Game of Thrones threw a lot of twists and turns as it hurtled toward its conclusion, but so many of us hoped that Jon Snow would ultimately embrace his legacy, and be the one to sit on the Iron Throne.
But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Jon Snow never deserved to become the king.
Let’s discuss why.
After 8 seasons, hundreds of hours television, dozens of intricate plotting, thousands of deaths, and the death of not one but two tyrant queens—it is Brandon Stark who sits on the Iron Throne. Amid all the myriad fan speculation, Bran isn’t exactly who everyone thought would end up ruling the seven (sorry, six) kingdoms, but ok.
God I get it, I’m broken. Does everyone have to keep bringing it up?
Regardless of if you feel Bran was a good choice or not, almost all of us Thrones fans probably felt that Jon Snow would have made the best choice to sit become king of the realm. And many more were frustrated that that wasn’t how the show ended. I mean, the counsel at the end could have easily overruled Grey Worm and picked Jon as their leader.
While the show tried really hard to make us understand why Dany couldn’t sit on the throne, everything in the series seemed to signal that Jon should end up ruling the seven kingdoms. Yet, I believe that the show has also made it pretty clear why he couldn’t have it either, and actually more subtly and effectively then they did Dany. So let’s dive into why Jon Snow Doesn’t Deserve the Throne.
Now, when I say Jon doesn’t deserve the throne, I don’t mean that he wouldn’t have made an excellent and magnanimous ruler. Indeed, exactly the opposite. He would have made a great ruler of the seven, I mean six, kingdoms. No, when I say Jon doesn’t deserve the throne, I mean that he if he had ever sat on the Iron Throne, it would have one of the best things for Westeros and the worst punishment for Jon.
In this final episode, we are reminded of Jon’s two guiding principals, that Jon’s sometimes found at odds and sought to reconcile them his entire life:
Throughout the entire series, Jon has been told the love is the death of duty. That caring for others is a distracting from what needs to be done. And Jon has always felt such a strong pull towards duty at the expense of love since we first met him.
Love and Duty.
Initially, as the seeming bastard son of Ned Stark, Jon felt it was his duty to stand aside for the other full-blooded Stark children. We see this symbolically in one of the first scenes of the series, where Jon allows all the other Stark children to have a pet direwolf. He even points out that there are only enough for the Stark children. By doing this, he is symbolically sacrificing his chance to be considered part of the family, to take part in the love that the rest of the Stark house seem to enjoy. He only gets ghost when someone notices the runt of the litter.
From the very start, we see Jon putting Duty above a chance for love.
Later, he feels a sense of duty to the Night’s Watch. He takes his vows to have no titles or father no children. He will guard the realm, no matter what. That is his duty. At the end of the first season, he faces his first real challenge to duty. When he hears Ned was killed, he races off to fight for his brother’s banner. Yet, his Night’s watch brothers pull him back, by echoing the words of their vows, their duty, back to him. And once again, Jon chooses duty over his love for his family.
Later, Jon falls in love with the wildling Ygritte. They share a strong bond, perhaps the first true love that Jon has in his life. Truly, it’s the only one that is fully and completely reciprocated. However, here too, Jon decides to follow his duty, defending castle black and killing Ygritte despite it going against everything his heart tell him to do.
Over and over again, Jon chooses to follow his duty over love. He gives up his title as King in the North, the heart, belief, trust and love of his people, to ensure that Dany will help him defend the North from the Night King. He sends Ghost away to Castle Black because he knows it’s the wrong place for the direwolf. He tells Sansa and Arya about his lineage, knowing it will push him further from his love, Dany.
Time and time again, he chooses duty. It’s who Jon is.
While it probably was the right thing to do, it’s also probably what kept him alive to his point. We see the consequences one may face if one chooses love over duty through Robb Stark. Instead of staying on the track of taking back the North for Northmen, Robb gets distracted by love. It causes him to shirk his duty, and this choice gets him killed. Yet, we also feel as the audience that we understand Robb’s choice here. In any other story, in other world, Robb choosing love over duty would be ok. Yet this is Westeros, and for those in power, duty must come before love.
So in the final episode, Jon feels that strong sense of duty pulling him away from love. He must kill Dany, the woman he loves, for the betterment of the realm. He understands that this must once again be his sacrifice. And he does it.
Yet, I also think he sees everything that comes after that. For Jon sees all of his proper duty before him. He’s been told over and over and over again by everyone around him that he would make a great ruler. That he would rule kindly and wisely.
We as an audience not only believe this as well, but we expect it of him. We expect him to be the one on the Iron Throne because he is clearly the best choice for it. There are even many fans who believe that Jon was supposed to be the Prince that Was Promised. It’s his duty, it’s his destiny. This is what we have been promised.
Yet, in his final talk with Tyrion, Jon learns something different. That maybe it’s not that love is the death of duty, but that duty is the death of love.
One of the central ideas of a Song of Ice and Fire is how isolating power becomes. All those who seek power, or who gain power, will eventually find themselves alone. After all, only one person can sit on a throne. Robert Baratheon lived in a world of wine and whores, not even truly loved by his wife. Ned had to leave Caitlyn Stark in order to become Hand of the King. Cersei lost all of her children and the support of her lover. Tyrion loses the only woman he loved and the entirety of his family. Dani lost everyone she cared about from two of her dragons to Jorah to Missande, as well as the love of the people of Westeros, in her quest for power. Over and over and over again we are reminded that power, and duty is the death of love.
And this probably the most important subversion for Jon in the final episode. For he realizes that not only is love the death of duty… but duty is the death of love. This is something Jon’s own father and mother knew all too well. It’s why Rhaegar Targaryn gave up the throne to be with Lyanna, so that he could love in peace, without duty. This reversal of concepts, that it’s not love that kills duty, but duty that kills love, is powerful.
If we take another look back over Jon’s entire life, we see that Jon has always been searching for love. He’s never felt properly loved by anyone. Ned cared for him, and did love him in his way, but from a distance. He wants to be a part of the Stark family, yet he never can feel fully like he belongs, because he is a bastard. Later, He wants to run off to fight for Robb, but his duty pull him back. He wants to be with Ygritte, but he knows he has to save castle black. He wants to care for the North, but he must protect all of the living first. Jon has never been allowed to love, despite that being the thing he wants most, yet he can never have that. And how cruel a fate is that.
So for Jon to end up on the throne would have been great for the realm, but also terrible for Jon. It would have placed him the most isolated he could have possibly been. Furthest from the thing he needed most, all because it was his duty to do so. Say what you will about bran, but he’s already isolated, and he doesn’t seem to care.
It’s why I think Jon being sent to the Night’s Watch is actually the happiest ending he could have had, at the end of the series. Because, without Dany and Ygritte alive, the only place that Jon ever really truly felt love was at the Wall. All the way back in Season 1, the reason that Jon didn’t go run off to fight for Robb was because his brothers, and I use brothers in every sense of the term, cared enough to go running out to stop him. They cared about him. Jon also found brotherhood with Tormmound and the wildlings. Jon belonged with the Night’s Watch and the wildlings in a way that he never belonged anywhere else.
It’s telling that the last shots of Game of Thrones mirror the first. Yet, in the first show, we have two lone men going out to meet their death at the hands of an the ancient undead. These men are alone against an empty, desolate landscape. They go off on to their duty, and their death.
In the last shot of Game of Thrones, we see Jon walking with people he cares about, a family, alongside young children very much enjoying life. Here, the land isn’t empty, but showing signs of life. And in the end, Jon goes off, having earned the love that he yearned for, now that his duty has ended.
But what do you think? Should Jon have sat on the throne? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And if you want to see more videos on pop culture like this one, give my channel a subscribe. And if you want to make these videos even better, considering giving some money to my patron page. Every little bit counts, especially right now as I’m currently going through a bit of a personal emergency at the moment, so anything you could give honestly goes a long way. And until next time, Live Long and Prosper.
Jessie Earl is a video producer for Microsoft Unboxed and runs her own LGBT geek focused YouTube channel.