Umm, what’s up with those weird Jon and Sansa incest vibes? This is a genuine question.
Like everyone else whose heart isn’t three sizes too small, the long-awaited Stark sibling reunion between Jon and Sansa made me genuinely emotional. Sansa just looks so exhausted and hopeful and beautiful and tall! And Jon looks like he can’t even process the fact this little piece of his family’s still alive, let alone standing right in front of him. I sobbed like a sweet, overly-emotional summer child. Don’t lie, you know you did too.
But as the episodes wore on, the ravens were sent and the battles prepared, the deepest, darkest parts of my horcrux-ridden soul started to sense a different… shall we say… vibe whenever the two very desperate Stark siblings were on screen together.
Oh Mother above, I thought to myself, this is proof in its finality that I am more bonkers than the Mad King setting his house on fire. How could I ever even let it enter my brain that Game of Thrones would go there with its single most sensible, heroic, loving yet appropriately non-incestuous family?
Well, as it turns out, I’m not the only monster on the Internet. After admitting my own very confused, very ashamed feelings to my much more reasonable, much less insane Hypable colleagues, I found out that alas, too many of us were low-key sensing the show pulling us in an inappropriately-sort-of-rooting-for-incest direction. The Stark squad romance vibes are real. My only real question now is: are they on purpose?
Let’s begin by addressing the obvious: Kit and Sophie have a crazy kind of chemistry going on, and either because she’s known him for her entire young adult life, or because he has a thing for redheads IRL, it doesn’t always come across as sibling-appropriate. And the thing is, I would definitely be willing to compartmentalize that chemistry as just pure coincidence if the writing and directing going on in the show didn’t seem to be leaning into that chemistry so heavily. Because seriously, what’s with all the glowing candlelight?
Let’s hop on my crazy train for a minute, and assume that yes, Game of Thrones is creating a sense of intimacy and inevitability that would lead up to a Jon Snow and Sansa Stark marriage. What exactly would this accomplish and/or solve, other making us as viewers all supremely uncomfortable? Well, actually, the answer is that story-wise, a Jon and Sansa marriage would accomplish and/or solve just about everything.
As if we needed any more reassurance that Littlefinger never lifts a little finger if it doesn’t directly benefit him, the promo for episode 10 made it painfully obvious that his savior move last Sunday only came because he sees Sansa as a raincheck he’s finally showing up to collect. He wants his pretty little baby-Cat back dammit, and if the Starks don’t play it smart and swift, this master manipulator will find a way to weasel her back into his grasp.
Because yes, Littlefinger in all his perverted glory has always wanted Sansa, but as a dude who dreams big and plots bigger, he wants Winterfell, too. He’s self-made, and he’s going all the way, man. And despite the fact that Jon’s the one with the wilding army, Sansa’s the one with the Stark name. Her children would be true-born heirs to Ned Stark. It’s the foothold Tywin Lannister was counting on for Tyrion, and if Littlefinger has half a brain, it’s the opportunity he’ll snatch up if it’s within an inch of his grasp.
And here’s the thing: everyone is acutely aware that as long as Jon and Sansa each remain unmarried, they both also remain very, very vulnerable. Since neither one really has the authority to preside as Lord of Winterfell or King in the North (as has been pointed out to them time and time again) vultures will be descending from every corner of Westeros trying to contest their claim, while leeches offer themselves up for marriage, trying to pit the half-siblings against each other.
It’s all a mess, and Jon and Sansa know it. Her journey south and his journey north have left them each with different strengths, and a different way of seeing the world. They trust each other more than anyone else in the world, and yet they also can’t trust each other enough. She keeps secrets; he brushes off her advice. Jon’s plea in the episode 10 promo that they “trust each other” shows that these two realize that as much as they truly love each other, their alliance is also just one loose thread and master manipulator away from unraveling.
But, despite their differing opinions and new outlooks, one thing that is obviously, very clearly true is that these two share the same values: they want what’s best for each other, and they refuse to let their family fall apart. They both believe in always making an effort, and honestly, that in itself is something that has sort of always distinguished them from their other siblings. Because while the showrunners (and George R.R. Martin) have made a point of pitting Jon and Sansa as polar opposites within the Stark family due to their superficial differences, they have also been laying a much more subtle, genuine groundwork for them as the two siblings who share the most in common in terms of morality.
What makes Jon and Sansa different from the other Starks is that, despite everything they’ve seen, they still want to believe in the songs and the heroes who write them. Despite the fact that they’ve seen the worst that humanity and hell has had to offer, they’ve kept that spirit of idealism and sense of pragmatism that drove them to embrace the responsibilities of the roles life predestined for them to play. Despite history and experience proving them wrong time and time again, there’s still a part of them that believes in the stories. That evil flees and the good guys eventually win. That the North remembers.
And it is because of this idealism mixed with pragmatism that they have both been able to survive. When it comes to Jon and Sansa, there’s a deepness and subtlety to both of them that their more outspoken counterparts Arya and Robb seem to lack. Because Jon and Sansa rebel quietly. They do what they are supposed to, and bid their time. They’re patient, and that allows them the opportunity to play the game hard. They’re clever, and self-disciplined, and acutely aware that their every action matters because it is being watched. They’re survivors.
So if you think that Jon and Sansa are just going to let her go quietly into that good night once Littlefinger shows up playing savior, then I’m going to have to say sorry sweet summer child, but you must be out of your godsdammed mind. Sansa is a beast yo, and now that she’s finally safe at home in Winterfell, she’d set herself on fire before giving up her freedom and security. Jon on the other hand has just watched a madman slaughter his little brother in a game of shits and giggles, so come hell or high water knocking on Winterfell’s door, there’s no way he’s going to let anyone touch Sansa again.
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that Jon and Sansa are leaning towards having romantic feelings for each other. What I am saying is that following the devastation they’ve just been through, Jon and Sansa would both literally do anything to keep her out of enemy hands. And if, as we suspect, ***possible maybe spoiler*** R+L equals Jon f*cking Snow is finally confirmed in the finale, a marriage between Jon and Sansa would go a long way towards solving all of their immediate problems, while at the same time creating other more interesting ones.
When/If Jon (inevitably) discovers he’s (definitely) a Targaryen, it will shake up his claim to Winterfell, while at the same creating the opportunity to secure Sansa’s own claim with a safe, secure marriage to someone who respects her as an equal. Would Jon be down with the idea of marrying his little sister? Umm, probably not. But there’s a lot of things that Jon hasn’t wanted to do that he’s done anyway, because honor compelled him to.
Sansa is brilliant, and in realizing Jon is technically her cousin, it would make sense that she would try and secure the North for both of them with a Snow/Stark alliance. In a single sweep, she could ensure that she never has to leave Winterfell ever the f*ck again, while simultaneously stopping everyone from trying to marry her off to the highest bidder — which is literally what has been happening to her since her dad died.
At the same time, while a JonSa marriage would solve their immediate problems, it would also create a slew of new ones. Only crazypants Targaryens marry their sisters, and as a new Targaryen and Warden of the North, any hints Jon has towards showing his Mad Targaryen side would ignite the North’s suspicions (not to mention how very, very pissed off Zombie Catelyn would hypothetically be.) Eventually, winter really is coming, and if George has taught us anything, it’s that there is no progress without loss. After all, the O.G. Azor Ahai had to kill his wife in order to make his magic sword, so if Jon really is the Prince That Was Promised, then it’s likely that once the Others come crashing through the wall, we’ll be treated to our favorite trope: Woman is sacrificed in order to further Man’s agency.
I always kind of assumed that as a full Targ, Jon would eventually go the incest is win-cest route with Dany, but as time goes on and she gets more entitled/just plan crazy, an alliance between the Targaryen family seems less likely. Meanwhile, with Cersei ready to set King’s Landing on fire, it’s unlikely that the final endgame showdown is going to come down to Evil Lannisters vs Everyone-Else-Who-Is-A-Good-Guy. And after rooting so hard for both Jon and Dany for the entire series, I’m inclined to suspect that a bittersweet conclusion would need to involve a Targaryen v Targaryen showdown, since that seems like just the sort of gut-punch George RR Martin likes to throw.
Knowing George RR Martin’s history, there’s more evidence for a Jon and Sansa marriage if you choose to literally read between the lines. George’s initial book proposal had him planning a Tyrion/Jon/Arya love triangle before a Sansa-type character ever existed. This coupled with the fact that Jon has always had some weird mommy issues regarding Catelyn that he sometimes seems to transfer onto his pretty little sister suggests that there might be a reason why the first two Starks to reunite in the series are also the two siblings who never shared a scene together in either the books or the first season of Game of Thrones.
What’s perhaps most unusual is how much Jon and Sansa each resemble their parental counterparts, considering Ned and Cat were in themselves an unexpected union born of politics during a time of war. Jon is quiet and stupidly noble like Ned, who was himself always the “other” brother to his flashier counterpart. Sansa’s a strategic politician who’s learned her most valuable weapon as a lady is her ability to utilize her relationships to her advantage. Like their own parents’ marriage, a Jon and Sansa union doesn’t need to be about romance. At this point in time, after all the shit they’ve been through, neither one is interested in romantic love. What they both want is obvious, and mutual: security, home, and a chance to start over.