The Empty Iron Throne

So what are we to make of the fact that Jon is indisputably the sole rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and remains alive (after killing his only rival), yet is not even considered for the job by the lords? In the count of those who might serve as the monarch, the one “true” monarch is not counted. Grey Worm (the only “lord” of color) makes sure of that, despite having no valid authority in Westeros. His only claim to it is his passionate attachment to the dead would-be queen. Is it that moments of founding require relinquishing or precluding claims of antecedent legitimacy? Is that why Jon must remain alive and in exile, to embody the wheel that has been broken? Jon is monarchy “under erasure.”

As for “electing the king,” the choice of a blank, inhuman “ruler” amounts to the invention of constitutional monarchy. That’s underscored by his exit from the small council meeting, which is now clearly the locus of fractious decision making. And by his “throne,” which is literally a seat not of power but of incapacity. (Evidently, breaking the wheel = Bran the Broken on wheels.)

Dany, the figure of revolution, is a kind of vanishing mediator. Like Jon, we are asked to invest all our passions in her, yet destined to desire her death. This is accomplished through the genre conventions of tragedy, but also in strict accordance with the patriarchal code. Only a (highly desirable) woman can carry out this particular narrative and symbolic mandate, one that splits her in two several times over. Westeros remains “the realm of men,” so much so that the sole woman on the small council must literally become a “sir” to be fit for the job, and the other formidable women, Sansa and Arya, are exiled from it altogether. No place for them in the new order.

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