trish walker jessica jones daenerys targaryen game of thrones

No Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: The Dual Fates of Trish Walker and Daenerys Targaryen

Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg delves into the similarities between the two avenging women.

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SPOILER ALERT: This post contains MAJOR spoilers for the ending of Jessica Jones season 3. It also contains spoilers for the ending of Game of Thrones, but that’s old news by now, yeah?

As I binge-watched the emotional final season of Jessica Jones, I was struck by a multitude of feelings. By far, the one that most resonated with me was how I felt watching the saga of Trish Walker unfold. “THAT’S how you do a downward spiral,” I kept thinking. “That’s how you turn a hero into a villain.” And I couldn’t help but compare Trish’s downfall to the tragic descent of another blonde powerful genre heroine: Daenerys Targaryen of Game of Thrones.

But while Daenerys’s downfall struck viewers as rushed and unearned, the tragedy of Trish Walker has been slowly boiling since season two. As Jessica Jones’s adoptive sister, Trish was always the voice of reason, the moral compass for the unruly Jessica. A former child star turned radio advice host, Trish had overcome her overbearing stage mom Dorothy and had tackled her drug addiction. Trish idolized Jessica for her strength, always encouraging her to embrace her heroic powers.

But that idolization soon turned to jealousy, as Trish relapsed and became obsessed with gaining superpowers in season two. It was a fascinating take on entitlement vs. empowerment. After all, Trish is smart, beautiful, famous, and rich. But becoming a celebrity was never her choice, and she suffered for it. Between her abusive mother and the sexually exploitative entertainment industry, Trish has spent much of her charmed life feeling like a victim.

Her origin is not unlike that of Daenerys Targaryen, another woman whose story begins in trauma and abuse. Having fled her home in Westeros after her father and brother were murdered, Daenerys was under the control of her abusive brother Viserys, and sold into sexual slavery in her marriage to Khal Drogo. These painful origins inspired her sense of violent justice as she rises in power and begins conquering Essos. And yet for all of her best intentions, there is a similar sense of entitlement to Daenerys, who thinks she should rule Westeros because it is her birthright.

Trish’s desperation to be a hero, to help people, has blinded her to the trauma that Jessica has suffered as a result of following the same path. Her myopic view of good vs. evil drives her to betray her friends and nearly kill herself as the result of the same experimentation that gave Jessica powers. Trish ended season two by murdering Jessica’s mother Alisa right in front of her.

Season three finds the sisters estranged, as Trish becomes obsessed with honing her newfound superpowers and fighting crime. But in episode two “AKA You’re Welcome,” she realizes that doing the job is much harder than it looks. Trish struggles to find cases, and her celebrity causes even more distractions. When she beats up a mugger, she finds herself sued for assault. She also seems to be waiting for thanks and accolades that never come.

As Trish becomes more self-righteous, she begins to see herself as judge, jury and executioner. When her mother Dorothy is brutally murdered, something inside Trish breaks. Armed with rage and her newly acquired powers, she becomes a violent vigilante. While Jessica struggles to keep her working within the system, Trish continues to dole out brutal punishments, beating bad guys to death.

But as the bodies pile up, something dies in Trish. The loss of her mother and the unfairness of the world weigh on her, turning her into a violent criminal. The same arc befalls Daenerys, but while hers had a scant three episodes to ratchet up the tension, Trish’s slow burn is allowed room ferment and grow.

Giving Trish the space to slowly succumb to her demons makes her turn that much more upsetting and profound. It is a well earned, tragic downfall that was over two seasons in the making. Trish also benefits from a closer focus: Jessica Jones is an intimate character study, especially when compared to the large sprawling cast of a series like Game of Thrones.

Trish is also given the opportunity for redemption, however brief. While Daenerys dies full of conviction, Trish is arrested and forced to confront her litany of misdeeds. After Detective Costa reads the charges against her, the camera closes in on Trish’s face as she comes to the devastating realization, saying “I’m the bad guy.” Later, Jessica and Trish share a forlorn look as Trish is hauled off to The Raft, where she will likely be imprisoned for life. While Daenerys dies without redemption, Trish will spend the rest of her days seeking hers.

Showrunner Melissa Rosenberg commented on the similarities between the characters, and the cycle of abuse that neither is able to break. Rosenberg said,

“What I love about both of those characters and both of those storylines is it’s not gender specific. Power corrupts regardless of whether you’re male or female. So you really have these interesting stories about a person who is reacting to power. Jessica’s powerful, she’s making another set of decisions. Jon Snow is a powerful guy, he’s making a set of decisions. Hopefully, that’s something that’s chaining in the world.

When we first started off way back when, Jessica Jones was the first and only female superhero and one of the only flawed, damaged, powerful women onscreen, TV or features. Since then, many more have come to the forefront. As an audience member, it’s been wonderful to be able to see female characters simply be complex. They’re not defined by their gender, they’re defined by their humanity. And I think in this case, I think both Daenerys and Trish are allowed to follow a path that feels authentic in some ways. I mean, there’s a flack about Game of Thrones of course, but I dug what happened with Daenerys. I thought that was the right call.”

(via Entertainment Weekly, image: HBO/Netflix)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.