And so the wildly popular Game of Thrones has come to the conclusion of Season 6, and many prayers have been answered and hearts broken this season (we're still not over Hodor).
But perhaps the biggest reveal of the finale episode "The Winds of Winter" was one which we'd be expecting for a long time. It didn't make the big reveal any less exciting — indeed it became somewhat of an internet melting debacle — but the twist was far from a surprise for many fans.
This is your one and only spoiler warning, so if you somehow haven't seen the Game of Thrones Season 6 finale yet then make like Ned Stark's head and get outta here!
Rhaegar + Lyanna = Jon
The Game of Thrones Season 6 finale finally confirmed one of the longest standing speculations of the fandom, the famous R+L=J theory which charts the true parentage of Ned Stark's (Sean Bean) bastard child Jon Snow (Kit Harrington).
The theory — which was seemingly confirmed during a Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) flashback scene in "The Winds of Winter" — states that Jon was sired not by Ned Stark to serving-girl Wylla or noble lady Ashara Dayne, but by Rhaegar Targaryen to Ned's sister Lyanna Stark (Aisling Franciosi) during Robert's Rebellion.
With Bran's flash-backing/time traveling adventures of Game of Thrones Season 6 we suspected we might finally have this theory either debunked or confirmed, and it was in the heartbreaking "The Winds of Winter". But someone's been confirming the truth of R+L=J for longer than we realised...
Sean Bean Knows Something
Back in July of 2014 Sean Bean told Vulture pretty definitively that Jon Snow was not his true-born son:
"But it's a good theory! And that should happen, shouldn't it? I've definitely got some unfinished business that needs to be resolved there. I'm obviously not Jon Snow's dad. And you need that to be revealed at some point, don't you?"
And he didn't stop there, Bean's R+J=L flame-fanning continued in a Reddit AMA regarding his show Legend a month later in August 2014. Reddit user AxeApollo jokingly asked "Why did you not teach Jon Snow anything?" a reference to the popular "you know nothing Jon Snow" meme which grew out of the Game of Thrones fandom. Bean responded in kind:
Brilliant response, and I think we can all agree that the "Little bastard!" is a nice touch.
The Joy Of Fan Theories
So how did Bean profess to know? Insider knowledge? Bribing George R. R. Martin? Actually becoming one with the character of Ned Stark? Well no, it boils down to a case of the actor fanning the flames of what we've suspected for years — and book readers for many more.
The seeds marking Jon's true parentage were planted long ago in the Song of Ice and Fire novels and sprinkled throughout the TV show. For a force as voracious as the online community that is the Game of Thrones fandom it didn't take much to connect the dots.
Indeed George R. R. Martin set show producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss a task before he granted them permission to adapt his Song Of Ice And Fire series. The question: Who is Jon Snow's real mother?
They were able to work it out, so went into the planning of the show knowing the big twist which would eventually come our way in the Season 6 finale episode. "The Winds of Winter" may have been the moment of confirmation, but for many — Sean Bean included — R+L=J has been common knowledge for a long time.
Of course this throws certain spanners in certain works for Game of Thrones Season 7, especially if Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner) learns of Jon's true parentage. How it all plays out will surely be a large focal point of the next season, and we can wait to see how this reveal impacts the remainder of the show.
At least know we can rest easy knowing that, for certain, Jon Snow is truly the son of ice and fire.