In less than a week, HBO will air the second-to-last ever season finale of Game of Thrones. While the quality has arguably taken a hit since leaving behind George R.R. Martin’s source material, the show remains a cultural phenomenon. Every detail is parsed over by hundreds, it not thousands, of fans every week. Episode titles are no exception. So when HBO announced the final episode of this season will be titled “The Dragon and the Wolf” it didn’t take long to pick up what the series is putting down. On multiple levels.
When Game of Thrones is at its best, the episode titles hold layers of meaning. For example, in “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” the title is literal the words of House Martell but also applies to Sansa’s strength of will in the face of marriage to Ramsay Bolton, Arya’s determination to finish her training, and the High Sparrow’s morals. “Mother’s Mercy” is part of the Westerosi religion but is applicable to Cersei’s sacrifice to return to Tommen, Ellaria’s revenge on Marcella, and even Stannis’ ultimate fate after the death of his daughter. Even as far back as the first season, “A Golden Crown” refers to the death of Viserys and Ned Stark de facto ruling the Seven Kingdoms for King Robert. “The Dragon and the Wolf” follows in that grand tradition, as there are at least three possible meanings hidden within.
1) Daenerys is the dragon and Jon is the wolf
This is the most obvious interpretation of the text, as it also the most literal. Dany has dragons and is descended from the Valyrian dragonlords. Jon is a Stark, whose House sigil is a direwolf (oh, and Jon allegedly still has a direwolf, though Ghost is living up to his name this season). With Jon bending the knee to Daenerys at the end of “Beyond the Wall” and the two of them practically eye-sexing each other every time they’re in the same room, it makes sense we’re headed for more than a political alliance between the houses of ice and fire. Even though Dany made sure to let Jon know she’s barren, one can imagine a scenario where adding more Targaryen DNA to the equation could cancel out whatever curse Mirri Maz Duur place on Dany back in the first season.
2) Jon is the dragon and the wolf
We are seriously running out of time for Jon Snow to learn the truth about himself: he is Jon Targaryen, the (perhaps) trueborn son of Prince Rhaegar Targaryen and Lady Lyanna Stark. As such, he is both a dragon and a wolf. Right now, the only person who could alert Jon to his parentage is his brother/cousin Bran Stark, but Bran seems content to stare into the middle distance while the world falls apart around him. Still, it’s only a matter of time before Jon (and Daenerys) discover their blood ties. Whether or not it will throw a wrench into their romantic entanglement remains to be seen, but it’s easy to imagine at least an episode’s worth of angst over whether or not it’s morally wrong to bone your nephew.
3) Rhaegar is the dragon and Lyanna is the wolf
When HBO was bandying about their Game of Thrones spin-off ideas, Martin was adamant the prequels will not deal with the generation immediately preceding the one currently on-screen. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the author said audiences will be well aware of the events leading up to the fall of the Mad King before the series was over.
“I know thousands of you want that, I know there’s a petition… but by the time I finish writing A Song of Ice & Fire, you will know every important thing that happened in Robert’s Rebellion. There would be no surprises or revelations left in such a show, just the acting out of conflicts whose resolutions you already know. That’s not a story I want to tell just now; it would feel too much like a twice-told tale.
Following that through to its logical conclusion, audiences will probably be getting another extended flashback courtesy of Bran Stark (or another greenseer such as the Night King) before all is said an done. What better time than the season finale? Especially in the wake of Gilly’s discovery, a straightforward look at the Rhaegar/Lyanna timeline would clear up several mysteries. When did they fall in love? How long were they planning to run away together? Did Rhaegar’s wife Elia know? Did Rhaegar and Lyanna get married in Dorne? Besides, it would be awful strange for HBO to cast Rhaegar and then not use him.