You get this shot of Dany reaching for Jon but Jon does not take it her hand. Instead he chooses to go after the NK all on his own. This is significant because it tells you that if Jon could end this without the help of Dany he would, Beric showed him a different way and he really tried but failed. This if anything reinforced the notion in his mind that he can't do it without Dany.
Hi there! Thanks for the ask!
I apologize I’m just replying now. Thought I’d hold off on judging this shot until the finale aired so I could discuss it in full. Because it is a super interesting thought!
D@ny reaching for Jon was one of those 706 details I missed the first time around but it is curious upon rewatch. I don’t particularly think they telegraphed WHY Jon turned around all that well. It’s pretty chaotic with a lot happening all at once. My original assumption was that Jon realized the team needed him to provide cover to support the mission and in the process of fighting, just got cut off from them. If they wanted to telegraph that Jon intended to fight the NK, IMO, they needed more shots of closeup NK and Jon a la Jon vs Ramsey in BotB.
But thematically, it’s an interesting shot right? That D@ny offers her extended hand and Jon reaches up with clenched knuckles but then decides against taking it. That he turns away, goes in the opposite direction to be a hero on his own, still denying her help even after she flies in there with those colossal war machines. That says a whole lot. It also is another breadcrumb pointing to Viserion’s death as the gamechanger for Jon because he knows what the NK will do with a dead dragon. So fastforward to the boat, Jon realizes they are fucked without her dragons, that there is no time to waste, and he does the very un-Jon-like move of grabbing D@ny’s hand.
For D@ny, there’s also a potent tragic metaphor in this shot: Jon Snow always just out of her reach. She extends her hand whole heartedly to him. Jon reaches half-heartedly with a clenched fist before turning away to protect others.
The finale underscored this metaphor IMO. I believe we’re seeing undercover!Jon, so it makes me feel for her in a way. She really does spend most of the episode being influenced by him. Despite riding into the pit on a dragon (and that visual itself is its own doozy of a metaphor, flying into a dragon trap?!), she really lacks agency the whole hour. She offers her personal thoughts and feelings to Jon. He offers up nothing personal in return but she doesn’t seem to notice. When he lays out a travel plan that threatens her safety and makes her advisors nervous, she doesn’t question his motives in the plan. She buys his flimpsy excuse of sending “a better message” as Tyrion and Jorah watch Jon’s growing influence with worry. And then boatbang, she doesn’t notice Jon all weirdly stressed and panic-y on top of her? I’m honestly lowkey concerned for her lack of self-awareness and judgment of others. It makes me want to go all girlfriend on her and take her aside like, GIRL OPEN UP YOUR EYES.
But this isn’t an out of nowhere trait. D@ny has had a long history of trusting people that are playing her. Off the top of my head, Mirri Maz, Doreah, and Jorah had all played her with varying degrees of malice, before the second book/season closed. And she was clueless until evidence came out proving their treachery. I guess the argument could be made that she’s learned since…but I’m not sure she has? She became less trusting but nothing showed us she ever worked to correct this weakness or ever got better at reading people’s intentions. She states in ACOK that she is “neither deaf nor blind”. Stannis also proclaims “I am not blind”. Both state so with lack of self-awareness to their own actual blindness.
D@ny does have a moment of realization in ADWD:
If I look back, I am doomed, D@ny told herself … but how could she not look back? I should have seen it coming. Was I so blind, or did I close my eyes willfully, so I would not have to see the price of power?
— Daenerys II, ADWD
But it is short-lived. She basically buries this, deciding to be a conqueror and leave Meeren for Westeros.
I’m particularly fascinated by that “if I look back” part because she repeats it over and over across the years. She fears looking back and feeling lost. But that’s exactly what she needs to do to gain some self-awareness and grow some discernment skills. She resists it and thus goes down a path that wasn’t her own. One that will most likely end in tragedy.
This counters Jon pretty sharply, who does nothing but observe. That’s a specific Jon talent GRRM highlights from the very beginning of the series. Bran’s climbing habit seems to be an extension of wanting to, like Jon, see things others did not.
Bran’s first chapter compares Jon’s discernment skills with Robb’s:
The deserter died bravely,” Robb said. He was big and broad and growing every day, with his mother’s coloring, the fair skin, red-brown hair, and blue eyes of the Tullys of Riverrun. “He had courage, at the least.”
“No,” Jon Snow said quietly. “It was not courage. This one was dead of fear. You could see it in his eyes, Stark.” Jon’s eyes were a grey so dark they seemed almost black, but there was little they did not see.
— Bran I, AGOT
This awareness is underscored a couple pages later when Jon discovers Ghost:
Halfway across the bridge, Jon pulled up suddenly.
“What is it, Jon?” their lord father asked.
“Can’t you hear it?”
Bran could hear the wind in the trees, the clatter of their hooves on the ironwood planks, the whimpering of his hungry pup, but Jon was listening to something else.
“There,” Jon said. He swung his horse around and galloped back across the bridge. They watched him dismount where the direwolf lay dead in the snow, watched him kneel. A moment later he was riding back to them, smiling.
“He must have crawled away from the others,” Jon said.
“Or been driven away,” their father said, looking at the sixth pup. His fur was white, where the rest of the litter was grey. His eyes were as red as the blood of the ragged man who had died that morning. Bran thought it curious that this pup alone would have opened his eyes while the others were still blind.
— Bran I, AGOT
Jon hears what neither Ned nor Robb nor Bran nor Theon can hear. As a consequence, he finds Ghost, the only pup of the litter with his eyes wide open.
This is barely 13 pages in. It’s akin to an establishing shot for the character.
There’s been some good takes lately on Jon physically losing his sight (at least partially) in the future. Ever since I learned Jonnel Stark (who married Sansa Stark) was a One-Eyed Lord of Winterfell, I’ve joked about a plot twist that Jon loses an eye in the war against the Dead.
So it’s worth noting that Sam explains how Maester Aemon, though physically blind, “sees things no one else sees” (Jon VIII, AGOT).
Arya learns through actually losing her sight that one can become hyperaware of surroundings by relying on other senses, gaining skills of discernment that others with sight ignore.
And because this is a Jonsa blog, I cannot resist adding this passage of Ned’s about Sansa:
It was queer how sometimes a child’s innocent eyes can see things that grown men are blind to. Someday, when Sansa was grown, he would have to tell her how she had made it all come clear for him.
— Eddard XII, AGOT
Of course, here, Sansa had no idea she was helping Ned. And in fact, helping him piece together the puzzle of Joffrey’s parentage actually contributed to his death. She’s still a child and her skills of discernment take some time to evolve—most notably, while she poses as a bastard in the Vale. But it’s a curious connection nonetheless.
The only other people who are said to “see things” in the series have magical connections, Thoros and Melisandre. They both are said to “see things in the flames”. In the case of Melisandre, what she saw was ultimately misleading. Thoros explains to Arya that although the flames do not lie, he can misinterpret them (“sometimes I read them wrongly, blind fool that I am”; Arya VIII, ASOS).
At the heart of the Undercover!Jon theory is the narrative need for Jon to do better than Ned and avoid his mistakes. I’ve been reviewing Ned’s chapters since S7. His words as he sits in the KL dungeon for treason are relevant:
He damned them all: Littlefinger, Janos Slynt and his gold cloaks, the queen, the Kingslayer, Pycelle and Varys and Ser Barristan, even Lord Renly, Robert’s own blood, who had run when he was needed most. Yet in the end he blamed himself.
“Fool,” he cried to the darkness, “thrice-damned blind fool.”
Cersei Lannister’s face seemed to float before him in the darkness. Her hair was full of sunlight, but there was mockery in her smile. “When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die,” she whispered.
Ned had played and lost, and his men had paid the price of his folly with their life’s blood.
— Eddard XV, AGOT
This is Ned taking full stock of the consequences of his actions and owning up to them fully.
He calls himself out as a fool. A blind fool.
That connects pretty nicely with Jon up on that cliff in 703 lamenting being a Northern fool.
But if it was Ned’s blindness that made him foolish, trusting LF and underestimating Cersei, causing his death—then Jon should be uniquely positioned to prevent history from repeating itself. Indeed, if the finale is any indication, he’ll get back to Winterfell. He’ll succeed were Ned and Brandon and Rickon failed. And he’s returning having completed his original goal: to secure powerful allies and their resources to take on the NK.
So I do feel bad for D@ny. If S7 is any indication, Jon will always be just out of her reach. She has her years long resistance to looking back and fear of being lost to thank for it. No boatbangs will change that. But I can see Kit’s satisfaction with Jon this season. If the Undercover!Jon theory is correct, it’s a character move six years in the making with a hell of a potential payoff. It would pair with the R+L=J reveal, that Ned played everyone for 18+ years, spectatularly.