If you’re still smarting over the Game of Thrones finale, this behind-the-scenes tidbit might make things even worse (apologies in advance). In a new interview with Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones writer Dave Hill revealed which member of Daenerys’ army almost survived Season 8 — and there’s no denying it would have changed the Dragon Queen’s arc in a significant way. It seems that early on in the writing process, Daenerys’ loyal protector and dearest friend, Ser Jorah Mormont, wasn’t going to die at all; a development that likely would have derailed the Mad Queen story before it started.
Hill told EW that the original plan was for Jorah to join Jon and Tormund in venturing beyond The Wall in the finale. But they couldn’t find a convincing way to motivate the knight to leave Daenerys’ side. "For a long time we wanted Ser Jorah to be there at The Wall in the end," Hill said. "The three coming out of the tunnel would be Jon and Jorah and Tormund. But the amount to logic we’d have to bend to get Jorah up to The Wall and get him to leave Dany’s side right before [the events in the finale] … there’s no way to do that blithely. And Jorah should have the noble death he craves defending the woman he loves."
It seems the larger problem is that Jorah, unlike Jon, wouldn’t have turned on Daenerys. The man who witnessed her walk out of the flames and stood by her no matter how many times she rained down fire and blood on her enemies would never have left her side. The very core of Jorah’s character lies in his unwavering belief in his queen and her vision for the world. There’s simply no scenario where Jon kills Daenerys and Jorah rides off beyond The Wall with her killer.
Ser Jorah himself, actor Iain Glen, seemed unsure of how his character would have reacted to Daenerys burning King’s Landing to the ground. And in fact, he thinks it’s better that the knight didn’t have to see what his queen did. "There’s a sweetness in that because Jorah will never know what she did," Glen explained to EW. "That’s probably best. It’s a blessing for him that he never found out what happened to her. And from a pragmatic story point of view, his death served a greater purpose. Where could we have taken Jorah from there? F*ck if I know."
Due to the constraints of the shortened season, Game of Thrones‘ final episodes already suffered from a lack of narrative coherency as characters were pushed toward their endgames, often without clear motivations. Of those characters, Daenerys may have suffered the most. As the season is, an argument can be made that there’s enough groundwork laid to at least foreshadow her turn to tyranny, even though the actual act is still jarring, but it’s hard to imagine the arc making any sense at all if Jorah was still by her side.
After all, it’s the deaths of Jorah, Rhaegal, and Missandei that seem to push Daenerys to her breaking point. She has little support in Westeros beyond her own people, many of whom she sacrifices to save the Seven Kingdoms during the Battle of Winterfell. Jorah falling in that battle is a key inciting incident in her shift toward choosing to rule with fear. Her most trusted ally died defending her and she’s not going to let his death be for nothing. When Missandei falls too, that feeling is no doubt compounded.
If the writers had swerved and kept Jorah alive, they likely would have written themselves into a corner. If the man who has always been by her side lives, then Daenerys has an adviser who she loves and trusts standing by her, making her turn to "madness" next to impossible. And if against all odds she still goes mad, then contriving an ending where Jorah goes North with Jon has the potential to strain credibility past the point of no return. That really left only one outcome: Jorah had to die — but that doesn’t make the reality that there’s an alternate and potentially less problematic path that Daenerys’ character arc could have taken had he survived sting any less.
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