“They were here together, the children and the first men,” Jon tells Dany.
“Doing what?” she asks. “Fighting each other?”
Jon Snow could not have asked for a better opening. “They fought together against their common enemy,” he corrects her. “Despite their differences, despite their suspicions. Together.” He pauses, letting his words sink in with the queen. “We need to do the same if we’re going to survive. Because the enemy is real. It’s always been real.”
My first thought when watching the scene—and I was not alone in this—was that Jon had added the drawings of the Night army himself. The complexity of the art, after all, progressed from Cave of Forgotten Dreams to photorealism almost comically quickly. And also: Jon had good reason to get out his chalk set. The images were helping him, after all, to make a point: that winter really is coming. That the enemy is real, and always has been.
There’s a cyclical quality to that insistence. Jon’s efforts are repetitions of the efforts made by Jeor Mormont in the second season of the show: The lord commander of the Night’s Watch, after he had been attacked in his chamber by a wight, had sent a letter to the Small Council at King’s Landing, asking them for military aid. The White Walkers were moving south, Mormont told the king’s advisors. The Night’s Watch needed help fending them off. “Cold winds are rising, and the dead rise with them,” the lord commander had written.
Grand Maester Pycelle was not inclined to believe. “The northerners are a superstitious people,” he said.
“Mormont doesn’t lie,” Tyrion noted.
Cersei, too, was dismissive. “One trip to the Wall and you come back believing in grumkins and snarks,” she told her brother.
“I don’t know what I believe,” Tyrion replied. “But here’s a fact for you: The Night’s Watch is the only thing that separates us from what lies beyond the Wall.”
The council session ended; Mormont’s request went ignored. It’s taken several seasons for it, like the army of the dead, to rise again—this time, through the person of Jon Snow.
“I put my trust in you, a stranger,” the king of the north tells Daenerys, “because I knew it was the best chance for my people — for all my people. Now I’m asking you to trust in a stranger because it’s our best chance.”
This time: The requests are heeded. Jon has spent the current season of Game of Thrones building a coalition devoted to facts—and to facing head-on the threat those facts represent. With the help of Tyrion, he is convincing Jaime—and, with Jaime’s help, Cersei—of the fact that the White Walkers are real. He is convincing Dany that Winter is not merely coming, but nonfictional.
They all, like Jon, still have their work cut out for them. “Cersei thinks the army of the dead is nothing but a story, made up by wet nurses to fight children,” Tyrion notes. “What if we prove her wrong?” He then advises Jon to fight reticence with evidence: to bring a wight—an ice-zombie—to the south, physical proof that winter is coming because, indeed, winter has already come. “Bring one of these things to King’s Landing,” Tyrion says, “and show her the truth.”