Sam! Shut up for a moment and let Gilly finish.
Warning: Game of Thrones spoilers through ‘Eastwatch,’ with book knowledge and speculation, are below.
Tomorrow, I’ll deliver my usual ‘Game of Thrones Explained’ column and we’ll dig into “Eastwatch,” this week’s fast-moving, plot-productive bridge episode that brought familiar faces back together and efficiently forged new squads. But first, let’s talk about Jon Snow’s lineage because “Eastwatch” was very interested in dropping hints that round out the family history of the other Last Targaryen.
In season 6, we saw through Branvision that Ned Stark rode south following Robert’s Rebellion, where Prince Rhaegar was recently slain by Robert’s Warhammer at The Trident, to rescue his sister from The Tower of Joy. Lyanna Stark didn’t make it out of the Tower, as you are well aware by now, she died following the birth of a child. A child that Ned would spend the rest of his life keeping secret from his best friend Robert. A child he’d call his bastard, even though it was his nephew. One very nice cross-fade later and we know that this child grew up, died, and became The King in the North.
In “Eastwatch,” Thrones pushed the legend of Jon Snow’s birth a little further, in subtle and overt ways.
1. Drogon knows a Targaryen
“They are not beasts,” Daenerys explains to Jon during their rendezvous on the cliffs outside Dragonstone. In truth, Dragons are very smart. Smarter than men, as Tyrion explained much earlier in the show’s run. We’ve seen them come to their mother’s aid, trust an ally such as Tyrion, and only blow fire on the bad guys and not the Dothraki standing feet away.
The fact that Drogon allowed Jon to pet him goes much deeper than recognizing someone who is a friend. It’s hard not to believe that Drogon knows that there’s something familiar — even familial — about the King in the North. Perhaps Daenerys, newly curious about the history of Jon’s heart, is starting to see it, as well.
2. Gilly dropped a huge bomb
Before she got Samsplained about steps and shits, Gilly was reading something that’s very important to anyone who obsesses over the R + L = J of it all. It was long believed that Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped Ned’s sister Lyanna, the inciting incident of Robert’s Rebellion. But as we’ve just learned, Lyanna may have gone willingly. And their tryst included an annulment of Rhaegar’s marriage to Ellia Martell so that he could marry Lyanna Stark. Which makes Jon Snow a true born heir to Rhaegar. The true heir (technically) to the Iron Throne.
Let’s hope that Sam and Gilly smuggled High Septon Maynard’s diary out of Oldtown on their way out, as this will further bolster a claim to a throne that Jon Snow probably doesn’t want. If he did want to claim his place, he’d have a stronger claim as Rhaegar’s legitimate son than Daenerys would as Rhaegar’s younger sister.
As my good friend Joanna Robinson explains over at Vanity Fair, this also explains why Rhaegar left Lyanna at the Tower of Joy under the protection of his Kingsguard, led by Ser Arthur Dayne. Upon the death of the Mad King, the Kingsguard would have sought to protect the heir to the Throne, Dany’s brother Viserys. But they didn’t. Here’s how it played out in the book:
“Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.” “Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell. “But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.” “Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm. “We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold. Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three. “And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light. “No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.”
Boom. They were really protecting the true born heir, Jon (or whatever his name is) Targaryen.
This all sets up a season 8 in which Jon must reconcile his place in the hierarchy of Westeros. He may very well be the rightful King, but he’s never been interested in all that. His purpose is to protect the Seven Kingdoms from the army of the dead. And he’ll need an alliance with his aunt Dany, for whom he’s already starting to catch feelings. What will his cousins in Winterfell think of this news? How will Dany react? Does he get a dragon?
Time will tell. Keep your eyes open, as Thrones is getting fast and furious with not just its action, but also its reveals.