In the second week of August, North Korea threatened to launch an attack on the US-held island of Guam, and President Donald Trump did not mince words in his response, promising to unleash "fire and fury" onto North Korea if they continued their aggressive behavior. If this rhetoric sounds familiar to Game of Thrones fans, that's because it should — substitute a yellow combover for white braids, stick a dragon where the podium should be, and you've got yourself a typical speech by the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen. But, while threatening rhetoric and fire-breathing dragons make for great television, they don't tend to make for a very pleasant reality. In a way, Khaleesi's biggest military advantage parallels one of the most dangerous elements of our political reality today. Game of Thrones fans shouldn't be rooting for the dragons. We should be hoping that they aren't used at all.
Game of Thrones has never been the most realistic show on television. Witches give birth to demonic shadows. Icy zombies roam the north. And Daenerys Targaryen has three adult dragons who are posed to help her take control of Westeros. This isn't exactly a world with which we are all familiar. Yet, at its core, Westeros grapples with many of the same conflicts and dilemmas that we do in 2017. Politicians debate whether decades of animosity should be cast aside in favor of group safety. Women struggle to achieve power in a patriarchal world. Rulers wonder whether it is better to be feared, or loved. Take away the fantasy elements, minimize some of the more grisly murders, add Twitter, and Westeros starts to look a lot more familiar.
I'm far from the first person to draw show comparisons to our political climate. A piece in The New Yorker noted the show's particular relevance to the 2016 presidential election, even comparing the High Sparrow to a famously polarizing Democratic candidate: Bernie Sanders. Others have found similarities between the struggle to band together to defeat the White Walkers and our current failure to put aside politics in favor of protecting our earth from climate change. A piece in Vanity Fair featured climate scientists likening Jon Snow to a warrior for environmentalism.
And after Season 7's "The Spoils Of War," another comparison begins to stands out. When Dany and Tyrion go back and forth on whether or not to unleash the deadly force of her dragons, whether to drag out the war or end it quickly and brutally, I can't help but be reminded of debates about the ethicality of dropping the bomb on Hiroshima we all had in 8th grade US History. Put simply, their unmatched destruction and power make Dragons Westeros' version of nuclear weapons. They're nearly impossible to compete with, pretty much guaranteeing Dany a "win" whenever she decides to unleash the sheer force of destruction they bring. And, like nuclear weapons, they're ferocious, deadly, unforgiving, and carry the capability to annihilate large swaths of humanity in a single stroke.
George R.R. Martin himself has called the dragons "the nuclear deterrent" of Westeros. And once you notice it, the comparison seems almost obvious. Nuclear bombs, like dragons, still seem a vague and fantastical notion, frightening when you think about them, but not necessarily grounded in day-to-day concerns — that is, until they are brought back into play. Both compel seasoned military commanders like the fictional Jaime Lannister and the real Dwight D. Eisenhower to cower in their wake. And both destroy their enemies ruthlessly and equitably. Jaime's wide, terrified eyes when he laid eyes on his first dragon told the whole story. You may think that you have seen it all, until you see a dragon.
"The Spoils of War" revealed the full terror of unleashing such untempered power. The Lannister forces don't stand a chance against the wrath of Khaleesi and Drogon, the latter of whom unleashes "fire and fury" (to borrow some choice words from our President) that destroys stocks of supplies in a blink and vaporizes grown men into piles of ashes. Even the weapon Cersei commissioned to kill the dragons only seemed to anger Drogon further, rather than cause significant physical damage. When the dragons come, the only safe thing to do is get as far away as possible.
Yet it's precisely the awesome power of these dragons that has made them a point of contention throughout the series. On multiple occasions, Tyrion has begged Khaleesi not to use her "children," arguing that if she wishes to be better than the Mad King, who had no care for civilians and ruled by fear rather than devotion, Dany must control her impulse to take King's Landing by dragon fire. The naturally peaceable Jon Snow agreed, noting that if she used her dragons "to melt castles and burn cities" then she was only a malicious conqueror, not a ruler. The same logic applies for nuclear weapons. As a piece in The Atlantic noted:
Dragons, like nukes, have the capacity to inflict maximum casualties with minimal effort ... But the cost of such weapons is that they’re so effective they can almost never be used.
It would be easy for a real world leader to use nuclear weapons to destroy their enemies. But if the goal is to achieve peace and prosperity, invoking nuclear war is the opposite of a sound decision. Similarly, if Khaleesi truly wants to be the great ruler she boasts that she can be, then incinerating her enemies in mere minutes is not the way to incur devotion, or differentiate herself from her father.
And, unlike the world we live in, Westeros has all of the dragons in the possession of one woman. That means one person has the ability to destroy a large swath of humanity in a single stroke, which offers a slightly different existisitential crisis for the societies on Game of Thrones than the one we face in our world. What is the point of fighting at all if at any point, everyone might just disappear in a puff of smoke?
And while yes, it's exhilarating to watch Drogon ruin Cersei's plans in a single moment after spending six seasons praying for a Lannister downfall, for every Cersei, there are Lannister soldiers like the ones Arya ran into on her way to Winterfell. There are good, kind people who have to fight for a cause they don't really believe in. Do these people deserve to die a fiery death, without a chance to defend themselves? Do the civilians of King's Landing? Do the people of our the world? The answer seems rather obvious now, doesn't it?
So, join me in rooting against the dragons. When Dany goes nuclear, it might be fun to watch, but it puts her humanity into question. Should we be rooting for a ruler who feels comfortable reigning unmitigated death and destruction down upon her people? I'd prefer if Dany kept her dragons on the sidelines (and if Trump and Kim Jong Un inched their fingers further away from those nuclear codes while we're at it).
Besides, we've got White Walkers (see: global warming) to worry about.