Reactions to the final season of Game of Thrones have been mixed, with thousands of fans signing a petition to remake these last few episodes with different writers. There are many different theories among disaffected fans for where the show lost its way, but one fan points to the absence of a single character as the root of the show's problems.
The character shares a name with Jon Snow — Aegon Targaryen. This Aegon is Rhaeger Targaryen's son with Elia Martell, and therefore also Daenerys's nephew. History says that Gregor Clegane murdered the infant Aegon during the Sack of King's Landing that ended Robert's Rebellion. Over the course of A Song of Ice and Fire, Varys claims to have swapped Aegon with a tanner's infant child and then secreted Aegon to safety.
Since then, Aegon has grown up masquerading as the son of a sellsword. The sellsword goes by the name Griff and Aegon by Young Griff. In truth, Griff is Jon Connington, a friend of Rhaeger Targaryen living in exile in Essos. They dye Aegon's hair blue to hide his blonde locks, a signature of the Targaryen line, but he still has the family's purple eyes.
Some fans wonder if this Aegon is truly Rhaegar's son or an imposter Varys is attempting to put on the Iron Throne. Either way, Connington plans to bring Aegon to meet and marry Daenerys so that they can conquer Westeros together. Instead, Aegon gains the support of the Golden Company and begins a campaign to take back Westeros himself.
- "Dorne plot butchered, Doran Martell wasted as a character.
- Character assassination of Varys.
- No meaningful opposition for Daenerys in Westeros, hence we got three (!) ambushes at sea by Euron, Rhaegal getting sniped, Cersei getting the Golden Company (who ended up being useless)... basically an entire power shift that felt very forced.
- Character assassination of Tyrion because he had to make stupid decisions, due to the reason mentioned above.
- Daenerys shifting to 'burn all the civilians/children' mode for no reason. This descent into madness would have made more sense if, say, (f)Aegon had captured King's Landing from Cersei and was loved by the people.
- Jaime's arc was partially ruined because Cersei survived for so long.
- Cersei spent an entire season drinking wine and standing on a balcony. She should've died shortly after blowing up the Sept of Baelor. There should have been proper riots followed by (f)Aegon besieging King's Landing.
- Character assassination of Littlefinger, since he had nothing meaningful left to do. If (f)Aegon had been included and would be supported by Varys, we could have continued the idea that the entire show is basically an elaborate chess match between Littlefinger and Varys (of course, eventually Sansa would take over from Littlefinger). Imagine Littlefinger trying to manipulate Daenerys to burn the Red Keep.
- Exclusion of elephants in the Golden Company. Truly outrageous.
- The exclusion of Quentyn Martell (and his death) made the moment where Jon rides Rhaegal quite insignificant.
- Lack of any politics in S7/S8, especially regarding the Reach and Dorne. If 2-3 kingdoms would have rallied behind (f)Aegon, we could have still had politics and not have the feeling that Westeros consists of only 3 places (Winterfell, King's Landing, Dragonstone) and a bunch of main characters.
- The Long Night (or I should say, One Night Stand) took only one episode and one battle, while three episodes were spent on dealing with King's Landing. However, due to the early timing of (f)Aegon's arrival in Dorne, it was likely that Daenerys would have had to deal with him before or during the Long Night, hence the battle against the Night King could have gotten the time and focus that it deserved. It also sets up a potential redemption arc for Daenerys (if she fights Aegon, stands in a snow-covered Red Keep, then returns to help Jon win against the Night King at the cost of her own life)."
To clarify some of the points made above, the books reveal that Doran Martell has been secretly plotting to ruin House Lannister and restore House Targaryen to the Iron Throne ever since the Sack of King's Landing, but that plot is truncated in Game of Thrones, which instead kills Doran and all the other relevant Dornish characters. The new prince of Dorne is mentioned offhandedly during Dany's war council before her march on King's Landing, but that's the most attention the kingdom has had since the Mountain killed Oberyn Martell season ago.
In the books, Doran sends his son, Prince Quentyn Martell, to meet with Danerys in Meereen and offer an alliance. Quentyn is burned alive after trying to tame and ride Dany's dragons, a moment that would have made Jon's mounting of a dragon later on more significant.4comments
The Reddit post also makes a salient point in noting that without Aegon there is, for the first time, only two major players in Westeros, Dany and Cersei (one could count Jon, but by swearing allegiance to Dany he's effectively bowed out). As with any game of intrigue, the game of thrones is best played with at least three competing factions. Having only two opposing forces tilts the tone of the show towards more action-oriented and straightforward storytelling.
To his credit, A Song of Ice and Fire author George RR Martin has often warned that the absence of a single character could have a domino effect that would ripple out while Game of Thrones continued from season to season. It seems Aegon may be that first domino.
Do you think the absence of Aegon/Young Griff is to blame for Game of Thrones' final season problems? Or have you been enjoying the final season just fine? Let us know in the comments. The final episode of Game of Thrones airs Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.