The latest episode of Game of Thrones, 'Stormborn', was a fiery example of what this show has been about since the beginning — slow-burning machinations of schemers followed by spectacularly gruesome set pieces. The episode showed us Daenerys's first council meeting at Dragonstone, bringing together her disparate allies to remind fans of the allegiances and grudges of each individual. Although almost every character on Dany's council could be considered a fan favorite, the scene begged the question as to who the Mother of Dragons can trust.
With that in mind, let's take a look at each character currently by Daenerys's side and, perhaps more importantly, their motivations that made them follow Khaleesi to Dragonstone.
Tyrion Lannister has more reason than most to align himself with Daenerys Targaryen. On top of his miserable treatment at the hands of his own family for a lifetime, he’s had a severely poor turn of fortune since the Battle of Blackwater Bay. After being refused any recognition for his heroic actions in the defense of King’s Landing and subsequently having his rank of Hand of the King stripped from him, things got gradually worse for poor Tyrion. They reached a painful zenith after his trial by combat when he discovered his lover Shae in his father's bed — neither of whom survived that particularly painful betrayal.
After attempting to drown himself in wine and a brief stint in chains, Tyrion found his way into Daenerys’ employ, and quickly found a Queen worth serving. Aside from his childhood obsession with dragons and a deep-seated sense of morality, he seems in awe of Dany’s ability to treat him as an equal. Each time she takes his advice onboard he beams with pride, and it was one of the show’s true air-punching moments when she demanded that he be treated with respect.
“Conquering Westeros would be easy for you, but you’re not here to be queen of the ashes.”
The one obstacle in the way of Tyrion’s absolute loyalty is his brother, Jaime Lannister. The show somewhat diverted from the novels in this case, allowing Tyrion to part on good terms with his King-slaying brethren. In the books, a particularly shocking revelation saw Tyrion completely cut ties with his family, including Jaime.
The Kingslayer is currently running Cersei's army, so will Tyrion be forced to choose between Dany and his brother? That remains to be seen, but if there’s a sure-hearted member of Dany’s council that she can depend on, it's Tyrion Lannister.
‘Stormborn’ opened with a stern rebuke for Varys, one of Game of Thrones’s most prestigious schemers. Dany called his loyalty into question, forcing him to face his own slippery, survivalist nature.
Contrary to form, the spider responded to Daenerys’ accusations with what appeared to be absolute honesty. He claimed to serve the people, not one monarch—which is as close to a democratic declaration as this show has ever come. Dany seemed to respect that, even while threatening to burn him alive. They seemed to have reached an honest accord, and it looked as though the question mark over Varys’s sleek, bald head was erased there and then—particularly given his staunch support from Dany’s own Hand of the Queen.
“You wish to know where my loyalties lie? With the people.”
However, Varys is perhaps second only to Littlefinger when it comes to shifting loyalty. He claims to serve the good of the realm, and while there’s not a lot to suggest that he’s lying, some fans have suggested that he actually serves himself first. Should Dany’s fortunes change—as they seemingly did at the closing of episode 2—Varys might decide that another would-be monarch would better serve the good of the realm.
Olenna Tyrell is in serious mourning. Her house came under fire from Cersei Lannister long before the Queen Mother blew up the Sept of Baelor with Olenna’s own grandchildren — so she has as much lust for vengeance against the new Queen as anyone else on Daenerys’ council.
Olenna has long been depicted as one of the most practical characters of the show, but revenge is now her driving force. She’s always the one to cut through the knots in veiled conversations to get right to the point, and her final comment to Dany was one of her most important quips:
“He’s a clever man, your Hand. I’ve known a great many clever men. I’ve outlived them all. You know why? I ignored them. The Lords of Westeros are sheep. Are you a sheep? No. You are a dragon. Be a dragon.”
Olenna has survived the intricate, messy politics of Westeros for years, steering House Tyrell from its doomed allegiance to Renly Baratheon into an even worse allegiance with the Lannisters. She has come out of each, battered and bruised, but with her fire intact. Now in her mourning, her no nonsense practicality seems to have boiled into impatient honesty. She is tired of the bleating ignorance of Westerosi men, but seemingly remains to be convinced of Daenerys’ own convictions in conquering the Seven Kingdoms. Will it take an example of dragon fire to truly win the loyalty of House Tyrell?
Regardless of what happens, Olenna has a knack for survival that’s been defined by jumping ship when the odds are unfavorable for her family—but now her family has been taken from her, who’s to say what Olenna Tyrell is capable of? As long as Dany remains on course to punish Cersei for her transgressions, she has a sure ally in House Tyrell.
Ellaria Sand’s loyalty to Daenerys could be something of a moot point after her capture at the hands of Euron ‘Crow’s Eye’ Greyjoy. She will undoubtedly end up as the mad sea-dog’s ‘gift’ to Cersei Lannister next week, and fans well know how much Cersei revels in revenge. The upcoming episode is titled ‘The Queen’s Justice’, so it could be time for Ellaria to answer for Myrcella Baratheon's murder.
Prior to this, Ellaria was an uncertain ally at best. Like Ollena, she is driven by a blind desire for revenge - so much so, in fact, that she betrayed her sovereign and took control of Dorne for herself. She has a penchant for poison and was the most vocally divisive member of Dany’s small council, quickly butting heads with Tyrion.
Ellaria's convoluted history with the Targaryens goes further back than most. She lost her lover, Oberyn Martell, in his own quest for vengeance. Oberyn sought to avenge his sister, who’d been slighted by her husband, Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s uncle) and was subsequently raped and murdered by the Mountain during the sack of King’s Landing.
Another moot point, or the key to gifting Daenerys the Iron Islands? After Theon succumbed to his innate anxieties, he abandoned ship and left his sister at the mercy of her sadistic uncle.
Prior to her capture, the Mother of Dragons was Yara's only real option left when it came to finding allies to support her claim to the Iron Islands. Cersei would never have accepted the Ironborn’s open rebellion against the crown, and the north — as they say — remembers. Few there are likely to lend support to Yara, a Reaver who made her name raiding northern coastlines before wresting Deepwood Motte from House Glover.
Nobody really needs reminding about Theon’s transgressions against the Stark’s. He’s unlikely to be widely forgiven for that, even if he did help Sansa escape the clutches of Ramsay Bolton.
“We have an army, a fleet, and three dragons. We should hit King’s Landing now.”
If Yara wants the Iron Islands back, then her best bet is to stick with Daenerys Stormborn. The Ironborn aren’t notorious for their trustworthiness, but Yara seems more honorable than most - even though she’s still a pirate. She might have more reason than ever to align herself against Euron and Cersei, but that doesn’t make her loyalty unswerving. Her family’s words: “We do not sow”, aren’t a reference to the Greyjoy’s ability to follow orders.
Either way, Yara is currently captured and Theon is castaway. So, despite their loyalty, Dany’s dynamic pirating duo don’t seem to be her most stable allies right now.
Missandei & Grey Worm
Missandei and Grey Worm are two of very few characters that Daenerys can wholeheartedly trust. Ever since they were freed from their despicable Masters, Missandei and Grey Worm have remained slavishly devoted to Dany.
It was only in ‘Stormborn’ where these two really claimed something for themselves. Their sex scene was arguably the most touching of the entire saga, focusing on two people exploring a life with each other, beyond the servitude that they’ve known their entire lives. Dany made all that possible. As long as tragedy befalls neither of these star-crossed lovers, their loyalty should remain absolute.
It seems that although each member of Daenerys' council is loyal to the Mother of Dragons, they are divided in what they wish to be rewarded with for that loyalty. While Tyrion and Varys hope to serve the realm, key figures such as Olenna Tyrell and Ellaria Sand are driven solely by their thirst for revenge. This will surely be a difficult conflict of interest for Dany, as she questions whether to follow her Hand's advice - or whether to unapologetically "be a dragon", as Olenna suggested.
So, what do you think of the loyalties of Daenerys' new councillors? Sound off in the comments below!