Eastwatch was an excellent episode for several reasons. Although it lacked the action packed insanity of last week’s The Spoils of War, it gave us a bit of a breather from the carnage, and moved a lot of key pieces into places.
Jorah’s back with Daenerys (finally); Gendry’s (finally) teamed up with Jon (a point which is bound to lead to him forging dragon glass and reuniting with Arya); Tyrion and Jaime were reunited and Jaime has (finally) figured out just how screwed they are; Arya and Little Finger are going head to head in a battle of wits and manipulation; and Sam (finally) grew impatient of his thankless chores, stole a load of stuff and ran off to rejoin Jon.
The episode culminated in several key players (The Hound, The Brotherhood, The Smuggler, The Traitor, The Wildlings, The Bastard, and The Other Bastard) joining forces and heading beyond the wall, to capture a walker and prove the existence of the army of the dead to everyone.
But for me the highlight of the whole episode was the vindication of a theory I have had for many years now. A theory I was, JUST LAST WEEK, defending to a friend of mine.
We ended up in a discussion about the validity of Jon Snow’s claim to the throne. I pointed out that, technically, as the son of the Mad King’s heir, Jon has a stronger claim to the throne than Dany. This was greeted with the predicatable response of, “But he’s a bastard!” To which I responded….
He’s really not.
I read the books long before watching the series and one of the things that struck me most about the character of Jon (aside from the fact he was the best character in it) was the heavy burden of being The Bastard.
Just as Tyrion (second favourite character) carries the heavy burden of being The Dwarf.
While there was no getting out of that quandry for Tyrion, I had a feeling right from the start that Jon wasn’t really a bastard.
Long before all the pieces of the R + L = J theory came together and I knew there was such a reductive nickname for a rather epic plot point.
Ned didn’t go about fathering bastards. That he wasn’t Jon’s real father was blindingly obvious from the start of book one. That he cared about him enough to raise him as his own and hurt his wife so much in the process, by not even telling HER the truth, meant it was rather obvious he was the son of someone Ned loved very much.
The only real possibilities were Robert himself, Ned’s brother Benjen, and his sister Lyanna. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Robert was the king and had no need of Ned’s help hiding Jon, or reason to go to such lengths to do so. The Benjen theory had merit for about five seconds due to Jon’s obvious adoration of the man, Benjen’s interest in him, and the fact he was a man of Night’s Watch who are not allowed to father children.
But there would be literally no reason to not tell Cat the truth, very little reason to keep it secret to begin with, and Ned was at the opposite end of the country to the wall at the time anyway. Add to that that I’m not sure Benjen was even in the watch back then, and the whole thing fell apart very quickly.
Which left Lyanna, the woman who launched a thousand ships….
All descriptions of Rhaegar paint him as rather wonderful, so it seems unlikely he stole a woman and raped her for no particular reason. Much more likely, they fell in love and she went with him willingly.
Especially given she was promised to Robert, who was, it has to be said, a monumental dick.
So I’ve been convinced of the fact that Jon was the result of Lyanna and Rhaegar’s elopement for years. I’ve likewise been convinced that if that is the case, he was a legitimate son, not a bastard.
Well I could point out the fact that polygamy exists in Westeros, especially among the Targareyans, and thus Rhaegar could have had two wives. But that would make the coupling weird and uncomfortable, and the Lanisters well and truly have the market cornered on weird and uncomfortable couplings. So the only logical explanation (to my mind) was that he either had the original marriage annulled and married the woman he loved in secret, or married Lyanna after Elia (his wife) was killed. The latter wouldn’t actually solve the problem of Jon’s legitimacy, however, as he’d still have been conceived out of wedlock.
The annulment was the obvious choice. Thus making the burden of being The Bastard nothing more than a trial on Jon’s rather classic Hero’s Journey and his character the latest incarnation of an archetype we all know very well indeed: the low born commoner who turns out to be a prince.
Honestly, I was half hoping I was wrong about this, because it was so utterly predictable.
But George RR Martin is nothing if not predictable. And I love Jon too much and he REALLY hates being The Bastard, so it would be nice if he managed to overcome that awful burden.
To me, the fact that Jon was their son was a no-brainer. The fact he was legitimate was equally obvious. The season 6 finale (finally) confirmed the former, and Eastwatch (finally) confirmed the latter, as Gilly stumbled across the (presumably only) record that Rhaegar’s marriage to Elia was annulled and he married Lyanna instead.
Yes, amidst Gilly’s ramblings about stairs and windows was the small fact that legitimises Jon Snow’s birth.
Sam was too preoccupied to listen, but we know how his brain works, he’ll remember it as soon as it become relevant, which at this point (for him) it isn’t, because he still has no idea Jon is their son.
Next week promises to be another epic action week beyond the wall, which I have to say, I’ve felt has been missing. It’s the only season so far that hasn’t followed events at the wall closely and I miss all that bleak snow, ice and misery…