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Jon Snow finally knows he’s a Targaryen — here’s why that matters

Jon’s gone all the way from bastard to king-in-waiting

jon snow game of thrones season 8 premiere HBO
Austen Goslin (he/him) is an entertainment editor. He writes about the latest TV shows and movies, and particularly loves all things horror.

Jon Snow is really Aegon Targaryen, first and only son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. This is a fact that, we the audience, have known since the episode “The Winds of Winter” debuted almost three years ago at the end of season 6, but it wasn’t until Game of Thrones’ season 8 premiere that Jon learned it for himself.

Learning the identity of his mother has always been important to Jon. Now that he knows his parents were royalty, it’s time to take a look at what exactly this means for the King in the North.

He’s still a Stark

As strange as it sounds, this might be the most important part of Jon’s new identity. The man who was born as Aegon Targaryen grew up a Stark, inheriting many of the traits that would serve him well straight from his assumed father Eddard. While Jon now knows that Ned wasn’t actually his father, there’s no shaking the familial connection, since Ned was actually his uncle the whole time. So the Stark parts of his bloodline are still intact. More importantly, it means that he can still rule in the north as a Stark, and keep the loyalty the family has built up in the region over thousands of years.

He’s not a bastard

As the show has gone to great lengths to point out, a bastard doesn’t have a legitimate claim to any throne. Learning that Rhaegar and Lyanna were married before he was born serves an important purpose, by letting us know that Jon is a legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. It’s also a nice touch for the audience, who can finally rest assured that Jon was born out of love, and that Rhaegar didn’t kidnap Lyanna, but rather eloped with her instead.

jon snow flies a dragon - game of thrones season 8 premiere HBO

He’s got a claim to the throne

This is probably going to be a tense subject between Jon and Daenerys when they get to talking about Jon’s secret Targaryen identity. As it turns out — because of the precedent in Westerosi of passing succession through the legitimate male line — Jon Snow has the strongest living claim to the Iron Throne.

Those around him certainly seem to want him to pursue that claim. When Sam, who Jon trusts more than anyone, tells him of his true heritage, he also mentions that Dany burned his brother and father alive. Sam seems convinced that Jon would never do something like this, the implication being that he’d rather have Jon as his king than Dany as his queen.

With that in mind, Jon passing up a legitimate claim in order to allow Dany to be queen would be a big step toward remaking Westeros and breaking the wheel, as Dany is so fond of saying.

Dragon riding is in his blood

Longclaw is a great sword. It’s killed some White Walkers and plenty of people, and helped see Jon through more than his fair share of harrowing situations. But with the Night King’s army approaching, there’s a greater weapon that Jon needs to wield: dragons.

It has long been speculated that only those with blood that could be traced back to Valyria could ride dragons. While this probably isn’t true, Jon being a Targaryen — the most prominent dragon-riding family in Westerosi history — certainly doesn’t hurt.

In the first episode of season 8, we see Jon get his How to Train Your Dragon moment. When Dany challenges him to ride with her, it’s clear that she sees something special in him. But as we’ll likely get to see later in the season, the special thing she saw probably wasn’t that he is actually her nephew.

He’s related to Dany and that’s a “good” thing

We’re all a little traumatized by the Cersei-Jaime incest that led to Bran getting pushed out a window, but Targaryens marrying each other is a long-standing tradition. I hear you saying maybe it shouldn’t be, but I don’t think that’s an option here, so we’re just going to have to deal with it.

Throughout their reign in Westeros, the Targaryens have always believed in keeping their bloodline, the blood of Old Valyria, clean in order to preserve its strength (see the section about dragon riding). The only way to do that is by marrying and having children with another Targaryen. So the taboo act became the standard, although throughout history some Targaryens did choose to marry outside the family. While the practice that happened most often was cousins or siblings being married, there was at least one instance of an aunt and nephew marrying, so there’s some kind of historical precedent behind Jon and Dany being together.

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