Game of Thrones is over, and it’s still hitting us. And if we’re feeling weird, imagine how it must feel for someone like Emilia Clarke, who played Daenerys Targaryen for all eight seasons of the show. “It’s incredibly surreal,” she told Variety. “Nothing prepared me to feel so numb when I was watching the absolute end.” We can’t even begin to wonder how she feels, particularly since watching the series finale meant she watched herself die onscreen. Must be weird.
Another key scene for Daenerys happened near the beginning, when she gave a rousing, frightening speech to her assembled Dothraki and Unsullied followers about “liberating” the world, “from Winterfell to Dorne, from Lannistport to Qarth, from the Summer Isles to the Jade Sea.” Watching that, I can’t have been the only person to think of a dictator riling up a crowd. And as it ends up, I wasn’t far off the mark.
In giving all these speeches in fake languages, I watched a lot of videos of — now it seems funny — dictators and powerful leaders speaking a different language to see if I could understand what they were saying without knowing the language. And you can! You absolutely can understand what Hitler’s f—ing saying, these single-focus orators speaking a foreign language. So I thought, “If I can believe every single word I’m saying, the audience won’t need to be looking at the subtitles too much.”
Interesting to note is that it sounds like Clarke had studied dictators for some of Dany’s other speeches, not just this last one, hence why it only “now” seems funny. I feel like directors David Benioff and Dan Weiss were coming through with the visual parallels on this last one:
And then in Daenerys’ other big scene, in the throne room, Clarke played it so soft, like it was the Dany we remembered. Man, she was terrific in this episode.
Anyway, Clarke is right about being able to get the intent of the speech without understanding the word, hence why Tyrion asked Jon if she seemed like someone who was done fighting. I was kinda swept away by the speech, although that’s probably partially due to Clarke’s insane preparation. “I’ve had a lot of Dothraki, Valyrian, fake languages to learn and I’ve had a lot of speeches to give, but I put so much pressure on myself with this one,” she said. “Any actor will tell you the days on set are long and then you go home and do your homework, which is learning your lines for the next day. This is learning a fake language on top of that! It almost killed me.
I normally pick up these things quite quickly, but this speech meant so much to me. I was so worried that I was going to f— it up. I stayed up so late every night for like two months. I said it to my cooker, I said it to my fridge. I said it to all of Belfast out my window! Well, the window was closed because I didn’t want people to think I was actually barking mad.
If you can do an action like going shopping or tidying a room while saying your lines, that means you’ve learned them. So we’re coming up to the night of filming. And the morning of, I had gotten no sleep whatsoever because I’d been up all night tearfully thinking “I can’t do this. I can’t get through it without messing up my lines.” I knew that this was one of the most solidifying, integral moments for Daenerys as a character.
All that preparation paid off on the day of filming. “[T]he weirdest thing happened — I walked onset, didn’t need a rehearsal, and I got through the whole thing perfect on the first go. The rest of the day it was like Daenerys was just with me. That’s the only time I got through that speech without getting anything wrong, when it was on camera. If you had asked me to do it the next day, I’d already forgotten it.”
Did it pay off? You be the judge:
Man, she killed that. I feel so conflicted, because I didn’t like how they got to the character to this point but I’ll be damned if Clarke didn’t knock Dany’s transformation clean out of the park. Eh, screw it, give her a bunch of Emmys.
Finally, Clarke gave her thoughts on what the show’s legacy will be:
I think it is what it always has been, which is a discussion of power and what it does to a single human being, a group of human beings, and the people they are meant to be serving. I think that is as true on the first episode of the first season as it is on the final episode of the series. It’s like catching sunlight. How can you possibly understand what power is and how it universally affects individuals? And then there’s each individual’s attempts to grapple with it and use it for the good of a group of people, whatever that is. I think that is essentially a discussion on humans and how we can live together in a world that is ruled by the politics of individuals. That question is asked in the final episode and I don’t think it’s answered because it shouldn’t be answered. We can’t. There is no answer. We’re just trying to do it all the time. Where I think we got with the show is as good an answer as there could be.
Bring on the doctoral theses!