(This article has spoilers about the final episode of the seventh season.)
Over seven seasons, the writers of the HBO series Game of Thrones have created a world that has enthralled audiences unlike much else in recent TV history. While the season delivered some big moments – armies of ice zombies, huge dragon fires, a naval siege – the show has received a fair share of flak for rushing over the story to the point of ridiculousness.
Nowhere is this deviation from the well-charted plotlines and character development more apparent than in the case of Jon Snow. The human symbol of the song of ice and fire of George RR Martin’s novels, the erstwhile bastard of Winterfell, the King of the North, and as we now know, the true heir to the Iron Throne, was always the underdog we wished would find a place to call his own.
From episode one, Jon Snow has been the hero Westeros needed and deserved, but he thankfully chose to involve himself with bigger and more substantial battles than the ever-chaotic and layered politics of the capital at King’s Landing. He has come a long way, changed and hardened by his many adventures, and by death.
And while we still love Jon Snow, developments in this season have been undoubtedly unreasonable, illogical and convenient.
We are close to the culmination of an epic tale (the final season will be telecast either in 2018 or 2019). Everything else in the middle has been rushed, reducing travel time from one part of the world to another to that akin to teleportation. But we let it all slip to watch Jon Snow survive, yet again.
Jon is a good fighter, but only because someone is somehow always there to save him – Maester Aemon at Castle Black, Stannis Baratheon, Melissandre, the Lord of Light, Knights of the Vale, Sansa, Daenerys Targaryen, Uncle Ben beyond the Wall. If he is indeed Azhor Ahai, or the flaming sword of Azor Ahai that will defeat the Night King, Jon sure needs a lot of care and upkeep.
Character development is a result of years of writing and storytelling, which the writers seemed to have completely ignored this season. The big lavish gestures do distract the audience from the loopholes, but never long enough for them to not notice how these shock-and-awe scenes are ruining the more intricate plot that was created with the help of smaller, significant, loaded moments.
As the former Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon was lost and often alone, but considerate of the lives around him, be they crows or wildlings. Now, as the Lord of Winterfell, he has the support of his family and all the great Northern houses, but he is more reckless and illogical than ever. He is committed to fighting the good fight, but doesn’t seem to care who dies in the process.
However glorious and satisfying the Ramsay versus Jon fight was in the last season, there was no way Jon could have survived without the help of the Knights of the Vale. But he persisted, losing many warriors, Rickon, and Wun Wun the giant in the process.
In the seventh season, Jon left the North unguarded to go convince Daenerys Targaryen, the queen of the dragons, to fight the Army of the Dead with him. He has also bent the knee and sworn fealty to a queen none of his men will be willing to accept – a queen who toggles between being a breaker of chains and a raging monarch who burns down entire houses if they don’t support her.
Jon’s struggle was so much more glorious when he wasn’t royalty. The lords and ladies and kings and queens of the realm have been riddled with guile, hatred, deceit, violence and disloyalty, with the exception of Ned Stark, who died way too soon for us to see the merits of goodness in Westeros.
On the other hand, the wildlings, or the free folk, such as Mance Raydar, Tormund, and Ygritte, championed freedom and fought the hierarchies and brutality that kept them out of the system for centuries. Jon understood what Mance, Tormund and Ygritte believed in, and fought by their side (however briefly). That is the Jon that Ygritte and the rest of us fell in love with. Not this new awkward lord unable to hold his own castle.
It’s not only Jon’s royalty that makes his struggle less interesting. The illogical scripting of the seventh season is also a culprit. The one thing the script did deliver on was the much-awaited meet-cute between Jon and Daenerys, something the internet has been waiting for and has happily christened “Jonerys”.
But as we know now, Jon’s true name is Aegon Targaryen, the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and Daenerys Targaryen is his aunt. The show has never been shy of incest, but it hasn’t legitimised the concept. Cersei Lannister, who has borne her twin Jamie’s children, is the second most awful villain after the Night King in the seventh season. And inbreeding among the Targaryens is hardly celebrated as a great idea – Aerys Targaryen was, in fact, the “Mad King”.
Even though the Targaryens never frowned upon incest and Jon is half-Targaryen, he is too honorable to be okay with it. It also makes his claim to the Iron Throne much stronger, and since Daenerys believes that she was born to rule the seven kingdoms, this could create trouble in their relationship.
The stage has been set for the final season. The Great Wall has fallen and the white walkers approach in numbers larger than ever before, and they’ve got an ice dragon. The Greyjoys are off to fight their own fight, and the Stark siblings have finally rid the seven kingdoms of the diabolical Littlefinger. Cersei is alone in the Red Keep, with Jaime having left to fight the dead to protect the living.
Now more than ever, the realm needs the Prince that was Promised to buckle up and get his act together. Winter isn’t coming. It’s here.