Episode 4 of Game of Thrones' final season dealt with the aftermath of the Battle of Winterfell in "The Long Night", by revealing all of the human vs. human conflicts that are still brewing between the major characters left on the show. Those conflicts seems to be converging towards the final set of major backstabbing and betrayal moments that have made Game of Thrones the worldwide sensation it now is, including an ominous foreshadow that Jon Snow could soon meet his end. Again.
Obviously MAJOR SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 8 episodes 1 - 4 follow!
By now, Game of Thrones fans know that there's one important symbolic motif that has run through the series: how the fate of major characters are tied directly to the fates of their spirit animals. That thematic arc has been tied to each of the Stark Children, through the direwolves that they each received at the beginning of the series. It's also been a major theme of Daenerys Targaryen storyline, via her dragons and the path of their growth throughout the series.
Well, now we've come to the point where Game of Thrones is getting set for its final major battle (back to the original battle between the Starks of the North and Lannisters in the South), and episode 4 "The Last of the Starks" dropped some subtle (yet ominous) teases that it will truly be the end for Jon Snow - if the fate of his pets is anything to judge by. With Jon Snow having learned that he's actually Aegon Targaryen, son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, it's only sensible that he should get not one, but two spirit animals associated with those houses:
- Ghost - The white Direwolf that Jon was given at the beginning of the series. In "The Last of the Starks", Jon sends Ghost away to live in the 'True North' alongside Tormund Giantsbane and the rest of the wildlings.
- Rhaegal - Dany's dragon, named after Jon's father (Dany's brother) Rhaegar. He became Jon's personal steed during the battle against the Night King, and looked like he would be the true spirit animal Jon was connected to. In "The Last of the Starks", Rhaegal is shot out of the sky and killed by Euron Greyjoy and the Iron Fleet.
With both those animals now off the gameboard, the symbolic message seems clear: Jon, a child of two major houses that were never supposed to come together, may end up getting swallowed in the divide between them (aka, death). By trying to be loyal to both sides, it's looking more and more likely that neither side will accept him. A tragic end for a hero - but hey, this is Game of Thrones!
The main story arc of this "The Last of the Starks" dealt with the shifting allegiances between the humans of Westeros, after the defeat of the Night King and White Walkers. All of the major characters were presented with a big choice to make - choices that will shape Westeros for the foreseeable future, depending on which side of the conflict they choose, and which ruler they choose to lead them. For Arya and Sansa, that meant protecting the secret of Jon Snow's heritage, or sharing it with other; for advisers like Tyrion and Varys, it meant choosing either Jon or Daenerys as the future ruler of the Iron Throne; and for Jon himself, it meant embracing the reality of his destiny and leading, or burying the secret so that Daenerys can have her throne, unchallenged.
In true Ned Stark fashion (read: naivety), Jon chooses to share the secret of his Targaryen heritage with Arya and Sansa, despite Daenerys warning him that doing so would destroy them as a couple, and pit them against one another as rivals. As soon as Jon does this, the gears of politics start turning and his life has a new target painted over it. With Ghost gone, and Rhaegal dead, Game of Thrones seems to be sending a clear symbolic message that Jon Snow's life has become forefit. With episode 5 set to chronicle the big final battle between the Stark/Targaryen alliance and Cersei Lannister, it would be one last, shocking twist death of Jon Snow were to fall on the battlefield - especially if he's betrayed by his own side. That Ned Stark legacy is too real.
Game of Thrones is airing its final episodes Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.
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