Game of Thrones ended its seventh season on a bombshell reveal that confirmed a lot of fan theories about Jon Snow. The end of the Season 7 finale didn't just confirm Jon as the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, however. The episode also saw Jon getting busy with Dany, who fans now know for sure is his aunt. Given that Jon and Dany have emerged as heroes of the show, the incest probably isn't intended to make fans lump them in with the likes of the Lannister twins.
Well, George R.R. Martin's new book about the Targaryen dynasty may have provided the answer as to how the show will try to justify Jon and Dany's incest as totally fine. In Fire & Blood, which is the first of two volumes of the history of the Targaryens in Westeros, Martin explained how the Targaryens of old got away with marrying their siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. back in the days before Robert's Rebellion. Game of Thrones could easily use this concept to attempt to sell Jon and Dany's relationship as less creepy than other incestuous unions.
In Fire & Blood, George R.R. Martin introduced the Doctrine of Exceptionalism. It was crafted by Jaehaerys Targaryen, who was the fourth king in the Targaryen dynasty, and it claimed that the laws of the Faith of the Seven that prohibited incest didn't actually apply to the Targaryens. Why? Well, because the Targaryens were different from the folks of Westeros, as they had come with their dragons from Valyria, and things worked differently in Valyria.
Here's how Septon Alfyn, employed by King Jaehaerys to spread the message of Exceptionalism to the people of the Seven Kingdoms, put it:
One god made us all, Andals and Valyrians and First Men, but he did not make us all alike. He made the lion and the aurochs as well, both noble beasts, but certain gifts he gave to one and not the other, and the lion cannot live as an aurochs, nor an aurochs as a lion. For you to bed your sister would be a grievous sin, ser... but you are not the blood of the dragon, no more than I am. What they do is what they have always done, and it is not for us to judge them.
According to the Targaryens of the time, incest was wrong... unless the incest was within their family. Jaehaerys came up with the doctrine after he married his beloved sister, Alysanne, and was eager to prevent an uprising from folks who lived by the Faith of the Seven and didn't approve of brothers and sisters marrying. Such an uprising had taken place when Jaehaerys and Alysanne's brother Aegon and sister and Rhaena had wed only ten years previous.
Thanks to changes in Westeros during those ten years and Jaehaerys' efforts to mollify the Faith (and friendlier High Septon), Jaehaerys and Alysanne avoided an uprising and enjoyed one of the less bloody periods of time in the Targaryen dynasty. Now, let's proceed under the assumption that the Doctrine of Exceptionalism from the books could be adapted into the show.
Considering Game of Thrones takes place some 250 years after Jaehaerys introduced the Doctrine of Exceptionalism to the Seven Kingdoms, and Westeros is in a very different state when Jon and Dany hooked up, neither would probably be very concerned about an uprising from followers of the Faith of the Seven. That said, comments from Kit Harington point toward Jon not being altogether thrilled to learn that he hooked up with his aunt, although Bran apparently won't care too much.
Could the Doctrine of Exceptionalism be applied to make Jon feel better about falling in love with and sleeping with his aunt? I could see Dany using something along those lines when talking to him, even if she didn't grow up immersed in the history of the Targaryen dynasty. Dany in the books once thought that she would marry Viserys, and the meek Dany we met in Season 1 probably would have married her crazy brother.
Dany would actually have multiple reasons to want to convince Jon and presumably their allies that the nephew/aunt love connection is all good. The first and biggest is that, going by the traditions of the Targaryen dynasty, Jon is technically the rightful heir to the Iron Throne over Daenaerys. Rhaegar and Lyanna's secret marriage (as well as the annulment of Rhaegar's marriage to Elia Martell, which I still consider a needlessly awful thing to do to his wife and kids) means that Jon is legitimate and male, putting him ahead of Dany in the Targaryen line.
Unless Dany wants to battle her nephew/lover/ally for the Iron Throne or finally have to admit that she's actually a conqueror a la Aegon and Robert Baratheon rather than the rightful heir, marrying Jon could be the way to solidify her claim. In fact, if my crackpot theory that Jon is going to get Dany pregnant proves correct, these three could be the beginning of a new Targaryen dynasty.
Of course, the concept of Exceptionalism being used to justify the relationship and perhaps re-establish the Targaryen dynasty isn't perfect. For one thing, Jon hasn't really given any indication that he wants the Iron Throne, and even falling in love with Dany might not make him want to leave the North and become king to Dany's queen.
For another thing, nobody other than Dany and people afraid of Dany's dragons might be willing to buy into the Doctrine of Exceptionalism, although I would get a laugh out of Jaime piping up in support. It's not like the recent history of the Seven Kingdoms is chock full of positive examples of incest.
Jaime and Cersei's affair and bastard kids helped tear apart the realm, and the generations of Targaryen incest produced The Mad King and Viserys. Rhaegar clearly had questionable judgment, as his actions directly led to Robert's Rebellion, and Dany has shown some violent tendencies that had me wondering more than once if Game of Throneswould deliver a Mad Queen Daenaerys. Honestly, I'm still hoping that Game of Thrones ends with the survivors inventing a Westerosi version of democracy.
We haven't gotten much footage of Game of Thrones Season 8 just yet, but a quick new clip revealed Sansa yielding Winterfell to Dany (with Jon at her side), although she doesn't look thrilled about it. I could definitely see Northerners not responding well to the incest between Jon and Dany. Perhaps their allegiance to Jon could prevent them from speaking out. Also, Dany's dragons. The folks up North are probably going to have much larger problems to deal with than the nephew/aunt hookup before too long anyway.
Only time will tell. Game of Thrones has been off the air for more than a year now, and it won't return until April. For some viewing options between now and then, check out our midseason TV premiere schedule. More about the Targaryen dynasty will be revealed when the second volume of Fire & Blood is eventually released, and Winds of Winter will presumably hit bookshelves someday.