Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Secret Targaryens - Part 1

The scene of Jon Snow getting stabbed by his Night’s Watch brothers and Olly shocked most fans of the show at the end of last season. All the book fans knew of Jon’s impending fate but many show fans weren’t aware and were completely blindsided by the death and loss of one of the show’s most beloved and major characters. Having said that, his death was heavily foreshadowed by the conversations Jon had with Ser Alliser Thorne and Olly’s slowly changing behaviour towards Jon in the episodes leading up to the season 5 finale. If you’re an avid fan of the story and a close follower of the show, you’d know that the crew behind the hit HBO series often infuse their storytelling and plots with a great deal of foreshadowing and creative camerawork.

Fast forward approximately 10 months and after the premiere of season 6 last week, Jon’s fate and his resurrection prospect remain unknown. He is deader than ever as evidenced by his pale white skin and lifeless body in episode 1. But all that doesn’t change the fact that there are still many questions left unanswered about the snowy character. Who is Jon’s mother? Why were there scenes where characters questioned the fact that Ned was Jon’s father? Why did the show emphasised so much on the Night’s King’s fascination with Jon and their intense stare-off at Hardhome if not to foreshadow a bigger showdown to come between them? If there’s anything I’ve learned from the show in the past 5 years, it’s that the series has very little filler scenes.

For most people who have followed the show closely, they will realise that Jon’s resurrection is inevitable and his lineage will play a large role in it. Ever since his death last season, most fans by now have become aware of the possibility that Jon may be resurrected via Melisandre by the simple fact that the Red Priestess was seen returning to Castle Black before Jon’s death, and from the previous season’s knowledge that another devotee to the Lord of Light in the form of the Red Priest Thoros of Myr having resurrected Ser Beric Dondarrion 6 times. Adding those two pieces together, it makes a lot of sense at first, that this will be how Jon will return. However, having recently rewatched the entire 5 seasons in the past month, a new and unlikely theory has dawned on me regarding Jon’s resurrection.

But before we get to that, let’s take a closer look at Jon’s supposed lineage. We are almost certain that he is a Stark from Ned’s reassurance in season 1.

During the farewell scene at Winterfell before they separated, Jon and Ned spoke with each other, for the very last time:

Ned: There’s great honour serving in the Night’s Watch. The Starks have manned the Wall for thousands of years. And you are a Stark. You might not have my name, but you have my blood.

It is also needless to say that Jon looks a lot like Ned, Benjen, and some of his siblings which will help his Stark claim. But the biggest mystery of all remains: who is Jon’s mother and is Ned actually his father? Season 5 reinforced these questions even further when the pivotal scene that might foreshadow the answer took place below:

As Stannis Baratheon watches Jon training the brothers of the Night’s Watch at Castle Black’s battlements below, his wife Selyse, fanatic servant of the Lord of Light joins him, casting doubt on Ned’s infidelity under a new light:

Stannis: Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch.
Selyse: A bastard by some tavern slut.
Stannis: Perhaps, but that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.

So what was Ned Stark’s way? We all know from season 1 that Ned is loyal and moral to a fault. Even when faced with imminent death during his imprisonment, he was reluctant to falsely admit treason to save his daughters’ lives and his own. So if Ned did not dishonour Catelyn by having Jon as his bastard son, that only leaves Brandon (Ned’s elder brother), Benjen and Lyanna as possible parents to Jon. But the secrecy behind Jon’s lineage and Ned’s sacrifice of his honour to protect that secret wouldn’t make much sense in the story if Brandon and Benjen was Jon’s father. But that secrecy becomes extremely important and would make the most sense and significance if Lyanna Stark was indeed his mother.

From that, it becomes very plausible that Jon’s father was indeed Rhaegar Targaryen who is the eldest son of the Mad King. Which was exactly the reason for Ned’s secret. It has been brought up many times in the show that Lyanna, who was promised to Robert Baratheon, was kidnapped by Rhaegar which started Robert’s rebellion and eventually saw the overthrow of the Targaryen dynasty in Westeros. But recent hints from season 5 have brought a new nuance to that account. What if Lyanna was never kidnapped but chose to elope with Rhaegar instead because they were both secretly in love? And if Jon is a product of that doomed and tragic union, it would make sense why there was so much secrecy surrounding his birth. This would explain why Ned knew he cannot reveal Jon’s identity because Jon would be a Targaryen and we all know from season 1 that Robert was hell-bent on killing all the Targaryens, even going so far as to order the assassination of Daenerys when he learned of the existence of her unborn child despite great misgivings from Ned.

This scene below from season 5 that took place between Littlefinger and Sansa Stark in the crypts of Winterfell sealed the deal for me.

Littlefinger approaches Sansa Stark who was standing in deep thought in front of the statue of Lyanna Stark:

Littlefinger: How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt. [It was a rhetorical question]
Sansa: Yes he chose her, and then he kidnapped her and raped her.

A split second after that, Littlefinger’s eyes immediately looked down with a smirk on his left cheek, turned his head towards Sansa, cast his eyes down and smiled knowingly. Throughout all that, he held his tongue.

It’s pretty obvious that Littlefinger knew more to that contrary to the popular story but decided to keep it to himself then.

The next follows the true motive behind Ned’s decision to raise Jon as his own and take his secret to the grave, literally. From the show, we know that Rhaegar and Lyanna were killed during Robert’s rebellion. Rhaegar was killed by Robert in single combat at the Battle of the Trident, a death that he would forever relive in his dreams for his failure to keep Lyanna alive. But Lyanna’s death was never fully discussed in the show. However, we now know that that piece of vital information will be revealed this season from the trailer in the form of the events from the Tower of Joy scene during the rebellion which has until now, been only revealed in the books.

The Tower of Joy is where Ned went to rescue Lyanna towards the final days of Robert’s rebellion. Upon his arrival, Ned and six of his most trusted warriors found the Tower to be guarded by three Kingsguards. One of them being Ser Arthur Dayne who is arguably the most legendary and chivalrous warrior of the Seven Kingdoms to ever lived, and the other was a Lord Commander of the Kingsguard. After the ensuing battle, of which everyone died except Ned and one of his companion, Ned – according to texts from the books – found Lyanna in a “bed of blood” making her an undisclosed promise before her death. It is very likely that this was the promise to take Jon and raise him as his own bastard and the bed of blood mentioned was in fact blood from her labour of her newborn son. And this is exactly why Ned had to do what he did for Jon since a Targaryen Jon will likely be hunted and killed by Robert.

This supposition is further supported by the fact that the Tower was guarded by three of the seven members of the Kingsguard during the war. A Kingsguard’s duty is to always be at the King’s side or guarding the crown. But three was found guarding Lyanna at the Tower; one a legendary fighter and the other a Lord Commander. Why would they be there and not at the Mad King’s side or with the crown prince Rhaegar at the Trident unless there was more to it? Maybe to protect the future heir of the Targaryens in case Rhaegar and Aerys lost the war?

The show also continues to develop and build on Rhaegar and Lyanna’s story well into season 5 last year. Why would the showrunners do this if not for the fact that these stories are relevant? In fact, for the very first time last season, the show shed a new light on Rhaegar’s supposedly antagonistic character – a kidnapper, rapist and warmonger – when Ser Barristan Selmy painted a new and likable light of him in his conversation with Daenerys.

Right before Ser Barristan met his untimely and heroic death in the alleys of Meereen, he was recounting his days of escorting Rhaegar outside the Red Keep into the streets of King’s Landing disguised as a singer to walk among his people:

Ser Barristan: Viserys never told you?
Daenerys: He told me Rhaegar was very good at killing people.
Ser Barristan: Rhaegar never liked killing. He loved singing.

So could it be that the truth is closer to the surface than we thought? That maybe Rhaegar never did in fact kidnap and rape Lyanna out of lust and greed, but that he and Lyanna eloped together and had Jon out of true love for one another? Imagine this fact in the Game of Thrones for a second. If this was true, what a game changer that would be.

Now that we know what Jon’s supposed lineage looks like, let’s go back to the new unlikely theory of Jon’s resurrection. Because let’s face it, this is Game of Thrones and if there’s anything we’ve all learned from 5 seasons so far is that the obvious conclusion isn’t always the likelier one. So it does not necessarily follow that because Thoros of Myr resurrected Ser Beric that Melisandre will resurrect Jon at Castle Black. This is not taking into account the fact that Ser Beric was freshly resurrected in all 6 deaths whereas Jon has been dead for more than 24 hours at least if not more.

But one thing we can all agree on is that the hints toward Jon’s resurrection have been there all along. Melisandre’s interest in Jon leading to his resurrection is too obvious a choice but may actually hold a deeper, more significant meaning related to his lineage than his resurrection. But that’s a story for my next article. The alternative theory I’m proposing is probably unlikelier but far more interesting and more significant. To explain my point, we must go back to season 3 in the bath scene between Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth. The clues of Jon’s resurrection can be found in that conversation:

Brienne listens intently in silent shock to Jamie’s revealing monologue painstakingly explaining the true story behind the reason why he slayed King Aerys Targaryen. Had he not done so, all of King’s Landing would’ve burned in wildfire at Aerys’ command and thousands would have died.

Jamie: Then the King turned to flee. I drove my sword into his back. “Burn them all!” he kept saying. “Burn them all!” I don’t think he expected to die. He meant to burn with the rest of us and rise again, reborn as a dragon, to turn his enemies to ash.

And the clues for the reason for Jon’s resurrection can be found in the conversation below between Melisandre and Ser Davos Seaworth when she first learned of Jon’s death at Castle Black:

Melisandre enters into a deep state of shock as she sees Jon’s lifeless body on a table. Each step she takes towards the table feels like a step backwards in her faith for the Lord of Light:

Melisandre: I saw him in the flames, fighting at Winterfell.
Davos: I can’t speak for the flames, but he’s gone.

So how does this all relate to Jon? If he’s a Targaryen, the possibility of his rebirth in fire exists, much like how Daenerys was reborn when she stepped into the burning pyre of Khal Drogo at the end of season 1. What happens to all the dead at Castle Black? They burn them. So it’s very likely that we will see Jon’s body placed on a pyre – along with his Valyrian sword Longclaw – to be burned. When that happens, he will be resurrected in the fire and be reborn. Thus, fulfilling Melisandre’s vision and making her realise that he’s the warrior – Azor Ahai – that she’s been looking for all along, an ancient warrior who would draw a burning sword from the fire called Lightbringer to fight off the Darkness. In the books, Azor Ahai was prophesised to be a descendant of the Targaryen bloodline.

Furthermore, we know from the season 6 trailer that there will be a huge battle at Winterfell between the Wildlings and the Boltons. And then Melisandre had a vision of Jon fighting at Winterfell. Suppose that does become true, why would he be there? When Robb Stark went south to war, Jon kept his oath and remained at Castle Black. When Ned, Robb and Catelyn were all murdered, Jon remained loyal and continued his service at the Night’s Watch. So why? Because if and when he does return, his death and rebirth will technically absolve him from his oath to the Night’s Watch thus leaving him free to partake in the battles between men south of Castle Black. I also doubt that he will continue to remain fully loyal to the Night’s Watch after this considering their betrayal and treachery.

I believe that this is a far likelier scenario that will explain Jon’s true lineage and further his plot along with the events in the north. If Melisandre were to resurrect him using the Lord of Light, there will be no indication of his Targaryen roots and his return would be with a questionable purpose.

In the final living days of Maester Aemon Targaryen, a pivotal conversation took place between him, Samwell Tarly and Jon that foreshadowed Jon’s imminent death, which we now know of, and his very likely return. But more subtle was the hidden meaning of how the scene was shot that foretells a greater tale of his supposed Targaryen lineage. And I want to stress here how this is not the first time that the show has used creative camerawork to depict a scene that tells a larger story that is far more interesting than the obvious. But I’ll get to that at the end of this article:

Maester Aemon listens intently and ruefully as Sam reads aloud the latest news of Daenerys’ exploits in Essos:
Aemon: And she’s alone, under siege, no family to guide her or protect her. Her last relation thousands of miles away, useless, dying.
Sam: Don’t say that, Maester Aemon.
Aemon: A Targaryen alone in the world is a terrible thing.

No sooner does Aemon finishes that sentence than Jon walks into the chamber; the camera focuses in on Jon immediately as he enters.

Jon comes in to seek Aemon’s counsel on his decision to rescue the Wildlings and bring them across the Wall. But he fears it will divide the Night’s Watch in a profound way:

Aemon: Do it.
Jon: But you don’t know what it is.
Aemon: That doesn’t matter. You do. You will find little joy in your command. But with luck, you will find the strength to do what needs to be done. Kill the boy, Jon Snow. Winter is almost upon us. Kill the boy, and let the man be born.

In one sweeping conversation between two different characters, Aemon’s words and the subtle camera shot not only hinted at Jon’s potential lineage and presented the possibility that the Targaryen in the east is not necessarily alone in the world, but he also foreshadowed Jon’s murder and his potential rebirth into a new identity. A Targaryen perhaps?

So if Jon does indeed return, having seen what he’s seen, you’d expect that his first priority is to deal with the imminent White Walker invasion. But he hasn’t the men for such an undertaking, which will divert his attention to the south for a while in the form of bringing the Wildlings or Freefolk under his command by first taking back Winterfell as verified by the season 6 trailer and Melisandre’s vision before setting himself up for the battle against the supernatural threat from beyond the Wall.

But long before that ultimate showdown happens, I’d expect a third Targaryen to be revealed in the form of Tyrion Lannister, who may actually be the Mad King’s bastard son born to Joanna Lannister, Tywin Lannister’s deceased wife, but that is a story for my next article. What’s with the Targaryens’ obsession with highborn noblewomen having names ending with Anna anyway? All I will say for now is that in the books, Daenerys dreamed of a three-headed dragon which could loosely be interpreted into three riders for her three dragons, her being one of them. But her dream sequence from the show is a more visually compelling argument for Daenerys, Jon and Tyrion to be our three future dragon riders. To be further explained.

TL;DR (1): I’d expect to see Jon Snow to be back very soon. As if I haven’t pointed out enough about the usage of foreshadows and subtle nuances in this show, here’s another one:

Olly enters Sam’s chambers bringing him food after he was badly beaten up by some brothers of the Night’s Watch for protecting Gilly. What ensued was a conversation between them on the nuances of Jon’s decision to bring the Wildlings back through the Wall.

Sam: Sometimes a man has to make hard choices, choices that might look wrong to others, but you know are right in the long run.
Olly: You believe that?
Sam: With all my heart. Try not to worry Olly. I’ve been worrying about Jon for years. He always comes back.

What’s interesting about that conversation above is that Olly might have taken some liberties to Sam’s advice on making the hard choices too literally. In other words, Sam might have been responsible for why Olly decided to betray Jon.

TL;DR (2): Now, remember what I said earlier about how creative camerawork in the show may have been utilised much earlier in the show? If all the above isn’t enough to convince you that Jon is a Targaryen, then let me bring you back to episode 4 of season 1 where that conclusion may have already been cast in stone by the show beyond any shadow of a doubt, or more literally in this case, etched in wood. Depending on which media you watch your show on, the scene is somewhere between the 38 and 43 minute mark. Once again, pay close attention to the camerawork and how things lined up literally in this shot.

As Jon and Sam are serving time scrubbing tables at the mess hall at Castle Black for misbehaviour, they talked about Jon’s opportunity with a prostitute and why he ultimately abstained because of his bastard last name and the fact that he doesn’t know who his mother is. Then, Ser Alliser suddenly barges in on their camaraderie. In that moment, Jon and Sam freeze and look at Ser Alliser. To the left of Jon is a wooden beam. Etched on it are the very clear letters of R and L, with Jon standing at the right end of these two letters.

If I have to be any more obvious than that, it’s Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon.

Have fun rewatching!