There are no books to work from on Game of Thrones this season — even George R.R. Martin might be surprised with what’s happening on the HBO series — and things could get confusing. To help you out, after every new episode, two resident Thrones experts will answer your five most pressing questions.
1. Was that the most casual bombshell in Game of Thrones history?
Josh: For the last 26 years, since the first installment in George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series was released, Game of Thrones readers (and as of 2011, viewers) have argued about Jon Snow’s lineage. Who are his real parents? Is he a Targaryen? If so, and his mom’s Lyanna Stark and his dad’s Rhaegar Targaryen, did he abduct her, as the story goes, or were they secretly wed, as many fans believe? In last night’s episode, “Eastwatch,” not only did we get further confirmation that Jon has Targaryen blood within him (“The King of the North was my old title — you may now call me the Dragon Whisperer”), but Gilly casually dropped this bombshell: “Maynard says here that he issued an annulment for Prince Rhaegar and re-married him to someone else at the same time in a secret ceremony in Dorne.” Meaning, Lyanna and Rhaegar were married, meaning Jon isn’t a bastard, meaning he’s a Stark-Targaryen, meaning he’s the rightful heir to the Iron Throne over Daenerys and everyone else. (We wrote about why in great detail here.)
If only Samwell was paying attention to Gilly. Ugh, men, right?
Imagine if, back in season one, the buildup to Ned Stark getting his head chopped was 30 seconds long. Like, one scene, he’s hanging out with his kids, playing with an adorable direwolf, and talking to his wife Catelyn. The next, boom, he’s dead, without warning. That’s basically what happened here. Gilly (sorry) discovered who truly belongs on the Iron Throne, but Sam yelled at her about poop, or whatever. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are trolling us, right? Also, let’s say a dragon or, I dunno, a zombie-giant were to eat Daenerys and Jon Snow — who would be third in line of succession?
Ryan: Well, there’s always the Tyrion theory. But man, we are so far past details on rightful succession mattering at this point. The only time that stuff is important is immediately after the last ruler dies. After a couple of decades worth of Baratheon rule, it’s safe to say that the next rightful ruler is whoever conquers Westeros. At this point, we’d give that advantage to Dany and her three dragons over Jon and his direwolf (who is living up to his name of Ghost this season), no matter how much stronger his claim may technically be.
That being said, this knowledge could swing some important people over to supporting Jon as the rightful ruler. People like Varys, who seems like he’s getting a bit iffy about the current Targaryen administration he’s decided to back. But it’s just as likely that this information was nothing more than a wink and a nod to us viewers. Hardcore fans get a new bit of juicy news in the confirmation that Rhaegar married Lyanna, making their relationship sound a lot more consensual than Robert Baratheon’s take on it was. Casual fans are reminded that Rhaegar existed and Jon is his son, which is info they’ll need at the front of their minds as this whole story rapidly speeds towards an end. It’s a very cool detail, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if it never comes up again.
Come on Bran, prove me wrong!
2. What is Littlefinger’s long-term plan?
R: He’s doing what a lot of abusive creeps tend to do, which is isolate their victims from friends and family. In this case that means sowing mistrust between Sansa and Arya. While Littlefinger doesn’t know how deeply she’s changed during her long journey back to Winterfell, he’s enough of a pro at this “game of thrones” stuff to know she doesn’t trust him. He also knows Sansa is a bit creeped out by this new bloodthirsty Arya, so now it’s time to, in Joker speak, introduce a little anarchy and upset the established order.
Then everything becomes chaos.
That’s why he dug up that old letter in Maester Luwin’s archives that Sansa wrote — while a prisoner of Cersei — asking Robb to bend the knee. At the time, the Starks dismissed it as Sansa’s writing but Cersei’s words. But with Arya suspecting Sansa of trying to usurp Jon, we imagine she won’t see things as clearly. And as an added bonus, the more time Arya spends eyeballing Sansa, the less time she’ll spend on whatever Littlefinger is up to.