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On ‘Game of Thrones,’ The Truth Hurts

This article contains spoilers for ‘Game of Thrones’ season eight, episode one.

In the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, Jon Snow confesses to Queen Cersei that he’s bent the knee and pledged his loyalty to Daenerys Targaryen. This is not a smart move. Cersei immediately storms off, shattering their fragile truce. Although she later capitulates (or pretends to), for a spell it looks like Jon Snow has ruined things. After Daenerys and Tyrion Lannister admonish him for letting the truth slip, Jon defends his honesty.

“Have you ever considered learning how to lie every now and then, just a bit?” Tyrion asks Jon with annoyance. His response is revealing: “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything. Then there are no more answers, only better and better lies. And lies won’t help us in this fight.”

This obstinate, Ned Stark-ian attitude about importance of truth will be tested in the show’s final season. At last, Jon Snow knows his lineage: He’s not a bastard. He’s not even Jon Snow. He’s Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name, rightful heir to the Iron Throne. It’s Dany who should bend the knee to him.

Of all the elements in Game of Thrones‘ excellent season 8 premiere – the callbacks to the show’s very first episode; the dragon-riding date with ladies man Jon Snow; the long-awaited reunions, both anticipated and awkward – the most interesting is how the characters grappled with newfound revelations. Right before detonating Jon’s truthbomb, Samwell Tarly gets his own cold splash of reality when Dany informs him that she torched his dad (a total dick) and brother (not so bad).

Rattled by his poor first impression of Dany, Sam heads to the crypts to tell Jon of his parentage. It’s a beautifully constructed scene, taking place in front of Ned and Lyanna’s crypts, and Jon’s slow recognition of the truth is perfectly played.

“You gave up your crown to save your people,” Sam notes of Jon surrendering his title of King in the North. “Would she do the same?”

This, as much as anything surrounding the impending battle with the Army of the Dead, is now the central question of season 8. And it’s a compelling question, not the least bit rhetorical. The episode repeatedly makes the point that Dany is extremely prideful. Everything she’s done has come from a powerful sense of righteous entitlement. She does not seem the type to take the news of her illegitimate claim to the throne well.

This is what seems to trouble Jon, much more than the fact he’s been sleeping with his Aunt (hey, if The Lonely Island can do it, it’s not that bad). Once again, Jon Snow must wrestle with the question of telling the truth. The Army of the Dead isn’t the only battle he’ll face this season. It might not even be the most difficult.

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