It's the one thing Game Of Thrones fans have been waiting years for. OK, it's one of many things Game Of Thrones fans have been waiting years for, along with Lady Stonehart's belated introduction and Daenerys' always-impending invasion of Westeros. But the confirmation of the fan theory known as "R+L=J," which states that Jon Snow is actually the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, is perhaps the key element of both the show and the books that has yet to be confirmed on either. So this Sunday's episode, "The Door," may have been surprising for the way it seemed to put an end to this popular Jon Snow theory.
First, in the episode's opening scene, Sansa confronted Littlefinger about his complicity in her abuse at the hands of Ramsay Bolton. In the course of the heated exchange, Littlefinger offered his army, the Knights of the Vale, to Sansa to help her retake Winterfell; Sansa declined, telling him she already had an army: her brother's. Her half-brother's, Littlefinger was all too quick to point out. (A show that is juggling 28 characters in its main cast alone can't afford to waste precious screen time with meaningless words, can it?)
Secondly, Bran and his party were ambushed under the weirwood tree by the White Walkers — and Bran was forced to flee from his mentor, the Three-Eyed Raven — without ever revisiting the Tower of Joy flashback first glimpsed two weeks ago in "Oathbreaker." (For the uninitiated, the Tower of Joy is the linchpin of R+L=J because it's supposedly where Lyanna gave birth to Jon before dying and making her brother Ned pledge to raise the son as his own.) And as Bran fled, it became clear that the visions of Winterfell the Raven had showed him were important because of Hodor's tragic backstory, not Lyanna's.
So why include the first half of the Tower of Joy flashback at all? Well, perhaps its intent wasn't to reveal Jon Snow's parentage, but rather to shed light on his father's true nature — and thereby illustrate to Bran that history may not have happened exactly how he was taught it. After all, Eddard Stark was supposed to be the epitome of nobility and virtue; and yet, despite the fact that history said he slew Ser Arthur Dayne in single combat, Bran saw that Dayne was actually stabbed in the back by Ned's friend Howland Reed. If we couldn't trust Ned to give us a true account of the past, then who can we trust?
That point was driven home in this week's episode, in which we learned the true origin of the White Walkers. Long assumed to be an enemy of both men and the Children of the Forest — and a distinct race of beings unto themselves — it turns out that the White Walkers were actually created by the Children of the Forest as a weapon to use in their war against man. So is that it, then? Between Littlefinger's pointed words and the death of the Three-Eyed Raven, should that put the R+L=J theory to bed for good?
You know nothing indeed if you really think that's the last we'll hear about Jon's parents. This is classic misdirection; it's the writers trying to throw us off the scent one last time before the grand reveal. Littlefinger's conspicuous "half-brother" reference came during a scene which existed solely to illustrate that he wasn't always as all-knowing as he wanted and pretended to be. (In fact, that seemed to be a theme of "The Door," with Varys also getting one-upped in the knowledge department by Red Priestess Kinvara.)
And Bran may not have officially completed his training before he had to (literally) run out the door, but the Three-Eyed Raven said that — ready or not — Bran would have to become the new Raven now. So he should be able to look into the past on his own, right? And now that there's no killjoy mentor telling him not to go in the tower, there will be nobody to stop us from learning the truth next time Bran decides to visit the Tower of Joy.
Game Of Thrones may have temporarily sown seeds of doubt among some of its viewers this week… but for those who have waited literal years to see R+L=J come to fruition, waiting another week or two is nothing. Because one thing seems certain: before Season 6 has ended, Jon — and the entire audience — will know the truth about his Targaryen lineage.
Images: Helen Sloan, Macall B. Polay/HBO; Giphy