Game of Thrones is among the top handful of most intriguing dramas on television. Among the many, many characters on the show (seriously, there are a lot of named characters in Game of Thrones) there is one that stands out as the most interesting. To be fair, there are two that rank right up at the top. Tyrion Lannister is a fan favorite and a fascinating, multifaceted character, worthy of consideration for the top spot. But the one that I’m thinking of here edges him out for several reasons.
She is Khaleesi Daenerys Stormborn of House Targaryen, of the blood of Old Valyeria, the Unburnt, Mother of Dragons, rightful ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, leader of the Unsullied, commander of the Second Sons, Mhysa of 200,000 freedmen. That’s quite a resume for a character that started the series as the cowed younger sibling to a spoiled, would-be-despot, forced to marry a strange warlord to further her brother’s regal aspirations.
Daenerys is the most captivating character on Game of Thrones because she has had the most dramatic and engaging story arc. From that humble beginning she learned the difficult Dothraki tongue, won her husband’s heart, and outlived her cruel brother. Then she went on to lead and lose a people, gain a new following, outwit some very clever people, hatch dragons, become (or realize she always was) fireproof, and amass by far the largest and most formidable of the armies competing for the Iron Throne.
She’s beautiful and occasionally naked, but that’s not why we love her. (Although that doesn’t hurt any.) She’s smart and capable. She’s ruthless when called for, yet she’s got a heart for the downtrodden, particularly slaves. The Khaleesi possesses two traits that, when combined together, create a captivating three dimensional character. She has absolute conviction and fallibility. Her absolute conviction — whether regarding her legitimacy as ruler or her moral obligation to free the slaves –- means that she is all in every circumstance. But she also makes mistakes. Her mystical bargain to trade the life of her unborn child for that of her husband didn’t work out so well. When a character is always sure of herself and yet sometimes just plain wrong, it makes for compelling fiction.
George R.R. Martin’s world of Game of Thrones is rich with history, drama, and character. Khaleesi Daenerys Stormborn – at least through the first three seasons of the HBO dramatization – is the crown jewel of that richness.