Much of the plot of Game of Thrones was prompted by an act of awful curiosity in the show’s very first episode, when Bran Stark was pitched from the height of a Winterfell tower after accidentally witnessing siblings Jaime and Cersei Lannister engaging in a traditionally very non-sibling act. (They were having sex.) The incestuous relationship between Jaime and Cersei was immediately framed as taboo, for the obvious no-no of brother and sister getting it on, as well as villainous. They crippled a child to prevent him from tattling; they also began the process of murdering then-king Robert Baratheon’s bastards, so that nobody would find out that his blonde-haired, so-called heirs were actually fathered by the recessive gene-bearing Jaime.
That Jaime and Cersei were set up as the show’s initial villains was an obvious choice: They’re very hot and very bad. But as the years went on, Jaime was forced to shed his Kingslayer persona, and become more of a hero. He lost a hand; he was nice to Brienne; he freed Tyrion; he showed sympathy to enemies like Brynden Blackfish and Olenna Tyrell, fighting them not out of malice but because of the necessary calculus of war. Cersei, of course, continued to act terribly. Still, their relationship took on a more positive context: Jaime, now chastened by his life experiences, was shown as the one person who could calm his sister down from her furious rages. He was loving, both emotionally and physically. And as Cersei became queen, she abandoned the charade that she wasn’t boning her brother, appearing openly with him in bed.
During last night’s episode, “Eastwatch,” their rehabbed relationship reached its apotheosis: Cersei revealed to Jaime that she was newly pregnant with their child. (Fourth time’s the charm!) Her face, framed up close, was hopeful and exuberant. Jaime was emotional as well. “Who will you say is the father?” he asked. “You,” she replied with a smile. His throat gulped; they kissed passionately; it was very romantic. In the middle of so much turmoil, they were just a guy and a girl trying to love each other, as they had since birth.
Lest we view Cersei and Jaime’s situation as an outlier, this season has continued to heavily point toward another romantic coupling between relatives, that of Daenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. Jon, as we learned at the end of last season thanks to Bran’s tree wizard powers, is not Ned Stark’s bastard but the legitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. That makes Daenerys, the sister of Rhaegar, his aunt. Nevertheless, since meeting at Dragonstone, they’ve made heavy doe eyes at each other, and had a hot-and-heavy tour through some cave art underneath the island, in which they touched each other’s arms and shared some more meaningful looks.
Two interactions in “Eastwatch” strongly hint at the future coupling. First, Daenerys returns back from a successful trip burning her enemies alive, and finds Jon staring out from some Dragonstone cliff. Her dragon drops down to the ground, and approaches him calmly. Brave Jon Snow takes this as a sign to remove his glove, and pat Drogon on the nose. Drogon breathes with the contentment of a domesticated animal, leading Daenerys to make an approving face–she, a mother, has for the first-time met someone that her children seem to approve of. (In fact, Drogon probably smelled the Targaryen blood in Jon’s veins, but there’s no way for her to know that.)
Then, Jon beats a hasty retreat from Dragonstone in order to enact his honestly ill-advised plan to bring a living white walker back from beyond the Wall, in order to show Cersei as proof they should stop trying to kill each other before the zombies kill everybody. As he’s about to step on the boat leading them away from the island, he makes a wry remark about how, if he dies an awful death beyond the Wall, “at least you won’t have to deal with the King in the North anymore.” Daenerys hesitates for a moment pregnant enough to birth a thousand fanfictions before replying: “I’ve grown used to him.”
If this isn’t explicit foreshadowing that they’re going to make out, it almost certainly sets up a scene where Jon will realize he and the Dragon Queen are related, forcing him to deal with his feelings. “Damn, it’s weird that I want to bone my aunt,” he’ll say to someone, probably Ser Davos. Or maybe… he won’t? Maybe he and Daenerys will consolidate the North and South by echoing Jaime and Cersei, and having steamy related sex. There might not even be the same taboo: Nobody knows he’s a Targaryen except Bran, anyways, and no one can understand Bran these days anyway.
Incest is a necessary part of Game of Thrones history: the Targaryens married their siblings, Tywin Lannister married his first cousin, the wildling Craster marries his daughters, and so on. Still, these characters are traditionally antagonists. Jaime and Cersei’s relationship, once villainous, has been framed positively enough that it’s normalized in the viewer’s eyes. It’s weird, but it’s consumed the length of their lives, and it’s a narratively complicated relationship with consequences that have continually pushed the plot forward.
On the other hand, the Jon and Daenerys courtship is wholly invented by the show, which has pushed far ahead of the books. In some ways, it’s a natural conclusion–at this point in the show they are the most prominent and morally sound male and female protagonists, and it would be natural for them to end together. What other choice do the writers have but to tease the idea that they may fall in love? Some of the show’s audience is surely thrilled by the prospect; the creators want you to explicitly believe it’s a possibility. How the show chooses to deal with their relationship will surely be another bit of intrigue as the shows hurdles toward its conclusion. At the very least, they’ve got more important things to worry about.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post mistakenly referred to Jon and Daenerys as siblings. They are aunt and nephew, not brother and sister. SPIN regrets the error.