It was a face-to-face more than six seasons in the making. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally shared the screen on Sunday’s Game of Thrones, and the difference between the two is laid out by their respective introductions. Missandei presents Dany by her various titles — “Daenerys of the House Targaryen, the First of Her Name, The Unburnt, Queen of the Andals,” yada yada yada. Let’s just say: It’s a tad much.
Ser Davos, meanwhile, keeps things simple. “This is Jon Snow ... He’s King in the North.”
It’s stating the obvious, but Jon and Dany meeting is a huge deal. We’ve been following their journey from the onset, when Jon was a Northern bastard prepared to serve in the Night’s Watch, and Dany was being sold off to a Dothraki warlord while her brother had aspirations for the crown. They’ve had arduous journeys: Jon was killed and brought back to life, fighting in several brutal battles, while Dany jumped into a funeral pyre and reemerged with three baby dragons, the first seen in Westeros for centuries. Dig a little deeper, and George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, which the show is based on, can be perceived really as the story of Jon (Ice) and Dany (Fire), something I personally ascribe to the series. (Also, not for nothing: While Dany’s technically his aunt, they’re both insanely gorgeous humans, and lots of people are shipping them.)
Jon and Dany’s first scenes together — along with several other recent first encounters and long-awaited reunions (like Bran and Sansa Stark in Sunday’s episode) — underline the fact that we’re very close to the end of Thrones. In fact, after this most recent episode, we only have 10 left, assuming HBO is still set on six episodes for the final season. But Jon and Dany’s meeting is also a stark (no pun intended) reminder that these two characters, while central to the series, have vastly different ideologies that speak to the macro conflicts of Thrones.
In the simplest terms, that ideological divide boils down to a question of priorities: settling who will sit on the Iron Throne versus preparing for the impending invasion of White Walkers. Jon and Ser Davos argue that the latter is the most important issue facing the realm — they try to convince Dany that it doesn’t matter who takes the Iron Throne if the Seven Kingdoms are wiped out by ice zombies (which, fair point!).
Jon doesn’t have any interest in Westerosi politics, and he couldn’t care less about a fancy humblebrag introduction for himself; he just wants to gather numbers for the coming war with the Night King and his undead army. As the audience, we’ve seen what Jon has experienced firsthand — the White Walkers are a legitimate threat to Westeros, and it seems increasingly likely that they’ll make it south of the Wall by the end of this season.
But imagine this from Dany’s perspective: A man, who wants to be crowned king of one of the Seven Kingdoms, wants you to send your armies North and ignore the Iron Throne to face an existential threat that is essentially a myth. Even the existence of dragons before Dany’s can be confirmed — after all, there are skeletons in the Red Keep. The White Walkers haven’t ostensibly been seen for more than a thousand years. Dany’s more concerned with the people competing for the throne, and she’s been dealing with similar politics in Essos. Every title under her name, no matter how absurd, means something, and she’s fought for them.
So they stand at a crossroads for most of the episode, with Tyrion Lannister playing the part of matchmaker. He bridges the divide between Dany and Jon rather brilliantly, suggesting she give him the Dragonglass underneath Dragonstone as a token of good faith; it’s meaningless to Dany’s quest, anyway.
Presumably, this will give Jon ample weaponry to fight the White Walkers — though he might have to help win Dany’s war against Cersei Lannister in return. Yara Greyjoy’s fleet was recently decimated, Ellaria Sand is imprisoned in King’s Landing, the Tyrells are defeated at Highgarden and Dany’s Unsullied and Dothraki armies are stranded without ships at Casterly Rock, thanks to Euron Greyjoy destroying their fleet. It provides Dany with no allies or forces, after looking like she had an insurmountable advantage in the numbers department. (In three episodes, Cersei’s team suddenly feels as stacked and invincible as the Golden State Warriors; in this hypothetical, I guess Euron is her Kevin Durant).
This will all probably force Jon’s hand and send him into war against Cersei. It makes sense on a narrative level — even if Jon’s attention is pulled elsewhere, it’ll leave their forces spread thin and make the White Walkers even more dangerous as the show enters its last stages. Never forget that Martin has said he wants the ending to A Song of Ice and Fire to be “bittersweet.”
Jon’s perspective might be in everyone’s best interests, but unless he can convince Dany that it’s the White Walkers who deserve her focus, and not the Iron Throne she’s been marching toward all this time, then it looks like Jon’s going to get dragged into yet another violent conflict — one that’ll feel especially meaningless to him.
Elsewhere, another of Westeros’ most influential players is particularly dead-eyed about the current situation. Littlefinger considers for a moment the possibility of the White Walkers coming south. “One of two things will happen — either the dead will defeat the living, in which case, all our troubles come to an end, or life will win out.” he tells Sansa. “And what then?”
The seventh season of Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.
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