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What Should Daenerys’s First Move Be?

Now that the Mother of Dragons has made it to Westeros, there’s work to be done. We have some ideas for where she should start.

(HBO/Ringer illustration)
(HBO/Ringer illustration)

The chill of winter, the luscious taste of Arbor gold (no more of that Dornish horse piss!), and the dulcet tones of Ed Sheeran — Game of Thrones is back! Season 7 kicked off Sunday with a table-setting premiere: Sansa and Jon debating strategy in the North, Euron propositioning Cersei in King’s Landing, and Arya slicing and dicing her way through the Riverlands. The episode also left us with a moving final scene, as Daenerys Targaryen, after spending her whole life in exile, touched down in Westeros for the first time as an adult. She walked through her ancestral home in Dragonstone with a sense of accomplishment and destiny and, just before the screen cut to black, she strode into her war room and simply said, “Shall we begin?” So, as we look forward to this season’s second episode Sunday, let’s discuss: What should Dany do first?

Dragon Reconnaissance

Ben Lindbergh: We’ve seen what Daenerys’s dragons can do when they’re told to turn slavers into toast. But dragons aren’t just the most destructive human-controlled creatures in Westeros; they’re also the fastest and the only ones capable of flight. That makes them the best assets a commander can have even before the battle begins. Yara’s advice to sail to King’s Landing seems sound, but Dany doesn’t have to take anyone’s word for it that Cersei’s defenses are weak or that Euron’s Iron Fleet reboot isn’t still stationed in Blackwater Bay. Thanks to her air superiority, she can go see for herself, flying high enough to avoid danger but low enough to inspire some fear in whatever remains of the Red Keep’s Lannister garrison.

Dragonstone is hundreds of miles from King’s Landing, but that’s a puddle jump compared with the journey Dany’s armada just made from Meereen. And while we don’t have hard data on how fast or how far dragons can fly, we know that this trip is not only possible, but fairly routine. In the days leading up to the Dance of Dragons, Daemon Targaryen and his niece-wife (don’t judge) Rhaenyra, who lived in King’s Landing, used to “fly together almost daily, racing Syrax against Caraxes to Dragonstone and back.” If Dany follows their route in reverse, she can cross the Narrow Sea and be back by bedtime bearing better intelligence. Now that Dany has returned to Westeros, the time for dracarys is coming. But her first word to Drogon should be sōvēs” or “valahd.

Attack King’s Landing

Jason Concepcion:

​Once Dany consolidates her hold over Dragonstone — staffing up the defenses, finding servants to empty the chamber pots and cook and clean, and so on — she ​should hit King’s Landing as soon as possible. Her army is massive, encompassing tens of thousands of Dothraki and their horses, her Unsullied troops, and her allies from Dorne and the Reach. All those people (and horses!) need to eat something, need a place to lay their heads, need a place to go to the bathroom. A host that size must stay on the move or it will devour all the available resources in the surrounding area and beyond. And there’s not a whole lot around Dragonstone, a rocky island surrounded by other rocky islands, to sustain everyone! Let’s get this show on the road!

Clean Up Dragonstone

Matt James: Last week Daenerys finally arrived at the home of her dreams, only to be confronted by the harsh remnants left behind by Stannis. Turns out, those guy-who-needlessly-sacrificed-his-own-daughter vibes are even more difficult to do away with than your run-of-the-mill old person smell. Dragonstone’s chi is brutal. This is not the environment you want to be in when you’re doing some of the most crucial strategizing of your entire life. Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, our buildings shape us.” So Dany’s first order of business needs to be getting to work on this drab castle of misery.

We need to get some sage burning right away. Let’s clean up that filthy throne room, where we bring our guests. I know Dany loves her dragons, but there’s a dragon on almost every door and every wall in here. It’s a bit much. We don’t want to be that person whose home is overflowing with feline knickknackery. Let’s bring some plants in from outside to add some color and life to these rooms. And most importantly, before we do anything else, let’s sterilize the war table that Melisandre and Stannis had sex on — specifically the Dorne part.

(HBO)
(HBO)

Schedule a Meeting With Olenna Tyrell

Megan Schuster: Theories abound about what’s preordained for Dany in Game of Thrones: meeting Jon; ruling the Seven Kingdoms; losing one of her dragons; possibly becoming the Mad King 2.0. Those are all great and well-thought-out, and some of them will likely happen. But the only meeting of the minds I’m interested in is one between Dany and Olenna Tyrell. We already know Olenna is on her side (see: meeting with the Sand Snakes at the end of Season 6), and no one in the Seven Kingdoms is better equipped to show Dany how to topple the Westerosi patriarchy than the woman who’s been manipulating men for decades.

Dany has never had a familial female figure to look up to, and though Olenna isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy, she takes care of her own. These two are here to flip Westerosi ideas about leadership on their head. Let’s turn the Seven Kingdoms into a matriarchy!

Get to Know Her Army

Danny Heifetz: A confession: I have never commanded an army of castrated slave orphans, so perhaps I should walk 1,000 miles across the Red Waste in Khaleesi’s sandals before I judge her. But it’s hard not to think the Mother of Dragons is messing up. Daenerys is about to attack another continent, and, as far as I can tell, she’s interacted with only one of her 8,000 soldiers. What if Grey Worm dies? Would the entire Unsullied army be decapitated because Khaleesi never bothered to introduce herself to Grey Worm’s lieutenants?

Even if Grey Worm doesn’t die, Dany’s war room roster is still troubling. She has two political masterminds onboard in Tyrion and Varys, but doesn’t bother to seek a second military opinion on her intercontinental invasion. Maybe if she had spent less time burning people and more time meeting the free men willingly fighting for her, she would have learned important lessons, like how spears are a bad choice in a city full of narrow alleys. Go meet your army, Khaleesi. Winter is here, and you desperately need some icebreakers.

Kiss Jon Snow Right on the Lips

Kate Knibbs: Game of Thrones used to get a lot of flack for its “sexposition,” but it’s never been a sexy show. The onscreen action tends toward the grotesque, not the erotic, with plenty of rape, twincest, and murdered sex workers, and not much real romance. The closest thing we had to a good hookup was Jon and Ygritte in their bang cave, which was woefully short-lived. Dany and Khal Drogo are a distant second, because as hot as Khal Drogo was, he was also disconcertingly pro-rape and -pillage. And don’t even talk to me about Robb and Talisa, an embarrassing, strategically catastrophic case of dumb lust.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Jon and Daenerys can save us.

I realize that, logistically, it might be difficult for Dany’s first move to be a horny one, especially since her gloomy secret nephew is in an entirely different part of Westeros. But! There’s a good chance that Jon will pop up at Dragonstone in the next episode, as Samwell already sent him a raven about how the Targaryen stronghold is chock full of dragonglass. When he arrives, Jon and Dany should kiss right away. Winter is coming this season, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that does … if you know what I mean!!! (Sex.)

Go Spelunking

Mallory Rubin: There’s no rule book for how to properly explore a new property. Some people gravitate toward the kitchen, others the sitting room, still others the master suite. Dany, finally at her ancestral home after spending nearly her entire life as a nomad, chose to feel Dragonstone’s sandy shores, eyeball its throne room, and run her hands lovingly along Stannis’s sex-stained table. Those are all valid (albeit unsanitary) actions! But there’s only one place our sweet summer child needs to venture next: THE CAVE!

You know: the one filled with dragonglass, the substance that created the White Walkers and that can kill them as well. The one that might hold the key to healing our beloved Jorah’s rapidly spreading greyscale. The one that Dany walked right by during her initial beach stroll!

(HBO)
(HBO)

Early in the season premiere, we hear Jon tell his bannermen that he wants “every Northern Maester to scour their records for any mention of dragonglass. Dragonglass kills White Walkers, it’s more valuable to us now than gold. We need to find it, we need to mine it, we need to make weapons from it.” Sam, like Qyburn, is not even a maester, but later in the episode, fresh from his restricted-area book thievin’, we see him stumble upon a map of Dragonstone that spotlights the cave in question: “That’s dragonglass,” he tells Gilly. “A mountain of it, beneath the ground. Stannis told me but I didn’t think — This is important. Jon needs to know.”

(HBO)
(HBO)

Correct: Stannis did tell Sam, back when they were chatting in Castle Black about how Sam took down a Walker. Sure, Stannis lived on Dragonstone, but he also once asked his daughter Shireen to explain the legendary Dance of the Dragons, so he’s not exactly the story’s signature scholar. Could Tyrion, who has proudly boasted that a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone, be aware of what lies beneath? Could any of Dany’s other counselors? If not, could the Unburnt’s own natural curiosity lead her to discover the invaluable stash while taking a stroll?

Let’s hope. But if not, at least her ignorance will be short-lived: It appears from the Episode 2 preview that Sam’s raven will reach Jon and send him to Dragonstone, where he’ll presumably make his now-patented the-great-war-is-here speech, ask to borrow some of Dany’s frozen fire, and hopefully make some fire of his own. You guys remember what happened the last time Jon went into a cave with a girl, right? Dragonglass may be more valuable than gold, but the Lord’s Kiss still seems like proper payment.

Learn How to Dress for Winter

Michael Baumann: In the Season 7 premiere, we saw a first for Game of Thrones: Daenerys appeared at the head of an army, and you couldn’t see anyone’s belly button. For as intimidating as it is to see all the dragons and Dothraki and Unsullied now staging at Dragonstone, this is a warm-weather army. They’re not even at the really cold part of the map yet, and Daenerys has already traded in her home blue uniform for half her body weight in black leather. How much does it cost to buy snow boots and overcoats for an army of tens of thousands? Remember how the Tampa Bay Bucs couldn’t win in the cold all those years? Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, The Unburnt, the Trent Dilfer of Westeros.

Send Cersei a Raven

Caitlin Blosser: It should read: “I am the rightful queen. Have fun trying to defeat me. I have dragons. P.S. Tyrion says hi. Just kidding, he hates you.”

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.