They did it. THEY DID THE INCEST THING! They! Finally! Did! The! Incest! Thing!
Let’s be clear: They were always going to do the incest thing. I spent the better part of the last Game of Thrones offseason debating the potential of an on-screen depiction of the incest thing, by which I mean yelling at most anyone who would listen that the well-mannered, dashing, über–George R.R. Martin hero Jon Snow was definitely, definitely, definitely going to bang his many-braided aunt, Daenerys Targaryen.
We learned at the end of Season 6 that Westeros’s two most eligible heirs were definitively related, when the Three-Eyed Über Creep formerly known as Bran hitched a ride to Jon’s long-ago birth at the Tower of Joy. There, he confirmed the longstanding fan theory that Ned Stark was willing to sacrifice a great deal of marital trust to appease his sister Lyanna, who died while giving birth to Jon, her son with Rhaegar Targaryen, whom Ned then announced to the world as his own bastard.
This season, we were treated to nearly seven full episodes of foreplay between the still-unaware-of-familial-relation Jon and Daenerys. There were longing looks! There were characters discussing their longing looks! She told him not to call her Dany! They held hands! There was an exceedingly obvious political alliance, one that could only really be sorted out with betrothal! There was Sam mansplaining the heck out of poor Gilly, who just wanted someone other than the Creepasaurus Rex of Winterfell to know what was up! There was fretting about empty wombs! And there was that ever-present hint that, well, you know how the Targaryens are, what they like to do with their close relations, wink wink, nudge nudge, loincloth-slap loincloth-slap.
With the conclusion of Season 7, we can finally complete the theorem: If R+L=J, then J+D=XXX.
It wasn’t enough, of course, for Game of Thrones to spend the past calendar year teasing the inevitability of the Wolf-Dragon liaison. The scene — pardon me, let’s not be precious: I mean the shots of the candle-lit and lovingly entwined buttocks of aunt and nephew as they plaintively moaned on one another in tender, incestuous embrace — was immediately preceded by a discussion between Sam and Bran whose substance boiled down to, omg Jon and Dany are extremely related, and, no like super-super related, and, seriously though I have creeped on basically every sexual encounter that has ever happened in Westerosi history and even to me the degree of their related-to-each-other-hood is frankly mind-boggling. This setup was, presumably, to make absolutely, totally, 10,000 percent sure that viewers as preoccupied as — I don’t know, let’s say Aaron Rodgers — could not possibly be confused about what was about to happen: the aunt, the nephew, the ultimate incest thing.
Jon — that is, Aegon Targaryen, as we learned he, a certified non-bastard, is actually named — is going to be so embarrassed. He is so proper. He takes his vows, as we were reminded somewhere around 400 times in the finale, so very seriously. (Imagine the vows he makes during pillow talk!) He loves his family and cares so deeply about doing right by them, which in the Starkian worldview probably included never, ever bedding them. But Jon was doing right by the wrong family all along, or something. And man, this is the guy who still isn’t over finding out that his coworkers disliked him! When he learns he has the same name as his new lady love’s dead nephew, he might actually die of the resulting blush.
Remember the good old days when people who didn’t watch Game of Thrones would say, hey, isn’t that that incest show? We’ve had a few good years of it being that dragon show instead, perhaps. But now we are firmly back to the Game of Thrones bread and butter: relatives smackin’ private parts together and seeing what the ramifications might be.
There is, of course, some weirdness here, and not just in the sense of finding yourself possibly cheering on incest. In the end, this show is fundamentally less about rulers than it is about their bloodlines: It is the Game of Thrones, and not the Game of Comparative Ancestral Claims or Comparative Charismatic Merits. It is generally nicer to think about the series as a sort of battle royal of finely dressed individuals, because that is more fun and they all (OK, mostly) have such wonderful hair and we can ignore the queasiness of a profoundly and often nastily undemocratic world: There is never much ambiguity about the wretchedness of being a non-lord/lady anywhere in the Song of Ice and Fire world. Daenerys and Jon have both been easy to root for, because we are frequently reminded that they are good people who generally have the best interests of those around them in mind. But in their union, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that this is a world where the mixing of their chromosomes is so much more important than their moony-eyed longing. This is a show about hereditary monarchy, and the players got to pretend otherwise for a long time. Now, finally, they’re coming back to pay their dues.
But gosh, I just can’t wait to see the look on Jon’s mortified face.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.