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[This story contains spoilers for the final season premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones, “Winterfell.”]
Jon Snow (Kit Harington) has not always been Jon Snow. Long ago, he was known to his parents by another name: Aegon Targaryen. For several seasons, Game of Thrones slow-played the reveal that Jon’s true parents are Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, making him the true heir to the Iron Throne. Following the final season premiere, however, the secret is out — to Jon, at the very least.
In the final season’s first edition of HBO’s “Inside the Episode” series, which airs after each installment of Thrones, creators and executive producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss reveal how they decided to deliver the news of Jon Snow’s true story to Jon himself, considering it was no longer a secret to the audience. (Watch the interview, above.)
“The fact that Jon’s parents are who Jon’s parents were is not news to us at this point,” says Weiss. “What we don’t know is how Jon’s going to take this news. How’s this explosion going to look?”
According to Benioff, it was important for the scene to take place between Jon and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley), rather than between Jon and Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright), the other keeper of the big Targaryen secret. As he explains it, Sam and Jon almost have more of a brotherly bond than Jon and his Stark half-sibling (or is it cousin?), due to their time together at the Night’s Watch.
“He knows this is going to hurt Jon,” Benioff says about Sam’s choice, “and that it’s going to shatter his whole worldview. For all they know, the Army of the Dead could attack the next day. Someone has to tell Jon before that.”
The scene was written to explore the psychological impact of the Targaryen truth bomb on Jon, and how he would immediately deal with the fallout. As Weiss states it: “[Jon is] being told something he both knows is true, and can’t handle. So he tries to throw things in front of it to prevent him from having to deal with the thing he’s being told. What he throws in front of it here is the fact that it means his [adoptive father Ned Stark, played by Sean Bean] was lying to him his whole life.”
“The truth that Samwell tells Jon is probably the most incendiary fact in the entire world of the show,” he continues. “We chose to play the whole thing on Jon’s face, because as great a job as John Bradley is doing presenting this information, he’s really just presenting information we know already.”
Additional items covered in the “Inside the Episode” special include an overview of several other reunions and meetings in the premiere: Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) and Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Sansa and Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage), and Jon and Arya Stark (Maisie Williams), just to name a few — the last of which is a bit of a tense encounter, thanks to Arya not approving of Daenerys. As Benioff puts it: “Blood is definitely thicker than water when it comes to the Starks.”
“We’ve been with these characters on a fairly regular basis for the past however many years,” says Weiss, speaking broadly about the episode’s highly anticipated character encounters. “The fact that they’re coming back together again for the first time means more to them than it may mean to us.”
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more coverage of the final season.