Game of Thrones' sixth-season finale, which aired this past Sunday, included plenty of shocking moments and satisfying payoffs to some long-simmering storylines — including a fan theory about Jon Snow that readers of George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire books have been debating for years. HBO confirmed both sides of that theory this week with an infographic revealing the connections between the great houses of Westeros.
[Warning: The following contains massive spoilers for Game of Thrones' sixth season, as well as the entire series to this point, really. Stop reading if you're not caught up.]
Late in the episode, we saw the rest of Bran Stark's flashback to the visit that his father, Ned Stark, made to the Tower of Joy in Dorne nearly two decades prior to the events of Game of Thrones. (The first part of the vision came in season 6's third episode, "Oathbreaker.")
After defeating the members of Aerys "The Mad King" Targaryen's Kingsguard that were protecting the tower, Ned made his way to the top to find ... his sister, Lyanna, who had just given birth to a boy. Sadly, Lyanna would soon die of complications related to the birth. But before she did, she made Ned promise that he would protect the child.
The episode zoomed in on the baby's face, and then cut directly to a close-up shot of present-day Jon Snow — confirming the fan theory that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark's bastard son, but instead, the child of Lyanna Stark and ... well, the episode didn't actually tell us the identity of the father.
As we laid out in our explainer on Jon Snow and the Tower of Joy flashback, the evidence overwhelmingly pointed to Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, the son of the Mad King. Rhaegar, as the story goes, was in love with Lyanna, and brought her to the Tower of Joy after kidnapping her. Confirming that Lyanna's child was Jon Snow lent further credence to the theory that Rhaegar was his father — especially since Lyanna asked Ned to protect the boy from Robert Baratheon, a close friend of Ned's who was engaged to Lyanna. (Robert was a noted Targaryen hater.)
Now we know that in the world of Game of Thrones the TV show, both sides of the "R + L = J" theory are true. In an infographic posted yesterday on the Making Game of Thrones blog, HBO confirmed that Rhaegar and Lyanna produced the child whom Ned Stark raised at Winterfell as his bastard son, Jon Snow.
This means that Daenerys Targaryen is not, as everyone in Westeros believes, the last living descendant of the Mad King — and that Jon, as her nephew, could have a claim to the Iron Throne. (There's no word yet on whether Jon, as half Targaryen, can walk through fire or control dragons.) And of course, while the Northern houses just made Jon their new King in the North, it turns out he has much less of a claim to that title than we previously thought.
You can see the full infographic below. For more on the Game of Thrones finale, "The Winds of Winter," check out our recap.
Update: This post has been edited to clarify Jon's new position in the Stark family.