Spoilers ahead for the Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones.
In Game of Thrones' Season 8 premiere, Jon Snow learned a truth that changes everything: his true lineage. How did he get to the point where he learned the truth? Well, it was a long and arduous journey that spanned 67+ episodes.
Getting to this point has meant that Jon Snow spent his entire life believing in a big lie. He isn't who he thought he was. Now that he knows about his true lineage, things may or may not be about to change.
Let us go back to where it all started: long before Jon Snow learned the truth and how he got to the point where he did.
What Jon Snow knew at the beginning. When Game of Thrones starts, Jon believes he is the illegitimate son of Ned Stark and an unidentified woman. Ned brought Jon to Winterfell as a baby after fighting in Robert’s Rebellion. He claimed Jon as his son from an affair. As Ned’s “illegitimate son,” Jon was raised with the surname of Snow. That is the last name given to the illegitimate children of the North.
Jon wanted to know about his mother. Before parting ways with Ned to join the Night’s Watch, Jon asked Ned about his mother. He wanted to know if she was still alive, if she knew about him and where he was, or where he was going. Lastly, if she cared. Ned did not answer. Instead, he told Jon that the next time they saw each other, they would talk about Jon’s mother. Sadly, Ned and Jon never saw each other again.
The Tower of Joy. In Season 6, Bran Stark worked on a vision for numerous episodes. His goal? To discover what happened when Ned Stark arrived at the Tower of Joy. In the Season 6 finale, he sees his father enter the Tower, find his dying sister Lyanna, and her newborn son. Bran realizes that Jon is his aunt’s son and not his father’s, making Jon his biological cousin.
Jon Snow meets a dragon. Along with meeting Daenerys Targaryen in Season 7, Jon also meets her dragons. On the cliffs of Dragonstone, he reaches out to touch one of them on their snout. The dragon responds positively. Was that Game of Thrones’ hint that the dragon sensed what Jon had no way of knowing yet? That he is a Stark and a Targaryen?
Gilly incidentally reveals Jon is legitimate. While Sam is busy studying in the Citadel, so is Gilly. As she reads a diary Sam’s transcribed, she hits on something vital in Season 7. Gilly tells Sam that High Septon Maynard gave an annulment to Prince Rhaegar. She follows that info up by sharing that Rhaegar then married someone else via a secret ceremony in Dorne.
Why what Gilly found matters. Rhaegar was initially married to Elia Martell. Hence, there was a chance that Jon Snow was Lyanna’s illegitimate son by Rhaegar Targaryen. His annulment and subsequent remarriage means Jon was born inside of marriage. Making his claim to the Iron Throne a legitimate and rightful one.
Bran and Sam put the pieces together. In the Season 7 finale, Sam meets Bran. During their chat, Bran tells Sam that Jon needs to know the truth about himself. That Jon is the illegitimate son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. Sam is stunned and quickly corrects Bran. He reveals what the diary said. That Rhaegar and Lyanna got married in a secret ceremony. Jon Snow is legitimate.
Bran sees the truth. Prompted by Sam’s new information and Sam’s suggestion to see if there is something more he can see, Bran flashes back. Like he did with Ned at the Tower of Joy, Bran watches Rhaegar and Lyanna’s secret ceremony. Thus, confirming for viewers and himself that what Sam said is true. That is not all.
Jon was conceived in a loving relationship. As Bran flashes back to Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s secret wedding ceremony, he proclaims something else. Since Game of Thrones began, everyone believed that Rhaegar had kidnapped Lyanna. As Season 7 ends, Bran knows that Rhaegar never kidnapped Lyanna. They willingly ran away together.
Jon comes home. In the Season 8 premiere, Jon finally returned home to Winterfell. Despite being reunited with Jon, Bran did not say anything about his brother/cousin’s true lineage. It is not entirely clear why. That leaves Sam up to bat.
Jon rides a dragon. This is another big hint for Jon as he unknowingly awaits the reveal ahead. While out with Daenerys, she lets him ride one of her dragons. Jon hops on and struggles to hold on at first. He ends up getting the hang of it quickly though, in what seems to be a sign that riding dragons is in his blood.
Sam prepares to reveal Jon’s true lineage. Distraught from learning that Daenerys executed his brother and father by fire, Sam goes to the crypts of Winterfell. He and Jon catch up briefly. Sam tells Jon that Daenerys killed his father and brother and asks if he knew. Jon’s silence reveals to Sam that Daenerys had not told him.
Sam makes his case. After Sam asks Jon if he would have done it, he says he has executed men who have disobeyed him. That is when Sam points out that Jon has also shown them mercy. Jon says that he was not a king. That is when Sam goes for it.
Sam declares that Jon is the heir. Sam tells Jon that Jon is a king and that he has always been a king. Jon responds that he gave up his crown. He is no longer King in the North. That is when Sam says he is not talking about that crown, he is talking about him being the “king of the bloody Seven Kingdoms.” Cue record scratch.
Jon learns the truth. Jon asks what Sam is talking about. Sam says that he and Bran worked it out. He had a High Septon’s diary, and Bran had “what Bran has.” Jon is still confused. That is when Sam tells him. “Your mother was Lyanna Stark and your father, your real father, was Rhaegar Targaryen. You’ve never been a bastard. You are Aegon Targaryen – true heir to the Iron Throne.”
Reaction time. Jon does not accept it at first. He tells Sam that his father was the most honorable man he has ever met, adding that what Sam is saying means Ned lied to him for his entire life.
Sam explains what was at stake. Sam tells Jon that Ned Stark had promised his sister that he would protect Jon. Adding that Robert would have murdered Jon if he had known the truth. Sam then shares Jon’s actual title. King Aegon Targaryen, sixth of his name, protector of the realm, “all of it.”
About that crown. Jon says that Daenerys is their queen before Sam points out she should not be. Responding that it is treason, Sam says it is the truth. He follows up by saying that Jon gave up his crown to save his people. Would Daenerys do the same?
How Jon and Daenerys are related. Daenerys' eldest brother was Rheagar Targaryen. They parents were both spouses and full-blooded siblings, and the latest in a long line of brothers and sisters marrying each other. Daenerys and Rhaegar (along with Viserys, for that matter) children of several generations of since. Since Rhaegar is Jon Snow's biological father, Daenerys is therefore his aunt.
For many seasons, the trail on Jon Snow’s true lineage went cold. Now it is red hot as Jon knows the truth that he is the rightful heir to the Iron Throne. What will he do with the information? Will he tell Daenerys the truth? Stay tuned.
Find out how Jon Snow handles learning his true lineage when Game of Thrones’ final season continues. New episodes of the hit series air Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.