Warning: Spoilers ahead for Game of Thrones season eight, episode four.
Fears of history repeating itself and Daenerys Targaryen becoming the real villain on Game of Thrones have been simmering since the eighth and final season premiered. Could Dany make the same mistakes that her father, the “Mad King” Aerys II Targaryen made during his reign? Before we predict Dany’s future on GoT, it’s worth to look into the past and at who the Mad King truly was and see if his behavior is any kind of bellwether for Dany. So, who exactly was Aerys II Targaryen and why was he known as the Mad King?
He’s got an interesting family tree
The Targaryen family has always been focused on bloodline purity, so it has always been a common practice for family members to marry and have children together. A perfect example of this is Dany’s parents, Aerys and Rhaella, who were brother and sister. Aerys and Rhaella never had a good relationship as siblings and things only got worse as a couple. Their marriage was an unhappy one, plagued by stillbirths and miscarriages as well as Aerys’s increasing abuse of Rhaella as their marriage progressed and his unhappiness grew with her inability to produce heirs (incest will do that to a family). Their three surviving children — Rhaegar, Viserys and Dany — have either met unfortunate ends (Rhaegar and Viserys were murdered) or have struggled immensely in order to survive (Dany was exiled from Westeros and fought to build her army and assert her claim to the throne).
He wasn’t always a “Mad King”
The GoT books comment on how charming, intelligent and strategic Aerys was in his younger years. Aerys wasn’t exactly a benevolent ruler, but it was clear that he had the mental competency to rule over Westeros in a logical fashion. As his personal life and mental wellbeing crumbled, Aerys became known as the “Mad King,” with his personal fears and insecurities affecting his ability to rule.
He was obsessed with fire and afraid of swords
In the GoT books, Aerys, like a true Targaryen, became obsessed with fire and the way it worked on anything that came in its path. The books also make it clear that Aerys loved watching things — and people — burn to the point he developed a sexual fetish linked to his pyromania and would set things on fire just to become aroused. Yikes.
On the other hand, Aerys became increasingly phobic of sharp objects as he grew older. He was afraid of objects like swords after cutting himself on the Iron Throne one too many times, earning the gross nickname “King Scab” as his cuts from the throne healed. Because of the injuries, Aerys refused to cut his nails or his hair, which only made him look scarier as he descended into madness.
He’s responsible for creating vast quantities of wildfire
Aerys’s obsession with fire likely owed to this creation of wildfire. As we found out during the GoT season six finale, Aerys had a huge amount of wildfire made. We know that he occasionally used it on his subjects, but stored most of it under the Sept of Baelor (which Cersei later used to blow up the sept).
He eventually became the Howard Hughes of Westeros
Aerys grew increasingly paranoid towards the end of his life, fearing betrayal from those closest to him and assassination attempts at every turn. Aerys rarely, if ever, left the Red Keep and, as seen on the show, likely heard voices which contributed to his madness and irrational decisions. By the end of his life, whatever goodwill and solid alliances Aerys had established during the earlier years of his reign was gone and he was known as a cruel, brutal king who didn’t care for his people, was intent on keeping his power and would take irrational steps to maintain his throne.
He was killed by Jaime Lannister
Perhaps the most well-known bit of information is how Aerys died: at the hands of Jaime Lannister, who was a member of the Kingsguard at the time. Aerys was murdered during Robert’s Rebellion, which involved Robert Baratheon waging war against the Targaryens and eventually taking over the throne (GoT the TV show begins about 20 years after this event). Jaime killed Aerys while he sat on the Iron Throne, earning himself the nickname “Kingslayer” in the process.