Spoilers follow for Game of Thrones season seven, episode three, “The Queen’s Justice.”
Game of Thrones is not a television show with a lot of feel-good justice. Good people get beheaded. Heroes are killed in variety of ways, even at weddings. Villains often get the last laugh — even if they’ve incinerated a whole bunch of people. And as the show turns the corner into its endgame, fans hoping for a righteous ending have been eagerly awaiting the unification of two of the show’s most important characters: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen.
In season seven’s third episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” the meeting between the King of the North and the Mother of Dragons finally happened. Indeed, it was one of the episode’s very first scenes. But instead of a gregarious celebration or some sordid, passionate sexual chemistry, things got off to a choppy start.
She wanted him to bend the knee. He wanted her to get her head out of the clouds. She wanted him to respect his lineage. He wanted her dragon firepower because the Night King is just ready to kill everyone. She wanted to talk about allies. He wanted to talk about how no one will have allies when everyone’s an ice zombie.
With this strange dance, Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen claimed the trophy for chilliest meet-cute in all of Westeros. It seems the power couple everyone has been waiting for is going to keep everyone waiting just a little bit longer
Dany and Jon are supposed to be revolutionary leaders, but they’re still adhering to prophecies set by the people they’re supposed to defy
Throughout Game of Thrones’ last few seasons, and in particular its sixth season last year, the show has played with an idea of what leadership would look like if the people who had power chose to wield it differently than those who came before them. Both Dany and Jon’s storylines last year carried that theme.
In particular, Dany’s alliance (and her striking speech) with Yara Greyjoy toward the end of season six, and Jon’s galvanizing victory in the “Battle of the Bastards” and his unification of the North, stand out. Now, “The Queen’s Justice” has reminded us that the Unsullied fight for a queen who gave them freedom, and that Jon forged an alliance with the Wildlings — something no ruler from Westeros has ever done before.
But, despite their talk about breaking the wheel and ending the cycle, these two characters (Dany even more than Jon) are largely driven by prophecies and talk of destiny. They’re the chosen people. They’re the heroes picked by the gods to rule. They, and they alone, will save the world — or so a whole lot of people seem to believe.
Why is it, then, that these revolutionary heroes who believe in democracy and peace and love and happiness and living in a land where people don’t rape and murder each other still adhere and strive toward fulfilling a destiny foretold by the very types of people they’re supposed to subvert?
Game of Thrones plays on this idea when Jon meets Dany. She expects him to remember tradition and loyalty and bend the knee, and is so adamant that he perform this symbolic gesture. Jon is also aware of this gesture and the legacy of Torrhen Stark, “the king who knelt,” and how it could be perceived as a submission to power.
Both are incredibly stubborn, fail to compromise and, for the moment, almost torch any shot an alliance.
The show highlights that stubbornness, and how not letting go of the past can be a downfall. But I’m still having a hard time figuring out whether Game of Thrones thinks everyone’s obsession with destiny and chosen ones is good or bad or anything at all.
During Dany and Jon’s meeting, it felt like Tyrion and Davos, Dany and Jon’s respective advisers, should have been the ones hammering out a deal. And wouldn’t it be more revolutionary and more cycle-breaking if Davos or Tyrion took charge of creating a world of peace, freedom, and democracy, instead of two pre-destined messiahs? (Writer G. Willow Wilson spelled out the moral implications of what that might look like last week.)
Then again, Dany and Jon are the closest thing we have to world-saving heroes on this show. It feels like the show earnestly believes that. They’re destined to be great, and have already lived up to their billing — a reminder that the mythology and history of this world is, in many ways, something to be respected.
Let’s be friends, here’s some dragonglass
The Dany and Jon meeting wasn’t a total failure. But not because either one of them did anything worthwhile.
Instead, Tyrion was the hero of the day.
He figured out a way to forge a small alliance in a way that minimizes damage. He convinced Jon to ask Dany for dragonglass to fight the White Walkers, allowing Dany to recognize Jon’s intent to save people. Tyrion also gets Jon to realize that Dany wants his loyalty more than his kingdom. Thanks to Tyrion, neither Jon nor Dany left their big meeting looking like idiots.
By finally bringing these two forces together, Game of Thrones is setting up a slow boil on whatever power coupling may lie ahead. I’d bet that the two of them teaming up and agreeing to work together will probably take all season — possibly too long to satisfy fans who’ve already been waiting so long for this to happen. And that’s not even considering whatever kind of madness will ensue when Jon finds out his dad is Rhaegar Targaryen, and Dany is his aunt.
What we do know for sure is that we’ve finally witnessed the beginning of a relationship that many Game of Thrones fans have been anticipating for years. Now the question is how long it’ll take for that relationship to get to the point where so many of those fans want it to be.