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How Jon Snow's true parentage alters the Game of Thrones landscape

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Aug 28, 2017

SPOILERS FOR GAME OF THRONES' SEASON 7 FINALE, "THE DRAGON AND THE WOLF," AHEAD!!

In last night's crescendo of collapsing ice blocks during the Army of the Dead's highly effective assault on the wall, I was thinking of how this was a perfect metaphor for the sort of game-changing plot dynamics at work, especially with Jon Snow's true name and parentage exposed, shattering the existing lineage landscape.

While slightly anticlimactic, since we had already heard Gilly recite a passage from High Septon Maynard's journal to a disinterested Sam in the August 13 episode, "Eastwatch," revealing that he had annulled Rhaegar's first marriage and married him in a secret ceremony to another woman in Dorne, it's still a shock to hear it all exposed aloud. This "other woman" was obviously Lyanna Stark and instantly removes the illegitimacy label of Jon Snow and catapults him to the top (sorry, Gendry?) of the list of rightful heirs to the Iron Throne.

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But Sunday connected all the dots, and we were able to view via the Three-Eyed Raven's prescient vision that Rhaegar and Lyanna were legally married in private and that she whispered the infant's real name to a young Eddard Stark who came to rescue her in the Tower of Joy.

So Jon Snow is actually Aegon Targaryen, a name with reverberations throughout George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire book series and mentioned many times in the HBO TV series. The legendary Aegon I Targaryen was the first king of the dragon-sigiled Targaryen dynasty of Westeros and was nicknamed Aegon the Conqueror, the Unifier of the Seven Kingdoms. Aegon was a popular name for male offspring of the clan, and Jon assuming the name has resounding implications.

Here's where it gets slightly confusing. Rhaegar was initially married to Elia Martell, The Red Viper's sister, and they had two children, a girl named Rhaenys and an infant boy named Aegon. So Rhaegar already had a son named Aegon, who was brutally murdered along with Elia and his sister by Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, during the Sack of King's Landing. That first Aegon, if he had lived to adulthood and ruled, would have been Aegon VI. Technically Jon is the 11th Aegon born into the Targaryen family, and if he claims the Iron Throne would still be known as Aegon VI.

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Since Rhaegar was killed before Lyanna's death, and before his first wife and two children were murdered, it's odd he would have named both sons Aegon. Instead, Lyanna possibly knew of her beloved Rhaegar's fondness for prophecies, especially the Prince That Was Promised/Azor Ahai legend, and believed that his offspring with Lyanna might fulfill that prediction if the first Aegon had died.

Jon Snow, a name we associate with loyalty and honor, will always remain in our hearts as his true name, but for the purposes of ascension to the throne, Aegon Targaryen has a powerful ring to it that holds more of a rightful claim to kinghood than Daenerys does, even though her branch of the family is one half-notch higher. Now that Aegon/Jon and the Mother of Dragons have consummated their relationship in a steamy sex scene, how will she respond to the news once it spreads that she's the King in the North's Auntie Dany, and will she bend the knee to Jon?

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This brings us to the bastard armorer, Gendry, and what his claim to the Iron Throne could be, since technically his father, Robert Baratheon, was the victor of Robert's Rebellion. But Robert held the best claim at the time of the death of the Mad King, since he is a descendant of Aegon V and Targaryen blood flowed through his veins ... and Gendry's too.  And it's been said that Gendry's mother had "yellow hair," so if you want some truly wild speculation, could Cersei be his actual mother?!

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What's your reaction to Jon Snow's royal heritage, how will he react to the revelation, and how do you see this all playing out when Game of Thrones enters its series-ending season next year?