This Popular ‘Game of Thrones’ Fan Theory Is All But Confirmed After Sunday Night

From the start, one crazy yet altogether not unlikely ‘Game of Thrones’ fan theory about Jon Snow’s mysterious parentage has been circulating far and wide. Most of this speculation has been by readers of the book series “A Song of Ice and Fire,” which the HBO hit is based on, but as the plot of ‘GoT’ catches up to and even surpasses where George R.R. Martin’s last novel in the series left off, the show is starting to offer viewers more new and crucial hints about its biggest mystery, and in no episode has this been more true than Sunday night’s “Oathkeeper.”

If you haven’t gotten the chance to watch “Oathkeeper” or by some great miracle have yet to come across the fan theory popularly known as “R+L=J” and aren’t ready to, be warned: Spoilers ahead.

According to the beloved fan theory, Jon Snow, bastard of Winterfell and perpetually brooding hunk, isn’t Ned Stark’s illegitimate son, but the son of Ned’s deceased sister Lyanna Stark and Prince Rhaegar Targaryen. So, if you’re like all of us and honorable, faithful, and devoted Ned cheating on Catelyn Stark sounded just a touch out of character to you, this fan theory probably makes a lot of sense.

Some of the strongest evidence that book-readers like me have been clinging on to appears in “A Game of Thrones,” the first novel of Martin’s series, which the first season of ‘GoT’ is largely based on. Just before the massive civil war that would end in the fall of the Targaryens and ascent of Robert Baratheon, Prince Rhaegar allegedly kidnapped Lyanna, Robert’s wife, which essentially put the conflict in motion. However, there were hints that R+L was consensual, and even loving.

In Martin’s first novel, while in prison, Ned Stark recounts how his sister would dreamily watch Rhaegar perform on his lyre before the court with tears in her eyes. Fast forward to the end of the war, around nine months or so later, and Ned finds Lyanna on the verge of death in the Tower of Joy, and for the rest of his life, remains haunted by her last words to him: “Promise me, Ned,” which most have interpreted as her begging him to keep her secret and take Jon as her own. This all makes sense when you consider how Lyanna was young and healthy, and childbirth could sometimes end up a fatal affair in Westerosi society (case in point: Joanna Lannister).

At any rate, this theory finally made its way to the small screen on Sunday night, when, Bran Stark’s character experienced a #TBT that was pretty life-changing, if not for Bran, then for viewers. In the flashback, a young Ned Stark fights off Targaryen soldiers guarding the Tower of Joy, and the scene cuts off just as he enters the stronghold. Sure, the flashback left us all thirsting for more, but at the same time, it was pretty satisfying in the sense that it’s the perfect set-up for what will frankly be the reveal of a lifetime.

I can already picture Robert Armayo as young Ned striding into the Tower to Lyanna on her death bed, newborn Jon in her arms and the words “Promise me, Ned,” on her lips. It might not be confirmed then and there that Prince Rhaegar is Jon’s father, but we’ve waited, what, six years for this? I think we can wait just a bit longer for all the pieces to fall into place, and in the meanwhile, get to work speculating on what this Targaryen-Stark parentage could mean for Jon.

Jon’s potential lineage ties into a prophecy that he just might be the Prince Who Was Promised, a Messiah-like figure destined to save Westeros at an unspecified, chaotic time much like the present, or at the very least one head of the “three-headed dragon” that will save Westeros, according to a prophecy once told to Daenerys, Mother of Dragons and last confirmed Targaryen. If this is all a confusing blur to you, the video above might be helpful.

In other news, “Oathkeeper” also followed an isolated Dany attempting to win the respect of her fellow Dothraki widows with neither her dragons nor her advisers, and with her string of impressive titles rendered useless by the widows’ complete indifference. There was also the return of Rickon Stark, Ned’s youngest, and Osha, his wildling companion, as they were turned into Ramsay Bolton.

Oh, and of course, there was the revival of Jon Snow. If, like Jon, you’re fixated on the “why” over the “how,” take these choice words from Davos Seaworth: “What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can.”