You've probably heard the good old R + L = J Game of Thrones theory by now, right? In a nutshell, it's the idea that Jon Snow is actually the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. It may sound out of left field at first, but the more you think about it, the more it makes sense. After all, it explains how someone as honorable as Ned Stark would end up with a "bastard" son (all the Targaryen children were being murdered by the Lannisters back then — that, along with a deathbed promise to his sister would be a pretty strong incentive for adopting Jon), the timelines all work out, and it would put Jon in the running for the Iron Throne in a major way. Basically, there's a surprising amount of evidence backing up R + J = L. If Game of Thrones had class superlatives, this theory would probably get "Most Likely to Become Canon" — especially given the heavy hints dropped about Jon's parentage during Season 5.
As we move further and further into the new season (and further and further away from charted book territory), we're actually starting to get to a point where major questions might get answered on the show before they're answered in the books. And with all the little clues the show has been dropping lately, the unveiling of Jon Snow's true parentage is looking ever more imminent. Each episode seems to bring us a little closer to finding out. So when are they just going to come out and say it?
After all, the recent hints are practically a breadcrumb trail right to the motherload.
All The Rhaegar/Lyanna Talk
We all know that Game of Thrones is good at reminding us of details that are going to become important. Case in point: We heard about Shireen Baratheon and Gilly's experiences with greyscale, and learned what the Stone Men were, just in time to learn that Ser Jorah Mormont had been infected. So I think we can safely say that it's no coincidence that both of Jon Snow's maybe-parents just so happened to come up in the same episode.
In Meereen, Ser Barristan Selmy (RIP) reminisced with Dany about how her brother used to wander King's Landing disguised as a skilled musician, while in the Winterfell crypts, Littlefinger and Sansa discussed how Rhaegar pronounced Lyanna the queen of love and beauty at the tourney at Harrenhal. Sansa told the ending of the story how she's always heard it: That Rhaegar subsequently kidnapped and raped her aunt. But Littlefinger kept the truth vague and up to interpretation (and if anyone knows something about what went down, it's Littlefinger).
The sharp contrast between the charming young musician prince spoken of by Ser Barristan and the vilified rapist imagined by Sansa got a lot of fans and journalists thinking that the juxtaposition was a device to clue in viewers on the idea that maybe Rhaegar didn't rape Lyanna — that maybe they were genuinely in love (and just so happened to have a child together as well).
Melisandre's ... Interest
Remember that time Melisandre tried to seduce Jon Snow, and he turned her down (THE NERVE), citing Ygritte? Well, if you think about Melisandre's past conquests, they all have a little something in common: A claim to the Iron Throne. So far, we've seen her go after Stannis (Robert's heir), Gendry (Robert's bastard son), and now Jon Snow. So does he have a legitimate claim to the throne as well? Carice van Houten had some choice words to say on the seduction. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said, "... it’s not clear it’s just because she’s a woman attracted to a younger, beautiful guy. Or if there’s more to it. And it might be a mixture of both." Hmm.
The Stannis One-Liner
Here's the one that really set all the alarms off. Selyse made a comment about how Jon was just "the bastard of some tavern slut," and instead of nodding along, Stannis dropped something of a bomb. He said, "Perhaps, but that wasn't Ned Stark's way." Basically, he gave voice to what devoted R + L = J theorists have been saying for years: Ned Stark's not the type to step out on his wife like that.
The Jon And Dany Parallels
Part of this is due to smart storytelling — we're watching two of the main characters come into their own as commanders, so it makes sense that there would be parallels. But could it also signify something more? Something, perhaps, that links them together as Targaryens? After all, both recently completed public executions as a political move, and while it was to vastly different effect (and fan reaction), there's no denying that there was some definite mirroring going on. And even if their dovetailing plots is nothing more than coincidence, it's interesting to watch two very different (yet similar) leaders cut their teeth by chopping heads.
Maester Aemon's Observation
Remember when Maester Aemon was telling Sam how tough it is for a Targaryen to be alone in the world, when Jon suddenly walked in? It was so markedly un-subtle that Jon may as well have looked straight into the camera and shrugged, Jim-Halpert-style. Many viewers have been quick to point out that nifty bit of camerawork might have been a nod to Jon's potential heritage.
It's also worth noting that Jon has always gotten on surprisingly well with the 100-year-old Targaryen. And who was it whom Aemon voted for to become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch? Jon. Just some food for thought.
All I'm saying is that you've done a very good job of teasing us, Game of Thrones. Maybe it's time to deliver the goods. You know, before winter gets here.
Images: Helen Sloan/HBO; bloodraven, stannisbaratheon, iheartgot, 123hig, galorail/Tumblr