This article contains spoilers from Sunday night’s Game of Thrones episode, “Eastwatch.”
This entire season of Game of Thrones could be characterized by two things: a new blockbuster movie pace that is driving the narrative with a forward momentum previously unknown… and the series’ new habit of giving fans what they think they want in unexpected ways. Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen meet, but they do not hit it off; Bran returns home but does not call himself Bran anymore; and Arya also has a homecoming and may accidentally be manipulated into murdering her sister.
But perhaps that latter point is best crystallized in the subtle game changer that few are yet talking about from the fifth episode of Game of Thrones season 7, “Eastwatch.” Aye, if you had cleared your throat you might’ve just missed that it was confirmed Jon Snow is neither “Snow” or “Stark.” Instead, the Bastard of Winterfell is actually the trueborn Jon Targaryen!
This is a theory fans have been speculating about for decades. Long before “R+L=J” (Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon) became common parlance among television viewers, fans of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” have speculated that not only is Jon the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, but that he is also a true heir to the Targaryen line… and thus the rightful heir of the Iron Throne!
The actual reveal of this was sandwiched in Gilly and Sam having what I deemed in my review to be their My Cousin Vinny conversation, with Gilly inadvertently revealing a major clue to Samwell Tarly, but one which he’ll totally blow past in his frustration until its most dramatically rich point of tension. For if we’re looking for confirmation beyond the ravings of a crippled and creepy Stark child, this paper trail Gilly discovered might be it.
In the sequence, Gilly drops this truth bomb on Sam, who dismisses it with complete ambivalence: “[High Septon] Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for Prince Rhaegar and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”
Boom. That just changes everything. This means that Jon Snow was not an illegitimate bastard of Rhaegar and Lyanna. Since they were married, Jon is a trueborn Targaryen and one with a better claim on the throne in the medieval sense than Daenerys Targaryen. For if Jon is the actual son of Rhaegar, he follows the male lineage of (Mad) King Aerys II and Prince Rhaegar. Whereas Daenerys is Aerys II’s daughter, which according to the sexist and foolish dogma of Westeros (and medieval Europe) means she holds a lesser claim than the male heir of Aerys’ oldest son.
What this indicates for the final season of Game of Thrones is fascinating. Assuming the truth comes out, it could cost Jon Snow the crown of King in the North, as the Northern lords would loathe to learn they are bending the knee for a Targaryen and not a bastard Stark. It could also create political tensions between Daenerys and Jon if she knows that he has a claim on her intended throne. Then again, Targaryens are notorious for keeping it in the family, so this might incentivize Dany and Jon to marry and avoid any political hiccups.
On the flipside, if Jon Targaryen wishes to stay in the North after the wars are over—and assuming he survives—it will require him to marry into a Northern house.
Or maybe, just maybe, Jon Targaryen ends up King of the Seven Kingdoms when the series is all said and done. Mind you, I imagine he’d hate it worse than Ned Stark, but stranger things have happened. Just ask Sam and Gilly…