This Game of Thrones article contains spoilers.
Everyone was rightly worried about Very Good Boy Ghost in Game of Thrones Season 8 and whether he would finally get the head pats he so richly deserves. Thankfully in the series finale “The Iron Throne,” Ghost does indeed get those pets, ending a long national nightmare. “The Iron Throne” also advances the plotline of another one of Westeros’s most beloved and feared animals. Perhaps we should have been worrying about Drogon this whole time too.
The Game of Thrones finale starts off pretty nicely for Dany’s sole remaining dragon. Drogon, fresh off turning King’s Landing into a fine ash gets to hang out with his mom as she gives a grand speech. He even gets to settle in for a nice snow nap, only to be rudely awakened by Jon Snow. Then things turn South.
As you know, Jon Snow kills Daenerys Targaryen. Drogon immediately senses something is wrong and flies up to the now open-air throne room. When Drogon discovers that his mother has died, he lets out a truly devastating lament. Between Drogon and the abused Gringott’s dragon in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1, it’s becoming clear that CGI animators really know what they’re doing when it comes to creating endearing dragons.
After mourning the loss of his mother, Drogon rears back and lets out an enormous burst of dragon fire. At first it seems like Drogon might be attacking Jon Snow, but the dragon seems to sense that Jon is still sort of his Targaryen king. Instead the dragon fire is unfocused and rage-filled. Then Drogon lets out another jet of flame, this time directed at the Iron Throne, which promptly melts away to nothingness. Drogon tenderly picks up Daenerys in his enormously dragon claws and flies away to an unknown fate.
At first glance, Drogon’s “arc” in this final episode is truly incredible. Arguably, he is the only creature in Westeros who has actually learned anything. While the human beings are off getting ready to make the same mistake once again and forcing six kingdoms to live under some bowl-cutted pagan deity, Drogon is doing something productive and burning down the stupid chair that they all fought over. But how cognizant was Drogon of what he was even doing? Was Drogon aware of the significance of the Iron Throne? Or was he just lashing out at the sharp pointy object that he thinks killed his mom?
Based on the continuity and rules established in Game of Thrones, it’s difficult to tell what level of sentience dragons have. Through eight seasons, we have only ever seen dragons act under the orders of their queen and mother…save for an eaten Mereneese child here or there. But Drogon’s circumstances are far different now. He is a motherless child. There is no one around to say “dracarys” anymore. It’s pretty remarkable that his first act as an autonomous being is to destroy an object of great symbolic importance.
The dragons of George R.R. Martin’s novels are very much bestial in nature. They possess enough emotional intelligence to become bonded to certain human beings and allow them to ride them. Beyond that they remain big, scaly animals. Still, dragons aren’t just any other old Westerosi animal. Evidence suggests that they are intrinsically tied to the magic of the world in some way. As the dragons began to die out, the sorcerers, witches, and other magic-users of the known world found their spells and magical rites to be less effective. Once Dany’s three eggs hatch, magic begins to make a slow comeback and grow stronger as Drogon, Rhaegal, and Viserion grow. Thoros of Myr is stunned to find that his traditional funeral rites for Beric Dondarrion somehow raises him up from the dead.
With that in mind, it’s not ridiculous to suggest that Drogon has some sense of what he’s doing with that Throne. And if he doesn’t, perhaps the world is speaking through him in some way. The world has seen the level of destruction that the Iron Throne has wrought and is using one of its magical dragon acolytes to destroy it.
Whether Drogon knew what he was doing or not, he is now free in a way that few dragons have been in centuries. Tied to no man, woman, or family, Drogon is the last dragon, free to go and do what he likes. Given how powerful his “acting” is in “The Iron Throne,” consider him a candidate for one of those many spinoffs we want to see but will likely never be made. The dragons’ truest magical ability is how expensive they are to make appear onscreen.
Listen to our Game of Thrones season 8 discussion on the Sci Fi Fidelity podcast: