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20th May 2019

Two small moments in Game of Thrones history proved to be massive in the finale

Paul Moore

“Love is the death of duty”

As always, if you haven’t seen the most recent Game of Thrones episode, consider this to be your spoiler alert warning.

Throughout the course of Game of Thrones, there’s a litany of characters that Jon Snow learned leadership and nobility from.

Ned Stark, Jeor Mormont, Mance Rayder, Stannis Baratheon, Tyrion Lannister, Benjen Stark, Alliser Thorne (in his own mutinous way) and plenty of other people that helped Lord Snow along the way.

Similarly, while Daenerys Targareyn didn’t have any immediate authority figures to learn from, she relied on advisors and council from the likes of Jorah Mormont, Ser Barristan Selmy, Tyrion Lannister, Missandei and others.

A Song of Ice and Fire has now finished and it’s Jon Snow that lives, however, the former King in the North is facing exile after killing the woman he loves.

During the episode, we were reminded that “love is the death of duty” and when it comes to understanding Targareyn madness, that’s truly required of any leader, one man knows more than most.

A Maester that’s vastly experienced in both ice and fire.

“His name was Aemon Targaryen. He came to us from King’s Landing. A Maester of the Citadel, chained and sworn, and sworn brother of the Night’s Watch, ever faithful.

“No man was wiser or gentler or kinder. At the Wall, a dozen lord commanders came and went during his years of service, but he was always there to counsel them. He was the blood of the dragon but now his fire has gone out. And now his watch is ended,” said Sam at Aemon’s funeral.

As a Targareyn, he understood the mental health of Daenerys better than most because their madness runs deep.

In the previous episode, David Benioff, showrunner on Game of Thrones has said that Maester Aemon’s statement that “a Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing” was a precursor to Dany’s descent into madness.

The deaths of her dragons, Ser Jorah, and Missandei meant that Daenerys didn’t have any trusted advisors to council her. Aside from this, Varys and Tyrion were conspiring against her and Jon Snow’s claim to the Iron Throne also made her paranoid and desperate to take what she believes is rightfully hers.

Sadly, Maester Aemon was right about Daenerys and he was also right about Jon Snow. The only difference is that Jon Snow was there to heed his advice.

Cast your mind back to the end of the first season, Jon Snow is contemplating abandoning his Night’s Watch vows because he seeks vengeance against the Lannisters for imprisoning Ned Stark.

At this point, Maester Aemon imparts a valuable lesson, love leads to poor decisions.

“What is honour compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms … or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”

It’s fitting that this speech was delivered in the exact same episode that Ned Stark died because it’s clear that Jon’s honour, nobility, and ability to lead was inspired by Ned.

However, the theme of love leading to characters abandoning their duty and making poor decisions has been central to the series throughout its run.

Prince Rhaegar was unable to remain faithful to Ellia Martell and got an annulment and married Lyanna Stark. This was one of the factors that accelerated Robert’s Rebellion.

Elsewhere, Robb Stark abandoned his sworn promise to marry Walder Frey’s daughter and we all know what happened at The Red Wedding.

Jaime Lannister also said that he’d do unspeakable things for love and it’s arguable that he sealed his own fate by deciding to leave Winterfell and return to Cersei in King’s Landing.

When it came to her decision to destroy the capital, Daenerys said that she deliberately chose fear over love.

However, as he has repeatedly shown throughout the show, Jon Snow was willing to sacrifice his own happiness and safety to do what is right.

He’s the shield that guards the realms of men. He’s the true heir to the Iron Throne.  He has has Ned Stark’s blood flowing through his veins.

Much like Maester Aemon, he knows what it takes to balance ice and fire.

Clip via SammmmyGee