Look, if you haven’t seen Game of Thrones Season 6 all the way through just stop. Stop here, maybe turn in your geek card and walk away. Because there be spoilers below!
There was a big reveal during the season finale this past weekend, “The Winds of Winter,” involving Jon Snow and the biggest mystery surrounding him. For this geek discussion, we take a closer look at that reveal and what it could mean.
Let’s face it. We all knew the flashback was coming. Bran had to know what his dad experienced way back during Robert’s Rebellion, in which Houses Baratheon, Stark, Tully, and Lannister all threw down against the ruling house Targaryen in order for Robert to get his girlfriend back (yes, that’s literally how this whole thing started).
So what did Bran do? Using his Three-Eyed Raven power, he touched a freaky weirwood tree, which is apparently the cloud storage of Westeros, and saw — and yeesh — what he saw was a lot.
As our own Empress Eve states in her review of the episode:
As history has it, Prince Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna Stark, and when the men of House Stark protested, King Aerys II (the Mad King) had Ned’s father and brother killed. This is when Ned and his friend Robert Baratheon, who was betrothed to Lyanna, led a rebellion against the Targaryens. During “Robert’s Rebellion,” Robert killed all the members of the royal family except for its youngest members, Daenerys, who was an infant, and her older brother Viserys, both of whom were secreted away to the Free Cities across the sea. In this flashback, we see Ned arrive to find his sister lying in a pool of blood, dying. He doesn’t realize at first that she’s just given birth!!! Lyanna knows she is about to die, and we hear her whisper something to her brother about how if Robert finds out, you know he will… and we can assume she means that he will kill this baby, since it is a Targaryen. “You have to protect him,” she says to her brother, “Promise me, Ned, promise me.” Ned looks over and sees a baby, which the midwives hand to him. Lyanna again repeats “promise me” a few times. Ned cries and looks at the baby, who’s eyes are dark… just like Jon Snow’s. The close-up of Lyanna’s baby switches to a close up of Jon Snow. FINALLY, this parentage is revealed…
HOLD UP — wait a second. There are some problems here. Namely heritage and supposed names.
We know that Jon has Stark blood through Lyanna but we do NOT know who the father is. We also don’t know if she was married, which matters very much in a setting with a strong legitimacy taboo.
Let me explain in 3 arguments:
Argument 1: Lyanna and Marriage. The rumor is that Rhaegar married Lyanna in secret. It could be that they we actually in love and Lyanna ran away with Rhaegar, not knowing that it would cause the death of her father and brother, and plunge the world into chaos. In that case, Jon is a Targaryen. A trueborn son with a claim to the Iron Throne. The claim isn’t pure, however, since Targaryens were above the incest taboo and used the practice to ensure that their bloodlines remained pure. If they were married, a pure Targaryen, like Jon’s aunt, Daenerys, would also have claim, though based on primogeniture, her marrying any other man but Jon could render her house, her line, extinct.
Argument 2: Jon Blackfyre: Lyanna and love outside of marriage with Rhaegar. Again, there is a rumor that Rhaegar married Lyanna in secret. But this is the seven Kingdoms and that’s just a rumor. If indeed, Rhaegar, Lord of Dragonstone and heir to the Iron Throne, stole Lyanna and had a baby outside of the bounds of marriage, then Jon would be a Blackfyre, a bastard of Dragonstone. If that’s the case, his claim to the Iron Throne is similarly problematic — he would need to be sanctified as a Targaryen by a royal decree, and unless Daenerys is sat atop the Iron Throne and looking for an incest husband, that’s not gonna happen.
Argument 3: Jon Storm, the Bastard Baratheon. It’s easy to suppose that Rhaegar fathered the child with Lyanna Stark. But we don’t hear her say that. We do hear her utter that Robert could kill the babe, which is more evidence supporting the above.
But it’s not definitive. As much as we want that, the text doesn’t support it just yet.
Recall that Robert was promised to Lyanna, he loved her and we all know that Robert Baratheon wasn’t the type of man to wait around for some septon to tell him he could get his groove on. If Lyanna fancied Robert back, the idea that they could have gotten it on before she got kidnapped is FAR from far-fetched. Backing this up is the fact that while Lyanna looked remarkably like Ned in terms of pallor and brown hair, and even accent, we know two key things about the Baratheon clan (1) black of hair, and (2) THE SEED IS STRONG.
Jon Snow looks as much or more like Robert than Gendry. Gendry looks a lot like his dad, King Robert of the House Baratheon, but then again, so does John Snow. In fact, he looks more like Robert than Rhaegar.
Starks have brown hair, while Baratheons are “black of hair.” To quote Game of Thrones Season 1, episode 4, again: “THE SEED IS STRONG.”
The problem is that, in order to secure the Iron Throne, or even just beat the Targaryens, Robert made a pact with Tywin Lannister to marry his daughter, Cersei. If a bastard was in the way, one born BEFORE Cersei and Robert’s own prince, then the Lannister claim to the Iron Throne through descent could be challenged. Put another way, Robert having a bastard that was from some whore means nothing, but having a bastard that had Stark blood — that could cause serious succession problems for House Baratheon and the Lannister alliance in the future.
So there it is. My point isn’t that Jon is not a Targaryen. My point is only that it’s currently presumptuous to call Jon a Targaryen given what we actually know from the text, which is somewhat different from what the consensus of the viewers would like. The thoughts above represent longstanding hypotheses about these characters — some of which have been out there for 20 years already (book one in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, A Game of Thrones, was published in 1996).
So Jon could be a Baratheon. Or a Storm. Or a Blackfyre. But then again — we’ll see what happens when Daenerys issues the “dracarys” command against the new King of the North. It may be that Drogon doesn’t burn him down at all — and instead bends down and nuzzles his cousin, Jon Targaryen.
UPDATE: HBO has released an infographic that confirms who Jon Snow’s father really was.