[Warning: This post will contain SPOILERS for those not caught up on Game of Thrones]
Last night’s season 5 finale of Game of Thrones ended with one of the most gut-wrenching and emotional deaths(?) of the entire series up to this point. Fans watched on in horror as Jon Snow, a character who had gone from being the bastard of Ned Stark to the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, was repeatedly stabbed by the men he called his brothers. The camera stayed on Jon’s dying face, as a pool of blood spilled out next to him, with the red contrasting brilliantly against the white – before cutting to black for the final time this season.
Now, book readers were aware that something along these lines would be happening this season, as Jon’s arc in “A Dance With Dragons” (the fifth novel in the “Song of Ice and Fire” series by George R. R. Martin) ended in the same fashion. While it remains a mystery as to whether or not Jon Snow is completely gone in the books at the moment – the show seemed to come down with a note of finality that Jon Snow had, in fact, died, or most certainly would die sometime soon.
There have been rampant theories running around online ever since the scene ended, and for the first time in possibly Game of Thrones history – almost every fan seems to remain adamant that Jon Snow is not really dead. The reason for which can all be traced back to one popular fan theory that PopSugar recently posted a list regarding, known as “R + L = J.”
MASSIVE POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR BOOKS AND TV SHOW AHEAD
The theory has been prevalent among readers of the books before the TV series had even begun. It proposes that Jon is not Ned’s bastard – as was noted by Stannis Baratheon this season – but is actually the son of Lyanna Stark (Ned’s sister) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Dany’s older brother, the son of the Mad King and rightful heir to the throne).
In the books and in the series, the story of how Rhaegar Targaryen kidnapped and “raped” Lyanna is well-known. For those of you who might need a refresher on the specific details though, check out this scene from the fourth episode of this past season, in which Littlefinger tells Sansa what it was like to see Rhaegar choose Lyanna over his own wife (Ellia Martell – Oberyn’s sister) and every other woman in the kingdom.
In the books, Rhaegar’s supposed kidnapping (supposed, since it’s hinted in the books that Rhaegar and Lyanna actually loved each other) is one of the main sparks that ignites the war against the Targaryens, with it all coming to a head as Robert managed to kill Rhaegar in single combat. Ned managed to find Lyanna shortly after the war had ended, but discovered her already dying. In the books, fans learn of Lyanna’s passing through flashbacks Ned experiences in the first novel – as he recalls guards standing in front of her chamber whom he was forced to defeat, with only himself and a single bannerman surviving.
She dies not long after Ned finds her, and the reasons for her death have remained ambiguous with many fans speculating she passed away from childbirth – hence the heavy amount of guards at their door.
Before her passing, she begs Ned to make a promise – a promise that’s never explained – but Ned returning with a newborn son makes the assumptions clear. Since Targaryen children were slaughtered in Robert Baratheon and Tywin Lannister’s rise to power, and given Ned’s strong sense of honor and clear love for his sister, it’s easy to see how he might suffer through the ridicule of others, in order to keep her son safe.
This becomes even more valid considering how many times other characters have referenced how unbelievable it was that Ned would have committed adultery in the first place; as Stannis put it, “that wasn’t Ned Stark’s way.” The hints and foreshadowing towards Jon’s possible biological parents was heavy throughout the entire season 5 of the show.
The “R + L = J” theory seems plausible, given the combined evidence of the crypt scene shown above, Stannis’ remark, Ser Barristen Selmy’s story of Rhaegar singing to the citizens of King’s Landing, or this scene with Maester Aemon in the fifth episode:
The camera stays on Jon when he walks in – right after Aemon comments on how hard it is to be a Targaryen alone in the world. If there’s one thing too that fans can agree, it’s that Jon Snow is (aside from possibly being dead) alone.
So adding together all the series’ hints at this possibility, and Ned’s flashbacks from the books – in addition to the story of Rhaegar and Lyanna – and it’s easy to see how fans might connect the dots and to what they believe to be a strong solution to their questions. Which brings them to the title of the series itself: A Song of Ice and Fire.
Many believe that if Jon, is in fact, the son of both Lyanna Stark (Ice) and Rhaegar Targaryen (Fire) then it seems entirely possible that the series might just be about Jon Snow, or (as another popular theory suggests) it could refer to Jon (Ice) and Dany (Fire) possibly coming together at the end of the series and marrying as King and Queen of Westeros – therefore merging the Ice and the Fire.
Granted, if this theory is true and Jon is in fact a Targaryen, then that also means Dany is his aunt (awkward). But then again, it’s not necessarily a new thing for Targaryens to “keep it in the family.”
In the end, much to the chagrin of David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, David Nutter, and Kit Harington – who have repeatedly insisted that Jon actually is dead, and will not be coming back – the theories of how he might return, and the possible revelations that come with it have kept the fans strong in their stance that we haven’t seen the last of Jon Snow. Fortunately, writers and actors in the entertainment business do not have the best track record when it comes to honesty – especially when it comes to possible spoilers. So, for the moment, hope remains.
Just don’t try to burn him, Night’s Watch – The Targaryen chosen don’t burn.
Game of Thrones Season 6 will premiere on HBO in 2016.