9:23 am EDT, August 31, 2017

What’s next for Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow on ‘Game of Thrones’?

Well, if you incest...

Game of Thrones season 7 saw ice and fire ‘come together’ as Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen finally met, and promptly fell in love. Also, they’re super related.

There is just one short season left before Game of Thrones is over. One season to wrap everything up, kill everyone off and reveal who — if anyone — ends up on the Iron Throne.

Although the HBO series has diverged significantly from the George R.R. Martin ASOIAF book series, some building blocks of the story remains the same. Jon Snow being revealed as a secret Targaryen has not yet happened in the books, but the clues are all there (R+L=J), and it’s only a matter of time, even if some details will likely be different.

Related: Game of Thrones Gendry watch 2k17: Where is that Baratheon bastard now?

Since we can’t be sure of the specific changes the show has made to Jon’s backstory — like whether Martin’s Jon is a bastard or legitimate, whether his name will be Aegon or Aemon, and whether book-Dany and Jon will come together so literally — this article will speculate about the future of the TV show characters specifically, and try to keep book speculation to a minimum. After all, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will want their endgame to diverge from Martin’s, and this will likely include the direction the Jon/Dany relationship takes in season 8.

This is pure speculation, based on events in the Game of Thrones series, and you’re welcome to share your own theories in the comments.

How will Jon and Daenerys react when they find out they’re related?

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Since Jon and Dany are headed to Winterfell, it is likely that Bran and Sam (or, hopefully, Gilly) will spill the beans about Jon’s true heritage early on in the season, to propel that part of the story forward as we prepare for the big battle against the White Walkers.

Clearly, this revelation will come as a huge shock to both parties (as well as anyone else who still cares about who sits on the Iron Throne), and will change their relationship dynamic in several key ways. Not necessarily, however, because of ‘the incest thing.’

As we have discussed on Hypable before, Jon and Daenerys being nephew and aunt isn’t the automatic relationship-killer it’d be in the real world, for several reasons: for one, Westeros is much like medieval Europe in that noble families tend to inter-marry, with cousins marrying cousins without fanfare or upset (e.g. Tywin and Joanna Lannister and the planned marriage of Sansa Stark and Robert Arryn).

For the Targaryens specifically, intermarriage is not only tolerated, but expected: Daenerys’ parents Rhaella and Aerys II were siblings, and she grew up believing she would marry her brother Viserys.

The Targaryens practice in-breeding in order to preserve the brand of magic specific to their family, and with Jon and Dany being the only two Targaryens left in the world, some characters might even expect them to get married now, whether they’ve fallen in love or not, to carry on the bloodline (even if she “can’t have children,” wink wink).

Daenerys’ reaction to the news of Jon’s heritage might even have been positive under different circumstances: she’s no longer the only Targaryen left, and she has a ‘natural’ mate to help her secure the throne. What will almost certainly upset her, however, is the revelation that Jon’s claim to the Iron Throne is actually better than hers.

As the legitimate son of the crown prince, Jon is first in line for the crown, with Daenerys (the crown prince’s little sister) only eligible to be queen if Jon a) dies, b) denounces his claim, or c) marries her.

Clearly, marriage is the best and most obvious option, both strategically and personally. Two Targaryens are better than one, and they’re already in love! It’s perfect — too perfect. Because this is Game of Thrones, and there is absolutely no way it’ll be as smooth sailing as Jon and Dany realizing they’re related and happily rushing off to be wed under the weeping Weirwood tree.

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Even though intermarriage is accepted in Westeros, and expected for Targaryens, Jon might not be as keen as Dany when he learns the truth. Not only will he be ~shook by the huge, life-altering revelation, but nephew-aunt marriage is a degree more incestuous than cousin-cousin, and even though the Targaryens practice intermarriage freely and extensively, Jon wasn’t raised as a Targaryen, and likely won’t be as quick as Dany to embrace their family traditions.

Even though the ethical rules regarding incest are not the same on Game of Thrones as they are in the real world (and even in the real world, the laws vary from country to country), it has been very clearly established that first-degree incest outside of the Targaryen family — such as Craster and his daughters, and of course Jaime and Cersei — is considered wrong and immoral, and the children of any such union tend to show signs of in-breeding like they would in reality.

Third-degree incest (e.g. cousins) doesn’t have as extreme genetic consequences, and appears to be accepted for alliance reasons, including within the Stark family, so this shouldn’t really be an issue for Jon. But second-degree incest like Jon and Dany’s falls in the muddy in-between, and the show has never made it clear exactly where the moral line is drawn (although at one point in the book series Asha Greyjoy’s father is considering arranging a marriage between her and her uncle).

Jon Snow is nothing if not honorable, and in this case, his honor and very stoic sense of right and wrong will most likely give him ethical pause before continuing a sexual relationship with his aunt. It would certainly be an obvious way to cause conflict between the characters, and for Game of Thrones to critically address the topic of incest, which has sparked a lot of contentious debate among the series’ viewers.

If Jon is put off by their family connection, he obviously has the option of cutting romantic ties with Dany and denouncing his claim to the throne, theoretically relieving her worries that he’ll usurp her and facilitating their continued alliance in the battle against the White Walkers. And knowing Jon, he’ll likely try to do just that.

However, while Jon Snow has never shown any inclination that he wants to be King of Westeros — indeed, he doesn’t even want to be King in the North — he might not be so quick to give up his claim to the Iron Throne once his advisors (including Sansa and Tyrion) begin whispering in his ear. There’ll be a lot of people who will want Jon, a Targaryen born and raised in Westeros, on the throne over a stranger who only set foot in their country a few months ago, and came to invade with foreign soldiers. Dany herself might do something that will make Jon worry she’s not the best fit for the throne.

For her part, Daenerys wants the Iron Throne more than anything, and yes, she might have accidentally fallen in love with Jon Snow, but that doesn’t change the fact that when Jon Snow is revealed to be Aegon Targaryen, he is suddenly another contender standing in between her and the throne she believes is her birthright. And we all know what happens to people that stand in Dany’s way.

If Jon refuses to marry her, he isn’t only rejecting her on a personal level, but he will be (in Daenerys’ eyes) positioning himself as a separate player in the game of thrones, an enemy that threatens her authority even as they prepare for the big battle in the North. Even if he denounces his claim, he’ll always be another Targaryen, and there’ll always be the threat of him changing his mind and rallying the people of Westeros around him.

As sad as it would be to see the two go from friends to lovers to enemies, it will add an interesting layer of personal tension to a final season in which the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ has been so neatly drawn.

But what about the baby?

I’ll save the speculation posts for someone else and dare to make the wild and wacky assumption that yes, Daenerys is indeed going to be pregnant with Jon Snow’s baby in Game of Thrones season 8.

Between the many references to Mirri Maz Duur’s declaration in season 1 that Dany is barren, the death of Viserion (which means that the dragon needs another head — and “only death may pay for life”), and the symbolic way in which a Jonerys baby would “bring ice and fire together,” it seems beyond obvious that this is where the story (in the show) is going.

The more interesting question is how a baby will change Jon and Daenerys’ relationship, especially if she finds out about it after Jon has learned about his true heritage.

“What if I got her pregnant and she had a child, another bastard named Snow?” -Jon Snow, ‘Game of Thrones’ 1×04

Even if Jon rejects Daenerys on moral grounds, the news that Dany is pregnant will likely confuse his sense of ethical responsibility. Because while he might have reservations about marrying Daenerys after learning that they’re nephew and aunt, he’ll have even stronger objections against fathering a bastard.

Both in the book series and on the show, Jon initially refuses to sleep with women because he is absolutely terrified that he might produce a bastard. Knowing how hard it is to grow up like that, he has no qualms about joining the Night’s Watch, and even when he falls in love with Ygritte it is hard for him to get over this very literally pathological fear of intimacy that might lead to pregnancy.

The fact that Jon himself is not actually a bastard is highly ironic of course, but it doesn’t change the way he grew up, and it won’t change his desire to not bring another bastard into the world.

Finding out that Daenerys is pregnant might make him want to marry her after all, but it won’t be out of love anymore, but rather a sense of obligation and duty, which would perfectly recall and subvert the theme of Jon’s entire story.

In the first season, when explaining why the Night’s Watch weren’t allowed to marry and father sons (or retain their families’ titles), Maester Aemon — a Targaryen himself — told Jon that, “Love is the death of duty.” A man with a family will always choose his family first. Aemon himself tried to go South to save his family when Robert’s Rebellion started.

And we’ve already seen how Jon and Daenerys’ newfound love for each other might compromise their respective missions. When Tyrion Lannister looked worried in the season 7 finale, it wasn’t about jealousy; as explained by director Jeremy Podeswa in a Rolling Stone interview, “when things get personal, then people make decisions based on their emotions, and that can complicate matters going forward, so I think he sees the potential here for things to get very messy.” In other words: love can be the death of duty for both Jon and Dany, and they’ve already start making bad decisions based on emotion rather than strategy.

But if Jon finds out he’s a Targaryen and it makes him reject Daenerys, only to then find out she’s pregnant and realize that he has to marry her to avoid their child being a bastard, duty would now be the death of love for Jon Snow. Because if they get married, it won’t be for love anymore: Daenerys will marry Jon to make sure he doesn’t take the throne from her, and Jon will marry her to make sure their child is not a bastard. The union will be fraught with suspicion and regret, making the song of ice and fire truly bittersweet.

Some fans are further speculating that Daenerys will die in childbirth (which in this writer’s opinion would be the worst possible way to end her story), and/or that Jon will die in the battle against the White Walkers, making them Azor Ahai and Nyssa Nyssa respectively, and leaving Baby Targaryen to inherit what is left of the Seven Kingdoms.

In the TV series, if not in the books, the baby might even turn out to be the Prince that Was Promised, in which case the series would end with the surviving characters looking ahead to a brighter future led by a next-generation Targaryen, once the battle for humanity has been won. If it’s won. Because it’s equally possible that we’re about to see all of our favorite characters die as Westeros is overtaken by White Walkers and the Iron Throne is shattered into a million pieces, and it won’t matter who marries who for what reasons.

And yes, it might seem a bit silly to speculate about marriage and alliances when the show is gearing up for a massive battle that will likely take up much of the eighth and final season. But assuming the world doesn’t actually blow up in a fiericy explosion in Game of Thrones season 8, the story does have to wrap up somehow, and Jon and Daenerys will have to contend with the earth-shattering revelation that Jon is really Aegon Targaryen.

How do you think they’ll react? How much time do you think the show will devote to addressing the fallout of this reveal? Do you think one or both of them will end up on the Iron Throne? Your guesses are as good as mine!

What do you think is next for Jon and Daenerys on ‘Game of Thrones’?

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