Hodor! Spoilers ahead from Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 2, "A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms," which first aired Sunday, April 21, 2019.
So now we have it, or at least the start of it: Daenerys Targaryen's reaction to hearing, from Jon Snow, that he is actually Aegon Targaryen. Dany's oldest brother Prince Rhaegar didn't rape Lyanna Stark. The two were in love. They had a baby before she died, just after giving birth. That baby was Jon.
Jon Snow told Dany down in the Winterfell crypts, while he was looking at a statue of Lyanna Stark, aka his biological mother. When Jon first got the news last week in the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere, he was pissed off to hear it. He didn't want to be royalty. He didn't want anyone but Ned Stark to be his father. And he REALLY didn't want to be fucking his aunt.
Dany's reaction was very different. Her first reaction, to Jon's surprise, was to bring up his claim to the Iron Throne. To her, that's the obstacle -- not that he is her nephew. Emilia Clarke explained her character's mindset:
The related thing, to her, is so normal. 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!
Yes, as Emilia Clarke mentioned to EW, Dany and Jon (Kit Harington) are coming at this from opposite vantage-points, thanks to their upbringing. Dany was raised in exile, with her horrible older brother as her only guide to the world. He kept telling her about their rightful place on the Iron Throne, avenging their family -- including their noble brother Rhaegar. She always expected Viserys to take the Throne, but as his sister, she would possibly have been his queen (until she married Khal Drogo). Either way, it was theirs by right. When Viserys got his golden crown, that left Dany as the rightful heir and final Targaryen. Or so she was told.
Now she's hearing that, by the same bloodline rationale, the Iron Throne is Jon's by right. And he doesn't even want the bloody thing. That's salt in the wound, Emilia Clarke continued:
Dany literally was brought into this world going: RUN! These fuckers [in Westeros] have fucked 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!
Jon Snow was raised to believe he was a bastard. Has never wanted any leadership role at all, but leadership keeps being thrust upon him. It has become borderline comical how often people try to put him in charge and he tries to deflect. As he has pointed out for the past couple of seasons, it shouldn't matter to anyone, since the true enemy is the dead.
Game of Thrones seems determined to vilify Dany, perhaps hinting that she's becoming her own version of The Mad King, despite her long history of being a breaker of chains. She has earned the loyalty of so many people through her actions over the past seven seasons, even if the viewers (and the show's current writers) sometimes seem to forget that.
Also, Dany made a good point last night in Episode 2. Sansa Stark has been frustrated with Jon, thinking that Dany manipulated him into giving up his crown. (As if Jon wouldn't hand that off to anyone, gladly.) Dany noted that her whole life has been focused on returning "home" to Westeros and reclaiming the Targaryen throne. And yet, where was she? In Winterfell, fighting the battle Jon asked her to fight, because she knows fighting for humanity is the chief concern. Plus, she loves him.
Jon is another character who has earned the loyalty of so many people. Personally, I think it's time to stop trying to get him to take the throne if he doesn't want it. After all, the first Targaryen he ever met was Maester Aemon. He could've had the Iron Throne but gave it up. It's not for everyone. I do think this will all become a moot point by the time we return to King's Landing; I suspect the Iron Throne is going to be destroyed and this whole world will be refigured. Break the wheel!
On the Jon Snow as rightful king note, though: I'm also frustrated that Game of Thrones casually threw Elia Martell and her children under the storyline bus in order to make Jon's claim legitimate. Elia and Rhaegar were married and had two children. But somehow Gilly and Sam dug up intel that said that marriage was annulled -- how? why? -- so Rhaegar could marry Lyanna and produce the non-bastard heir to the throne.
You're fine with that? Really? It's not the only questionable plot convenience on the show, but it hits at the heart of Game of Thrones. Elia was both raped and murdered by The Mountain, with her two children bashed together and presented by the Lannisters to the new king Robert Baratheon. The Targaryen dynasty was over.
But with this annulment twist, the dynasty continued "legitimately" through Jon. Elia and her children -- Rhaenys and a boy also called Aegon Targaryen -- were collateral damage with no actual claim at that point. Cruel.
It does bother me that to make Jon rise, Game of Thrones has made so many others fall. With Dany, she doesn't just care about the Iron Throne. If that were the case, she would've left Meereen long before she did. She cared about ruling, and being a good queen. I think she showed good judgment in the past episode by listening to all of the defenses for Jaime Lannister, and listening to Jorah's defense of Tyrion as Hand. She knows how to rule, and has done well. Not perfect, who is perfect? Not Jon, plus he doesn't want the job.
Part of why I'm in Dany defense mode, along with Emilia Clarke, is I'm worried about what she said about her last scene as Daenerys, after wrapping Season 8:
It fucked me up. Knowing that is going to be a lasting flavor in someone's mouth of what Daenerys is.
Ugh. There are only six episodes to Game of Thrones Season 8, and there's a lot to come. Episode 3 is going to be dominated by The Battle of Winterfell, which has nothing to do with Jon and Dany doing the Arya/Gendry together, or their claims to the Iron Throne. But if they survive -- and it seems like they have unfinished business, so they will? -- the battle with Cersei Lannister and Euron Greyjoy will surely continue in the other three episodes.
Game of Thrones Season 8 has already given us some great character returns, and more are to come, as we brace ourselves for White Walkers vs. Winterfell next Sunday on HBO.