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It’s all-out war between Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) as they battle it out for the Iron Throne, but both queens might have to bend the knee to a new legitimate contender, based on one of the show’s most recent revelations.
In “Eastwatch,” the fifth episode of Game of Thrones‘ seventh season, there’s a quick exchange between Samwell Tarly (John Bradley) and Gilly (Hannah Murray) that might matter more than anything else in the episode — a big statement, considering the hour featured the return of Gendry and also set up one of the biggest battles in Game of Thrones history. In the scene, Gilly asks Sam if he knows the definition of “annulment,” because she’s reading about the subject in one of the Citadel’s books.
“Maynard says here,” she reads, “that he issued an annulment for a Prince Rhaegar and remarried him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.”
In the immortal words of House Morris: “Time out.” Sam skips right past Gilly’s comments, but we can’t just Yara Yara through the best part. Gilly can be forgiven for not knowing the significance of what she just read, given that she’s still a very recent Westeros transplant, but let’s not mince words: she just casually dropped one of the single biggest bombs we’ve ever weathered on Game of Thrones.
Let’s rewind a few episodes. In the season six finale, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) hopped back in time to the fateful day at the Tower of Joy, the Dornish stronghold where Ned Stark battled it out with the Targaryen kingsguard to save his sister Lyanna’s life, only to watch her die a few minutes later. Up until this scene, it wasn’t entirely clear how Lyanna died, though readers of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga had a pretty good idea. The show confirmed the longstanding theory that Lyanna died in childbirth, and her final words — “Promise me, Ned” — served as a plea to keep her newborn son’s identity a secret from the world, due to the identity of the boy’s father: Rhaegar Targaryen, the heir to the Iron Throne before Robert Baratheon crushed the life out of him in a legendary battle on the Trident.
The baby, of course, would grow up to become a legendary figure in his own right: Jon Snow, the King in the North, the man fighting tooth and nail to save the living from the Army of the Dead. He has no idea who he truly is, still believing that he’s the bastard son of Ned Stark and an unknown southerner. If he knew about his biological father, Jon most certainly wouldn’t be looking at Daenerys, his biological aunt, with stars in his eyes. If he never learned about his true beginnings, Jon’s status as a secret Targaryen would still be enough to make him a mythical hero in the war for Westeros, if only in the viewers’ eyes. However, if Jon or anyone else ever found out about his father, he would become an even more pivotal political player than ever before — an impressive feat, considering he already has one royal title to his name.
With Gilly’s revelation, we’re closer than ever before to a world in which Jon Snow serves not just as the King in the North, but the King of the entire Seven Kingdoms. According to what she’s found in this text, Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia Martell, and then married someone else “in a secret ceremony in Dorne,” which is where the Tower of Joy is located. It all but screams in big, flashing, neon letters that Rhaegar and Lyanna Stark were officially hitched when Jon was born, which means Jon isn’t a Targaryen bastard; he’s an outright Targaryen, the son of the slain man who was in line to rule Westeros before he was killed, and therefore the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. Not bad for a man who spent his entire life weathering insults about being an illegitimate Stark. Turns out, he’s a legit Targaryen, and quite likely the frontrunner to reign over Westeros once the war against the White Walkers ends.
Of course, that’s assuming Jon Snow survives the war against the White Walkers, which is far from a sure bet. He already died once before, after all, and could very easily die again, potentially as soon as next week. Beyond his shaky fate, there’s the question of whether or not Jon would even want the job ruling over Westeros. It’s certainly not something he would likely seek out, based on what Kit Harington told THR before season seven about Jon’s outlook on leadership.
“He seems to be the one person who’s gotten to leadership without actually asking for it,” said the actor. “He started the series as an illegitimate black sheep in the family who’s just going up to this, back and beyond, to achieve nothing. And now he’s the King in the North. He never aimed for that. He never expected it. He never asked for it. I think he’s proud of it, but I think he’s going to have about 10 seconds to be proud of it before he’s right back in the proverbial poop.”
Luckily, fans have more than 10 seconds to process “the proverbial poop” that just hit the fan given this latest bombshell — somewhere in the ballpark of 30,000 seconds, given that there are only eight episodes remaining before Game of Thrones wraps up forever, with or without Jon Snow on the Iron Throne.
Watch the video below for the Game of Thrones cast’s preview of season seven’s battles.
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