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Over the course of season six, Game of Thrones brought viewers into the past, thanks to Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) revisiting one of the most important moments in recent Westeros history: the Tower of Joy, the Dornish stronghold where Lyanna Stark died after giving birth to the future King in the North, Jon Snow (Kit Harington).
Given the title of the upcoming season seven finale, “The Dragon and the Wolf,” there’s hope that fans may be treated to another critical occasion from a time long ago: the Tourney at Harrenhal, the place where Jon’s parents fell in love.
The tournament, which has been referenced on the show from time to time and is more prominently featured in George R.R. Martin’s books on which Thrones is based, was one of the last public events before the Seven Kingdoms plunged into the violent war known as Robert’s Rebellion. It’s where the Mad King Aerys inducted Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) into the Kingsguard, a decision made out of spite toward Tywin Lannister (Charles Dance), and one that would prove to be his eventual undoing.
Even before that vindictive move, the tournament was positioned as a place where Aerys Targaryen’s reign over Westeros could start coming to an end. Rumors have it that Prince Rhaegar, Aerys‘ son and Jon’s biological father, was seeking meetings with heads of great houses in an attempt to remove his increasingly ill and cruel father from power. By most accounts of the man, Rhaegar’s reign would have been a peaceful one, or at least more peaceful than his father’s infamous insanity.
Whatever momentum Rhaegar’s plan had, it was upended when the Targaryen prince met Lyanna Stark. After winning the tournament’s jousting competition, Rhaegar publicly pronounced Lyanna as the queen of love and beauty — a controversial move on several levels, not the least of which being that Rhaegar was already married to Elia Martell, and Lyanna was betrothed to Robert Baratheon. A year after that scandal, Rhaegar abducted Lyanna — or “abducted,” rather, as it’s widely believed that the Dragon and the Wolf (how about that!) were secretly in love, leading to their marriage and the creation of a new legitimate Targaryen heir, as Gilly (Hannah Murray) so helpfully identified earlier this season.
Rhaegar and Lyanna’s star-crossed love resulted in the birth of the man who feels all but predestined to save the Seven Kingdoms from the White Walker threat, but it’s also a love that resulted in the near-extinction of the Targaryen line, paved the way for the Baratheon regime that’s since been hijacked by the Lannisters, and otherwise plunged the realm into chaos. So, pros and cons. But there’s no doubting that it’s one of the single most important historical events for the modern Game of Thrones landscape, not to mention one of the single most romantic stories in the entire Ice and Fire saga.
It could come in the form of Bran tripping down memory lane and observing the tournament directly, or some kind of flashback sequence that kicks off the finale, or even just an explicit reference from one or more of the currently alive characters who were at the tourney. However it plays out, the Tourney of Harrenhal has the potential to be featured prominently in the season seven finale — which would be nicely timed, given that a new Dragon and Wolf are inching closer to a star-crossed romance of their own.
So, with all that said, you have some homework before the Game of Thrones finale: read up on your Westeros history, specifically the Tourney at Harrenhal, and adjust your excitement to Cleganebowl levels of hype accordingly.
Follow THR.com/GameOfThrones for more news, theories and interviews ahead of the season finale.
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