Warning: this article is dark and full of spoilers for ‘The Last of the Starks’, the fourth episode of Game of Thrones’ eight season. Read on at your own peril.
It was easily one of the most controversial episodes to date, not least of all due to its questionable virgin-shaming narrative. However, the most talked about aspect of Game of Thrones episode ‘The Last of the Starks’ was the shocking death of Missandei (Nathalie Emmanuel) at the hands of a vindictive Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey).
After being kidnapped by an increasingly overpowered Euron Greyjoy (Pilou Asbæk), a battered and bruised Missandei cut a pitiful figure as she stood precariously beside Cersei and her minions on the ramparts of King’s Landing.
Below, Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) and Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) watched anxiously as Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage) did his utmost best to convince his sister to spare Missandei’s life. And, for a moment, it seemed as if he had done it: a tearful Cersei looked skywards as he begged her to reconsider her actions, for the sake of her unborn child.
Sadly, though, Cersei has never been all that predictable. Expression unreadable, the Queen of the Seven Kingdoms stepped forward and grasped Missandei by the arm, pulling the former slave’s ear closer to her mouth and telling her to share her final words with her friends.
Missandei faltered for just a moment as she stared downwards at Dany, Grey Worm and Tyrion. Then, fixing her eyes on the horizon, she uttered just one word: “Dracarys”.
And then, with one swing of The Mountain’s sword, our beloved Missandei was no more.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of High Valyrian translations, it’s worth noting that ‘dracarys’ is a word which is hugely significant to Missandei and Dany’s relationship, calling back to their first ever meeting in Aztapor.
At the time, Missandei was still a slave – but, due to her superior language skills, she served as an interpreter to slave-trader Kraznys mo Nakloz of Astapor, and so was present for much of his conversations with Daenerys.
The pair struck up a friendship, and Dany eventually secured Missandei’s freedom by ordering the enslaved Unsullied to turn on the slave-traders of Astapor. During the uprising, Dany turned to Kraznys, smiled calmly, and uttered “dracarys” at him.
Upon hearing the instruction, her dragon Drogon breathed a ball of fire onto the slave-trader and reduced him to a pile of smoking ash.
Missandei’s choice of her final word is almost certainly a callback to this moment and Dany’s impact on her life – but it may also reference the fact that, at that time, Dany was a ‘Breaker of Chains’ rather than a power-hungry tyrant.
“You have been slaves all your life,” said Dany at the time. “Today you are free. Anyone who wishes to leave may leavem and no one will harm them. I give you my word.
It’s a firm reminder that Daenerys has attracted such a huge following because she offers them something they have never been offered before: the freedom to choose.
Missandei, the Unsullied and the Dothraki all believed in Daenerys. They chose to follow her based on her actions, not because of her impressive lineage. They chose her because she was the exact opposite of everything Cersei stands for: a sympathetic monarch who prefers to rule by love than fear.
The word ‘dracarys’ translates to ‘Dragonfire’ in High Valyrian, and is the same word Dany uses to signal her dragons to fire upon her enemies. As such, it’s not unfair to assume that Missandei’s final word may be a call for Dany to go full “Mad Queen” and destroy Cersei in the same way as she has the rest of her enemies – with fire, and bloodshed, and extraordinary pain.
Indeed, this is what Missandei actor Nathalie Emmanuel seems to believe too, judging by her latest tweets.
“Dracarys,” she wrote, shortly after the episode aired. “Aka ‘burn the bish’”.
If this is the case, and Daenerys interprets it as such, it does not bode well for the final three episodes of Game of Thrones. After all, Tyrion, Varys (Conleth Hill) and Jon Snow (Kit Harington) have already pleaded with Dany to show mercy to the innocents gathered in King’s Landing’s Red Keep – and Varys has threatened to do everything in his power to protect the people of the realm. Which, essentially, means that he’s more than prepared to kill Dany if it will stop her massacring thousands as an act of revenge.
And Clarke’s previous words about her character’s end suggests that she may prove herself to be the tyrant we all hoped she wouldn’t be, too.
“It fucked me up,” she previously told Vanity Fair, of Dany’s final scenes. “Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavour in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is.”
Eek. It seems as if Missandei’s final moments may just have been the trigger for an almighty battle. Roll on the next episode, already…
Image: HBO, Game of Thrones