Warning: This essay is dark and full of spoilers from Game of Thrones season eight.
The time has come to stop acting like Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen are a couple worth rooting for. This couple has been doomed from the minute Jon Snow stepped into the throne room at Dragonstone and I can’t continue to pretend these two will have a happy ending. Heck, I can’t even pretend they will have a satisfying end, for better or for worse. Truthfully, I don’t care how it ends for Jon and Dany on Game of Thrones because there are other characters whose arcs over the course of the series — as well as their season eight storylines — make them worth supporting. But Jon and Dany? Hell no.
I should make it clear up front that this has nothing to do with whether I think Jon and Dany are good or bad people. Sure, Daenerys is borderline megalomaniacal in season eight when it comes to securing the Iron Throne and Jon is too wracked with confusion and guilt over the revelation he is actually Aegon Targaryen, the legitimate heir to the throne, that he can’t do anything but sulk. But I tip my cap to them because GoT has done a good job of developing these two into the power players they need to be. I appreciate the journeys of self-discovery these two have been on over the course of the past seven seasons and it’s been interesting to see how fate has led Jon and Dany to each other. Reflecting on where they began in season one — she was a teenage political refugee being sold into an arranged marriage and he was a purposeless outcast trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life — and where they are in season eight makes it clear these two deserve the power they wield and the friends and family they have supporting them. They even deserve each other.
That said, it feels futile investing any time and energy into Jon and Dany as individuals and as a couple when it’s so clear things will not end well for them. It’s silly to think these two will survive season eight and become the Beyoncé and Jay-Z of Westeros, ruling in all their Targaryen glory until they die of old age, surrounded by their children. In season eight, episode two, “A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms,” Jon finally told Dany the awful truth that he is a Targaryen and her nephew, giving him a rightful claim to the throne that trumps Dany’s. She reacted how we’ve come to expect to react when things don’t go her way: angrily, petulantly and borderline murderously. She’s pissed at the possibility everything she’s worked for since she was a teenager could suddenly be for naught because the man she loves (and! her! nephew!) is the true future king.
Her reaction is a reminder, perfectly crystallized, that she is unfit to rule. Dany’s emotional reactions, as impulsive and brusque as they are, will be her downfall. She is almost incapable of handling herself rationally when any threat or even a minor problem comes into view. She’s been so blinded by this revenge quest to retake the Iron Throne that she is almost unable to function like a regular-ass human — something she really needs to do. It’s a reminder she may be an adult, but she’s not a grown-up. She’s powerful, but she’s not pragmatic. It doesn’t matter what we hope she’ll do — rule Westeros because she cares for the wellbeing of the citizens, love Jon because she truly loves him with no ulterior motive — because, in the world of GoT, hope is a futile emotion. Season eight is pulling no punches and hoping Daenerys will magically change into the compassionate, rational ruler Westeros needs right now is silly.
On the other side of the spectrum, Jon is too weak at this stage in the game. He’s been the good guy of GoT for too long. Even though he has stepped up to be the ruler Westeros needs (we’ve seen evidence of this when he led the Night’s Watch and, briefly, was King in the North), Jon is still too fragile for my liking. I understand finding out you’re actually a Targaryen and, to a certain extent, your life has been a lie is earth-shattering, but also get your shit together, Jon. If the revelation of your secret identity is enough to throw off years of strength and development of character, then you are not going to fare well in the coming wars as the people you love around you die. GoT demands a kind of toughness from its characters and yes, Jon has been able to either look tough or summon up toughness in the moment, but he’s still a little softie. He can’t make the hard choices. He’s easily paralyzed by his own moral compass and often does what is honorable rather than what is necessary (we’ve also seen evidence of this when he nearly ruined Daenerys’s alliance with Cersei in season seven).
Together, these two are too unstable to rule or even survive as a couple. Even if they didn’t have the weight of the future of Westeros on their shoulders, it’s easy to see they’re doomed. Because GoT is a show that rarely doles out happy endings, it’s worth preparing for the possibility that one or both of these characters will die. Sacrifices will have to be made in order to ensure the survival of the Seven Kingdoms and that means one of these people will have to dramatically change and do what is right. But I am so bored with it all. It’s too predictable. It’s like peeking at your Christmas presents before Christmas Day: you’re excited to get something but you’re somewhat deflated because you already know what you’re getting. Knowing they will not make it as a couple makes me feel like, as a diehard fan of the show, I shouldn’t even bother caring about them.
If Jon and Daenerys were the people this season eight storyline demands they be instead of these inert, incapable, ineffectual people they actually are, then maybe I’d actually care. But time’s a-wastin’ and it’s time to throw in the towel and invest in characters that are worth our time and attention. Sansa is poised to be the Lady of Winterfell and possibly even Warden of the North; invest in her as a powerful, honorable leader and a woman who has come into her own. Arya has found her sensitivity as well as her strength and become a woman who is so confident in her skills that she is unstoppable; invest in her as the protector Westeros deserves. Sam Tarly has always been gentle but now he is wise and brave; invest in him as the maester and historian of Westeros that will make sure what happens to every character on GoT is honored because he actually cares for them.
At this point, caring about anyone other than Jon and Daenerys makes sense. Don’t let these two fool you: just because they’re the main characters, it doesn’t mean they’re the best.
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