The third episode of Season 6 brought us one big step closer to understanding who Jon Snows parents are. [Warning: Spoilers] “>
Oathbreaker, Sunday nights episode of Game of Thrones, was a welcome chance to rebuild after lessons learned, and a much-needed chance for viewers to breathesometimes, even cheerafter weeks of observing all that pain.
Some characters triumphed and regained parts of themselves they’d lost: Arya Stark earned back her sight. Jon Snow, back from death, regained his voice and right mind. And Cersei and Jaime Lannister, their sense of entitlement restored, burst into a Small Council meeting to sneer and snap and terrorizejust like old times (to our endless delight).
Others saw holes poked in the stories they tell themselves and weave into their identities, like Daenerys, humiliated queen of self-mythologizing, and Bran, who learned the unsavory truth about one of his fathers legendary exploits in a dazzling (but torturously incomplete) look back at the Tower of Joy.
The tantalizing flashback, seen through Brans greensight, is the closest the show has come to revealing the answer to its biggest mystery: the identity of Jon Snows mother. Frustratingly, the Three-Eyed Raven blocked Bran from following his father into the tower but, if the still-unconfirmed R+L=J theory is to be believed, we already know whos inside.
In a nutshell, fans have long thought that Lyanna StarkNeds sister, King Robert Baratheons betrothed, and the object of Prince Rhaegar Targaryens affectionsis the one inside the tower, screaming as she gives birth to slain Rhaegars son. When Ned finds her dying inside, in a bloodied bed surrounded by blue rose petals, she makes him promise to take the boy and keep him safe. That boy, if you havent guessed, was Jon Snowaka Jon Targaryen, whose last name Ned hid in order to shield him from Roberts Targaryen-killing warpath.
Jons secret Targaryen lineage ties in to a prophecy about the Prince Who Was Promised (a world-saving figure mentioned again in this episode by Melisandre, who now openly believes it might be Jon). And if Jon is indeed a Targaryen, that also possibly makes him one of the three heads of the dragon, a related prophecy Daenerys once overhead in the House of the Undying. This is all to say that Jons Targaryen lineage seemingly makes him destined to help save Westeros in its darkest hourwhich is why the gods allowed him to come back from oblivion. The video below explains the theory in more detail.
But apart from the brilliant swordplay and the potentially world-saving repercussions, Brans flashback also told us something new about the noble Ned Stark. His storied battle against Ser Arthur Dayne, the legendary swordsman who served as one of the Mad King Aerys Targaryens Kingsguard, did not end as gloriously as the stories recall. Dayne, Rhaegars best friend, a knight renowned for his chivalry, was stabbed in the backa part that got left out of the retellings Bran grew up with.
Interestingly, the scene also hinted that Bran may have the ability to affect the past, despite the Three-Eyed Ravens warning about history being already written and the ink dry. Bran is overcome by the sight of his father (the first time hes seen him since Ned left Winterfell to become Hand of the King) and shouts after him. Shockingly, Ned stops and turns around.
The Three-Eyed Raven tries to dissuade Bran from believing Ned heard him, but Isaac Hempstead-Wright, who plays Bran, has already likened this new ability to Doctor Who (Its Doctor Bran!), saying his character is starting to discover he can interact with the past. Thats a massive superpower with untold potentialif Bran gets the hang of inserting himself into the past without the Three-Eyed Ravens help, its easy to imagine that the Tower of Joy will be the first place he looks. Maybe then well learn once and for all whos inside. (Its totally Lyanna.)
In Essos, the stories Daenerys uses to define herself also took a hit in credibility. Thrown into rags with all the other khals widows in Vaes Dothrak, she demands respect the same way she always has: by listing her titles and asserting her destinylike it matters to these women. Dany thinks herself unique among the Dothraki wives but, as another khals widow informs her, shes not the only one who was told her husband would conquer the world.
Her dragons, her silver hair, her emergence from the flames of her husbands funeral pyrenothing persuades the Dothraki women to stoop down and kiss Danys feet, as she seems to expect them to. This may be a good thing: Danys uneven rule as Targaryen queen only threw Slavers Bay into chaos. It could be useful for her to remember how to command respect without her dragons, Jorah, or an endless string of titles at her back.
Over in Winterfell, two long-lost characters made overdue returns: Rickon and Osha, victims of House Umbers betrayal, were handed over to Ramsay in lieu of a formal oath of fealty. (Accompanying Rickon was the horrifically decapitated Shaggydog, the most adorably named of all the Stark kids dire wolves. Whoever killed him will burn.) Having the littlest Stark in his grip gives Ramsay leverage over the territories of the Norththe kind he lost when Sansa escapedand an emotional advantage over Jon, whom the now-official Warden hopes to overpower at Castle Black. In a twist of irony, it was Jons noble actions that endangered Rickon in the first place: By bringing Wildlings south of the Wall, he prompted House Umber to turn to Ramsay for help in herding the goat fuckers back North.
Of course, neither Ramsay nor Umber know that Jon Snow has just come back from the dead newly determined to serve his own ends. Living with the memory of his own murder and the meaningless oblivion that came after, Jon has finally absorbed the lessons from his (and his role model Ned Starks) fatal mistakes: valuing honor and the right thing at the cost of survival.
Before death, Jon absolutely would have let Olly off the hooksparing a childs life, after all, is what Ned would have said was the right thing to do. This Jon, however, quickly understands after coming back that doing what I thought was rightattempting to unite Nights Watchmen and Wildlings in a fight against the encroaching White Walkersis exactly what got him murdered. He hesitates, but decides against showing mercy. He lets the boy hang. (Yet another twist on Maester Aemons advice to Jon last season: Kill the boy and let the man be born.)
To its credit, the show dissuades viewers from taking too much pleasure in much-hated Ollys death. He becomes strongly sympathetic in his last moments: Three grown men are hanged with him, but its only Olly who looks his executioner in the eye and refuses to look away, even after Jon raises his sword to cut the rope. He stays silent out of defiance while the others wax philosophical or, more embarrassingly, ask for favors.
And, more than with Shireen or Walda Freys baby, the physical grotesqueness of Ollys death is impossible to ignore: His skin turns gray, his eyes bulge, and the camera lingers on his dead frozen face just long enough to extinguish the victory. A kida loyal one, with heartis dead, and it wasnt a villain who murdered him. (How perfectly Game of Thrones to have Jons first task after evading death be sentencing others to that same oblivion.) Disillusioned, Jon hands the mantle of Lord Commander to a bewildered Dolorous Edd and walks out of Castle Black. My watch is ended, he says. Mic drop.
Shortly after being revived, Jon asks Davos why hes been brought back, to which Davos answers, What does it matter? You go on. You fight for as long as you can. Its unclear where Jon is heading nextbut we know hes ready to fight. With any luck, itll be for Winterfell, for his surviving siblings, for his dead ones, his parents, and for the fate of Westeros as the Prince Who Was Promised.
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