How Game of Thrones’ Jon Snow Bombshell About Rhaegar Targaryen Changes the Series

After years of conjecture about the true parentage of its know-nothing hero, Game of Thrones finally dropped a game-changing revelation in its season 6 finale on Sunday, June 26: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Fans, rejoice! R + L does, indeed, equal J.

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And if you’re not sure why that’s such a big deal for the hit HBO series, read on — ’cause we’ve got all the details. (And be sure to check out our favorite season 6 moments — and the best Twitter reactions to the big news!)

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First and foremost, the circumstances surrounding Jon’s birth have always been one of the series’ biggest mysteries — George R.R. Martin himself made showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff correctly identify Jon’s parents before he’d let them tackle a TV adaptation of his work, and fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series have been debating it for actual decades. But this bombshell isn’t just vindication of a highly popular theory. It also makes Jon a seriously significant player in the game of thrones itself, explains some of the stranger parts of his past and illuminates his importance to the show’s future.

Kit Harington
Kit Harington on ‘Game of Thrones.’ Helen Sloan/HBO

All That Stark Drama Makes So Much Sense Now

First things first: Going all the way back to season 1, something always seemed a little off about Jon Snow’s relationship with Ned Stark. Why would Ned go to the trouble of raising Jon at Winterfell (a decision which caused no shortage of conflict with his wife), only to pack him off to the Wall at his age of maturity? But now we know: Not only is Jon the son of Ned’s beloved sister, but he’s a Targaryen heir — which would have made him a primo target of Robert Baratheon’s endless vendetta against all things dragon-related. Keeping Jon close as a child and then sending him to the Wall as a man were strategic moves designed to keep him safe, and safely off Robert’s radar.

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And He’s Gonna Be Royal!

Rhaegar was the presumptive Targaryen heir to the Iron Throne, and Lyanna was almost definitely Rhaegar’s legitimate (albeit polygamous) wife, which puts Jon Snow in quite the princely position as Rhaegar’s only surviving child. He’s just been crowned the King in the North, but if he wanted to make a play for the big-boy chair down in King’s Landing? He’s got a very compelling claim.

A Manly Match for the Dragon Queen

For those keeping track of the Targaryen family tree, Jon’s true parentage makes him a nephew to Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) — which, thanks to the Targaryens’ love of incestuous marriages (blech), also makes him a hot romantic prospect for the Mother of Dragons. However, if Dany doesn’t see Jon as marriage material, she’ll almost certainly see him as a threat, given his claim to the throne. Best guess: These two are going to either kiss each other or kill each other before the series is through.

A Prophecy Fulfilled

Not only does Jon Snow’s Stark-Targaryen bloodline make him the literal embodiment of “ice and fire,” it means that he has to be Azor Ahai, aka the prince who was promised, aka the hero destined to lead humanity in the coming winter’s war against the White Walkers. We already know that the Walkers are vulnerable to fire and weapons made of fire-forged dragonglass. What are they going to do if Jon rides into battle against them on the back of one of his fire-breathing cousins? Die, that’s what.

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