Jon is upset because he’s related to Daenerys, Daenerys because she has a new rival for the throne


Last night’s episode of Game of Thrones was full of laid-back, character-driven moments, and it was wonderful. But even though not a lot technically happened, the plot did move forward in some important ways, most notably when Jon Snow revealed to Daenerys Targaryen the secret of his parentage: that he’s not the bastard son of Ned Stark but rather then trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. “If it were true, it would make you the last male heir of House Targaryen,” Dany tells him, sounding none too pleased. “You’d have a claim to the Iron Throne.”

For better or worse, the White Walkers arrived at Winterfell before these two could fully work this out, but episode writer Bryan Cogman spoke to Entertainment Weekly about their differing reactions to the revelation:

"What really upsets Jon is that he’s a blood relative to the woman he’s in love with. In the crypt, Jon is taken aback when essentially the first thing she says is acknowledging that he has a claim to the Iron Throne. And Jon’s immediate concern is the fact that that’s her immediate concern. [Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke] play it beautifully. It’s a very difficult scene to pull off; so much has to go on behind the eyes. But then the horn blasts and the Army of the Dead are at the gates."

To be honest, I needed this to clarify Jon’s position. I know Jon isn’t a talker, but without him verbalizing his reaction, I didn’t get that he was disturbed by the incest specifically. In fact, I’d been wondering when someone was going to bring it up — when Sam told Jon the secret in “Winterfell,” Jon seemed most put out to learn that the man he thought was his father had lied to him his whole life.

In any case, this is the explanation we have. In another Entertainment Weekly interview, star Emilia Clarke expounded on Dany’s position. “The related thing, to her, is so normal,” she said. “She could have easily married her brother. It’s not a thing. It’s a thing for Jon, but let’s just forget about that. The main thing is we’re up for the same promotion and I’ve been working for it for my entire existence.”

"This is my whole existence. Since birth! Dany literally was brought into this world going: RUN! These f—ers [in Westeros] have f—ed everything up. Now it’s, ‘You’re our only hope.’ There’s so much she’s taken on in her duty in life to rectify. There’s so much she’s seen and witnessed and been through and lost and suffered and hurt to get here … and Jon doesn’t even want it!"

There are lots of ways this could go. Maybe fighting the dead will show Dany that her claim to the Iron Throne doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things and she won’t place as much importance on it. Or maybe she’ll “accidentally” drop a rock on Jon when she’s flying overhead during the battle.

Or here’s a thought: Jon is the son of the crown prince of the realm, which technically means he has a better claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. However, Dany’s claim is still pretty good, and deciding things based on technicalities is stupid anyway. I feel like this episode underlines this point when Jaime knights Brienne in defiance of a centuries-old rule that prohibits women from becoming knights. Why follow the rule when Brienne is deserving and the rule is dumb? With the Night King threatening to wipe out humanity, there’s no better time to shake up how things are done.

There’s more to deciding who should rule Westeros than just who comes next according to the rules of medieval primogeniture. As Clarke points out, Jon very probably doesn’t want the Iron Throne — whenever he’s taken authority in the past, it’s always been because others put him up for the job, not because he sought it out. And Jon has said on multiple occasions that he thinks Daenerys would be a good queen. Maybe these two could take a cue from Tormund Giantsbane, say “Fuck tradition,” and prioritize Dany’s lesser (but still legitimate) claim over Jon’s.

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