Fans of Game of Thrones remember Cersei Lannister’s infamous quote from the start of the series. She says, “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” As such, viewers braced themselves for the deaths of their favorite characters, many of whom meet extremely gruesome ends.
After the fourth episode of the show’s eighth and final season, fans were left reeling when a beloved character, Missandei, met her fate at the hands of Cersei herself. But, before the former says goodbye to Game of Thrones, she has one final thing to say – and it left many scratching their heads.
However, while some viewers didn’t understand Missandei’s final exclamation, others felt as though the show’s writers had left them a little hint as to what was to come. Indeed, only one person could corroborate those theories. And that individual is series creator David Benioff, who revealed just what Missandei meant with her final utterance on the show.
By now, if they don’t watch the show themselves, everyone at least knows how popular HBO’s Game of Thrones became over its eight-year, 73-episode run. Indeed, the viewing statistics of the show’s final season serve as a prime example. For instance, the finale episode, “The Iron Throne,” roped in over 19 million viewers.
Meanwhile, “The Iron Throne” episode consisted of the 13.6 million viewers who caught the finale live, those who tuned in for an encore presentation and those who logged onto the network’s streaming platforms. For its part, HBO is a premium channel that requires subscription and additional payment. Regardless, Game of Thrones finale garnered more viewers than the end of another popular show, The Big Bang Theory, which saw 18 million people tune in.
Game of Thrones became so popular for one big reason, according to the BBC’s Ken Tucker. In 2014 he said that the show “represents a return of old-fashioned escapism. GoT invites you to join a world where you can solve your problems with a sword and saddle.”
Nevertheless, no matter a person’s reasons for watching, it’s obvious that Game of Thrones has won a massive fan base. And those excitable viewers have had plenty of opinions about the show’s final season. This crucial set of episodes concluded the fantastical tale and saw several main characters achieving their destiny – or meeting their demise.
Missandei, played by Nathalie Emmanuel, counts as one beloved Game of Thrones character whose story arc had a shocking ending. She first appeared in season three as an enslaved interpreter who negotiates a trade of men between her master, Kraznys mo Nakloz and Daenerys Targaryen.
In the trade, Daenerys negotiates to include Missandei as part of the deal. From there, she quickly ascends the ranks from slave and interpreter to become a trusted advisor to Daenerys. This happens as the latter builds an army and plans her coup of the iron throne, held in King’s Landing by Cersei Lannister.
Season eight brings Missandei, Daenerys and her army first to Winterfell, preparing for a battle against the dead. Instantly, the Northern locals look at Missandei with trepidation – they can tell she’s from far away. So, she and her lover, Grey Worm, dream of where they’ll go once the war ends. To that end, Missandei hopes to return to Naath and its beaches.
But first, Missandei, Grey Worm and the rest of the living at Winterfell have to survive the battle against the dead. Unable to contribute to the war effort, Missandei and several others hide out in the castle’s crypt for the duration of the fight. During that time, she cuts into a conversation between Sansa, of Winterfell’s reigning Stark family, and Tyrion Lannister, hand to Daenerys.
Tyrion first wonders aloud if waiting in the crypt will prove to be a mistake. He says, “If we were up there, we might see something everyone else is missing. Something that makes a difference.” But Sansa disagrees, telling him that he’d die in the fight and adds, “There’s nothing you can do.”
Sansa goes on to say, “Witty remarks won’t make a difference. That’s why we’re down here, none of us can do anything. It’s the truth. It’s the most heroic thing we can do now look the truth in the face.” At that point, Tyrion wonders if he and the oldest Stark daughter should have remained married, as they were in an attempt to humiliate them both by his family.
Meanwhile, Sansa says Tyrion was “the best of” her husbands. For her part, she was previously promised to marry his nephew, Joffrey, and she later wed Ramsay Bolton. But Sansa also adds it would never have worked out for the pair. When Tyrion asks her why, she brings Daenerys into the conversation. She says, “The Dragon Queen. Your divided loyalties would become a problem.”
Loyal to Daenerys, Missandei jumps into the discussion at this point. Before walking to the other side of the crypt in anger, she interjects, “Yes. Without the Dragon Queen, there’d be no problem at all. We’d all be dead already.” And of course, the night has more in store than just a disagreement in the crypts.
As the battle above rages on, the Night King, who leads the army of the dead, uses his power to resurrect those who have perished already to join his effort. This includes the soldiers who have died while fighting for Winterfell, as well as the bodies interred within the castle’s crypt.
So, the dead within the walls of the crypt begin to awaken, breaking through their tombs and attacking the living who have taken refuge there. As such, Tyrion implores everyone to run. And for her part, Missandei is among those who manages to escape the tomb and survive the battle against the dead.
With the conclusion of the battle, Daenerys feels strongly that she should spring to attack King’s Landing and achieve her ultimate goal – taking the iron throne for herself. Her advisors warn her against such an act, especially since half of her army has just died in the Battle of Winterfell.
So, Daenerys agrees to avoid a fight at King’s Landing. Instead, her forces will create a blockade around the city and wait patiently for the residents to turn on their sitting queen. At that point, Sansa suggests a break for the soldiers who just fought the army of the dead, but Daenerys won’t hear of it.
Instead, Daenerys and her team of fighters and dragons begin their trek to King’s Landing. Unfortunately, though, they’re intercepted by the commander of Cersei’s fleet and her lover, Euron Greyjoy. His fighters use scorpions, which resemble crossbows, to take down one of Daenerys’ final two dragons.
Meanwhile, with only one dragon left, Daenerys feels afraid to risk an offensive. So, she takes a step back from the battle, and Euron’s fleet destroys hers. Her soldiers who have survived the fight wash ashore and rejoin their queen. One face is missing from the fray, though – Missandei’s.
In the battle, Euron’s men take Missandei captive and bring her to King’s Landing. Again, Daenerys pitches her original gameplan of destroying the city and showing no pity for its residents. But her advisors try talking her out of it – she shouldn’t be plotting a mass murder of the population over whom she aspires to rule.
Instead, Daenerys and her army march to the wall of King’s Landing. And there, Cersei stands alongside Missandei and her executioner, The Mountain. Daenerys’ hand, Tyrion, tries to assuage the tension between the two and pleads that his pregnant sister, Cersei, surrender before it’s too late. He says, “Your reign is over. But that doesn’t mean your life has to end.”
After Tyrion’s speech, Cersei seems to consider his words seriously. And for a second, it seems she might give in to Daenerys instead of fighting a final battle against her. But then, Cersei turns to Missandei, places her hand on her arm and says, “If you have any last words, now is the time.”
Missandei then spends nearly half a minute deciding what she will say. She peers out over the wall of King’s Landing, locking eyes both with her lover, Grey Worm, and with her queen, Daenerys. Then, she knows what her final message will be. She says, “Dracarys,” a single word in the High Valyrian language spoken in Essos, the continent upon which Missandei was once a slave.
With Missandei’s final word spoken, Cersei turns to her executioner, which signals him that it’s time for their hostage to die. The Mountain unsheaths his sword as he steps forward. And, with a single swing of his weapon, he beheads Missandei, and both her head and body fall from their perch atop the wall of King’s Landing.
Meanwhile, as soon as she’d uttered her final word, Game of Thrones fans wondered what Missandei’s final, echoing statement might mean. One Reddit user theorized in a May 2019 post that “she was about to say ‘goodbye’ to Grey Worm in 19 different languages.” Another said, “I hope that it has something to do with the dragons ‘not failing’ in the next episode.”
On Twitter, a fan shared a more developed theory about the use of “Dracarys.” They wrote in May 2019, “So I replayed the intro of episode four [because] they always leave hidden messages and look what we have! Three dragons and a larger dragon! Also, the comet is flying over the same way [as] when the first dragons were born!”
This, the Twitter user theorized, meant that Missandei’s “Dracarys” yell meant that more dragons were on the way. They concluded, “Could Drogon have laid eggs in season five?” Meanwhile, Digital Spy found support for this theory in the books that inspired Game of Thrones. Indeed, author George R.R. Martin said dragons were gender-fluid, meaning Daenerys’ male dragon could potentially lay eggs of his own.
Elsewhere, another Redditor wondered if “Dracarys” could have to do with Jon Snow, the King of the North who enlisted Daenerys’ help to fight the dead. In his quest to do so, he fell in love with the Dragon Queen. However, he later found out that his biological father, Rhaegar Targaryen, was Daenerys’ brother.
As such, Jon Snow had a claim to the iron throne, just as Daenerys did. Some fans thought that “Dracarys” might indicate how the latter would remove a competing power – by enlisting her dragon to burn him. To that end, some thought that because Jon also had Targaryen blood in his veins, the dragon might refuse to perform the murder.
Finally, one fan looked back at another previous episode of Game of Thrones for clues. In this one, Daenerys uses the word “Dracarys” herself – the same one in which she gains possession of the Unsullied army and of Missandei. And in exchange for all of that, she promises their slave master, Kraznys mo Nakloz, one dragon.
Once Daenerys receives the slave master’s whip – with which came the army’s allegiance – the dragon refuses to cooperate with his new owner. In response, she says, “A dragon is not a slave.” Then, she shouts, “Dracarys,” at which point her dragon Drogon lights the slave master on fire and returns to Daenerys.
The Reddit user who noticed the similarities between these two events wrote, “Missandei could be trying to communicate that Daenerys could make a similar deal in order to ‘secure peace between King’s Landing and the North.’ And then double-cross Cersei by having the dragon kill her and her army. Like a really terrifying Trojan Horse.”
Indeed, this Redditor and other fan theorists did, at least, understand the meaning of the word that seemed to signify so much. Translating from the fantastical High Valyrian language Missandei spoke, the phrase “Dracarys” had a very relevant meaning to Daenerys. It also foreshadowed what could lie ahead for the surviving characters – because the word means ”dragonfire.”
Ultimately, David Benioff, the creator of Game of Thrones, chimed into the conversation on an episode of HBO’s Inside the Episode. And there, he revealed what Missandei really meant – and what it could mean for the series. For starters, he said, “People have underestimated Dany’s strength many times before.”
“And no one’s ever done really well underestimating her strengths,” Benioff continued, alluding to many moments throughout the series, including the one with the slave master. So, hearing the word “Dracarys” probably left the word “echoing in Dany’s head in these final moments that would be Missandei’s final words. ‘Dracarys’ is clearly meant for Dany.”
And, according to Benioff, Missandei meant it in the most destructive of ways. He added, “Missandei knows that her life is over and she’s saying, ‘Light them up.’” For much of the series, Daenerys tried to avoid using her dragons in a power grab, as the fire and fury could harm civilians. But it seemed as though Missandei’s final piece of advice for her queen was to go for it.
So, in the next episode, Daenerys still has the deaths of her dragon and Missandei fresh in her mind. Her army takes on the soldiers of King’s Landing, who quickly find themselves out-battled by the Dragon Queen’s troops – and the local forces surrender.
But even as the surrender bells ring out, clearly indicating that Cersei and her troops have given up, Daenerys does just what Missandei wanted her to do. Indeed, she lets her dragon burn King’s Landing to the ground, a gruesome act that sets the stage for the final episode of Game of Thrones.