Presenting OTP Tuesday! Each Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. This week has been a Westeros love affair for the ages: Missandei/Grey Worm.
Who Are Missandei/Grey Worm?
Missandei/Grey Worm is, honestly, the only Game of Thrones romantic ship to care about. Nothing else matters, don’t @ me I’m right. Missandei and Grey Worm are two of Daenerys Targaryen’s most trusted advisors and two of the only people in Westeros that don’t suck… probably because they aren’t from Westeros.
Missandei first appeared in season three as the slave of Master Kraznys, a slaver in Astapor who was in charge of the Unsullied, a slave army. Master Kraznys was a brutish, uncouth man, who took great pride in the atrocities he carried out on the Unsullied, even going so far as to mar one in front of Daenerys to prove their “quality.” Missandei served as Kraznys’ translator, translating his High Valyrian into common for Daenerys’ party. She also had to translate Kraznys’ vile commentary to something more polite.
When Daenerys strikes a deal with Kraznys to trade one of her dragons for all the Unsullied, she “suggests” that he give her Missandei as a gift of good faith. Later, Daenerys shows her true intentions. She did not need a translator, speaking Valyrian as a native tongue. Instead, she abhors slavery and turns the Unsullied against their former masters, freeing them and destroying Astapor’s slave trade.
Though Daenerys does not need a translator, she keeps Missandei close at hand (though Missandei is, of course, freed). Daenerys has been surrounded by men all her life, and cherishes the companionship and counsel of another woman. Missandei is able to give Daenerys advice about life in the East, different from Daenerys’ homeland in Westeros. This is helpful when Daenerys runs afoul of more slavers in Mereen.
When Daenerys returns to Westeros to reclaim her rightful throne, Missandei comes with her. Missandei serves as a sort of majordomo, and seems to take great pride in reciting the many titles of the khaleesi. While big things are happening on the political stage (Daenerys must take her throne by force), on a smaller scale, Missandei adjusts to life in Westeros as not only a free woman but an important one.
Grey Worm is the leader of Daenerys’ army of former slaves, the Unsullied. As an Unsullied, Grey Worm was taken from his parents as a young child and sold to slavers in Astapor. There, he was raised to be a slave soldier. The Unsullied training is brutal, stripping away any autonomy or free thought. When Unsullied boys prove themselves, they are castrated so that they never feel distraction. They are also forced to kill babies to prove they are ready and have no doubts or hesitation.
Daenerys sees this for the atrocity it is, and ends it. After she “buys” the Unsullied, she commands them to kill the slavers and set themselves free. After they destroy the Astapor slave trade, Daenerys makes the Unsullied an offer: they can leave, free and unhindered, if they want. No one will stop them or blame them. But if they want to stay as her army, they do so of their own will as free men. They choose to stay with their liberator. When she asks them to elect their own leader, she chooses Grey Worm.
Life as an Unsullied clearly changed Grey Worm, but he overcomes a lot of his early conditioning. He chooses to keep his slave name because it is lucky, as it was the name he had when he was freed. He serves Daenerys whole-heartedly because he sees her as worthy of being served. That being said, he still has a personality outside violence and servitude. He goofs off (to the extent that he can) with Daario Naharis, gambling over who gets to ride beside the queen. Daario also gossips with Grey Worm about Grey Worm’s crush on Missandei, showing that Grey Worm seeks the advice of a more experienced man.
Why Is Missandei/Grey Worm OTP?
Game of Thrones sucks for romantic ships. There are some great BROTPs, of course. Lots of platonic partnerships make the show interesting and show a great understanding of the many dynamics that are not romantic, but are just as important. But when it comes to romance, we’re screwed. We have incestual ships, adulterous ships, clandestine ships. No one has a healthy, happy relationship.
But there is one bright light: Missandei/Grey Worm. Missandei/Grey Worm is not clandestine; they do not hide their relationship even from their queen. There is nothing scandalous about their relationship or anything to make it squicky. Missandei/Grey Worm is just a ship of two good people who found something wonderful in the midst of not very wonderful lives.
Started At The Bottom Now We Here
One of the best things about Missandei/Grey Worm is the progression from where they started to where they eventually end up. These two characters had little hope of anything good in their lives. They were slaves, owned by brutal, ignorant men, who faced a lifetime of servitude before, likely, an unpleasant death. Missandei had some protection due to her skills as a translator, but Kraznys seems like the kind of man who’d sell her for two coins to rub together. And as a soldier, Grey Worm didn’t have good prospects of anything but death in combat.
But despite their poor beginnings, they both were able to break free of captivity and rise to great heights. While the whole “Daenerys frees the slaves” storyline does smack of white savior-ism, she did give new chances to these characters. Notably, she gave them choices. Missandei chooses to serve Daenerys because she can help the queen do a better job, and because she wants to. Grey Worm chooses to lead Daenerys’ army because they chose him to do so, and because he wants to protect his queen. They both could have set off on their own, done whatever they wanted with their freedom. They chose to stay.
Because of their choices, both these characters were able to become something greater than they probably ever imagined. While Missandei is not technically the Hand of the Queen, she is Daenerys’ right hand. They are close friends, and Missandei’s counsel is valued more than most people in Daenerys’ life. Missandei serves as majordomo, trusted advisor, translator, and more. For his part, Grey Worm became the leader of the greatest army in Westeros. He leads Unsullied, Dothraki, and mercenaries. His army decimates the Lannister forces. Missandei and Grey Worm started with nothing, and earned everything.
Missandei/Grey Worm is also a thoroughly romantic ship. Their relationship develops slowly, but as it does, it shows a softer side to a brutal world. Game of Thrones is so often harsh and unpleasant, especially when it comes to interpersonal relationships — and especially when it comes to sex. For most of the show, it seems like there are only two options for sex: rape or prostitution. There are a few rare glimpses of something more (like Robb Stark and his wife Talisa), but most relationships are built on violence and depravity.
But with Missandei/Grey Worm, we don’t see that. These two people experienced so much early brutality. Slavery is harsh, and they were the slaves of a particularly harsh man. We know that Grey Worm was mutilated. While we don’t know anything bad happened to Missandei, it wouldn’t be surprising. She doubtless saw Kraznys brutalize others as well. But instead of perpetuating a cycle of violence and brutality, they rose above it.
The emerging romance between Missandei and Grey Worm is gentle. Grey Worm has an early crush on Missandei, and as she teaches him other languages, an affection springs up between them. They both have important positions in Daenerys’ court, so having each other as a sounding board and a familiar face (as they are not Westerosi or nobles or anything else) is helpful. Even so, Grey Worm is unsure of his suitability for Missandei based on his lack of… equipment (Game of Thrones shows a strange obsession with different types of castration, but it’s unclear how Grey Worm was castrated). But she shows him that genitalia do not make or break sex, and they have probably the sweetest physical relationship on the show. For once, there is no violence. There is only romance.
What’s Next For Missandei/Grey Worm?
GOD HELP US ALL. Game of Thrones’ final season is less than a week away. It’s nearly here, and we are not ready. Is it even possible to be ready? No matter your preparation (rewatch binges, survival brackets, or anything else), it remains that none of us are prepared. The final season is both inevitable and unknowable. People are going to die. But which people? All the people? We can speculate on what’s coming, but ultimately we cannot know until we watch it, no doubt cowering before new brutalities. Even readers of A Song of Ice and Fire cannot know, as George R. R. Martin hasn’t finished the books, leaving the showrunners to create their own ending.
So as far as what’s next for Missandei/Grey Worm? Who the fuck knows. Given that it’s Game of Thrones, undoubtedly something terrible is what’s next. There is speculation based on the trailers that Grey Worm may die in battle in this final season. Missandei and Grey Worm share a kiss in the trailer, a spotlight that makes fans worry that their budding romance will not have a happy ending (does any romance in Westeros, though?). And given that Game of Thrones shows no hesitance towards killing off fan favorites, it wouldn’t be surprising if one or both parties of Missandei/Grey Worm die.
Of course there is the chance that it works out differently! Maybe Missandei and Grey Worm will be at Daenerys’ side when she defeats the White Walkers and the Lannisters and takes back her throne. Maybe Missandei will continue to be a trusted advisor, and Grey Worm will lead the protective forces of King’s Landing. Maybe they will get married and live together happily. Then again… “if you think this has a happy ending you haven’t been paying attention.”
Is Missandei/Grey Worm Canon?
That question at least has a good answer! Yes, Missandei/Grey Worm is canon. Their relationship has grown and developed from season three, when they were introduced. It’s definitely a bit of a slow burn; the time it takes for them to come together seems longer than the average lifespan of a character in Game of Thrones. Whether this is because they are both secondary characters or because of Grey Worm’s situation is unclear.
But no matter how slowly they came together, Missandei/Grey Worm is undoubtedly canon. Sexual conduct is not the only way to define canonicity, as romantic relationships without sex can and do exist. Even without sex, Missandei/Grey Worm would be canon, and it seemed like it might go that way, given Grey Worm’s early castration.
But Game of Thrones took this as an opportunity to show a different side of romance and sex, and the link between the two, when Missandei/Grey Worm became canon in a big way in season seven. The two confess their feelings for each other and show deep vulnerability, a mark of where they came from and how they got to where they are. But that vulnerability pays off with a landmark sex scene (given that eunuchs are not often featured as sexual characters). Game of Thrones handled this far more delicately than they normally do, which deserves some kudos.
Now, of course, we live in fear. Missandei/Grey Worm becoming canon is great! A healthy, loving relationship between two characters who deserve love more than most became canon. It shows the representation of marginalized groups and espouses a healthier vision of sexuality than Game of Thrones usually does. But that means they’re probably going to die. We never get to keep the good ones. Here’s to Missandei/Grey Worm; please let them live.