Game of Thrones delivered another rousing finale with ‘The Winds of Winter,’ capping off what’s been a season unlike any other. Major characters were killed, others found themselves in new positions of power, and now the pieces are being set for the thrilling conclusion of this “great game.”
It was a return to the Tower of Joy, the moment from the past wherein Bran first learned that what he’s always been told happened isn’t always the same as what did happen. Previously, Bran witnessed his father not win against the Sword of the Morning in fair combat (as he had always heard it happened) but rather narrowly avoid getting killed by a fortunate bit of back stabbing. The scene set the tone for a larger reveal yet to come, one that fans have been discussing for well over a decade and was summarily confirmed in the Game of Thrones season 6 finale.
R+L=J, quite possibly the longest running fan theory connected with George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Firenovels is, in fact, true. Though, for viewers not well versed in what the R+L=J theory suggests, this week’s flashback to a young Ned at the Tower of Joy may not have been entirely clear. To help elaborate on the big reveal, we’ve broken down why what Ned did — and perhaps more importantly, what Bran saw — inside the Tower of Joy is so significant.
In ‘The Winds of Winter,’ we see Bran return to the point in time where he had previously called out to his father as Ned began ascending the tower’s stairs. Now, without the previous Three-Eyed Raven there to stop him, Bran follows Ned as he enters the tower to find his sister, Lyanna, lying in bed, covered in blood. It was she who Ned had come to the tower to retrieve, believing she had been kidnapped by Prince Rhaegar Targaryen — oldest son of the Mad King and recently slain at the Battle of the Trident by Robert Baratheon. Yet, it’s hard to say whether Lyanna was truly kidnapped by Rhaegar or not, and there are many who believe the two were secretly lovers and that Lyanna ran away with Rhaegar willingly.
With Jon’s true parentage revealed — or at least as strongly implied as it’s ever been — the question now becomes, what does this mean for the new King in the North? Jon is not the son of Ned Stark, but he is of Stark blood thanks to his mother. Moreover, Jon is a Targaryen, the only living child of Rhaegar, potentially giving him an even stronger claim to the Iron Throne than Daenerys. Though, the flashback does nothing to enlighten us to whether or not Rhaegar and Lyanna ever married, but assuming they did not (and it’d have been tough with Elia, Rhaegar’s wife still alive), Jon would still be a bastard under Westerosi custom, possibly negating his presumed birthright. There’s also the question of Jon being Azor Ahai or “the prince that was promised,” since Rhaegar was convinced one of his children would fulfill that prophecy. Melisandre certainly believes he is and she isn’t even aware of Jon’s Targaryen blood.
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