Full of fan-favourite reunions, surprise deaths and incredible backstory, Game of Thrones' season seven finale was an episode to remember – but one revelation about Jon Snow (Kit Harington) may have been the most important part of all.
Yes, the 2017 episode finally confirmed something fans had been fairly sure of for a while now – Jon is actually NOT the bastard of Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and an unknown woman, but rather the son of former Crown Prince Rhaegar Targaryen (Daenerys’ older brother) and Lyanna Stark, Ned’s sister.
And while the fact of Jon’s relationship to Lyanna had already been unveiled in the 2016 series, we didn’t know for sure until now that Rhaegar was the babydaddy – but in a long flashback sequence envisioned by Bran (Isaac Hempstead-Wright), the truth was revealed. Rhaegar didn’t kidnap Lyanna, as everyone thought – he actually married her!
And it’s that last detail that really has our minds reeling. Rhaegar MARRIED Lyanna, annulling his union with Princess Elia Martell and making Lyanna his true wife. Fans of the books and series had suspected for years that Rhaegar and Lyanna were Jon’s true parents (a theory referred to in shorthand as R+L=J), but few thought he could actually be a legitimate child.
This legitimacy massively changes things in Westeros. While Daenerys’ (Emilia Clarke) and Jon’s secret relationship (she’s his aunt) makes their sex scene last series immensely icky, it also means that Daenerys isn’t actually the true queen of Westeros after all. Jon, as the legitimate son of the former King’s son is actually the direct successor (siblings of the heirs come after the heir’s children in royal lines of succession) of The Mad King.
But what could all this mean for the series? Well, assuming Sam (John Bradley) and Bran actually manage to convince anyone of Jon’s parentage (they do have documents to back it up as well as the weird visions), it could be that Jon ends up on the Iron Throne instead of Dany, or it could mean that the newly loved-up couple fall out. Would Daenerys really give up her claim so easily? And would Jon really be keen on continuing a relationship with a direct relation anyway? The Targaryens may have married brothers to sisters to keep bloodlines pure, but it’s hard to imagine Jon being up for the same thing.
And even if Jon wasn’t keen on going for the top job (it doesn’t seem very like him to crave the crown), his own suitability as King in the North was largely based on the Northern Lords seeing him as Ned Stark’s son. If they found out he was actually the son of a Targaryen, would they be so keen to follow him?
Personally, though, we’re hoping for the best-case scenario. Jon and Daenerys find out the truth, decide it doesn’t matter anyway and get married, uniting the realm under two Targaryen rulers. And given Jon’s Targaryen blood, maybe he’ll even have the chance to ride Daenerys’ spare dragon, Rhaegal, who was named for his real father after all.
Yep, it’s a pretty picture (assuming you tune out the incest a bit) – but this is Game of Thrones, so it almost definitely won't work out that pleasantly and we should probably go for whatever the worst case scenario is.
To quote a certain Ramsay Bolton: “If you think this has a happy ending, you haven’t been paying attention.”
Game of Thrones airs on Sky Atlantic and NOWTV at 2am and 9pm
This article was originally published in a different form in August 2017