The Night King and his demise is not the main plot of this story. This is a story about imperfect people navigating an imperfect world and facing the consequences of their actions. If there is a knight in shining armor, it is not who we expect. If the Big Bad Guy is defeated it isn’t done through an honorable fight. If a lost bird makes her way back home, it won’t be the same anymore. The innocence of wishing for a fairytale story to happen is long lost.
This entire season we expected Jon Snow to be the one to kill the Night King. After all, he did all the work of learning about him, being marked by him, finding soldiers and weapons to fight his army. His life since going beyond the wall has been tied to bringing down the Night King. It would make sense that he be the one to face him head on and be the one to defeat him. If that was his story. But his story isn’t that kind of story.
“You don’t know what you’re asking, Jon. The Night’s Watch is a sworn brotherhood. We have no families. None of us will ever father sons. Our wife is duty. Our mistress is honor.” – Benjen
“A bastard can have honor too,” Jon said. “I am ready to swear your oath.”Jon I, AGoT
From the beginning we are introduced to Jon Snow the Bastard. He is not a part of the Stark family by name and is always cast aside. He knows this but still yearns to be a part of a family. Finding a place where he can belong. He decides to join the Night’s Watch in hopes to find, if not a family, at least a brotherhood.
Now, he’s found out that who he thought was his family isn’t because in reality he is Aegon Targaryen, heir to the Iron Throne. But is that true? Because is your family those who raised you or those who are your blood?
“Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death. I shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children. I shall wear no crowns and win no glory. I shall live and die at my post. I am the sword in the darkness. I am the watcher on the walls. I am the shield that guards the realms of men. I pledge my life and honor to the Night’s Watch, for this night and all the nights to come.”The Night’s Watch oath
It is in the Night’s Watch that he is takes his oath and receives his duty to be protector of the realm. He quickly learns that the definition of “Duty” is not so clear cut and begins to struggle with indecision. This internal struggle is something that does not translate on screen well at all. He is constantly torn between wanting to do something to protect his “family” in Winterfell as he hears news about them from the south and also wanting to protect the wildlings, the crows, the infirm and moonboy for all I know. The problem with this is you end up protecting nobody and shirking your duty. So he gets stabbed. But wait! He comes back and we get Duty 2.0: Stop Winter from coming.
And here is where D&D could have prevented this frustration we have now. They expected us to know and remember that Jon came back from the dead with the seemingly sole purpose of killing the Night’s King. Which most of us did. But what we missed out on in those brooding stares and looks is that internal struggle with wanting to have it all but will end up with nothing in return.
And what does “having it all” look like to Jon?
Jon wants honor. He is a bastard and a bastard has no honor. Or so he thought he was up until Sam announced he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. But do you have honor then if no one knows about it? Now Jon will have to wrestle with the questions that come along with knowing that he is the true heir. Does he take that from Dany our tragic hero? Or would it be more honorable to let her have what she’s been fighting for this entire series?
There was a scene in the last episode where Jon was faced with a choice. A choice to save Sam, his friend, brother and one of the few people who have stuck by him this whole time or to go and kill the Night King. He chose the Night King and was subsequently denied his chance to get to him by Viserion. Does this speak for his choices in the future?
At this point it’s an open book to see what he’ll decide. He has choices now to make. Things he has been avoiding since the beginning of the series. He’ll have to make sacrifices because if he reaches again for everything then he will fail.
Will he go down the path of the tragic hero and turn his back on the Starks, his family, and go after the Iron Throne? If he does this then chances are he’ll be blocked by Daenerys and lose everything again.
Will he take up his sworn duty to the Night’s Watch and continue to guard the Seven Kingdoms?
Will he be able to make the honorable choice now that he knows what’s at stake?