Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow: Shifting power dynamics

The meeting that took place between Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow in the latest episode of Game of Thrones has been much mythologised. Fan’s anticipation meant that this meeting was, not only memorable but heralded as a crucial point in the show’s trajectory. Many, already, are feting the episode as the best episode thus far.
Episode quality aside, the most striking element of this meeting was, for me, the clear shift in power dynamics. Daenerys, away from Westeros, has been the subject of much praise and loyalty from her followers. This level of adoration has, in turn, coloured the audience’s perception of her. We believe she is good, and caring, despite some errors, because we are repeatedly told that she is. Characters who we trust, or feel an affinity for, openly declare their belief in her, thus, we too have stated our belief in her intentions.

Jon Snow too is a character who we have been led to trust and believe in, but not simply through character perception. Indeed, Jon has had characters openly state their disdain and difficulty with his actions, yet the audience, through witnessing his acts of selflessness, has long trusted his judgement.

The meeting between the two then is a notable moment largely because of what they both represent. Both ostensibly, believe in the virtue and validity of their actions, and both steadfastly believe in the value of doing what they deem to be right and true. What marked the meeting between the two, and made it so noteworthy, was the manner in which it was edited.
We see Jon’s arrival to Dragonstone before we see Daenerys. We witness his boat landing and his meeting with Tyrion and Missandei. There is a suggestion, through a high shot taken from the castle window, that Daenerys is perhaps watching his arrival, but we don’t know this for sure. This in itself is worth noting, as the usual tendency would have been to show Daenerys intently watching Jon’s arrival, perhaps commenting on his appearance to a trusted advisor. Instead, the first time that we see her in this episode is the first time that Jon sees her. Thus, our perspective and interpretation of her, despite the fact that we have met her many times before, is immediately aligned with Jon’s perception.

Through Jon’s eyes, Daenerys is weak, overly intent on her birth right, with little regard to the dangers that Jon speaks of. Simply put, she is depicted as being entirely fallible, no longer the unconquerable leader that she has been portrayed as in earlier seasons. The audience already knows that her war strategy has been unsuccessful thus far, but to witness her appearance and actions through the eyes of a trusted character, a character who has proven his ability to fight and lead on numerous occasions, clearly highlights Daenerys’ potential inability to be the leader that she has had the audience believe she can be. Her statements of loyalty from the Dothraki and the Unsullied are no longer impressive, rather, when openly and boastfully declared to Jon, they read as childish and naïve.

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