Of betrayals and backstabbings | The Dragonpit edition
Yeah the title really doesn't make a lot of sense, but I liked how it sounded 🤷🏻 I kind of wanted to explore the whole Jon betraying Dany thing again, and why the Dragonpit scene conclusively ended any doubts I might have had regarding that.
I've been staunchly against the concept of Jon betraying Dany and I've addressed it multiple times already. Betraying Dany doesn't fit in Jon's character sketch. There a million already existing problems which everyone has to deal with, and Jon playing Dany is not one of them. Of course, then we have the classic case of Ygritte brought up. If Jon could betray her for the Night's Watch, why can't he betray Dany for his family? What antis conveniently forget every time they bring this up is that Ygritte (and the wildlings) were coming to destroy the Night's Watch (and a ton of innocent people while at it). So Jon betrayed her because he had no other option. Dany is coming with her armies and dragons to save Jon's home, save the North...so why, why would Jon betray her? What would he have to gain by this?
Consider this. When Sansa and Arya played Littlefinger, that was awesome! We not only supported it, but we were thrilled af when it happened! But what about when Littlefinger had betrayed Ned Stark, and that was after telling him he shouldn't have trusted him? I mean, he had warned him earlier hadn't he? So the betrayal wasn't out of the blue, right? It was something we should have been expecting, wasn't it? But did we support that? Did we agree with or sympathise with Littlefinger?
And okay, when Jon betrayed Ygritte, who did you agree with more? Did you feel bad for Ygritte but also felt that Jon had done the right thing? Could you see Jon's struggle between love and duty and acknowledge that the right choice wasn't as easy to make?
Why were our reactions different to all those situations? Short answer - motive. Our reaction to betrayals are based on the motive, and how well it is portrayed in the narrative. 'A woman murdered a man' evokes a different reaction than 'a woman executed a man who had led to the death of her own father'. Throw in the fact that he was still trying to get her to kill her sister, and we not only agree with the woman in question here, we are positively cheering her on! Because that's the difference motive makes - it justifies actions otherwise considered wrong, and we have numerous examples of it in Game of Thrones. My personal favorite, of course, is Jaime and the Kingslayer story because it perfectly highlights the difference between us knowing the reason, or judging the action as it stands.
So what could be Jon's motives for playing Dany?
We have the obvious, to protect his family and Winterfell from the unstable witch (that is supposedly Dany on tumblr).
But that's the thing again antis. Dany has never once, not once threatened or even implied in extremely vague terms anything that could be constituted to be a threat to Winterfell or the Starks. In all their interactions, whenever she wanted Jon to bend the knee, she never even went in the general area of threatening his family if he refused to. The issue of family wasn't brought up at all in that sense, so the idea that she would harm his family now, after having clearly developed feelings for him, has only sprung from the minds of the Jonsa Fandom who very much want it to be true because it justifies their POV and their ship. Because the assumption that Dany would want to destroy Winterfell, destroy the Starks and Jon realized this and is appeasing her by catering to her romantic feelings would work extremely well if, if it had been implied anywhere at least once, even if vaguely. But it hasn't been portrayed, and by itself fails to suffice as the motive setting up Jon conning Dany.
Jon will never betray Northern independence for love, and is only faking it to protect the North from Dany's ire.
Considering that the North was already protected from Dany's ire before Jon pledged himself to her, I don't even know where this comes from. Dany promised to fight the White Walkers without asking anything in return (an action which squarely put her in the 'good guy' category), Jon playing her to accomplish something which had already been accomplished is not only senseless, paranoic and unnecessary, but it also would then put him firmly in the douchebag category. Dany let him keep the North, only for him to offer it to her twice, and then ultimately turn right around and say lol, kidding?? Really Jonsa peeps? That makes sense to any of you? Why is it so hard to accept that Jon judged her worthy of his allegiance? But of course, that wouldn't work for the antis and this mess is far more appealing.
About the Northern independence though, I've already mentioned it before, but I'll say it again. The whole 'King in the North' concept arose because the Starks would not accept the Lannisters as their king, not after what they had done. Supporting the Baratheons would have been treasonous and dishonourable, and would have embroiled them in a civil war they had no interest in being part of. The main reason however, was that the Northern Lords had grown disillusioned with the Southern kings who did not care about the Northern issues at all and only paid attention to the North when it was in their own interests. Now, with Daenerys pledging herself to defeat the White Walkers, the entire dynamic of the game had changed, the Southern ruler in point, was not a Lannister or a Baratheons, but a Targaryen, who was coming to save the North instead of abandoning them to their plight and, contrary to popular belief, could in fact be trusted. The North Remembers, and it is this that Jon hopes the North will remember once the Walkers have been defeated, that Daenerys is not her father. So, in short, Jon is not playing Dany for Northern independence because it's frankly ridiculous and the alternative (he feels she's a worthy ruler) makes much more sense in this case.
Jon is playing Dany for Sansa's sake, either because he took her advice about not making mistakes seriously or he's deeply in love with her.
This is a very shipper reason, as canonically there has been no love shown from either of them, but I would have still accepted this reason if they hadn't already made it crystal clear that Jon and Sansa don't agree politically. They both have different views regarding politics, and while Jon does ask her for her opinions, he does what he believes he should do anyway. Also, while Sansa has a more grounded worldview which takes into account people's feelings and motivations - rewarding those true to you for their loyalty (Karstarks and Umbers), taking Cersei more seriously, not abandoning the North and literally everything else, Jon's are more idealistic and based on his strong moral code of 'honor' - not taking the castles away from the Karstarks and Umbers, choosing to believe in Tyrion, putting his own life on the line to save his people (by going to Dragonstone). Jon has been consistently portrayed, all throughout this season, as valuing honor above everything - a very strong Ned Stark trait tbh - and not taking Sansa's advice as seriously as he should (which is what she notices as well, and it upsets her). So with this set-up, believing that he is actually playing Dany because of what Sansa has told him is, quite frankly, a stretch, because there is no narrative indication which would make us believe that. This would also explain Sansa's reaction to learning he had bent the knee, she's resigned to it because she knows that though Jon loves and respects her, he still does what he thinks is the right thing to do. Also, Sansa doesn't berate him for doing what he did in the way she would have had she believed he had been repeating Ned's and Robb's mistakes - - > she doesn't believe he's making those mistakes ie bending the knee to Dany is not disastrous (as the antis would have you believe). Sansa is upset because Jon clearly didn't consider asking Sansa's opinion about a very important political decision, and she's upset because she knows that the Northern Lords will not accept this easily, but she doesn't react as if it's the worst thing in the world ever, nor does she act thoughtful, which would have indicated that all is not as it seems. In short, Sansa's reaction is very much expected under the circumstances, which are that Jon doesn't take her as seriously as he should. And given this, it seems unlikely to imagine that he's in cahoots with Sansa and they're taking down the Dragon Queen together (together! 😂)
Every reason for Jon playing Dany would have worked if the narrative had given some sort of suggestion about a possible motive, some indication of Jon treating Sansa's advice seriously, or made Jon give up the North before she pledged to fight the Walkers. And the nail in the coffin for the 'undercover lover' theory was the Dragonpit scene. Nothing would have cast stronger doubts on whether Jon truly loves Dany or not, than him accepting the truce. Despite it being the smart political move, it would have also raised a tiny red flag regarding Jon's true intentions, in my mind at least. Jon basically had nothing to lose by accepting the truce, nothing except for his honor. And that made him refuse! It wasn't just him making a public proclamation that he loves Dany (although it sorta was 😂), it was him being faced with a choice to sacrifice his honor, his word, to get what he wanted, it was him being asked to choose whether he truly was his father's son, it was him being expected by the one who knew the truth to do the dishonourable thing for the greater good. He could have lied and supported Dany later, he could simply have walked away from the battles to come because they didn't directly concern him and his people and let Dany fend for herself. But would it have been the honorable thing to do? Smarter, yes. Wiser, yes. More beneficial to his own people, yes. But honorable? After taking Dany's help to defeat the White Walkers, which let's be honest, are a far greater threat to the North than anywhere else, after taking her armies and dragons to save his home and then turning his back on her when Cersei came at her with fresh forces would have been as far from honor as possible. If Jon has indeed been playing Dany all along, then he should have accepted Cersei's offer - which would not only have placated the Northern Lords later, but would also have served as a potential hint of him playing Dany. But in keeping with the characteristic theme of this season, Jon chooses honor over the alternative more politically savvy choice. He upset everybody, even Dany, with this choice when he could have gone with the easier one, which would have ensured everyone - those at the Dragonpit as well as the Northern lords - would have been happy with the outcome. Everyone would have gotten what they wanted, and the subsequent - if any - reveal of Jon having played Dany all along would have made much more sense to the audience.
But Jon did not make the easy choice. The deliberate inclusion of this scene was only to portray that even when the choice is tough, Jon would choose honor. This is his character, his identity. Also, the callbacks to Ned Stark, aside from foreshadowing that when the time comes to choose, Jon would most likely choose his Stark heritage, remind us that Ned Stark valued honor above all, and the only times he sacrificed it was over love - love for his sister and love for his daughters, which caused him to abandon his honor for their survival. So for Ned Stark's son to betray a woman who trusts, loves, respects and admires him, a woman who's had the same struggles in life as he himself has, a woman who is willing to set aside her own personal goals to help him destroy the threat to his home, for him to betray a woman who has already given him everything he wanted, is actually a betrayal of Ned Stark's legacy and everything he stood for. By going so far as to blatantly lie in Ned Stark's name, Jon would have, in one stroke, destroyed everything that Ned Stark inculcated and symbolised, given what we already know about him having no motive at all for the undercover lover angle. So the callback to Ned was very necessary in highlighting that Jon is truly Ned's son, and throwing away his honor without an ironclad reason is not his character. It's simply not.
Also, this scene was very important because it very starkly set up the contrast between Jon (and even Dany) and Cersei. Remember how all of us were totally skeptical about believing Cersei at all in the first place? Even after the convincing reason of her wanting to protect her to-be-born child, it still was hard to believe that she would actually help them. And why was that?
'When enough people make false promises words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies.'
As the audience, we now know not to trust Cersei. Even when she's being completely sincere, it's hard to trust her because her words have long since stopped meaning anything to us, she's not someone who's promises we'll ever trust, because as Jon said, they are only better and more elaborate lies. And lies won't help us in this fight. So Jon not lying is very important to show us this difference, of how we basically trust Jon's promises and how cautious we are when it comes to Cersei. And as if that's not enough, Cersei's scene with Jaime lays it all completely out, when Jaime is do adamant about sticking to his promise and is struggling to understand how Cersei could have lied to them.
Cersei: I'll say whatever I need to say to ensure the survival of our house
To Cersei, the priority is only her house, her family, to the point that she can't even acknowledge the enormity of the Northern threat. She's focused on ensuring her family's survival, everyone else be damned. And that is categorically shown as an evil thing. Saying whatever is needed to be said, making false promises, basically everything that the Jonsa fans expect from Jon is clearly and emphatically shown to be evil, to be wrong. The whole purpose of the Dragonpit scene is to bring out this contrast between Jon and Cersei - Cersei doesn't care about futile things such as honor and promises when the question is about her own family's survival, Jon however not only cares about the realm, as a whole, but he also highly values honor and takes his promises seriously. We even have Jaime Lannister (my cute nugget 💖) walk away from Cersei, whom he loves above and beyond all, because of his honor. If, after all this, Jon is shown to not have any honor at all, then...