56

There are numerous people in Daenerys' council who know secret ways in and out of the Red Keep.

  • Varys: Back in Season 1 Varys is shown to know the secret way in and out of the Red Keep when he shows Illyrio in and Arya sees them. He also uses secret tunnels and entrances for Tyrion's escape.

  • Tyrion: Tyrion escaped through secret tunnels and has used the secret entrance himself when meeting Jaime in Season 7 Episode 5.

  • Davos: Davos smuggled Tyrion to the Red Keep to meet Jaime and also places a boat there for Jaime an Cersei's escape plan in Season 8 Episode 5. He is also an expert smuggler so presumably knows a few other ways in and out.

As such it seems obvious that they could have smuggled a handful of soldiers in to the Red Keep to try and assassinate Cersei and avoid the need for a battle altogether.

Whilst Davos may not have suggested it to Dany he could have told Jon who again may have dismissed it as not honourable but again might have used the plan. And Davos is probably against the whole sneaky assassin thing anyway after the shadow baby. However, it seems right up Varys' alley to want to do this and Tyrion wants to avoid fire and blood in King's Landing all together so they would probably have suggested it.

And even if that strategy isn't viable Arya and Sandor simply walk into the Red Keep with Arya not even hiding the fact she is armed. They could have dressed a few soldiers in rags and had them blend in, in the same manner.

Dany herself probably isn't against it as they sneak the Unsullied into Casterly Rock when they take it in Season 7. And she's not "mad" at this point and probably still doesn't want to rule ashes so would at least think it through rather than outright rejecting the idea.

Why did they not suggest this as a viable attack strategy?

  • 3
    Assassination isn't the best way to win support. – Möoz May 15 at 10:28
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    @Möoz Probably would have worked better than killing all your support though... – TheLethalCarrot May 15 at 10:28
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    @Möoz Idk, worked for Aegon III. Aegon II is murdered, Green Lords have no choice but to bend the knee. Worked for Stannis. Renly dies, Stormlords have no choice but to support Stanny. Same is true for Dany. If Cersei dies and leaves no heir that her supporters can rally behind, Dany automatically wins since the Lords have no other alternative. (Althought I wont call cersei any alternative, you know my stance) – Aegon May 15 at 10:36
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    @TheLethalCarrot you need no support is there is nobody to support someone else – JAD May 15 at 10:44
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    In principle Dany could also take Drogon and blow up the Red Keep in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep. That way she minimizes casualties and eliminates Cersei... – Rebel-Scum May 15 at 11:28
50

Simple: Dany's advisors don't want her to assassinate Cersei.

By the time that a plan like that could be put into action, she is left with just two remaining advisers - Tyrion and Varys, the first of whom would like to see Cersei survive (hence him freeing Jaime and providing them with an escape route) and the second of whom no longer wishes to see Dany sit on the Iron Throne an account of her being... well, a Targaryen through and through. Having Cersei assassinated would help Dany achieve her goals, yes - but by this point, it would not help her advisers achieve theirs, and as such they do not suggest it.

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    Why could Varys not plot to assassinate Cersei, then Dany? – adickinson May 15 at 13:20
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    You might be correct about Tyrion. I'm not sure about Varys though. He doesn't care about Cersei, and giving Dany what she wants - the Iron Throne - may temper some of her crazier tendencies for a while, giving him more time to plot getting rid of her (in favour of Jon). – Anthony Grist May 15 at 13:21
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    He might not care for Cersei, but it makes sense that he'd rather maintain the current status quo (that being, Cersei on the Throne) at least temporarily than put someone he believes might be a threat to all of King's Landing (and is later proven correct) on it. – Dr R Dizzle May 15 at 13:35
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    I think Varys would rather have Dany on the throne than Cersei and then attempt to get Jon on it rather then leaving Cersei on it. After all that was his initial plan so he does see something in her over Cersie, just now prefers Jon. – TheLethalCarrot May 15 at 14:27
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    @TheLethalCarrot I disagree. Varys cares only for the people, and as we can see, Dany is a bigger threat to the people than Cersei ever was. – Dr R Dizzle May 15 at 14:31
17

I've been surrounded by people who talk about it and, having read a few articles, I've been amazed at the people who seem to think this is totally out of character. Maybe it has been up until this point (I don't watch the show), but I think everyone who thinks that misses a couple of key points in general.

GoT is a show about murder. Mass murder isn't that big of a stretch

Seriously, the show's most viral moments have all been about murder. Lots of murder. Some people think it's a big deal when a character makes a jump to mass murder, but the larger jump is to get to the point of murdering people in general. To quote Jean Rostand

The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic.

Kill Cersei and it's tragic. Kill her town and...

In a power struggle, you make a bigger statement by wiping out a civilian population

In Babylon 5 The Deconstruction of Falling Stars (S4E22) they had this scene, which seems rather apt for this GoT episode (emphasis mine)

GARIBALDI: Now, you're a realfact kind of guy. You know what they're up to out there, don't you? Come on, you can tell me. Am I right? Your boys are planning a first strike against the enemy, aren't they? That's why you're rushing ahead like this, because you're under the gun.

DANNY: We will strike at the outer-world colonies and the enemy nations here on Earth at the same time. Our attack fleet will be leaving within the hour.

GARIBALDI: Good. Good, that's very smart. Now, will you be targeting military bases or civilian population centers?

DANNY: Civilian population centers. We, my superiors, feel it will demoralize the enemy. Force a surrender. Estimated dead? Fifteen to 20 million enemy casualties. Can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

GARIBALDI: Absolutely.

So Daenerys wants to be queen. Cersei is someone at least impeding that goal. Oh, and Daenerys has a nuclear bomb dragon and Cersei doesn't. Kill Cersei, however, and someone will simply rise to take her place (Season 9! Oh, wait...) and you still have to contend with her factions (which, the show is ending so you can't have that). Wipe out her city (civilian population center) and you demoralize anyone who would oppose you. It might be sloppy storytelling to have her make that jump in one episode, but it would make sense, in the episodes yet to come, why people might be reluctant to cross her.

  • + just for the B5 reference. You might be interested in last week's GoT recap episode on The Black Guy Who Tips podcast, where he correctly predicted she'd do just what she did, explained why, and also predicted the misplaced online outrage. – T.E.D. May 15 at 19:56
  • History is divided on the issue, however. Terror bombing didn't really work in WWII... – DevSolar May 17 at 14:02
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    @DevSolar - I'd equate this more to the Mongol's practice of completely razing any city that didn't surrender when asked to. – T.E.D. May 17 at 14:16
  • @DevSolar The British had roughly equal footing with the Germans (see The Battle of Britain), as opposed to the lopsided circumstances here, where one side has a weapon the other sides not only lack, but cannot effectively defend against. – Machavity May 17 at 14:20
  • @Machavity: Erm.... actually I was referring to the Allied bombing campaign on Germany and the US firebombing of Japan. The bottom line was, the anger of the civilians is directed at those doing the bombing, not the ones not surrendering to it. – DevSolar May 17 at 14:27
14

That doesn't fit very well with Dany's character. She's always been more the type to go in dragons blazing. Even if it did, it would win her no favours in a land where she's already seen as a usurper and a foreigner.

It wouldn't be wise for her advisors to suggest assassination when they want to give her the best chance at ruling with good favour from her subjects. A good way to win their respect is to defeat the current ruler in open battle.

I think it's also good to mention that it's not what we as veiwers wanted. Everyone wanted to see Dany fly over King's Landing with Drogon and unleash her fiery vengence - and that's exactly what we got.

  • 1
    @TheLethalCarrot agreed, beautiful in the most horrifying of ways – lee johnson May 15 at 10:54
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    I don't know any viewers who wanted what we got. I definitely would have preferred sensible battle plans and a well executed infiltration. – curiousdannii May 15 at 12:02
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    On the other hand, Dany derives her claim to the Iron Throne from her name/family who built the Red Keep having founded the Seven Kingdoms. Tearing it down is a huge pointer towards the end of the Targaryens and their Seven Kingdoms, which is everything Dany wants to be/have/rule. What I am saying is that tearing down the Red Keep is the worst of all starts of Dany's rule, even if she had left the general population unharmed. – user1129682 May 15 at 12:14
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    "Everyone" => not everyone. – BittermanAndy May 15 at 13:27
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    This answer make sense, but only if you ignore what happened in Episode 5. Dany effectively kills all her potential subjects before she even kills or attempts to kill Cersei. Cersei isn't even targeted by Dany, she dies from rubble collapsing on her from Dany just genociding an entire city. I do agree beating a current ruler in open battle would win you respect from your new subjects...but an even better way to lose that respect is to just kill them all indiscriminately. – BruceWayne May 15 at 14:13
13

Lets think about this in simple terms. Daenerys' goal here is to take and hold the throne. People have to accept that it belongs to her.

Now if a ruler is murdered, who is the new ruler? Well, whoever is next in the line of succession, that's who. Probably someone as closely related to the murdered ruler as possible. But whoever that is, its almost certainly not Dany.

However, if a ruler is removed from power by an army, once all fighting has ceased, who is the new ruler now? Clearly whoever the commander of that army says is the new ruler. That's the only way Dany is going to get that throne.

So while the resulting confusion of a sneak regicide might be militarily useful, it won't change the fact that Dany won't be able to rest herself on that throne without going there with an army and taking it by force.

There's also of course the old saying I made up: Don't fight Killer Croc in the water. Subterfuge and assassination is Cersei's forte'. She's really good at using and surviving that kind of attack. For all Dany knows, she'd notice and avoid that easily, and assasins bound for Dany are on the way if she gives them time they need to work.

The control and use of military force is Dany's strength. In her mind, that's the real source of all her power. She's certain she can win that way, and it will show the world that the throne belongs to her.

  • I'd say this is the most correct answer. Daenerys' goal is to secure rulership, and defeating the Lannisters in battle does that. Assassinating Cersei might not. A military victory demonstrates the power to defeat an army (in this case, one in a fortification, no less). Assassination is just craftiness and good fortune. – Dronz May 16 at 4:56
9

Daenerys' access to assassins isn't clear, and may not be very good. And she has reasons to be skeptical of their effectiveness.

Daenerys has never really used assassins. Specific reasons aren't exactly given, though I would assert that she is usually contending primarily against groups and ingrained social customs, which aren't really subject to a knife in the dark. She used other means to accomplish her goals instead. Her only personal interaction with assassins has been as a target, and notably, those efforts all failed (not a great confidence-builder in the approach).

An assassination plot takes time, skill and luck. She's not going to charge Joe Random with infiltrating the palace and killing the Queen, who is under personal guard at nearly all times. She could send an experienced soldier, but that doesn't necessarily indicate the right skill set for infiltration and quiet elimination of enemies.

She has, for large portions of the story, not had access to the resources to hire a top-tier assassin, and while she almost certainly does by the time she reaches King's Landing the best assassins we know of in the setting all come from Essos and are groups with whom she has no real association. Even assuming she has the right contacts to immediately engage such services (a big assumption), it would take months to send a message to Essos and contract with a Faceless Man or a Sorrowful Man. And never mind extra time for negotiations! She consistently displays impatience to take King's Landing, and so may not be excited to wait extra months for a potential failure.

Daenerys' advisors might have knowledge of more local options, but no better access. Davos definitely knows about what Melisandre was capable of, but she's not available at that point. Arya would certainly be a good candidate, but she doesn't work for Daenerys, and Daenerys doesn't know her (who would trust such a sensitive task to a stranger of uncertain loyalty?). She doesn't have access to a cunning planner and convenient opportunity (like Littlefinger, Olenna, and Joffrey's wedding).

Finally, Daenerys' successes mostly come from her following the Targaryen archetype. When she tries politics and diplomacy, she tends to not get much of what she wants and faces massive opposition. When she personally destroys her enemies, she tends to get her way.

2

Note that the Westerosi still believe in trial by combat. Regardless of their (alleged) civility, they still revere those with combat prowess, and the general populace looks down on cloak and dagger approaches.
Taking the throne by forces sends a strong message that Danaerys is the strongest, which incentivizes people to bend the knee to her.

Taking the throne by assassination achieves little to nothing.

First of all, the Targaryens were dethroned and exiled from Westeros. This is a bit of an oversimplification. Robert B actually pressed his claim to the throne as a distant Targaryen relative, but the man in the street knows that the Targaryens have been dethroned and doesn't bother with finicky imprecise rules and statutes.
When Cersei dies, that doesn't automatically make Targaryens accepted again. Most people would still consider her exiled and thus ineligible to inherit the Iron Throne.

Secondly, it's hard to prove that you were the one to orchestrate the assassination. Anyone could claim they did it. The cloak and dagger nature of assassinations very much obscures the assassin.
Furthermore, even if you prove Dany had Cersei killed, there is no rule that killing a king (through assassination) therefore grants you the Iron Throne. Even if Cersei dies, the city of King's Landing will still protect itself, led by an interim regent. Cersei is no military genius, her presence is not significant King's Landing's forces.

Your question seems to be based on the assumption that killing Cersei almost literally opens the door to Dany and her army, which is simply not the case.

But if Dany takes the throne by force, she gets access to the Red Keep to do so, and many people will have witnessed her victory, fear her army, and thus will bend the knee to her, which perpetuates her power.
This is exactly what Robert Baratheon did to claim the throne: he forcible killed/removed all other viable inheritors, proclaimed himself to be the new King, and then actively worked to suppress anyone who would undermine his rule (e.g. by trying to assassinate Dany, which Ned refuses).

protected by Aegon May 17 at 12:55

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