It finally happened. In the midst of all the general mayhem and carnage befitting of a Game of Thrones finale, Jon rolled up to Daenerys’ bedroom, gave her the look, and proceeded to seal the deal in one of the more tender sex scenes the show has ever seen. It was candlelit and carefully scored, even Jon’s gleaming ass seemed classy given the occasion. Luckily, Tyrion was there, his creeping around giving a slightly suspicious undertone to the events, but the scene certainly struck as awfully cheery considering the big reveal that had come before it. Since when are we so chill with casual incest, and what does their fan-serving hookup mean for the future of the series?
The other big thing that finally happened this episode was Jon’s real name, Aegon Targaryen, and the official series confirmation that Jon and Dany are very much related. (And also that he’s the rightful heir of the Iron throne. But that’s for another time.) Just how are they related? Here’s the Sparknotes of it all: Daenerys is the youngest living child of the Mad King, Aerys II, who was the last Targaryen king of Westeros. Aerys was father to three kids: Rhaegar, Viserys and Daenerys. With me? Good. Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Shortly after Jon’s birth (near the end of Robert’s Rebellion), Dany’s mother Rhaella gave birth to Dany. This makes Dany Rhaegar’s baby sister, and since Rhaegar is also Jon’s father, Daenerys is Jon’s aunt—even though she’s younger than him.
Look—it would be one thing if all the incest on this show was regarded with a similarly non-judgey eye – we all know the morality in Westeros is iffy on a good day. But you only need to look at Jaime and Cersei’s first sex scene to see how the show is refusing to equate the two relationships. That scene, which ends with Bran’s unceremonious exit from a tower, comes paired with some strange, slightly eerie scoring and a decidedly unromantic encounter between the pair, a far cry from the prom night, losing your v-card realness Jon and Dany served us last night.
Sure, there are differences: Jaime and Cersei are twins for god’s sake, and morally corrupt ones at that. By contrast, Jon and Dany are pure of heart, and neither of them actually know how related they really are. From a viewer standpoint, both of them have also tragically lost the only people they truly loved, and have yet to get close to someone else since. Plus, you can certainly justify their pairing as the greatest thing for Westeros as a whole, having proven for years independently to be gifted leaders.
None of that acquits the writers, David Benioff and DB Weiss from being in full fan-service mode this entire season: from Gendry’s return (and that “thought you’d still be rowing” nod) to three dragon battles after seasons of nothing, full-scale family reunions without dire consequences and of course, the fast-moving love affair between Jon and Dany. Even the devastating deaths this season have been few and far between, and even Olenna got such a killer send-off that her death scene felt more like a victory than a loss. With viewers vocally cosigning this incenstuous hookup, the show’s been happily moving at breakneck speed to a now all-but inevitable conclusion: Jon and Dany will birth an impossible child, who will become the ultimate heir to the Iron Throne.
It’s all so tidy, something the show under the tutelage of George R. R. Martin’s books has avoided like the plague. Usually, when things get good on Game of Thrones, the worst gets going: like that time Oberyn declared his dedication to Tyrion shortly before having his eyes gouged out or when Stannis finally told his daughter he loved her only to literally burn her at the stake a few episodes later. Weiss and Benioff technically have six more episodes to send everything crashing down, but if the pitch of this episode was any indication: Jaime finally walking away from Cersei, Littlefinger finally dead, it’s hard to imagine that we’re being set up for anything other than Jon and Dany’s predictable triumph.
It’s technically impossible to know what Martin had planned for the future of the show, but we do have a letter he wrote to his publisher back in the ‘90s outlining his plans for the full arc – and while he had incest in Jon’s future, it was a whole lot darker and weirder than the candle-lit love affair we’re being given. In his initial idea, Martin saw a storyline in which Arya and Jon fell madly in love, despite their half-sibling status and Jon’s celibacy. “Their passion will continue to torment Jon and Arya throughout the trilogy,” Martin described.
It’s no wonder Weiss and Benioff gave this idea a wide berth. It’s a move that could potentially change every fans’ idea of Jon as the pure-hearted, likeable dude we like to imagine he is. And while it’s a logical extension of Martin’s twisted sense of virtue, it’s one that wouldn’t go down as easily as two hot, slightly more distantly related heroes hooking up. It would have been complicated, and would have forced viewers (and the show’s writers) to reconcile what they want to see with what actually makes sense for these characters and the world they live in.
Viewers might have gotten what they wanted last night, but it’s hard not to feel as though we’re trading short term fan service at the expense of the series’ unique world as a whole. It might not be a total jump the shark moment—there are enough hanging threads to keep everyone interested even if Jon and Dany stay boring as hell—but it doesn’t bode well for the show’s looming final season. And while we’re likely headed towards a fiery, and intense conclusion, is it worth it if the show’s last episodes betray everything we’ve learned about Game of Thrones over the past seven seasons? In a show that’s defied expectation at every turn, the most terrible death of all would be to become so painfully predictable.