Were Jon and Dany Better Off With Their Exes?

Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Photos by HBO

The White Walkers are marching south thanks to the Night King’s pretty new pet dragon, but that doesn’t we can’t make room to chat about another very important Game of Thrones subject: love! Throughout season seven, we’ve been teased with the possibility of Daenerys Targaryen, Mother of Dragons, and Jon Snow, King of the North, forming an alliance both on the battlefield and the bedroom. In the season seven finale, not-so-coyly titled “The Dragon and the Wolf,” they did just that … during a late-night booty call, on a freakin’ boat, no less.

Jon and Dany seem like a perfect pairing — there’s a reason why George R.R. Martin called his books the Song of Ice and Fire, after all — but thanks to Bran and Sam’s fireside chat, there’s trouble ahead for these lovebirds. We now know for sure that Jon Snow is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, who were madly in love and married in a secret ceremony. This makes Jon Snow the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne, which is cool and all, but more importantly, it also means that Jon is Dany’s nephew. Which means incest. And that is truly unfortunate.

Is incest enough to derail Dany and Jon’s love story? This sharing of DNA definitely renders their coupling taboo, but the fact that the Wolf and the Dragon are perfect for each other just might be enough to overcome that whole icky aunt-nephew thing. Unless, of course, their love lives peaked with previous romances. There’s only one way to find out: It’s time to navigate the murky waters of dating in the Seven Kingdoms.

Dany and Drogo

Any couple who uses pet names like “moon of my life” and “my sun and stars” is capital-I Intense. Dany and Drogo came from completely different worlds: She was the last remaining princess of a Westerosi noble family; he was the leader of a Dothraki horde that murders and pillages for sport. Over the span of their short, passionate relationship, they also compromised for each other: Dany chowed down on a horse heart (as is tradition for a pregnant Khaleesi), while Drogo reprimanded his soldiers for attempting to enslave and rape women. With Dany, Drogo showed a much softer side than one would expect, protecting her above all else. Similarly, Dany wouldn’t be the Breaker of Chains we know and love without her time spent by Drogo’s side. She used to be so meek that she couldn’t even stand up to her vile brother; Drogo helped her become a fierce and confident leader.

But all of that is moot once you remember the horrible way in which their “relationship” began. Dany was sold to Khal Drogo by her brother, Viserys, in exchange for Dothraki soldiers meant to help him seize the Iron Throne. Dany was forced into it against her will and Drogo repeatedly raped her. Even if she eventually came out of the marriage stronger than before, even if the show tells us that she fell for him, nothing can change that terrible foundation. Not even the sun rising in the West and setting in the East.

Jon Snow and Ygritte

Just your typical “Night’s Watchman captures wildling, wildling then captures Night’s Watchman, wildling taunts Night’s Watchman, wildling and Night’s Watchman get it on in a steamy cave, wildling and Night’s Watchman come to terms with the fact that they’re on opposite sides of the same war, wilding puts arrows into Night’s Watchman’s back, Night’s Watchman holds wilding in his arms as she dies” kind of story.

These two are doomed to fail from the start: Jon was supposed to execute Ygritte, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Eventually, she turned the tables on him, and he spent many an episode trying to convince the wildlings that he’s no longer a Crow, all while fielding playful jabs from Ygritte. Her favorite taunt, of course, was the famous line, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” but when the Crow and wildling finally took their relationship to the next level in that aforementioned cave, Jon proved to Ygritte that he does, in fact, know a thing or two. Alas, the problem that was evident at the start of their relationship ultimately plagued them until the bitter end: Both are fiercely loyal to their tribes. Jon may pretend he’s a deserter of the Night’s Watch, but Ygritte knew better. They promised to never betray one another, but when it came down to it, neither would give up what they believe in. (Not even for magical kisses on top of the Wall!) While it lasted, their romance was playful, formative, and oh-so-charmingly real. When they met one last time during the fated battle at Castle Black, and Jon held his first love in his arms until the end, we all agreed with Ygritte’s dying words: They should’ve stayed in that cave forever.

Dany and Daario

Daario Naharis is a smart dude. Knowing that a couple of severed heads go a much longer way than flowers with Daenerys Stormborn, he wins his way into his queen’s heart with charm, cheekiness, and a natural talent for killing people. (He’s easy on the eyes, too, so that doesn’t hurt.) Daario pledged his sword and his life to Dany, and he clearly loves her for who she is as a person. He isn’t interested in a crown, and he stands by Dany even as she enters into a political marriage to keep the peace in Meereen. (Pour one out for Hizdahr zo Loraq, a man trying to do right by his father and his people, but when it came down to it, was just a pretentious weenie.) But in the end, this romance is too one-sided: Dany wants the Iron Throne more than she wants Daario, so he was always doomed to be some sort of palate cleanser after Drogo. When she informed him that he wouldn’t be making the trip to Westeros, instead staying in Meereen to keep order (and prevent any poor optics as she considered marriage alliances), Dany just wanted to break it off and move on to better things. Oh, those desert boyfriends. They never seem to last, do they?

Dany and Jon

Let’s be honest: Dany and Jon are both hotties with bodies. Who wouldn’t want to see Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington mash their beautiful faces together? Plus, as strong leaders who’ve been through real trauma, they may be the only two people in the Seven Kingdoms who could possibly understand what the other has survived — including the grief of losing someone they loved. When you imagine either one of them ruling Westeros with a partner by their side, are there even any other contenders? Jon Snow doesn’t really have other options, while none of Dany’s suitors really fit the bill: Jorah Mormont is a dreamboat and all, but she’ll never see him that way; Tyrion is nursing a crush on her; and Daariob is stuck in Meereen.

Another thing Dany and Jon have going for them: They’ve both completely fallen for one another. So much so that everyone else knew their hookup was imminent before they did. (When the Onion Knight is picking up what you’re putting down romantically, you know it’s happening.) Perhaps best of all, their love for each other is based on mutual respect. Did you see the way Dany looked at Jon as he touched her dragon? (No, not a euphemism.) Tell me your stomach didn’t do a little flip when Jon referred to Dany as “my queen” for the first time, because he understands what she’s capable of accomplishing. But what really seals the deal is Jon standing by his oath to Daenerys in the finale, even though it meant losing Cersei’s allegiance in the Great War. If that’s not real love, I don’t know what is. For all intents and purposes, they are the ultimate couple. They are the song of ice and fire.

Except for that one big, crappy con: It’s incest.

No matter how perfect two people may be for each other, it’s really freaking hard to overlook incest — especially on a show that previously characterized it as something that the villainous Lannisters enjoy. Now, neither Dany nor Jon realize they are blood-related, so it’s hard to ding them for something they don’t know about. But what happens once they find out? Dany might still be down — incest is a time-honored tradition for Targaryens, after all — but she certainly won’t be thrilled to learn Jon has a better claim to the Iron Throne, not after all the work she’s put in to win it. And there’s no way Jon Snow will be cool with incest, right? The guy still feels guilty about breaking his oath to the Night’s Watch for making sweet, sweet cave love to Ygritte. His moral compass is strong and typically unwavering. He may have Targaryen blood in his veins, but he was raised as a Stark.

On the other hand, what if Jon has fallen too hard to go back? He and Dany have to realize that theirs is the strongest possible alliance available to anyone vying for the Iron Throne. If they stick together to rule Westeros, it wouldn’t be the first time that politics trumped the laws of nature.

The Verdict

Dating in Westeros is tough. When your best option for true love is incest, maybe you should pull a Kelly Taylor circa Beverly Hills 90210 season five and just. Choose. Yourself. Alas, this is Game of Thrones and there must always be a winner. Jon and Ygritte’s ill-fated love affair is the easiest to support, but their love could only exist in a vacuum. Daario was Dany’s easiest relationship, but when it came down to it, she just wasn’t that into him. Meanwhile, Dany and Jon have a relationship built on mutual respect and the ability to both challenge and compromise when necessary. That’s awfully progressive for Game of Thrones. The ice dragon cometh, and if both aunt and nephew make it through this war alive, they’ll both deserve whatever happiness they can get. Jon + Dany 4eva.

Were Jon and Dany Better Off With Their Exes?