New footage from Game of Thrones season 8 shows the arrival of Daenerys Targaryen at Winterfell where she's welcomed by Sansa Stark, but would Sansa allying with Dany break with Stark tradition? All the major houses of Westeros share a complicated and intertwined history, but when it comes to the Starks and Targaryens, theirs is a history of uneasy peace and gruesome betrayal.
Game of Thrones season 8 is the final season for the hit HBO series, wrapping up the fight for the Iron Throne in what's expected to be six hours of truly epic television. It will only be six hours, give or take, and air across six weeks, because Game of Thrones season 8 is the shortest season of the series at only six episodes. The episodes, however, are said to be longer, some almost at feature length. So while the season itself will be shorter, audiences will get more Game of Thrones with each weekly broadcast.
As the final season of Game of Thrones, season 8 will bring together the last of the main characters who have yet to meet face to face, which includes Dany and Sansa. Both women have existed apart from each other in the larger story, never meeting and barely even affecting each other's narratives. Dany's arrival in the North changes that, forcing Sansa to host the Targareyn heir at the seat of House Stark, drawing to the surface tensions between these families that date back to Aegon I’s conquering of Westeros.
A Brief History of Starks & Targaryens
In Game of Thrones mythology, Aegon I Targaryen (accompanied by his sisters and dragons) conquered the continent in just two years time, burning to death those who refused him as their new ruler. Wanting to avoid such a grisly fate, then-King in the North Torrhen Stark met with Aegon I at the Trident and famously bent the knee to the conqueror, which earned him the nickname the King Who Knelt. Torrhen’s decision to swear fealty to the Targaryens was incredibly unpopular among many Northerners, especially his sons, but the decades that followed saw an uneasy peace between the two Houses, with the Starks serving loyally as the Wardens of the North.
Jump ahead to more recent times and it’s the events which preceded Robert’s Rebellion that really soured Stark and Targaryen relations. After Rhaegar Targaryen absconded with Lyanna Stark, her brother, Brandon went to King’s Landing to demand she be returned. Rhaegar’s father, Aerys II, the Mad King, accused him of wanting to kill the crown prince and locked him up. The king then summoned his father, Lord Rickard Stark, to come to court and answer for his son’s crimes. When Rickard arrived, he was also accused of plotting to kill the prince.
Rickard demanded a trial by combat, but the Mad King chose fire as the crown's champion and Rickard was roasted alive in his armor. As Rickard was strung from the ceiling above the flames, Brandon had a noose tied around his neck and a sword placed just out of reach. If he could reach the sword, he could cut his father free, but in struggling to reach the sword, Brandon strangled himself. The horrific murders of Lord Rickard and Brandon are what drove Ned to join with Robert Baratheon and Jon Arryn in rebellion against the Mad King, ending the years of uneasy peace between the Starks and Targaryens ahead of Game of Thrones beginning.
When Sansa Meets Dany
Sansa doesn’t appear to be especially pleased when she welcomes Daenerys to Winterfell in Game of Thrones season 8, and the reason for this is likely the unpleasant history between their two families. Jon may have come to trust and swear his allegiance to Dany (falling in love with her in the process), but convincing Sansa and the rest of the North to join with a Targaryen will be much harder. In which case, there are surely those who will view welcoming Dany to Winterfell as an insult to the Stark legacy - and judging by that icy stare Sansa gives Dany, she's one of them.
If enough Northerners came to think of Jon as another King Who Knelt, then it would become harder for him hold on to power. Allying himself with the daughter of the Mad King won't earn Jon many fans among the Northern lords, and some may start calling for Sansa to be crowned Queen in the North in order to retain their Northern sovereignty. And if Sansa truly is as disgusted by Dany's presence as she appears to be, she could very well agree. Then again, Sansa trusts Jon, and in time, she may also come to trust Dany. The impending threat of the White Walkers could easily be what forces Dany and Sansa to put aside old grudges, but it's also possible the two may find some common ground, perhaps recognizing they share similar struggles in their rises to power.
Still, Sansa agreeing to ally with Dany - either for Jon's sake or out of necessity or because she too comes to admire the Mother of Dragons - would go against the lessons learned from this messy history. The wounds inflicted by the Targaryens on the Starks run deep, even deeper than those of the Lannister's, and they aren't easily forgotten or forgiven. Of course, this is all without factoring in the truth of Jon's parentage - a bombshell which has yet to drop, but once it does will almost certainly have huge ramifications on both Starks and Targaryens alike in Game of Thrones season 8.