It seemed so obvious. A Song Of Ice And Fire was the saga of the heirs of the Stark and Targaryen houses. Their fates were linked, their love inevitable. Together they were the key to saving the world from the terrifying threat building in the far North. One of them had to be the Prince That Was Promised. Except, we were all wrong. One of them WAS, indeed, half of the Song, but it was their link to someone else which sealed their doom.
It’s undeniable that Daenerys represents fire. She not only rides a fire-breathing dragon as part of her Targaryen heritage, but every part of her story is also highlighted with fire.
But it’s even more than that. Fire doesn’t just follow Daenerys wherever she goes, she literally is the fire made flesh. No other Targaryen was reported impervious to fire, yet Dany emerges from infernos unscathed time and again.
Fire marks every major moment from Khal Drogo’s pyre and the birth of the dragons to burning down the House of the Undying, the masters at Astapoor and the khals – all the way to King’s Landing. She has no victories without fire.
And who represents Ice made flesh? It really isn’t Jon, at all.
It is the Night King who is Dany’s equal and opposite. They were both brought into the world for one task which they both pursue with single-minded and terrifying focus. The fate of the world can not survive either of them. Time and again the HBO show mirrored scenes and motifs for the two of them.
Daenerys ignited the temple of the dosh khaleen and burned the khals alive, emerging wreathed in flames – the Night King entered the hut at Hardhome and every flame was extinguished. Ice and snow follow wherever he goes.
Daenerys and the Night King riding their dragons, spewing fire and ice, are perfectly balanced. Both use the element at their command to execute their will and destroy their opponents.
When Dany can’t call on fire is when she has problems. She fails at Qarth because she doesn’t yet have the full fire-power. When she uses conventional armies and tactics on arriving in Westeros she is defeated and outmanoeuvred, although some blame must also go to Tyrion’s endlessly bad advice.
Daenerys is particularly ineffective at the Battle of Winterfell because her exact opposite has completely negated her power. Two dragons, however impressive, are dwarfed by the full power of winter.
The show even threw in repeating patterns, like the spiral of dead body parts made by the Others or the ecstatic celebratory spiralling circles made by the liberated slaves of Yunkai.
Daenerys’ command of fire is also why she has to die, not because she ‘went mad.’
Fire and ice both consume everything, no life or salvation can be possible while one is unchecked. Daenerys rises as the symbolic, elemental answer to the Night King and his armies. But then his defeat and death mean hers is not only inevitable it is necessary.
Daenerys does not go mad, she is simply becoming the absolute embodiment of her element. She is not evil, no more than the Night King was evil. He was a vessel for his element and the original intentions of the Children of the Forest.
But Dany can not be allowed to live. Her intentions and actions aren’t just tainted by everything she has been through, they are dictated by her nature, which is forged in fire.
Only the Night King could balance her, without him she will burn down the world. A Song of Ice and Fire begins with them both and it must end with them both.