners had a tough job, to be sure, especially without the finished books to work from. But if they had paid better attention to the pacing and arc of the entire show instead of pissing away so many slow, dragging episodes in earlier seasons, there’d have been plenty of time to develop Dany’s descent into madness in a believable way and fully realize the endings they rushed here.

  13. Loretta says:

    This season Emilia was superb, she has tons of raves. I didn’t though she was a great actress but in this season she showed all her talent. A bravura performance and she deserves an Emmy.
    I hope she can have a great carrer, I’m a fan now and she’s so sweet and special.

  14. Mira says:

    I find it so sad how Dany was killed by her “lover” while Cersei got to die alongside hers. Ugh.

    • Dina says:

      This TIME article is everything, it perfectly summarized everything about this whole season. Love Emilia, love Daenerys, and I hope to se her in many new roles to come!

  15. Margareth says:

    I’m also stand by Daenerys. The most iconic character of the show

  16. Original T.C. says:

    The death scene was hauntingly beautiful. They didn’t set up her character correctly for the madness but gave her a great exit. Drogon coming to see what happened, crying out in grief, burning down the iron throne and then finally rolling her gently and flying off with her. She definitely did KL wrong but I completely cried and wished she had just been arrested or exiled. I felt that the outcome for both Jon and Dany was so sad, what happened to the sweet part of bittersweet?

  17. Newyorking says:

    The thing with this show is that I read the books before watching Ned Stark’s beheading and the Red Wedding, I knew exactly what was coming and was still so so gutted when it happened on the TV show. I was watching previous episodes and in one where Jaime returns to KL and Cersei spurns him, he visits Tyrion and Tyrion says, “eat a boar, Cersei can’t have enough of it still one killed Robert for her”. There was this subtle humor that made the show interesting and gave glimpses into the characters and made them stronger. I loved all of these nuances. Both Ned Stark’s beheading and Red Wedding made me feel so much emotion. But this last season with the deaths and Dany turning into the mad queen and then dying, I felt nothing. It was as if I had been told so many times what was coming. Dany is good as an actress but I found her expressions so exaggerated, like they all had to force out these expressions to look “mad” or something, whereas in previous seasons the dialogues and subtlety told us these things, there was no need for exaggerated expressions. So yes this season left me numb and feeling nothing, like I was watching it as a bystander and not really involved. I think that is more the problem with the seasons after the books and less about the story.

  18. Vanessa says:

    I honestly didn’t think Daenerys would have killed all those innocent people I thought once she heard the bell she would have back off . And when after cerise Instead I think losing her friend send Daenerys into the darkness I think after that point a switch went off she was just so angry. I don’t like how she went freeing everyone she can to burning innocent woman and children Daenerys army went crazy murding innocent people.

    • DS9 says:

      I think she planned to burn the city the entire time. She did not go mad. She followed through on her promises from the very beginning.

      I think the conversations and discussions that followed made it clear that she’d never planned to allow the city to surrender. Grey Worm told them he had his orders from Daenerys and I assume that included their behavior as King’s Landing burned.

      Her speech to them after the battle along with her conversation with Jon before he killed her was confirmation to me. She even mentioned her belief in the throne belonging to the Targaryens from before she could count. So of course she would see the women and children of King’s Landing as having the same agency and allegiance

  19. jammypants says:

    I was pretty heartbroken but sensed she was going to kick it. Her death made me cry. Honestly Emilia has come a long way. Her acting was really good this season.