Game of Thrones is nearly halfway through its final season, and its emphasis on romance has become somewhat of a problem. While there have been some amazing moments so far – Jon Snow riding a dragon and Brienne being knighted – the first two episodes of Game of Thrones season 8 have contained lots of exposition and not a lot of action.
There have been no major losses, and almost nothing has been seen of the Army of the Dead so far (with the exception of several White Walkers showing up at Winterfell). Instead of great fight scenes and shocking deaths, there has been a lot more comedy than fans are used to… and a lot more romance, as well.
Of course, Game of Thrones has never shied away from romance – since the beginning, sex scenes and partnerships have been just as important as battles. Issues of marriage and birth are central to the story, and weddings have made some of the most shocking scenes in the entire series. However, this season, the romance is starting to feel a lot less organic and a lot more problematic.
- This Page: Game of Thrones’ Relationships In Season 8
- Page 2: Game of Thrones Needs To Learn From Its Past
Incest is something of an issue with Game of Thrones – and Jon and Daenerys’ relationship is definitely causing some consternation in the fandom. While it’s not the only incestuous pairing, it’s the only one that the viewer is supposed to like; Jaime and Cersei, from the start, were shown as incestuous to show how terrible they were. And now, as Jaime has grown to become a good guy, he’s left his sister (and their creepy family) behind. With Jon and Dany, though, fans have been encouraged to root for the aunt/nephew romance from the start… and while many will argue that this is simply the Targaryen way, or common to royals throughout history, there is no escaping the bad taste it leaves in the audience’s mouth.
This relationship is now in jeopardy, of course, because Jon has revealed his true Targaryen name to Danerys. However, even this potential split is not because Daenerys was shocked to find herself a little too close to her nephew, but because it gives him a stronger claim to the Iron Throne than hers. Rather than seeing him as a lover or a family member, Daenerys’ reaction was all about Jon being a rival – which, even for a Targaryen, is surely not the only thing that would be shocking about this kind of reveal. Throw in a lack of real chemistry between Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington (especially compared to their chemistry with Jason Momoa and Rose Leslie, respectively), and this relationship just isn’t all it should be.
The other relationship that has been a big focus in the first two episodes of the season is a brand new one, between Arya and Gendry. Some fans are thrilled about this (not least because a Stark and a Baratheon finally got together), but others are less pleased about how it has been handled. Arya and Gendry were only reunited in the Game of Thrones season 8 premiere, after a considerable amount of time spent apart. While they may have both grown up considerably in that time, it’s difficult to forget that the last time Gendry saw Arya, she was very much still a little girl – and one posing as a boy, as well.
Taking these two from a fairly casual friendship that arose because they were thrown together, straight to a romance after only a couple of scenes together, feels very forced. This relationship hasn’t been given time to develop, and Arya hasn’t been developed as a character ready for a relationship, either. Since the very first season, her role has always been emphasized as that of a little sister (whether literally or metaphorically), and while she’s certainly old enough for a relationship by the standards of Westeros, it’s jarring to see her take this leap so quickly – even taking into account the way that imminent death might speed things up.
Page 2 of 2: Game of Thrones Needs To Learn From Its Past
While Jon/Dany and Arya/Gendry are hardly the first romantic pairings in Game of Thrones, they are the first to feel quite so problematic – and to take Game of Thrones closer to soap opera than fantasy. In the past, relationships have either come out of necessity (plenty of marriages take place for political reasons), or they have seemed to appear organically. There have even been plenty of relationships that have simply been hinted at for multiple episodes, or even seasons, and have been more satisfying for it.
Brienne and Jaime (even Brienne and Tormund) have been slowly building for years, and should this come to fruition, it will be so much better than if the two had got together at the start. Missandei and Grey Worm, and Sam and Gilly, are also couples that grew slowly into being, so that by the time they actually happened, it worked. This is the kind of relationship that Game of Thrones does best – a slow burn to a triumphant romance, and the final season of the show seems to be moving away from that, and onto something more melodramatic than truly satisfying.
Now that the big battles are starting with the Battle of Winterfell, it’s time for Game of Thrones to ditch the romances – or at least, move them to the back burner. Thankfully, this is almost guaranteed to happen, even if it breaks the heart of every viewer along the way.
Jon and Daenerys are almost guaranteed to split following the big Aegon Targaryen reveal, which may well be setting Dany up as the villain for the final episodes. And while it may disappoint some to lose the possibility of Jon and Daenerys sitting atop the Iron Throne together, this schism will (thankfully) mean that there are no more incestuous pairings to watch. Arya and Gendry are also unlikely to get a happy ending – although it’s certainly possible, Game of Thrones is exactly the kind of series that will set up a new happy couple only to tear them apart. Should both survive the Battle of Winterfell, they may actually go the distance, but fans are expecting a bloodbath, so it’s unlikely.
Plenty of the less problematic love stories are also unlikely to make it to the second half of the series, as many fans believe that Jorah Mormont, Sam or Gilly, and Grey Worm are going to be on the chopping block in episode 3. Grey Worm, especially, seems to have sealed his fate by talking about his plans for the future with Missandei – the Game of Thrones version of going into the basement to find out what that strange noise was in a horror movie.
All of which means that should the Battle of Winterfell go the way that fans expect, it looks like the issues that the series is having with romances in the first two episodes are due to be wiped out, and everyone can get back to regular scheduled politics and tragedy. However, Game of Thrones has definitely been doing something different with this season so far, so all we can do is hope.
Next: Game of Thrones: 13 Unanswered Questions After Season 8, Episode 2