Perhaps the biggest in a series of game-changing revelations on the Game Of Thrones Season 7 finale was the confirmation that our boy Jonny is the trueborn heir to the Iron Throne… and that Jon Snow's real name is Aegon Targaryen. Obviously, Aegon is a name fraught with meaning in the history of Thrones, with multiple kings having borne that title: five in total, including Aegon IV ("the Unworthy"), Aegon III ("the Dragonbane"), Aegon II ("the Usurper"), and of course the OG Aegon ("the Conqueror"), who forged the Seven Kingdoms into one. But the most relevant Aegon to Jon's storyline is also the most recent. But who is Aegon V Targaryen, and what might his fate tease about Jon Snow's future?
Aegon is a fan-favorite character among readers, one of the two titular characters in George R.R. Martin's series of prequel novellas known as The Tales Of Dunk And Egg. When he was young and dreamed of being a warrior, Aegon squired himself to a humble hedge knight named Ser Duncan the Tall (Dunk); together, Duncan and Aegon (Egg) traveled around Westeros partaking in a series of adventures together. (The stories are so beloved that many fans having been dreaming for years of a Thrones spinoff adapted from the Dunk And Egg novellas.)
The fourth son of a fourth son, Aegon was never intended to be king. But when his father, King Maekar died, his first two sons had already beat him to the grave, leaving only one simple-minded daughter and one infant son behind. A Great Council of important lords and maesters was called to decide the matter of succession — only one in three times such a rare meeting was convened. The Council first offered the monarchy to Aegon's older brother (Maekar's third son) Aemon, despite the fact that he had already taken his vows as a maester.
Aemon declined the offer and the crown went to his younger brother Aegon instead. Subsequently, Aemon exiled himself to the Wall, out of fear that Aegon's dissidents would one day try to use him in a plot to usurp his brother's claim to the throne. He lived out the rest of his days at Castle Black, serving the men of the Night's Watch… and viewers probably know him best as simply "Maester Aemon."
Aegon's circuitous path to the throne earned him the nickname "Aegon the Unlikely" — a moniker he could share with his great-grandson Jon Snow (sorry, Aegon; that will take some getting used to) should he take the throne. As the presumed "bastard" son of a Northerner whose true ancestry wasn't uncovered until late in life, he certainly would make for an unlikely Targaryen ruler.
In his first official act as king, Aegon V ordered the exile of Lord Brynden Rivers, better known as the Bloodraven. As a beloved man of the people, a staunch Targaryen loyalist, and his father Maekar's Hand of the King, the decision to banish Brynden was not an easy one. But Brynden had offered Aenys Blackfyre — a member of the bastard Targaryen offshoot House that was constantly plaguing the royal family with claims to the Iron Throne — safe conduct to attend the Great Council, only to kill the pretender upon his arrival in King's Landing. As king, Aegon couldn't condone Brynden's treachery, so he had the former Hand sent to the Wall. Eventually, Brynden Rivers would become Lord Commander of the Night's Watch alongside Maester Aemon until he disappeared during a ranging North of the Wall… only to resurface many years later as the mystical being known as the Three-Eyed Raven.
Since he was never supposed to be in line for the throne, Aegon had spent his youth traveling with Ser Duncan and living among the smallfolk, and came to view his own family's culture of incest as unnatural. He himself married a woman named Betha Blackwood for love, and — after he became king — he defied centuries of Targaryen tradition by betrothing his four children, not to each other, but to high-ranking members of other Houses. Ironically, two of his children ended up falling in love anyway and defied their own father's progressive sensibilities by marrying each other in a secret wedding ceremony much like the one Rhaegar and Lyanna would partake in decades later.
Aegon V's reign came to an abrupt end during the cataclysm known as the Tragedy at Summerhall, during which the summer palace of the Targaryens was consumed by fire of unknown origin… although it's rumored that it started when Aegon attempted to hatch some dragon eggs using magic. (The dragons had gone extinct a century earlier, when the last stunted creature died during the reign of King Aegon III.) Aegon, his eldest son Duncan the Small, and Lord Commander of the Kingsguard Ser Duncan the Tall all perished in the flames — although infant Rhaegar, who had been born in the palace on the same day, was saved.
So, Aegon was a man who grew up with the smallfolk, who had an unlikely path to the Iron Throne, who had deep connections to the Night's Watch, whose family had a history of secret weddings, and who died on the same day that Jon's father Rhaegar was born. That's a heck of a lot of connections to Jon Snow; but perhaps the most concerning aspect of Aegon's history when it comes to Jon's future is something that applies only to the show, and not the books.
In Martin's novels, there is one generation between Aegon V and Aerys II (aka the Mad King): King Jaehaerys II Targaryen, Aegon's son and Aerys' father. But the showrunners elided the Targaryen family tree slightly, eliminating Jaehaerys entirely and making Aegon himself the father of the Mad King. If the show is drawing parallels between Jon Snow and Aegon V — both thematically and literally, by naming Jon after him — then could it be teasing a tragic future for Jon's own son as well?
For years, fans have been concerned that Daenerys would inherit some of her father's insanity and become the Mad Queen; but what if it's not Dany that we need to worry about, but rather the child that she and Jon Snow create together?