The most recent episode of Game of Thrones, “The Bells,” was both the highest-rated episode of the show… and the worst-reviewed. It’s been that kind of season: gigantic viewership, muted reaction from critics and fans alike (although everyone agrees that the acting has been great). Most of the fandom bellyaching, including a ridiculous petition to “fix” season eight that has nearly 500,000 signatures, will go mute if David Benioff and D.B. Weiss turn in a great series finale, but it might be too late — in fact, many of the show’s issues date back to seasons ago, when a book-only character wasn’t introduced.
His name is Aegon Targaryen. No, not that Aegon Targaryen, but the other Aegon Targaryen, the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Elia Martell who goes by “Young Griff” to conceal his identity. He made his debut in the fifth book of George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, A Dance with Dragons, as another contender for the Iron Throne. It was an interesting wrinkle to throw in there, considering Aegon was purportedly murdered by Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane during House Lannister’s Sack of King’s Landing. Is “Young Griff” actually Aegon, or is he “fAegon,” a clumsy portmanteau of “fake” and “Aegon”?
We’ll have to wait until The Winds of Winter is published to find out for sure, because the character sure as heck isn’t going to appear on Thrones. And that, according to a user on the Free Folk subreddit, led to “99% of the show’s problems.” It’s a convincing argument because, as boss-92 writes, the exclusion of Young Griff resulted in the “Dorne plot [being] butchered,” “character assassination of Varys” (the Spider claims he swapped baby Aegon with another child to smuggle him to safety), and “no meaningful opposition for Daenerys in Westeros, hence we got three (!) ambushes at sea by Euron, Rhaegal getting sniped, and Cersei getting the [useless] Golden Company.”
Other reasons include:
– “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.”
– “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.”
– “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 the feeling that Westeros consists of only 3 places (Winterfell, King’s Landing, Dragonstone) and a bunch of main characters.”
Martin once said that Lady Stoneheart (zombie Catelyn, basically) not being on the show is “is the change I most wish I could make,” but after reading this argument, I must admit that certain plots would have boosted with Young Griff. So, why was he left out? “Certainly those who have read the books or are reading the books know that we’ve been heading in this direction for a long time,” Thrones director Alan Taylor said about Jon and Daenerys’ romance. “I’ve mentioned before that it was a revelation to me about the scale of George R.R. Martin’s thinking that he came to visit the set in season one, when none of us knew what we were contending with really, and said a few things that made it clear that, for him, it was all — this whole epic thing, this story he was telling — all came down to these two and them getting together.” In other words, it’s the Jon and Daenerys show, and there was no room for other Targaryens.
Maybe he’ll show up in the fifth Thrones spinoff series.