Essays · TV

Game of Thrones: They Did Just Confirm Jon Snow’s Parentage

By  · Published on June 27th, 2016

There seems to be some confusion on the part of the show and its proxies.

Despite the fact that the Game of Thrones creative team just delivered what is arguably their best and least obtuse finale in six seasons, there’s still some hedging going on about a certain character’s parentage, despite “The Winds of Winter” providing a massive reveal. Let’s clear this up.

Late in the episode, Bran plugged into and finished out the story of his father Ned’s visit to The Tower of Joy. If you remember, The Tower Joy was an incident that took place toward the tail end of Robert’s Rebellion. Following the defeat of Rhaegar Targaryen at The Trident, Robert’s best buddies Ned Stark and Howland Reed went south to The Tower of Joy (in Dorne), where they believed Rhaegar had taken Ned’s sister Lyanna. The abduction of Lyanna is what kicked off the entire rebellion in the first place, as she was betrothed to marry Robert until Rhaegar decided that she would be his. Whether she was kidnapped or went willingly is a topic of much debate. If you ask a Stark, it was kidnap. But Littlefinger notoriously smirked at the idea that Lyanna was completely unwilling.

What Bran witnessed in “The Winds of Winter” is exactly what fans have expected for years. Ned walks into a room to find his sister on a bed, bleeding out after giving birth to a boy. In her dying moments, Lyanna whispers something inaudible to Ned – believed to be the baby’s given name – and asks him to keep the baby safe. Because, “If Robert finds out, he’ll kill him, you know he will.” The show then cuts from a shot of the baby opening his eyes to a triumphantly scored image of Jon Snow’s present day face as he’s about to be crowned King in the North.

What’s interesting is that in all of the post-episode chatter, the production continues to dance around what they’ve not-so-subtly confirmed. There’s been no official confirmation from David Benioff and Dan Weiss, and this article from Thrones proxy James Hibberd suggests that the full parentage of Jon Snow is still a little murky. Sure, he suggests, Lyanna is Jon’s mother, but is Rhaegar really the father?

Yes, Rhaegar is the father. Why else would Lyanna need the baby to be protected from Robert Baratheon? She’s about to die, so it’s not like she’s going to be entering into marriage with Robert and doesn’t want him to know about all the kids she’s stashed around Westeros. In the aftermath of the Rebellion, Robert’s top priority was to rid the world of Targaryens forever. If that baby isn’t half-Targ, then what does it have to fear from Robert? Nothing.

Perhaps this is all a gentle hedge and a polite nod to George R.R. Martin, who will undoubtedly be unravelling this mystery in his next book. But we have to wonder if a nod would have been necessary when Weiss and Benioff were writing this episode. Up until a few months before the season began airing, they may have been under the impression that GRRM’s book would be out prior to the season. Last year I accused them of stalling a lot in season five so as to not spoil future book stuff. It’s hard to imagine they’d still be stalling at the end of season 6. By now, the show and the books may be headed toward similar ends, but they are very different monsters.

Regardless of when they are willing to admit it, the show just confirmed the famed R+L=J theory pretty unequivocally. Jon Snow is really a child of both Targaryen and Stark lineage, a child of Ice and Fire, and perhaps The Prince Who Was Promised. Though all of that seems like it’s discussion for the future. The big question now is what will Bran do with this information? How long until Jon knows what we know? And will this change the dynamics of power in The North and beyond. After all, Aunt Daenerys is coming home.

For more on R+L=J, watch this fantastic explanation from Alt-Shift-X:

Read more Game of Thrones coverage here.

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Neil Miller is the persistently-bearded Publisher of Film School Rejects, Nonfics, and One Perfect Shot. He's also the Executive Producer of the One Perfect Shot TV show (currently streaming on HBO Max) and the co-host of Trial By Content on The Ringer Podcast Network. He can be found on Twitter here: @rejects (He/Him)