On Sunday night’s episode of Game of Thrones, Westeros finally got its own version of the Pacino-DeNiro scene in Heat: Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen, the closest thing to main characters in the show’s sprawling cast, met for the first time, 63 episodes in. Their scenes together did not disappoint. Just like Sam and Diane, Daenerys’s icy hauteur clashed with Jon’s salt of the Earth vibe, but beneath all the debates over loyalty and sovereignty, sparks flew. When the pair put aside their differences to sign a trade deal on dragonglass, it was the biggest meeting between a blonde queen and a doofy dude with cute eyes since the time Hillary Clinton chose Tim Kaine as her running mate.
If you were picking up a flirty vibe between Jon and Dany, well, you’re not alone. Fans have been shipping these two for years, and it’s easy to see why. They’re attractive, single, and they’ve got a lot in common: They both have firsthand experience of the impossible pressures of ruling, they’ve both witnessed the death of their true love, and they both might be the spiritual reincarnation of a mythical figure prophesied to save the world from the Long Night. Why shouldn’t we root for them to be together?
Oh, that’s right. Daenerys is Jon’s Snow’s aunt.
Now, this is the point where some GOT fans will pop up to say that technically Jon has only been confirmed as the son of Lyanna Stark, and the show has not yet informed us of the identity of his true father. It could be anyone! But, come on. Lyanna was abducted by Rhaegar Targaryen and taken to the Tower of Joy, where she was watched over by the Kingsguard and was later found pregnant. This is not a situation that requires Maury.
So yes, Jon is the son of Rhaegar, Daenerys’s late older brother. This means that she is his aunt, he is her nephew, and we can add “DNA” to the list of things they have in common. Is it gross to root for the last two Targeryens on the planet to get together? When you put it that way, it almost sounds cute. It’s not like there are many famous cases of incest from a similar relationship — just Charles II of Spain, the most famous case of incest in all of European history, who was born of Philip IV and his niece Mariana of Austria.
It’s true, Charles II was also the product of a Habsburg family tree that had more connections than a subway map. But the Tagaryens weren’t exactly strangers to incest either — in fact, it was kind of their thing. The family liked to brag that they had “the blood of the dragon” and marrying outsiders would only dilute it. Daenerys and Rhaegar’s parents were siblings, and if we go by George R.R. Martin’s books, their grandparents were, too. (Poor Jaehaerys II, written out of the show for the sake of timeline simplicity.)
Any child of a Dany-Jon union would likely suffer many of the same problems Charles II did. But these two just met, so it’s a little too early to be talking about children. It’s probably a moot point, anyway: After being cursed by Mirri Maz Dur, Daenerys seemingly can’t have any more kids (though, some believe her final chapter in A Dance With Dragons proves that she can).
Dany and Jon’s hypothetical pairing also sidesteps other concerns with the incest taboo. They weren’t raised in close proximity — indeed, they still don’t even know they’re related — and there’s no unsettling power differential between them. In the end, we’re left with an almost perfect thought experiment: If second-degree relatives who are both consenting adults want to be together, and there’s no chance they’ll ever have children, is it gross to ship them? Amateur GOT ethicists have debated such a question for years without coming to a firm conclusion, so I’m not going to judge your answer one way or the other. Only one thing is certain: A show that gave us brother-sister doggy-style in its very first episode definitely isn’t too squeamish to cook up a Jon-Dany romance.