Here’s what I think of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones: [wet fart noise]. Thanks, I’ll accept the Pulitzer for art criticism now. To elaborate, all of our worst suspicions of Game of Thrones are epitomized in Jon Snow. After this week’s episode, I am convinced D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are about to take the most vanilla road possible by letting Jon Snow sit on the Iron Throne in the series finale.
I’ve already elaborated why Jon Snow sucks, but in the aftermath of Daenerys’ turn into the “Mad Queen,” the alarming possibility that Snow will win the “Game of Thrones” just became a plausible reality.
Let’s recap. Jon Snow is what many dudes, namely boring dudes, think they would be in an amoral fantasy universe. Unlike most of Westeros, Jon is courageous, righteous, fair, and humble. He was the runt of House Stark who earned the admiration of his enemies by sheer will and strength. He is precisely the Luke Skywalker archetype that shitty dudes think they are, when in reality they’re Euron Greyjoy without any charisma.
And thanks to an origin that, not long ago, was a huge point of Game of Thrones speculation, Snow is also the Chosen One. He is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and his insistence on not wanting to rule is all the more reason why he’s the most deserving. The meek shall inherit the Earth and all that.
That brings us to Game of Thrones Season 8. With Daenerys going full “Mad Queen” with little tension or actual buildup (psst, foreshadowing is not characterization), Benioff and Weiss have shown an inability to write outside the perspective of decent white guys. As Rachel Leishman pointed out in The Mary Sue:
“First, there is how Benioff and Weiss treated both Jaime Lannister and Brienne of Tarth in the last two episodes of Game of Thrones. There’s also the racial implications of their treatment of the Dothraki, the way that Sansa has been treated throughout the entire series and how they had her justify the rape they wrote for her by stating that it made her stronger (don’t even get me started on that nonsense), and then followed it all up by making Cersei a villain throughout the entire series and then having her death be one that we’re supposed to have sympathy for? Yeah, no thanks.”
After “The Bells,” Jon Snow is, in every way, the only one left to stop Daenerys. Arya might still stick a blade through Dany, but Jon Snow will be there to see his lover/aunt die in his arms. And because he had to stop the “Mad Queen,” Snow will (reluctantly!) take the Iron Throne lest he immediately hand things to Sansa, the only other individual in this shrinking ensemble with actual competence to govern.
That’s just the kind of story Weiss and Benioff seem to want to tell, a direction that’s nosedived Game of Thrones; full of spectacle and empty of purpose.
George R. R. Martin isn’t the best nor most progressive writer alive, but his knowledge at how fantasy works — and how to ground it in a way that felt fresh and novel — is what made Thrones the phenomenon it’s become. And there is a clear disconnect to how Martin tells his stories versus Weiss/Benioff (and we’re not even factoring how different writing novels on ancient DOS is to producing expensive television for premium cable).
Martin, who grew up on a diet of Tolkien and Marvel Comics, and taught English lit in the 1970s, knows better than anyone how to swerve left in a story. Killing the noble Ned Stark wasn’t just shock. It proved Martin’s point early on that, in this house, you can’t expect things to work out like you think they will.
Benioff and Weiss were good at following Martin’s plans, and were just as good at being original. (I’m particularly a fan of keeping Mance Rayder’s story simpler than Martin’s, whose involved copycats in disguise.) But a funny thing happened in Season 8. In a lengthy profile published by The Ringer, it’s apparent that “D&D” wanted to move on from Game of Thrones and be done with the most daunting television show ever produced, as quick as possible.
“HBO would have been happy for the show to keep going, to have more episodes in the final season,” Benioff told The Ringer. “We always believed it was about 73 hours … As much as they wanted more, they understood that this is where the story ends.”
Knowing this, everything about Season 8 just makes sense, dunnit? The breathless pacing, the clumsy plotting, the comical predictability in a story renowned for being unpredictable — it’s all meant to get to a point that makes sense for Benioff and Weiss. It should be said the two worked with George R. R. Martin on the show’s ending, though Martin’s ending to his books will be different from the one millions will watch on Sunday night.
“The major points of the ending will be things I told [Benioff and Weiss] five or six years ago. But there may also be changes, and there’ll be a lot added,” Martin told Rolling Stone.
So what does this mean for Jon Snow? As the avatar of white male heroism in a medieval fantasy, Snow is in a prime position to take the Iron Throne — but reluctantly. Because he didn’t want it, you know. He doesn’t want power, but he’ll take it if he must.
That’s been Jon Snow this whole time: the reluctant hero, never doing exactly what he wants to but doing what he must for the good of the realm/the Night’s Watch/his family. It’s obvious the only thing left to do is take the Iron Throne because the alternative is to have someone worse.
As for Benioff and Weiss… Well, they’re doing Star Wars now.
The Game of Thrones finale airs Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO.