WARNING: This story has spoilers based on last night’s episode of Game of Thrones Season 8, Episode 5 “Bells.”
When Daenerys Targaryen rose from nothing to be a queen in the East, many people cheered. We saw the character suffer brutally at the hands of men, including her own brother. When we saw her exact revenge, over and over, on people who wronged and betrayed her, it was easy to root for her. She had good intentions, she was a decent young girl who suffered, and the people she fought against were evil. They were rapists, they were slave masters, they were murderers. When her evil brother, who had threatened to stab her in the belly, was brutally murdered in front of her eyes, we understood why she was so cold in that moment. Viserys deserved it. We agreed with her.
When we saw the brutality that Cersei inflicted on people, we didn’t have much context of her as a young girl. We only saw the aftermath, the bitter woman in a loveless marriage, who choose incest with her brother in a world of limited options. Her manipulations and choices were, in her view, justified because of the betrayals she suffered. She loved her children, and raised a monstrous boy in Joffrey. Her other children were kind-hearted, and died anyway, one by poison, the other by suicide after helping empower a religious pogrom in King’s Landing. We despised her choices, no one really deserved the punishments she was delivering. We disagreed with her.
When Jon Snow was sent to spy on the wildlings and ultimately betray them, by relaying the plans of the King Beyond the Wall back to the Night’s Watch, we watched him suffer. We saw his terrible choices, and we understood how much it hurt him to make those choices. Jon Snow knew that the Wildlings were coming North not to invade, but to flee the dread death that was creeping against them. When he chose to side with the Night’s Watch, and help slaughter those people coming to kill his people, we understood it. We understood why he was so willing to betray people and kill former friends. Even those people he fought against came to understand his choices. We agreed that, yes, Jon was killing only the right people.
When Jon Snow was fighting the Battle of the Bastards, and his little brother Rickon was murdered in front of him, he lost control. He…