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By Valerie Tejeda
Jean Grey has always been one of the most intriguing characters in the Marvel universe, mainly because she has a ridiculous amount of power. A Class Five (or, Omega-level) mutant, she’s able to do some pretty powerful stuff with the telepathic and telekinesis abilities she was born with.
In Dark Phoenix, in theaters now, Jean evolves into the titular Phoenix after being hit by a cosmic force in space that transforms her into one of the most powerful mutants ever — with unstable abilities and a newfound darkness bubbling inside of her. Bringing Jean Grey to life on the big screen for a second time (she first appeared as Jean in 2016’s X-Men: Apocalypse) is Sophie Turner, who also played the Queen in the North, Sansa Stark, on Game of Thrones.
In Dark Phoenix, we find Jean struggling to control her powers which are dangerous and growing to the point of mass destruction. The X-Men have to make the tough call to stop the monster she’s becoming or stand beside her. Major Game of Thrones vibes, right? With that being said, is Dark Phoenix basically Sansa Stark as a Targaryen?
Yes, they are both young women with red hair. But there’s more interesting similarities between the two characters that even Sophie noticed during an interview with IGN back in 2015 after she was first cast in the role.
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“I think maybe one of the reasons that they chose me for [Jean] is because they saw the dark side of Sansa. I definitely see a lot of parallels in there,” she said. “[Jean] struggles with her power and not being accepted in the human world. I think in terms of [Game of Thrones], that’s kind of the way Sansa felt in that she really wanted to be a normal princess/queen and live a normal life — and she doesn’t, because all this havoc happens. I think Jean, in a way, feels that.”
When we first meet Sansa in Season 1 of Game of Thrones she’s a highborn Northerner who is wide-eyed, dreamy, and naive to a fault. Seen as a relatively weak little girl, she has absolutely no idea the level of strength that is inside of her. When we first see Jean in X-Men: Apocalypse there’s a similar vibe: Quiet, reserved, with no clue of what she can really do. Both have men who take them under their wings, some with good intentions and some with not-so-good intentions. For Sansa, it’s Little Finger. For Jean, it’s Charles Xavier. Both men try to mold the young women into who they would like them to be. Both women also experienced childhood trauma that changed who they were and changed how they trust, something Turner commented about again in a recent interview with HBO.
“They [Sansa and Jean] eventually use all of these terrible things that happened to them and they become incredibly strong women,” she said. “Jean has had Charles Xavier as her mentor figure and teacher, and in this movie, there is no trust left. And Sansa on the other hand, when she’s in Winterfell, Jon and Dany are there and she doesn’t want to take orders from them. She wants to kind of run her own shit, too, but she [Sansa] is far more self-assured and powerful than Jean is.”
Throughout their journeys, both Sansa and Jean are forced to figure out who they are pretty much on their own, but the thing is: Sansa, who could’ve gone down a darker path, does not, while Jean does — reminding us of another GoT character, Daenerys Targaryen.
“If the world’s were to collide, I think Jean would probably be a Targaryen,” Turner said in HBO’s The Interview. “She’s the Phoenix. She rises from the ashes just like Daenerys does at the end of Season 1. It’s all about fire, baby!”
On Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen’s state of mind and the idea of “taming her” was of constant discussion. Based on her bloodline, she was bent towards possible madness — it’s like the saying goes: “Every time a new Targaryen is born, the gods flip a coin” — and she had three dragons that could do a lot of damage if she went down a dark path. (Side note: We are all not destined to turn out as our families do; this is just how they played it on Thrones.)
Many of the men in Daenerys’s life (Tyrion, Varys, Viserys) aimed to repress her power and control her (same as Jean and Sansa) and — spoiler alert — that didn’t go over very well. In the end, Dany sets fire to King’s Landing and becomes so dangerous that Jon Snow has no choice but to kill her.
But it was clear on Game of Thrones that Daenerys went down a dark path because she lost everything: her friends, her support, her home, two of her dragons, her love, and her rightful claim to the Throne (thanks to Jon). And we Thrones fans have heard that other famous saying: “A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.” It’s safe to say if Dany wouldn’t have lost those things, she probably wouldn’t have laid waste to King’s Landing after those bells chimed.
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Sansa, on the other hand, gained support after she got home to Winterfell. She continued to get smarter and more self-assured and earned the respect of everyone around her before being named Queen in the North. But it definitely makes you wonder: If the Starks would have never won Winterfell back, and if Sansa never returned home with the support of the Northerners, could she have gone down a similar path as Daenerys? Add the curse of the Targaryen bloodline in the mix and is that what the Phoenix is? Sansa with dragons — born from fire and blood — and without Winterfell?
Dark Phoenix attempts to absolve Jean in a way that Game of Thrones simply didn’t have the time to do with Daenerys. Sure, the show tries to explain what went wrong, but we never get a satisfying conclusion. Meanwhile, Jean’s redemption comes at a high cost — without any real emotional payoff. Both characters meet a flawed, imperfect end, but only one takes the choice into her own fiery hands.