Curtain Call: Emilia Clarke


A lot of people auditioned for the role of Daenerys Targaryen. Emilia Clarke got it, in part because of her intensity, in part because she seemed able to take a character on a long journey, and maybe a little bit because she did the funky chicken at her audition. Clearly, this is someone willing to go there.

And for eight seasons of TV, she did. Game of Thrones has turned many of its young cast members into stars, but perhaps none so intriguing as Clarke. In interviews, she comes as an easy-going goofball, someone perhaps better suited to comedy than special effects-driven tragedy. But on Game of Thrones, she was all steel, a magnetic presence who was isolated from most of the cast for six seasons but who had no trouble shouldering her own story. She mixed the epic with the intimate in a way that’s easy to watch but hard to replicate, all while laying down sick beats in her off time:

When I think of Daenerys, I think most immediately of moments of hypnotic power. I think of her rising naked from the ashes of her husband’s pyre in the season 1 finale, her newborn dragons in her arms and her subjects falling to their knees in worship. I think of her sacking Astapor in season 3, her voice a whip, her eyes lowered, unperturbed by the destruction exploding around her. This scene is one of the most iconic examples of the signature Daenerys look, her face eerily calm as she exact righteous vengeance on her enemies. It was awesome, but it was scary too. Daenerys was a force of nature, one that Clarke gave focus and direction.

Then there was the other side of Daenerys, the lighter moments that rounded her out as a character, the moments that made us think of her as Dany rather than the Mother of Dragons: petting Drogon on the way to Meereen, combing Missandei’s hair while talking about Grey Worm, and smiling wistfully as she walked down from the Iron Throne to speak to Jon Snow, the ash of the people she’d burned in her hair.

I really admired how Clarke brought these two parts of Daenerys together in her final scene. The Mother of Dragons was there, talking about the new world she would build even if she had to uproot the old one. But Dany was there, too, remembering the little girl who imagined the Iron Throne as a mountain of swords too high to climb. After a couple episodes where we lost Dany a bit, Clarke brought us back to where we needed to be, to a starry-eyed girl with dreams of making the world a better place and the power to make it happen. She broke all of our hearts.

As much controversy as Daenerys’ final arc stirred up, it was a banner year for Clarke, probably her best yet. Another great moment for her came in “The Bells,” where it fell to Clarke to sell Daenerys’ decision to burn King’s Landing to the ground. Between the shot of the Red Keep looming in the distance, Daenerys’ fury and Clarke’s eyebrows, this shot has enormous power, difficult as it is to watch.

What Emilia Clarke has with Daenerys Targaryen is a complete and rounded performance, from frightened waif to conqueror. She’s part Joan of Arc and part Napoleon, part wide-eyed ingenue and part King Lear. Looking back over the whole scope of the series, I can’t help but be in awe of what Clarke pulled off.


Washington Nationals Screech Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead
Washington Nationals Screech Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead /

Washington Nationals Screech Game Of Thrones Mascot On Fire Dragon Bobblehead

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Daenerys Targaryen is dead. Long live Daenerys Targaryen. But after a performance like this, Emilia Clarke can do pretty much whatever she wants with the rest of her career. Look for her first in the romantic comedy Last Christmas, followed up by a lead role in Above Suspicion, about an FBI agent convicted for murder.

See? Anything.

Next. 22 best moments from Game of Thrones season 8. dark

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