Greetings, my Westerosi window envelopes! As you can probably guess, last week’s episode of Game of Thrones—and its increasing dominance over the pop culture landscape—has filled the ol’ postman’s stolen mailbag to the brim. There are a few spoilers for last week’s episode, but more importantly, an answer to a question we should have been asking ourselves since the first episode: Should we want Daenerys and Jon Snow to fuck?
So I’ve been struggling with this question a lot: Is it ok to ‘ship Jon/Dany?
On the con side, they are aunt and nephew, which is gross.
On the pro side: it would sidestep Dany needing Jon to bend the knee (and is a solution that the northmen would probably accept); it would be thematically consistent (fire/ice); and it would eliminate (almost) all of the tension for trying to root for two characters who are at odds with each other due to circumstances beyond their control (and the expectations of their subjects).
Given that, I still would come out on the con side, except that we already know that some degree of inbreeding (e.g., cousins) is generally accepted in Westeros and that the Targaryens in particular practiced an even more exclusive (e.g., siblings) marriage policy. So the aunt/nephew dynamic is an absolute deal breaker to modern audiences, but maybe wouldn’t be the worst thing in Westeros?
Lots of reasons it would be good, but one BIG reason it is unacceptable. Thoughts?
Shipping is… shipping. I’ve seen worse than aunt and nephew. Much worse. And the show is definitely presenting them as future romantic partners/fuckbuddies, which makes it as legitimate as these things get.
Their familial relationship may freak you out, but that’s sort of the point. GRRM wants to show a medieval, feudal-type era with all the awfulness most fantasies skip over. The relentless sexism, the rape and torture, the horror that regular people could and did experience constantly as the result of what the nobility chose to do—you can absolutely complain about how omnipresent it is in his stories and/or how it’s portrayed, but it’s not inaccurate to the source material of that reality.
And one part of that reality is medieval (and certainly ancient) nobility’s tendency toward incest, especially between uncles and nieces—to the point where its got its own name, avunculate marriage. As you said, the books/show have already shown that Targaryens have been more than willing to marry within the family in order to keep their bloodline pure, so there’s a precedent for Jon and Dany starting a relationship. And since we’re talking about an aunt and nephew here (since Jon is the son of Dany’s deceased brother Rhaegar) and not uncle/niece, a Jon/Dany hook-up would… kind of strike a blow for Westerosi gender equality, in a tiny, messed up way.
At any rate, as a Targaryen, Daenerys is obviously going to be down with getting down with Jon Snow, as it would be kind of meaningless to sieze the Iron Throne without leaving a new Targaryen line to carry on ruling. I am far more skeptical that Jon would be cool with sleeping with his aunt, given the rest of Westeros isn’t nearly as cool with incest (hence Cersei and Jaime’s hiding of their sexual relationship—well, until Cersei took the throne and decided that yes, in fact, as queen she gets to have sex with anyone she wants, and everyone else has to deal with it. Or be tortured and killed).
But Jon’s problem is easily solved by keeping his parentage from him until after Ice and Fire have fucked each other. In fact, I suspect Bran is keeping/will keep the truth of Jon’s parentage from everyone until after Daenerys gets pregnant for that very reason. The Three-Eyed Raven knows this has to happen, so mum’s the word for now
Or GRRM—or the show, for that matter, since we know it’s diverging from GRRM’s plan in major ways—could just throw a curveball and have Dany marry Gendry, the closest thing King Robert had to a legitimate heir, combining the Targaryen and Baratheon lines to create a progeny whose claim to the throne is unassailable throughout Westeros. Actually, that’s a pretty good idea…
Jaime in the Water
I see people talking everywhere about how Jaime could possibly be alive, but how?! He’s way at the bottom [of the lake] and in full armor. No way Bronn can hold his breath long enough to get down there, cut all the straps to all the pieces of the armor, pull them off, and then also pull him to safety before they both drown.
I’m not going to say it’s unrealistic, since Jaime was pushed into the water to avoid a dragon, but the point of Game of Thrones is that it has fantasy elements but it’s still realistic in the basic laws of physics. So isn’t Jaime getting rescued impossible?
You bring up a good point about fantasy, in that the best fantasy has a set of rules, even if the audience doesn’t know them, and doesn’t break them. Someone suddenly having a “hoist person out of lake” spell to save Jaime would be dumb. Tyrion running down the hell and begging Dany to have Drogon fish the dude who was about to kill her out of the lake is more realistic for GoT, but implausible in terms of Dany’s character and the time it would take for Tyrion to get down to Dany and ask for her to save his brother. So that leaves Bronn.
Here’s one thing we all need to make our peace with first, right now: Game of Thrones the TV show has begun playing fast and loose with strict reality in favor of presenting the most exciting story possible. This is how armies and fleets are moving gargantuan distances in-between and sometimes even during episodes. It’s why Tyrion can pick out Jaime from half a mile away amid a battlefield full of smoke and destruction. It’s why Cersei and her allies can suddenly kick ass or all of Highgarden’s gold can get into King’s Landing with a mutter and a handwave.
There are only nine episodes left, total, as of the time this mailbag hits the nerdernet. The show doesn’t have any time to waste. Yes, part of the reason the books are so good is because they were sprawling and complicated in the way life is, and yes, the show is 100 percent abandoning that. But the choices were to either have the story on fast-forward so it actually ends next year or for Daenerys to have her first battle with Cersei’s forces in the season eight finale.
So with all that said: Since Game of Thrones has forgone its sense of realism a bit, I can see it having Bronn manage to dive down to Jaime, cutting him out of his armor, and dragging him to the surface before he fatally drowns. I also, as I mentioned in my recap this week, think it doesn’t make any narrative sense for Bronn to push Jaime out of the way of a giant cone of dragon breath into a lake, only to have him immediately drown—if Weiss and Benioff are going to kill the character, having Jaime get turned into cinders by Drogon is a much, much cooler death.
So I think the show will forgo realism (I mean, how was that lake at the side of that road a full 30-feet deep right at its edge, anyway?), Bronn will cut Jaime out of his armor and drag him to the surface (because Jaime is the one who’s going to give him a castle, after all), and the Lannister will probably live to fight another day. And I also think he’ll be the one to perform those (book spoilers) valonqar duties, and obviously, he can’t do that if he’s dead. Last time I looked, I didn’t see any friendly priests of R’hllor nearby.
Gone But Not Forgotten
After re-watching GOT from the beginning a few times, I believe that Ser Barristan Selmy is one character whose presence would enhance Season 7 while not distracting from the current main plots of the show. Ser Barristan would have been the most solid member of Daenerys’ Queensguard due to military and combat experience, but his relationship to Rhaegar is most interesting.
When Dany tells Jon that everyone loves doing what they’re best at, Jon disagrees. Ser Barristan once told Dany a similar story about her brother Rhaegar preferring singing in the street to killing. I also imagine Ser Barristan recognizing the late prince’s resemblance in Jon’s face, posture, or personality. Although Jon is very much Ned Stark in code and hair color, there would be a few opportunities for the show to make that connection.
Are there any dead characters that would’ve enhanced the current story we have without breaking the series?
Barristan had to die because he had too many answers. He knew Rhaegar well, and he likely knew what Rhaegar was doing when he kidnapped Lyanna, or at the very least he knew whether Lyanna was kidnapped or went with him willingly. Even though we know the result of their union was Jon Snow, the reason why Rhaegar kidnapped her, thus starting a chain of events that killed most of his family and ended their dynasty, is such an integral mystery that it’s going to need to be saved until the very end of the series.
Barristan may well have had those answers. The show could get away with not acknowledging this for a bit, while he hadn’t been in Daenerys’ service for long and wasn’t completely trusted. When Dany realized that Barristan knew her family pretty intimately, and was beginning to ask questions about them—well, that’s when he had to go. Barristan literally died in the same episode he began to tell stories Rhaegar (“Sons of the Harpy,” episode five). So yes, Barristan would added a great deal to the proceedings, but would have added too much, too soon.
My pick would be either Oberyn or Doran Martell, if only so one of them could make the Dorne storyline worth a damn. It would be cool so see Dorne have a major role to play in the great war other than serving as Cersei fodder. If a good Dorne storyline is off the table, I have to go Stannis, actually. Seeing him somehow bend the knee to Jon Snow and becoming part of the fight against the White Walkers would be really satisfying on a lot of levels, I think. But those are just mine—add and explain yours in the comments.
Runnin’ Through My Veins
Was the Scorpion spear poisoned? Is Drogon The Dragon going to die?
I’m of two minds about this, although both of my reasons why are purely metatextual instead of having anything to do with the logic inside the show. Because inside the show, Cersei and Qyburn—both of whom really want these dragons dead and already have poison on their minds—should absolutely have poisoned the giant ballista bolt in an attempt to make it lethal even if it only caused a flesh wound. Now, would the poison work on the dragon? Is it powerful enough? Isn’t dragon blood probably hardcore enough to stop it?
But anyway. The reason I don’t think the spear was poisoned is because the show didn’t tell us it was poisoned. Certainly Game of Thrones has been content to present mysteries to the viewers that don’t get solved until later, but I don’t think the show or the showrunners want to or feel they can waste anymore time on anything that doesn’t hurtle us to the finale. Remember, at the time this mailbag is being published, there are only nine more episodes. There’s no time to be coy. Also, can you imagine how much more tense that battle would have been if we had known the spear was poisoned and Dany didn’t? That would have been very effective.
The reason I think it might be poisoned is because it would take Drogon off the board for a while, which would even the odds between Dany and Cersei, and then for a chunk of the fight with the White Walkers. It’s the Justice League/Superman policy—you have to somehow keep Superman occupied until the very end, because otherwise he’d just beat the bad guy in the first five minutes.
My call: Drogon is poisoned, like his namesake. (Remember, fiction writers in general and GRRM in particular loves himself some parallelism [which also doesn’t bode well for Viserion or Rhaegon]). But instead of just wasting away, he uses his final strength to crawl out of his cave and deliver a final, crushing blow to the White Walkers, which proves fatal to both them and the dragon. A sad Dany goes home and discovers a pile of dragon eggs where Drogon had been laying. BOOM.
Dear Everyone’s Favorite Post-Apocalyptic Mail Person,
You did an awesome Spidey-centric Postal Apocalypse a little while back. Since then, we’ve seen Spidey show up in both Civil War and Homecoming, which mentioned the mere existence of Miles Morales in the MCU as a nice little Easter egg.
Homecoming owes a lot to the look and feel of Bendis’s Ultimate Spidey run. I’m wondering if you’ve updated your take on whether we get to see Miles actually take over for Peter in the MCU—not just for the sake of diversity, but also for the sake of storytelling.
Hear me out! The Death of Spider-Man arc is excellent fodder for the MCU Spidey, and it’s almost like they’re planting the seeds of it. In the comics, Iron Man, Cap, Thor, and Carol Danvers decide they need to train Peter to become a competent superhero, and Spidey’s amassed a rogue’s gallery intent on murdering him. In the movies, Spidey’s already under Iron Man’s tutelage, and Vulture’s most likely still looking to murderize Peter, who looks like he’s not done making enemies. It would be surprising, heartbreaking, and bold to see the MCU go this route with the Spidey sequels, and Tom Holland is such a terrific actor that he could pull this off so well. AND we could see a fresh new Spidey on screen, too!
Do you think Marvel and Sony would even seriously consider going down that route? Or will Tom Holland be Peter Parker forever?
Don’t hold your breath. Marvel and Sony picked a very young actor to play Peter, specifically so they’d have a lot of years (and a lot of movies) before he ages out of the role. I would guess Holland will be playing the role until 2025 or thereabouts.
That’s far enough in the future that I can’t predict with any certainly if Miles will get a chance. Would both Marvel and Sony agree that it’s time to give Miles the spotlight? (Evan had a great piece on this very thing, by the way.) Is the Marvel Cinematic Universe still going, or has it been rebooted by then? Will Sony, which still owns the character at the end of the day, even still be cooperating with Marvel in eight years? And is Sony ever going to be willing to give the role of arguably the most popular and unarguably the most lucrative superhero in the world to someone who isn’t a white guy, and risk not maximizing their profits?
Unfortunately, all these things are much more important to the companies that make the movies and put in the millions of dollars to make them than a good story or increasing diversity. To be honest, I’m shocked—and delighted—that Miles Morales is the star of the animated Spider-Man movie that’s due out in late 2018 instead of Peter Parker.
The pessimist in me says this is Sony paying lip service to its commitment to diversity and spending $100 million or so to get good PR since, given “Spider-Man” is in the title, it’ll probably still make at least that much back. But the dying optimist in me says this is how it begins: Sony makes Miles a star in a “lesser” Spidey film, it’s a huge hit because both Miles and Spider-Man are awesome, and Sony execs suddenly think “Hey—maybe Spider-Man doesn’t always need to be a white dude.” After all, it’s gotta start somewhere.
The Real World
A question that has been on my mind lately is how many real world events took place in the MCU/DCEU. Did they experience 9/11? Sandy Hook? Columbine? Just how much is their history is like ours?
Does it matter if they’re never going to be mentioned in the movies, ever? You can murder your way through Metropolis or piss in a jar and blow up a congressional hearing all you want, but nothing destroys whatever emotional interest and suspension of disbelief you have in the film by mentioning a real world tragedy. Once you’re reminded of the horrors of the real world, it gets sort of hard to be invested in Batman doing much of anything.
Case in point: 9/11 actually did occur in Marvel Comics, leading to Amazing Spider-Man #36 in December of 2001. It made more sense to acknowledge the attack immediately after it happened, and seeing Spider-Man trying to rescue people alongside the firefighters and rescue workers was served as a genuine tribute to those who saved lives and those who lost their lives that day.
But then all of Marvel’s supervillains stopped by the rubble of the World Trade Centers to, essentially, point out the attack was so evil even they were appalled. It was a nice sentiment, but seeing uber-evil, brutal foreign dictator Doctor Doom cry—this is 100 percent true, as you can see in the picture above—only made the gulf between the real-life tragedy and the fictional world of super-powered people wearing tights more apparent.
The Finish Line
Hey Postman, hope you survived post-apocalyptic Comic-Con!
I’m reading A Game of Thrones (the first book) for the first time and am exactly half way through the novel. I’ve never watched the HBO series but am avid enough of an io9 reader that I know a lot of plot details from the show. As much as I’m loving GRRM’s writing and world building, I’m starting to get a little fatigued with the size of the narrative and I’m discouraged knowing that the series hasn’t even been finished yet. Is it reasonable for me to abandon a series simply because I’m not confident the creator will finish what they started? Lord of the Rings is my absolute favorite piece of fiction and is arguably just as complex and daunting as A Song of Ice and Fire but at least it’s complete!
So this is pretty close to an answer I gave in last week’s mailbag, but it’s just a touch different, so I beg your forgiveness.
A lot of people have this problem with a lot of series, whether it be TV shows, comics, or books. (A similar problem is when a series fails to end when it should, which is frequently the case with network TV shows, for whom financial success usually trumps storytelling.) I understand it more if you haven’t started the series yet, or if you know the series has ended prematurely, because you know if you get invested you’re going to be frustrated. Some people can deal with that more than others, and to each their own.
But if you’ve already started Game of Thrones, why stop now? Why not read all the books that are available? What’s the real difference between stopping at book two or book five? Either way, you’re stuck waiting to read the next book, and you don’t know when or even if it’s going to get done. Why not read/watch all the material available and give yourself that enjoyment?
Send me those burning questions, nagging mysteries, desperate pleas for advice, and everything else to firstname.lastname@example.org. See you soon!