(Spoiler alert: Please do not read on if you haven’t watched Sunday’s episode of “Game of Thrones”)
When any outside character meets a dragon on “Game of Thrones” up close for the first time, it’s always a big moment. However, it doesn’t get any bigger than in Sunday’s episode “Eastwatch,” in which Jon Snow meets Drogon face-to-face.
Jon (played by Kit Harington), as we’ve learned, is half Targaryen, meaning that he possesses the potential to control the dragons like Daenerys (Emilia Clarke). So when Drogon — Daenerys’ biggest and most dangerous dragon — approaches the King of the North, there’s a minute or two where the audience isn’t sure if it’ll work out.
Daenerys isn’t certain either and her ability to monitor the situation is interrupted by Drogon’s body, which blocks her view. Tension builds as viewers wonder if Jon will remain in tact or if he’ll go the route of Randall and Dickon Tarly, who were burned alive earlier in the episode.
Director Matt Shakman, who also directed the season’s fourth episode, “The Spoils of War,” said that the scene was filmed from two different points of view in order to incorporate the thoughts and emotions of the two major characters.
“We wanted to make it a reveal for her (Daenerys),” Shakman told TheWrap. “We wanted what was happening between Drogon and Jon to be a secret from her until the end.”
The scene was filmed over two days on the cliffs at Fair Head in Northern Ireland, with winds so strong that actors had to be tied down with cables. For his part, Harington had to interact with a green foam dragon snout and use his imagination, along with a rough animated version, to figure out how he was meant to react at any given point. Jon is responding to both his own trepidation and fear about the creature, along with Drogon’s immediate movements, so there’s a lot to juggle.
Months later, Clarke’s scenes were filmed on a sound stage where she could physically ride the dragon prop (a featurette released by HBO after “The Spoils of War” gives an idea of what this may have looked like). So not only are Daenerys and Jon having two separate experiences, but so were the actors.
Luckily, as we know by now, the meeting ended on a positive note, with Drogon allowing Jon to lay his hand on the snout.
“Something happens that she cannot see and she’s intrigued. She wants to know what it is,” Shakman explains of Dany. “This dragon has accepted Jon Snow. That was intentionally designed to have her view be something that’s not complete until the very end.”
Shakman clarified that while the audience could’ve interpreted it as Daenerys suspecting something about Jon’s lineage, that wasn’t the case. She isn’t thinking about the long-term ramifications of the meeting — or what it could mean for the birthright she’s been chasing since Season 1. She’s mostly just, for one, glad it worked out and two, even more intrigued by Jon.
The two have morally clashed since he first arrived at Dragonstone, hoping that the Dragon Queen would agree to let him mine the island for Dragonglass, which he needs to fight the White Walkers. Daenerys, however, wants Jon to bend the knee and fight on her side against the Lannisters. Over time, both have proven themselves to each other in different ways. At the very least, there’s a new respect there that wasn’t before.
“We certainly didn’t intentionally have her pick up on anything aside from the fact that she has a growing respect and perhaps more of an interest in Jon — romantically perhaps — that’s grown over the past couple episodes,” he said.
Shakman wouldn’t confirm if there are any plans for Daenerys and Jon to be romantically linked, although showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff have dropped hints in HBO behind-the-scenes interviews since the two characters met in Episode 3.
It’s important to remember that the two are related by blood. Jon’s father was revealed to be Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys’ brother. It was also revealed this episode that while it was thought that Rhaegar kidnapped Jon’s mother — and Ned Stark’s sister — Lyanna, the couple were actually legally married in secret. So Jon has more of a claim to the throne than Daenerys does. We’ll have to see what happens when Jon (hopefully) returns from beyond the Wall.