3:09pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Game of Thrones': What's Next for Jon Snow After "The Winds of Winter"
It says a lot about "The Winds of Winter," the sixth season finale of HBO's Game of Thrones, that Jon Snow's parents were finally revealed, and the answer is perhaps the third most monumental event of the episode.
Granted, the wildfire explosion and Cersei's subsequent ascent to the Iron Throne, paired with Daenerys finally heading for Westeros, are big enough blockbuster moments to carry an entire episode of Thrones on their own. And in many respects, the truth behind Jon's origin was already widely guessed at, if not outright known, before the big reveal. Fan theories about Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark as Jon's true father and mother existed long before Game of Thrones ever premiered, beginning with the 1996 release of George R.R. Martin's first entry in A Song of Ice and Fire, the novel series on which Thrones is based. It was only a matter of when, not if, the strongly supported R+L=J theory would become canon.
But now that the truth is out there, to borrow a phrase from another massively popular show, an even more important unknown than Jon's mysterious past emerges: his future. What's next for him now that the secret's out about his Targaryen heritage?
For one, the secret isn't exactly out, at least not yet. Bran Stark carries the information, and while he's not too far away from his half-brother (or cousin, more accurately — that's going to take some getting used to), he still has many miles to travel before reaching Winterfell. What's more, Bran knows that Jon's mother is actually Lyanna, but has he deduced that Jon's father is Rhaegar Targaryen? If the viewer didn't hear Lyanna's whispers, then Bran likely missed the words — and he doesn't even have a handy infographic to fill in the blanks.
In any event, assume Bran reaches Winterfell, and assume he either knows about Rhaegar or can find out. (There's no rule against multiple trips to the past, and the ancestral seat of House Stark contains the necessary Weirwood to fuel Bran's visionary abilities.) What does sharing this knowledge with Jon do for the forward momentum of the story?
"It's telling us that maybe Jon Snow is actually not who we think and could actually be a very valuable asset and ally in these times," Isaac Hempstead Wright, who plays Bran, theorized during a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter after the finale. "For Bran right now, the fact that he's seen it and has now learned that it's not his father's son, I think that makes Bran go, 'Well, then the father is clearly an important figure that has something to do with the history and future of Westeros.'"
Hempstead Wright is absolutely right, as Jon's Northern experience and Targaryen blood could prove an invaluable asset in the war to come. Who's to say that an alliance between Jon and Dany, two secret relatives, couldn't lead to Jon following the Targaryen tradition of riding a dragon into battle, against White Walkers no less? But that's a Valyrian-foil fantasy for another day. There are more pressing concerns at the moment, including what happens when others discover Jon's secret.
Consider Jon Snow's new role as King in the North, crowned after Lyanna Mormont's passionate speech in his defense: "I don't care if he's a bastard. Ned Stark's blood runs through his veins." Will Lyanna and her fellows think otherwise if they find out Jon is not even Ned's bastard — that he's Ned's nephew instead?
There's at least one man likely to put up a fight in that case: Littlefinger. In the finale, he confessed that his single desire is to sit on the Iron Throne with Sansa Stark at his side. With that goal in mind, Littlefinger desperately wanted to anoint Sansa as the Queen in the North, rather than seeing Jon rule over Winterfell. If he catches wind of Jon's Targaryen roots, then Lord Baelish is sure to spin that information for his and Sansa's benefit.
Then again, perhaps Sansa won't be interested in Littlefinger turning the tables on her half-brother. Speaking with THR, Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa, speculated that the truth behind Jon's history might actually mend some fences with Sansa, as she's still nursing trust issues toward her "half-brother."
"I think it may even heal the relationship between Jon and Sansa somewhat, because she's always taken her mother's view of how Jon entered the family," said the actress. "I think finding out that her father did not cheat on Catelyn and had an illegitimate child would probably build a few bridges rather than burn them. I think it could do good for the relationship."
The King in the North could face potential political resistance at Winterfell, with or without Sansa as an adversary, depending on how people react to the news about his parents … assuming they believe the news at all. After all, how exactly will Jon verify himself as a Targaryen to the greater population's satisfaction? That's a knot the show will have to untie, but only if greater knowledge of Jon's backstory is critical to the show's end-game — and perhaps it's not.
Really, there are plenty of reasons to think the truth about Jon Snow will remain unknown in the grand scheme of things. All his life, Lord Snow has been a man very much in the mold of his father figure. Like Ned, Jon does the right thing for the right reasons, and usually with little reward. Indeed, he's far more used to feeling blades pierce his chest than seeing blades shoot toward the sky in honor of his coronation. Is Jon Snow destined for a great and glorious reign over Westeros, even if his bloodline allows for such an outcome? Or is it more in line with Jon's character if he remains an unsung hero, the full extent of his story known only to a few?
Many of these questions won't even be answered in the next wave of Thrones, of course. Jon Snow's full future is an end-game question, if it's even fully answered once the series comes to a close. But the White Wolf's next moves should be among the most front-of-mind considerations leaving season six, because when Game of Thrones returns, there won't be much time to puzzle it all out — not with White Walkers approaching knocking distance of the Wall.
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