But I maintain that Daario has crucial thematic importance for Dany's struggle within herself, which is the heart of her ADWD arc. Dany opts for political compromise to achieve peace and protect the lives of her "children," but Daario wants to reject this approach in favor of violence, dominance, and taking what one wants. Dany's attraction to Daario is not simply some girlish foolery, but a key indication that some part of Dany is drawn toward Daario's violent approach, and that she is unwilling to completely abandon the "conquerer" side of her own personality that she has symbolically chained with her dragons.
A Butcher Queen: Let's start with Dany and Daario's first significant interaction in ADWD. Unable to stop the Harpy killings, Dany has just offered to marry Hizdahr if he can stop them for 90 days. Hizdahr's sole interest is reopening the fighting pits Dany despises, and of course Dany feels no attraction to him, so this would entail Dany making two sacrifices in exchange for peace.
Then, she is told Daario has arrived and calls him in. She tells him her plan to marry Hizdahr, and he scoffs and suggests simply murdering all of the Meereenese nobles at a Red Wedding. Dany's attraction to him is repeatedly emphasized, but she tells herself she is horrified at what she is saying, and tells Daario she's no butcher queen. Daario responds, "Most queens have no purpose but to warm some king’s bed and pop out sons for him. If that’s the sort of queen you mean to be, best marry Hizdahr." What's great about this scene is that they're both right. Dany is in denial about how much she'd have to give up for peace, but she's right that Daario's a monster and butcher. Dany ends the chapter by sending Daario away, disgusted, before telling herself she is no different from him because Drogon killed the little girl. But clearly she doesn't truly believe this, because she continues to try to prove that she is different from Daario by protecting the lives of her subjects.
A Risky Affair: Over her next few chapters Dany rejects violent plans from Groleo and the Shavepate as the foreign threat looms and the pale mare arrives with the Astapori, and commits to the idea of marrying Hizdahr for peace. But after hearing of Brown Ben's betrayal and making the wrenching decision to shut the gates to the Astapori, "she wanted to scream, to gnash her teeth and tear her clothes and beat upon the floor." Frustrated at her own powerlessness and the fast-approaching loss of her own autonomy with her marriage, she immediately orders everyone but Daario to leave so she can blow off some steam by having sex with him.
This decision is key because it's the first time Dany acts out to endanger the peace she's told herself she wants so desperately. She is still in theory committed to the marriage with Hizdahr, but she carries on the affair openly and makes out with Daario in court. The Green Grace is furious
Not Made for Peace: Finally, when peace is achieved, Dany symbolically removes Daario from the playing field by sending him to Yunkai as a hostage. She tells herself, "He will be safer as a hostage. My captain was not made for peace." But of course, it's not only Daario but also Dany who's "not made for peace," as she displays when she grows increasingly antsy over the course of the chapter: "I hate this… How did this happen, that I am drinking and smiling with men I'd sooner flay?… This is peace… This is what I wanted, what I worked for, this is why I married Hizdahr. So why does it taste so much like defeat?
Dany keeps trying to convince herself that she's made the right decisions. "Better a few should die in the pit than thousands at the gates. This is the price of peace, I pay it willingly. If I look back, I am lost." But when she reflects on Daario, she seems to realize something about herself. "I should never have taken him into my bed. He was only a sellsword, no fit consort for a queen, and yet… I knew that all along, but I did it anyway/" She cries and eventually falls asleep "to dream queer, half-formed dreams of smoke and fire." In the following chapter, Dany watches the fighting pits, becomes disgusted at what her peace has cost, throws off her Meereenese garments, and Drogon arrives to break the peace.
A New Approach: In Dany's final chapter, she has a series of visions that lead her to mentally embrace "fire and blood," followed by a literal manifestation of that new approach when Drogon roasts a horse and Dany chows down on it with abandon. She reflects on what she's doing in some of her final sentences in the book:
Daario would laugh, carve off a hunk of horsemeat with his arakh, and squat down to eat beside her.
So in that sentence -- the last thought Dany has in the novel, so obviously of crucial importantance -- Dany seems to have embraced Daario's violent approach over the peaceful political compromise represented by Hizdahr.
Edited by The Lost Lord, 26 September 2011 - 02:50 PM.