Daenerys Targaryen, “rightful” ruler of the Seven Kingdoms, is dealing with dreadful loss. She lost her dragon Viserion to the Night King, she lost her ships to the Euron Greyjoy’s fleet, and she lost a number of possible allies when she used Drogon to torch the Tarlys, just like her father the Mad King. But she’s still sitting in a seat of power—for now. And although the sacrifices she has made to get there have been mighty, she hasn’t yet been forced to give up her morals, her honor, or ultimately, her life.
As we know from watching Game of Thrones kill off central protagonists for seven seasons, Dany won’t be allowed to breeze through this path to victory without more loss. Nor has the show been coy about her survival chances; the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones were littered with clues that Dany won’t make if out of Season Eight alive. We’re just waiting to see if the last sacrifice she’ll make is that of her own life.
Dany has been haunted by death since Season One, when the sorceress Mirri Maz Duur sacrificed Dany’s unborn son to bring Khal Drogo back into a semi-living state. “I warned you that only death can pay for life. You knew the price,” she told Dany. The message was clear: Dany will have to sacrifice lives to save lives. Her life could be one of them. Then, in Season Two, Dany has a vision of what might be her own death in the House of the Undying. In the vision, the Iron Throne is in front of her for the taking. But she is called away from it by the sound of her dragons, who lead her across the Wall to a tent, inside of which Drogo and her unborn son await her. The interpretation of this vision is straightforward: Dany will divert from her path to the Iron Throne to fight the White Walkers in the North, and there she will die among the snow and winds, joining her deceased family in the afterlife.
And now, as Dany’s partnership with Jon Snow strengthens, a prophecy explained at length in the books could explain how she dies. This prophecy is based on a legendary hero, Azor Ahai, who sacrificed his love Nissa Nissa to forge a “burning sword” from her blood that brought an end to the Long Night. As the red priest Thoros explains, via Game of Thrones Wiki:
According to prophecy, our champion will be reborn to wake dragons from stone and reforge the great sword Lightbringer that defeated the darkness those thousands of years ago. If the old tales are true, a terrible weapon forged with a loving wife’s heart. Part of me thinks man was well rid of it, but great power requires great sacrifice. That much at least the Lord of Light is clear on.
It is said that Jon Snow is Azor Ahai reborn, and to lead this battle, he’ll need his own White-Walker-defeating flame sword. Dany could take the role of Azor’s love Nissa Nissa, sacrificing herself so that humanity survives.
In this scenario, Dany is the martyr who dies so Jon can rule. But it could also be a betrayal of love that kills Dany. While in the House of the Undying, Dany is hit with another prophecy that says she will betrayed once for blood, once for gold, and once for love. Her unborn son’s murder was the blood betrayal, Jorah’s spying was the gold betrayal, but we haven’t yet seen the love betrayal. And again, Jon is our only candidate for love going into Season Eight.
Then there is Dany and Jon’s shared ancestry. Jon is a Targaryen by blood, just like Dany, but a Stark by circumstance. When he discovers the truth about his birth family, will he use it to challenge Dany’s claim to the throne so he can rule and represent Northern interests? Will it make it easier for him to sacrifice Dany to make a sword to kill the Night King? Any way you spin it, it seems impossible that both Jon and Dany will make it out alive, and Jon’s already died once.
In the end, Dany might simply fall to one of her many enemies. Right now, she’s at the top of Cersei Lannister’s kill list, and there’s no more dangerous place to be in Westeros. Nor does Sansa Stark respect Dany’s claim to her throne—or her claim to Winterfell, for that matter, as we saw in a Season Eight trailer. And the Night King must have his eye on her other dragons after using undead Viserion to very efficiently torch a segment of the Wall. (An intriguing theory posits Dany will be transformed from a corpse into the frosty Night Queen reincarnated; technically, that counts as “dead.”)
Perhaps the cruelest way Dany could die is at the hands of her own child. She is convinced she can never have children, but many fans think she and Jon just made a baby. Targaryens do not do well in childbirth; both Dany and Jon’s mothers died in childbirth. Game of Thrones might go full circle back to the sorceress’s Season One warning: “Only death can pay for life.” Dany could get her child and protect the Targaryen succession line, but she would have to give her own life away to do so.
For any unconvinced that Daeynerys Targaryen will die in Season Eight, Emilia Clarke’s words on the final season might be the nail in the coffin. “She starts feeling pretty cocksure and confident, and then stuff happens,” Clarke said in an interview about her character. In another interview, she said about Dany’s final scene, “It fucked me up…Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone’s mouth of what Daenerys is.”
The odds are stacked a mile high against our dragon queen.