“I hope I deserve it”
Is what Dany days as Jon “verbally” bends the knee. But why exactly?
Dany is a proud woman, and when she’s not, she puts up a facade of being proud. Her neverending list of titles prove it, but it’s not like it’s not right for her to be or that there’s no reason to be - in the contrary, she both needs it and deserves it. She did endure all that she explained to Jon and she did achieve all that her titles means. The fact that so many - me included, at times - don’t like it, is because it’s a tad repetitive, but it’s completely true, and because it’s often put in comparison with Jon who, on the other hand, is extremely humile, and for whose honour Davos himself had to step in - because he doesn’t care. He came to Dragonstone for a diplomatic purpose and that’s what he’d doing, being the honourable, severe son of his adoptive father Ned Stark. All that he did, he did for others, never for himself, fully knowing he’d gain but hatred but for it. And if he doesn’t bend the knee all the times Dany asks him is because he and his men and women in the north have now different matters to take care of, much less “trivial” than a war in the south. Let alone “brag”, he doesn’t even state what he’s done exactly. David has to, in his place. And that’s when he says
“He took a knife in the heart for his people…!”
But Jon sends him a stare and stops him. Why? Because it’s already difficult to believe in dead armies and White Walkers, let alone resurrections.
But Dany is still a tad curious. This man is the North is a ruler of about her age, humile, mysterious. He’s here for a very specific purpose and doesn’t seem to be afraid of her, nor of her dragons. If she wants to kill him, so be it, he’s come simply to serve his people. And that’s how she starting to see him as very similar to her, unengaged in day-to-day personal matters. Because Dany too, for as proud as she is, wants to serve the people.
So she asks Tyrion about it, and he doesn’t give the matter importance. She then asks Jon in person, but they are interrupted.
Then he leaves for the mission beyond the wall. She can see again just how much of a leader. Just like she took Drogon and met the Lannister army in open field personally, so he wouldn’t let his men do something so
stupid dangerous without taking part in it himself. He’s again honourable, severe, uninterested. When she arrives to save them, he’s about the take her hand and get away
But he doesn’t. He lets the other go first while fighting off the wights. Selfless to a fault, so much that he almost loses his life for it, but he manages to return. And she sees his scars. At this point I guess she asks Davos for clarifications and this time, he gives them to her, explanaining that the King in The North did take a knife in the heart for his people.
At this point, to her, he’s the most honourable leader she’s ever met. He’s nothing like the lords and ladies she’s fighting, not even like her now deceased allies. He’s merciful and self-sacrifical. And after weeks spent together she should understand better the situation in the North and what exactly it implied for him to do what he did.
That’s where the “I hope I deserve it” lies. He’s a man she admires, not one of those sheep she either has the win over or threaten. What he did for his people, the kind of things he did, is what she’s like to do when she sits on the iron throne.
Jon, at the same time, understood her better. What she did, at the cost of one of her children, to save them, is in the same way something he has profound respect for. The North doesn’t like southern rulers because they are not understood by them, it’s two completely different worlds. But this one dared to go north as see with her own two eyes what it is. Jon respects her now. He never had much love for power anyway, he doesn’t want it: if he didn’t bend the knee it’s because of his people most and foremost.
Whether you ship them or not, I think this relationship is beautiful because in this season we slowly see two people come together from opposite sides, backgrounds, experiences, even geographic places, united only by the so hard to find willingness to always put others before themselves. That they love each other is a consequence of this, because they both see this beauty of character in each other, which is indeed firstly in themselves.