Warning: So many spoilers ahead.
Emilia Clarke has been deservedly and wildly famous for nearly a decade, but because most of that time was spent fucking around in Westeros and incidentally ruining my life, her résumé is somewhat limited. Game of Thrones’ harrowing seven-season production schedule meant she had to be selective about what she took on, so in between shooting CGI dragon scenes that cost more than my entire family’s college educations, she only had time for a few movies, a couple of other TV shows, and a Dolce & Gabbana commercial in which she flirts silently with Italians. Given her relatively short filmography, what I’m about to point out is particularly strange: In the majority of Emilia Clarke’s projects, her love interest dies a horrible death.
I know what you’re thinking: People die in movies all the time! Death is an inevitable part of the human experience and must be reflected in our cinema! Fear not death — it is merely the return to the nothingness from whence we came! No. What I’m telling you is that in at least three of her recent fictional narratives, Emilia Clarke has played a woman who falls madly in love with a man, then either watches him die or learns he is already dead. As a result of this death, her character grows exponentially, becoming the person they were truly meant to be all along. What I’m telling you is that Emilia Clarke cannot stop playing opposite manic pixie dead boys. She simply cannot! I love her so much! Emilia Clarke loves to watch men die, and while I for one cannot blame her, I do want to know: Why?
Is this pattern a chaotic but fascinating act of feminist resistance? Is it coincidence? Is it totally meaningless? What am I doing with my one human life and why am I writing this? Let’s review.
First off, we have Game of Thrones. In it, Emilia Clarke plays Daenerys ( … had to lie down for a minute after typing that, as I never thought I would have to remember that spelling again), who falls in love with Khal Drogo, her rapist and husband. Soon thereafter, he is mortally injured in, uh, battle? I don’t remember how and I refuse to look it up. Anyway, Dany, devastated, attempts to revive him with the help of a witch. But then she’s like, “Wait, actually, no, he’s acting really freaky and I think he should be dead.” And so he dies. (Pay attention: The murky lines between life and death will soon become another pattern in Emilia’s career.)
Soon after Khal Drogo’s death, Daenerys goes on to become a great queen, and eventually and quite unbelievably, a very bad queen who is killed for wearing too many black outfits. In between, though, she loves another man who is questionably dead but still alive: Jon Snow. Throughout the series, when men with fully functioning circulatory systems fall in love with her, she’s not interested. Only men who have reached beyond the veil and made contact with that other side, please!
Next up we have Me Before You, a 2016 movie Emilia made on a break from Game of Thrones in which she is forced to wear another series of starkly insane outfits in the name of character development. Emilia does her best in a movie absolutely determined to shove its entire foot in its mouth; she’s very charming as Lou, a sweet caretaker who falls in love with her caretaker-ee, a rich man named Will who’s paralyzed after being hit by a motorcycle. From the moment we meet him, it’s clear that Will — who the movies takes pains to point out is a serious former patron of French cafés — wants to die, and nobody can convince him otherwise.
Lou falls for him anyway, and spends the movie trying to convince him that life is worth living. At the end of the movie, he’s like, “Well actually, sorry, I still do want to die.” He goes to Switzerland to shuffle off this mortal coil. Lou accompanies him on his voyage, does the requisite rending of her mad garments, then leaves for Paris with a nice chunk of his change and sips a cappuccino at a café, smiling. In voiceover, Will literally says to her that he’s given her this money so she can “live boldly.” If you’re keeping track, that’s Emilia: two; Men who died so she could do something cool: zero.
Earlier this month, Emma Thompson’s Christmas rom-com Last Christmas hit theaters. I, for one, was thrilled to the point of desperation merely hearing the phrase “Emma Thompson’s Christmas rom-com”; nothing could dissuade me from my excitement. Not even The Twist. In the past few weeks, a lot of people have expressed some anger about The Twist, but I personally loved it and found this movie totally delightful. It’s Emma Thompson’s Christmas rom-com — please! What more do you want from this fleeting life? $12 million dollars to spend at a French café?
Anyway, here’s The Twist, in case you haven’t seen it and do not have enough respect for yourself to go see Emma Thompson’s Christmas rom-com: In Last Christmas, Emilia plays Kate, a classic rom-com fuckup heroine who, like she does in Me Before You, wears a bonkers coat and crazy tights. The difference is, in this film, she’s not a sweet caretaker but rather a drunk with a latent heart condition who can’t stop doing things like electrocuting her friends’ fish.
That is, until she meets Tom (Henry Golding), a nice man with a normal coat who shows up out of nowhere and begins to teach her about the beauty of the world around her. Kate eventually lets her guard down and falls for Tom, only to discover … he’s dead. Near the end of the film, Tom tells Kate that he was killed in a bike accident a year earlier (last … Christmas, in fact), and actually, he gave … her … his heart … when he died. Now he’s here to make sure she doesn’t waste her life electrocuting animals. Yet again, Last Christmas concludes with Emilia mourning the love of her life, sitting alone on a bench in the snow. And yet again, she gets her act together thanks to her lover’s death: At the end of the movie, her hair is a little nicer and she is writing in a little journal.
Let’s address the final entry in this Boyfriend Death Anthology. Remember that Dolce & Gabbana commercial? Careful scholars (me) have argued that this commercial is, in fact, the conclusion of yet another narrative in which Emilia’s boyfriend dies. When it begins, Emilia walks into an Italian square, alone, wearing black (because she is in mourning). She looks overwhelmed, then begins to slowly smile, remembering how nice it can be — despite Jacob’s untimely death at the hands of a pizza truck — to be alive in the world. She lifts her face toward the sun. A man in an inexplicable costume hands her flowers; suddenly, she is holding a gigantic pole and dancing in the manner of How Stella Got Her Italian Groove Back. A waiter spins her around. She eats pasta with abandon, dances with a child, finds herself in the middle of an elegant mosh pit.
As the commercial comes to an end, she laughs, looking up at the sky. Jacob, are you there? she thinks. Can you see me now? I thought I’d never make it to Italy. But the pizza company paid my way here. And it’s all thanks to you.
In conclusion, do I have a better understanding of why Emilia Clarke loves to watch men die? No. But I really do want to know where she gets her coats.