What Jon Snow’s True Parentage Means for Game of Thrones

Aegon Targaryen. Photo: HBO

It took a long time to get there, but Sunday night’s Game of Thrones finale finally gave fans the answer to the question they’d been waiting for: What would it look like for a grown man to make tender love to his own secret aunt? I’m kidding, of course (though, if you were curious, it looked like a classic PG-13 sex scene, with plenty of delicate shadows and artfully arranged limbs). No, the real revelation here was about Jon’s backstory. After years of speculation, and months of dancing around the topic, the show at last went out and stated the facts of Jon’s parentage plainly: He’s the trueborn son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, who were wed in secret after Rhaegar’s first marriage was annulled by the High Septon for reasons of plot convenience. Also, his birth name is not really Jon Snow, it’s Aegon Targaryen. (The same name as Rhaegar’s other son — rude.)

Now, unlike last year’s flashback to the Tower of Joy, which confirmed years of reader theories that Ned Stark wasn’t really Jon Snow’s father, Bran’s flashback Sunday to Rhaegar and Lyanna’s wedding didn’t tell us that much we didn’t already know. We knew Jon was Lyanna’s son, we knew Rhaegar was at the Tower of Joy with Lyanna, and we knew the Targaryen prince wasn’t the monster that people like Robert Baratheon made him out to be — you didn’t have to be an all-seeing avatar of the Old Gods to figure out what went down in that tower.

Still, thanks to Gilly’s discovery two weeks back we did get one big new piece of information: Jon is not a bastard. (He’s also definitely not a virgin anymore; we’d previously only seen the King in the North doing mouth stuff.) Once the news of his parentage gets out, there will be plenty of repercussions. One, I imagine it’ll probably shake up Jon’s sense of identity, which from the very beginning has hinged so much on being a bastard; now our lovable, humble hero will learn he’s been royalty all along. And it will probably change the tenor of Jon’s daddy issues: Instead of being the secret shame of Ned Stark, a man he loved and admired, Jon’s real father is a man he never knew.

Psychology aside, this news also shakes up Westeros’s political sphere. As Bran told Sam, by traditional lines of succession Jon is now the Targaryen with the best claim on the Iron Throne, not Daenerys. How much will that change things for Team Dragonstone? Jon’s already bent the knee to Dany, and he doesn’t seem the type to go back on that kind of vow. And on the bright side for Khaleesi, she’s now got that heir Tyrion was so worried about. But Jon having a better claim than Dany does make things complicated between them, and goodness, things between them did not need to get more complicated.

When it comes to discussions of Azor Ahai and the Prince Who Was Promised, the truth of Jon’s parentage also adds additional fuel to speculation that he’s the reincarnation of the mythical hero who’s fated to save Westeros from the White Walkers. (If, uh, every other thing that’s happened in GOT so far hasn’t already convinced you of that.) In one book flashback, Rhaegar says that his son will be the Prince Who Was Promised, and “his will be the song of ice and fire,” and you don’t get more ice-and-fiery than a guy who’s half Stark, half Targaryen. And if you’re into names, naming Jon after the Targaryen who conquered Westeros in the first place is certainly an auspicious choice.

All in all, it’s going to be a lot for Jon to take in. Now we just need someone to step up and break the news to him. Given what just happened on that boat, it’s going to be one awkward conversation.

Jon Snow’s Parentage: What It Means for Game of Thrones