Why Jon and Daenerys Will Survive the Game - and Successfully
Jon and Dany have had parallel journeys from the start of 'Game of Thrones' and their romance has been 'destined,' according to the director Jeremy Podeswa. We will discuss below their chances of survival.
Jon and Daenerys have become the two main characters of Game of Thrones and have even fallen in love. We are all wondering if they will make it out alive and on the Iron Throne, given the high rates of death and tragedy in this show. Many people seem to be against the idea of a happy ending, though. Phrases like “But this is Game of Thrones, not a Disney movie!” have become popular on the internet. In the light of all this, I present here my arguments that support Jon and Dany’s survival.
1. Martin’s Hints About the End of 'A Song of Ice and Fire'
“I’m not going to tell you how I’m going to end my book, but I suspect the overall flavor is going to be as much bittersweet as it is happy.” These were the words the author of the books, George R.R. Martin, said in an interview when he was asked about the ending. The kind of tone he’s aiming for, he said, is similar to the Lord of the Rings' ending, where there’s “a victory in the end, but a bittersweet victory. Frodo is never whole again, and he goes away to the Undying Lands, and the other people live their lives.” This doesn’t sound like such a terrible tragedy, especially not one where one or both main characters die.
Also, many fans on the internet have speculated that this resemblance with the Lord of the Rings' ending could mean that Jon and Dany would have a similar ending to Aragorn and Arwen’s, where they are crowned king and queen and rule together. Let’s remember Aragorn’s heritage had been hidden from him to protect him, just like Jon’s. We will come back to this argument soon.
2. Final Tragedy as a Closure of Tragedy?
Ever since Ned Stark’s death and the Red Wedding, we, as an audience, have been programmed to expect the worst from Game of Thrones. Martin has said that he wants people to fear for the characters, to not feel like the hero is safe just because he is the hero. He wants us to fear for Jon and Dany, to expect that they, or at least one of them, will die at the end. He has clearly achieved this with all the brutal deaths of major characters along the way, including Jon Snow's.
So, what would be more surprising? For them to die as many other major characters have, or for them to survive in the midst of a story of death and gore? Does it make sense for the ending to be the repetition of a scenario that has happened countless times throughout the story? Does it make sense for Game of Thrones to end tragically after eight seasons and seven books of pure tragedy? What message would the author give us? What would be the point of the story? What would be the point if spring came but our favorite characters were dead? Do we have any emotional attachment to Westeros as a location or to the characters? This point is important, because the end of a work of fiction is what gives it its meaning; that is, a tragic ending has to be there for a reason, not just cause. A story in which the protagonist faces many conflicts but still ends in his death or misfortune is usually a lesson or consequence for his actions. Think about the great tragedies, whether they are by the Greeks, Shakespeare, or Tolstoy. Its protagonists have been carried away by their ambition, selfishness, indecision, stubbornness, among other things, so their fall has been their outcome. That is the point of these stories, that is the author's message. That outcome has been a consequence of their actions.
Additionally, conflict is necessary in every story. A good story is not one in which the protagonist gets what they want by mere changes in their environment, but one in which they grow and change to achieve it. In the case of ASOIAF, a purpose of the harsh conflicts that these heroes have to go through, could be that this tragedy helped them to grow stronger, to understand their surroundings, to be more empathetic with their people and to be better leaders and, finally, to be better people. In turn, all conflicts in a work of fiction need an outcome.
Hence, killing off the two heroes, who have made mistakes but already paid the price, would be pure nihilism. It would be a tragedy with no further purpose. Not only they have almost been murdered for their mistakes (in Jon's case, the attempt was successful), but both now understand the importance of saving humanity from White Walkers and prioritizing it over their personal desires. They have learned from their mistakes before it is too late. They have been saved from being killed by Martin. The name of the last book is A Dream of Spring, which suggests that Song of Ice and Fire is not just tragedy, violence and death. It is about dreaming for a better future and light after darkness. It is about seeing spring after winter is over. It is about the small details that bring joy in the midst of suffering: finding love in times of war, a friend in times of solitude, etc. Going back to the previous argument of Lord of the Rings, and considering its huge influence on Martin’s work, we can remember Sam’s famous quote:
“It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
Before we move on to the next argument, let's think, if this story has so much tragedy, why do we continue to see and read it? Why have not we abandoned it, if we see our beloved heroes suffering more and more? It is because we are waiting for them to prosper: that Dany and Jon destroy the White Walkers, that Arya reunites with her family, etc. It is the light after darkness that keeps us standing. Both them and us.
3. Jon, Dany, Family, and Love
Let’s talk a bit more about Jon and Dany's similarities and their meaning. They have both had parallel journeys since the start of the story. Dany was an outcast in Essos and among the Dothraki and Jon was an outcast in Winterfell. Both are Targaryens who were smuggled away from their birthplace to be protected. Both had an immense power thrust upon them from a very young age and had to learn to rule on the way. Both care about the common people and put the many before the few: Dany protected the slaves of Meereen from its "Wise Masters" and Jon protected and defended the Wildlings in their conflict with the Night's Watch. Dany fell in love with Drogo when she lived with the Dothraki, who are considered the “savages of Essos,” while Jon fell in love with Ygritte when he lived with the Wildlings, who are considered the “savages of Westeros.” They were both kidnapped by these groups and ended up leading them. They both lost their lovers and blamed themselves for their deaths. I could go on for a while, but my point is, would all these parallels be there just for them to meet, sleep together, and die?
However, the most relevant parallel is their wish for a family and a home. Dany wishes for peace, for "the house with the red door" where she lived during her childhood and where she was happy. Let’s also remember that all her family members are dead: her mother, her father, her two brothers, and every other living Targaryen, except for Jon, of course. Plus, when she was about to have a family with Drogo, he and their son died. So she decided to make the dragons her family, her “children,” as she had given up hope of having a real family. Her wish to be a mother is so strong that in the fifth book she wished for Hizdarh Zo Loraq, the noble Meereenese man she married, to get her pregnant, even though she loathed him. Now that she has the chance to have a family with Jon, a man she truly loves and who loves her, is Martin going to kill him off again? Or kill her? What would be the point?
Jon’s story is not too different in this aspect. He also thinks he will not have children, even though he wishes to. His vows with the Night's Watch were initially an obstacle for it, and thinking he is a bastard also held him back, as he did not want another child to go through that same harsh life. Also, when he lived at Winterfell, he was treated so differently from the rest of his family that he never truly felt at home. So a home and a family were something he always wished for but did not think he would get, just like Dany. Now that Jon is not beholden to his vows anymore and that he will soon find out he is not a bastard, he will have an opportunity to have a family with Daenerys. Will Martin deny his two main characters their biggest dream? What would be the point of giving so much emphasis to this desire in almost every chapter of the saga?
4. The 'Chekhov’s Gun' Principle
Anton Chekhov was a Russian writer whose principles for playwriting and literature are to this day extremely important in writing fiction. One of them says that if you put a gun on stage, at some point it must go off. This means that each and every element in the story must be necessary.
With this in mind, let's go back to the family argument. Wasn’t it weird that right after Jon and Dany met, the topics of Dany's infertility and line of succession started popping up way too frequently? Tyrion talked about it with Dany in Dragonstone, Dany told Jon about it on the ship after the 'wight hunt,' and then Jon and Dany talked about it again in the dragon pit at King's Landing. Even Jorah told Jon to give his sword, Longclaw, to his children. Why would this be discussed so many times if it wasn’t for Dany to get pregnant? And why would she get pregnant if it wasn't for her to have the baby and raise it? Otherwise, it would be a completely useless plot line. Some argue that she could die in childbirth, but for a woman who has walked through fire, birthed three dragons, freed slaves, saved cities, who has been raped, and lost her loved ones but still kept on pursuing her goals, it would be a mock to kill her in childbirth.
So, if every element in the story must be necessary, why had Jon and Dany wished so strongly to have a family and a home since the start of the first book? Why have so many dialogues about their children popped up in this last season? Why has it been shown that Jon is the rightful heir to the throne, if he’s not going to rule in the future? More than wishful thinking, these are logical progression and the rules of narrative.
Quick question: Are their family ties not an obstacle?
First, I will make clear that this is the perception of the Westerosi when it comes to inbreeding. This is not my opinion on this subject. Marriages between brothers and sisters are a taboo in Westeros. Targaryens are the only ones who carried out this practice. However, marriages between cousins are extremely popular in different Houses, and are not frowned upon. For example, Tywin Lannister married his cousin Joanna; Jon Snow’s grandparents, Rickard and Lyarra Stark are also cousins. Let's add the great wish of both Jon and Dany to have a family. Probably, finding out about this news will be something more positive than negative for them. I reiterate, this is their point of view, not mine. This marriage would not be frowned upon in Westeros, and less by Jon or Dany, who know how accepted these practices are. On top of that, Dany even spent all her childhood thinking that she would marry Viserys. The context of Westeros is not the same as that of our society. Let's not mix our own principles with those of this fictitious world.
5. Ice and Fire
Every event that has happened in this story has been for Jon and Dany to finally meet. Alan Taylor, who directed several episodes of Game Of Thrones, said that Martin stated during the filming of season one that “it really is all about Dany and Jon.” Even Melisandre said they both had a role to play in The Prince That Was Promised prophecy (a hero who will “bring the dawn”) and that they’re both ice and fire. The saga is called A Song of Ice and Fire, which is exactly what they are: from the hot and cold places where they lived to their personalities and ways of ruling.
They were destined to meet (according to the director himself) and to balance each other as Ice and Fire do. Martin started off their stories by placing them on opposite edges of the world in powerless positions so they could have a long journey of seven books to grow and to find one another. They had countless parallels from their first chapters, both in the books and the show. Martin has made it clear that they both share the same values and that they complement each other neatly. So, what would be the point of molding the characters all these years and making them perfect for one another and for saving Westeros, if it's not for them to actually be together and rule together?
However, a question remains: what could be the bitter part in the “bittersweet” ending? The death of magic could be one option, for example. The death of the dragons could probably be the price to pay for spring, or the death of several secondary characters. There are many options for an ending to be bittersweet besides the death of the protagonists, which is not bitter, by the way, it’s straight up tragic.
With all this in mind, let’s ask ourselves again: What would be the meaning of their deaths? What would be the dream of spring? Would the most important characters of this story get killed off without fulfilling their biggest wishes? What would be the takeaway? It would only be shock value. A Song of Ice and Fire is a story full of hints, clues, and complexity. Martin has shown us what a good writer he is, so I think it’s safe to say he’s not going to end his life work with only shock value. That’s not how you end a good work of fiction.
If you're interested in reading more about Jon and Dany's parallels and similarities throughout their journeys, you can check out the post I wrote about it! Cheers!
- OSBORNE, B., et al. (2003). The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. [Los Angeles, CA], New Line Home Entertainment.