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The Important "Game Of Thrones" Details You Might Have Missed

Seven seasons worth of hints and clues. Warning: Contains spoilers.

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After seven seasons (and multiple decades for book readers) of speculation and theories about Jon Snow's parents, Game of Thrones has finally 100% confirmed that R+L=J.

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That's right, in the Season 7 finale we actually saw that Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark were in love and got married. We learned once and for all that Jon Snow was never a bastard (and certainly not Robert Baratheon's child, as some people believed), but the legitimate heir to the Iron Throne. And his name is Aegon Targaryen. Ned claimed him as his own bastard to protect him from Robert's wrath after the deaths of both Rhaegar and Lyanna (and if that doesn't make you emotional, I don't know what will).

Last year, when this was all still just a theory, we took a look back at some of the clues the show has given about R+L=J. Now that it's all confirmed, here's a fresh look at the hints, complete with the many that were dropped during Season 7...

Let's go way back to the very first episode. We're introduced to the idea that Jon is different from the rest of the family when they find the direwolves.

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He says he's "not a Stark" for the first (but not the last) time. He believes – and we're led to believe at the time – that it's because he's a bastard. But of course, now we know it's because, while he has Stark blood, he's actually a legitimate Targaryen. This connection is perfectly summed up in Jon's discovery of Ghost. He was the one to point out there was a direwolf for "each of the Stark children", excluding himself, but when he finds Ghost – part of the pack, but separate and different – it's significant, and takes on even more meaning when you know his true heritage.

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Later in the episode, Robert Baratheon arrives at Winterfell, and heads straight for the crypt to see Lyanna's grave.

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We immediately get a sense of Ned's protectiveness of Lyanna, and also Robert's obsessive hatred of the Targaryens. It's an early hint as to why Ned would need to hide the truth from him. Robert killed Rhaegar years earlier, but he still dreams of doing it over and over again. Ned is dismissive of Robert's anger, no doubt mindful of the nearby Jon. Robert's ominous "not all of them" is a direct reference to Daenerys, but also foreshadows the big R+L=J reveal.

Next we have Jon being excluded from the royal feast because of his bastard status – although there's a chance Ned also wanted to keep him away from Robert. When Uncle Benjen arrives, Jon asks to join him in the Night's Watch, but is discouraged.

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Some people have theorised that "if you knew what it meant" is a reference to Jon's royal bloodline, indicating Benjen may have known the truth. But unless he comes back from the dead AGAIN (and that doesn't look likely), this thread will never come to fruition, so maybe Benjen was just talking about Jon missing out on the standard stuff of sex/love/family.

In Episode 2, we see the full extent of Catelyn's hatred of Jon.

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Catelyn always despised Jon as the embodiment of Ned's betrayal of her. But we know now that Ned never did betray her – he only kept the truth from her. The fact that he did so, despite the pain it caused her – not to mention himself and Jon – shows just how much importance he placed on keeping the truth hidden. For him, it was a matter of (Jon's) life or death.

Next we see Jon preparing to leave for the Night's Watch and saying farewell to Robb. This may be reaching, but it's interesting to hear Jon say black was always his colour, when it's not just a symbol of the Night's Watch, but it's also a Targaryen colour.

This is followed by a really crucial scene – Ned and Jon's final farewell, in which they discuss Jon's mother.

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Significantly, Ned emphasises that Jon has Stark blood without saying he is his son, and we learn that Jon knows nothing (heh) about his mother. It's clear it's a sensitive subject for Ned, and he gets incredibly emotional. The "I promise" line reinforces Ned's connection to Lyanna, and the promise he made to protect Jon.

Which is exactly what he did Jon's whole life, and what he's still doing here – the reason he delays telling Jon the truth until "next time" is because Ned won't reveal anything until it's safe to do so, i.e., after Jon has joined the Night's Watch and therefore not only renounced any family titles and claims, but is also living as far from Robert's reach as he can possibly get within Westeros. Unfortunately, as we know, Ned and Jon never get to see each other again.

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Jon's mother comes up again later in a scene between Robert and Ned. Ned gives Robert the name he clearly uses as a cover when pressed, but is quick to shut the conversation down.

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Robert assumes this is because of Ned's guilt at doing something dishonourable (unknowingly reinforcing the idea that, actually, Ned never would do something like that), but we know Ned will never talk to Robert about Jon's mother because he is the very reason the truth must be kept hidden.

This is underlined when the conversation switches to Daenerys Targaryen, and Robert's desire to have her (and every Targaryen) assassinated. Ned is angry and disgusted, and when he says, "You can't get your hands on this one," there's no doubt he's thinking about Jon as well as Daenerys.

In Episode 4, Jon tells Sam that the reason he's never had sex is because he doesn't want to father a bastard, like his own father did. The fact that Ned refused to talk about Jon's mother is mentioned again.

Episode 5 continues the tension between Robert and Ned over the king's obsession with killing all Targaryens. Ned is so furious that Robert plans to have Daenerys murdered, he resigns as hand of the king.

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On the surface level, it's about honour, as Ned says it's wrong to kill a "child". But as with the earlier scene, it's likely Ned's feelings about Jon are tied up with his decision.

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In the same episode, we get an amazing conversation between Cersei and Robert, containing even more insight into Robert's obsession with Lyanna and extreme hatred of Rhaegar.

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His feelings meant his marriage with Cersei never stood a chance. Interestingly, she says, "What harm can Lyanna Stark's ghost do to either of us?" *Nudge nudge* Jon Snow.

In Episode 7, Ned confronts Cersei with the knowledge that her children are Jaime's, and he accuses her of always hating Robert. Cersei reveals she actually loved him once, and it was the fact that Robert called her "Lyanna" on her wedding night that made her hate him.

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Ned's response to this shows his awareness of how brutal Robert's wrath can be – and his consideration for Cersei and her children gives an idea of just how much he'd do to protect people from it, even when they aren't people he particularly cares for. Imagine how far he'd go to protect those he actually loves – Lyanna and Jon.

In Episode 9, after Ned is arrested and Robb goes to war, Maester Aemon confronts Jon about his desire to abandon his Night's Watch vows to ride to their aid. They talk about what Ned would do when having to choose between honour and love.

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At the time, the scene reinforced Ned's honour and made the notion that he would father a bastard questionable yet again. But knowing the truth about what Ned did – choosing love over honour (or his reputation for honour, at least) by protecting Jon – gives another layer of meaning to this scene. Especially after seeing the Tower of Joy scene, which showcases the familial love between Lyanna and Ned, and Ned holding the newborn baby Jon in his arms.

Within the same episode, Ned chooses love over honour once again when he confesses to treason in an attempt to save Arya and Sansa. Joffrey orders his execution anyway, and Ned mumbles something before he is beheaded – with some speculating he is saying, "I kept my promise."

The Season 1 finale has Bran telling Osha the ~official~ (read: spread by Robert Baratheon) story about Rhaegar and Lyanna while showing her the crypt at Winterfell.

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In Season 2, Episode 6, there's a brief line that isn't exactly a clue, but is worth mentioning: Jon proudly tells Qhorin Halfhand that Ned always emphasised how he was of the North.

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As Jon grew up, there's no doubt Ned would have been concerned that southern/Targaryen traits might start exhibiting themselves. Ned highlighting how ~Northern~ Jon is was probably his way of minimising those fears, while also emphasising to Jon (and, by extension, the audience), that no matter what happens, the Northern/Stark blood is still an intrinsic part of him.

In Season 3, Episode 2, we revisit Cat's hatred of Jon and get a glimpse into her guilt over her inability to love him.

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It's interesting that she mentions specifically baby Jon's brown eyes, which later played a big part in the reveal about his mother.

In the next episode, we get the first positive mention of Rhaegar, when Ser Barristan and Ser Jorah tell Daenerys about him.

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Hearing such words from two heroes – and from the honourable Ser Barristan in particular – was the first, huge indication that Robert Baratheon's version of the story might not be completely accurate.

This is backed up in Season 4, Episode 1, when Oberyn Martell talks to Tyrion about Rhaegar, who was married to his sister, Elia. It's significant that Oberyn, who has every reason to hate Rhaegar, frames his relationship with Lyanna as an affair, not an attack.

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Not great from Oberyn's perspective, but certainly not the kidnapping/rape story that Robert spread. And Oberyn isn't shy about anger and vengeance – remember, he was in King's Landing to kill the Mountain, who raped and murdered Elia and her two children with Rhaegar, Rhaenys and Aegon (yes, apparently Rhaegar named TWO of his sons Aegon). This horrific incident, perpetrated by Lannister men and condoned by Robert Baratheon, would have highlighted to Ned the necessity of keeping Jon's parentage a secret.

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Moving ahead to Season 5, and the fourth episode is full of R+L=J clues. First, Stannis expresses doubt about the idea that Ned would father a bastard with some random woman.

Next there's Littlefinger and Sansa at the crypt of Winterfell. Sansa mentions that Ned never talked about Lyanna, reminding us of the painful/secretive nature the topic held for Ned. Then Littlefinger tells Sansa the story of how Rhaegar publicly snubbed his wife Elia in favour of Lyanna at the tourney of Harrenhal.

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The look Littlefinger gives when Sansa relays the kidnapping/rape idea made many speculate that Littlefinger knew the truth. As with Benjen, it looks like we'll never know for sure now that Littlefinger is dead. Nevertheless, this is a significant scene – the tourney at Harrenhal was a huge incident in Rhaegar and Lyanna's relationship, which you can read more about here.

Finally, we have Ser Barristan and Daenerys once again talking about what a great guy Rhaegar was.

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When Daenerys reveals that Viserys had emphasised to her how good Rhaegar was at killing people, Ser Barristan says he didn't like it, reinforcing the idea that he wasn't a violent or evil man.

When Jon is murdered in the Season 5 finale, and then Season 6 opens with his body lying in a bloodstain, there seems to be a pattern to it. Some fans believe his blood turns from the shape of a wolf into a dragon.

Season 6, Episode 2 features Lyanna herself for the very first time. We see her as a young girl in Bran's vision, showing off in front of her brothers at Winterfell. She comes across as fierce, kind, and smart.

The next episode gives us our first taste of the Tower of Joy, aka the place that Jon was born. Although the Three-Eyed Raven removes Bran (and therefore, the audience) from the vision before he sees inside the tower, the interaction between the young Ned and Ser Arthur Dayne tells us a lot.

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The fact that Rhaegar stationed two of the finest knights of the kingsguard at the Tower of Joy, rather than taking them into battle, is significant. As is the fact that they continue to guard the tower, even after the death of Aerys II and Rhaegar. We know now they are actually guarding the newborn Targaryen heir.

The following episode contains a reference to Lyanna, as Jon and Sansa meet with little Lyanna Mormont and explain she was named after their aunt (really Jon's mother).

Then we have the Season 6 finale, in which Jon repeats his line from the very first episode about not being a Stark.

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He IS a Stark by blood, of course – but when he says this line he's referring to his outsider status, which has even more meaning than he realises.

In the same conversation with Sansa, when she mentions that "winter is here", Jon laughs and makes a comment that is striking when you know of Ned's actual promise to protect Jon.

Of course, most important in this episode is the continuation of the Tower of Joy flashback, during which Bran actually gets to see inside the tower – and officially learns that Lyanna is Jon's mother.

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We see her asking Ned to promise to protect her baby, because Robert will kill him if he finds out about him. Even though they muted Jon's real name in this scene and never mentioned who the father was, it was clear to most viewers from this point that it was definitely Rhaegar. Given what we know of Robert up until this point, Ned's actions make complete sense (in an utterly heart-wrenching way).

Which brings us to Season 7. In Episode 2, we get a brief mention of Rhaegar when Jaime is talking to Randyll Tarly.

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It doesn't tell us a lot, but keeps him in our minds. It also implies what a brilliant warrior Rhaegar was, and reminds us of how he died (killed by Robert Baratheon).

The same episode has Jon leaving for Dragonstone, much to the disgust of pretty much everyone who follows him. Yohn Royce talking about how Targaryens can't be trusted to Jon is kind of funny when you know the truth. But it's interesting that the comment is followed by Jon emphasising how much the North is a part of him.

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It suggests once again that, even when the truth comes out, Jon will remain true to himself, and to the North.

This is followed by a scene in the crypt of Winterfell, with Jon ruminating in front of Ned's statue. Littlefinger walks in and starts badgering him about how Cat hated him, while Lyanna's statue can be seen right over Jon's shoulder.

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Which makes me very emotional. But more importantly: Littlefinger's line about Cat underestimating Jon foreshadows the big reveal that he is really the Targaryen heir (and not at all Ned's bastard).

Then Jon meets Dany, and amongst the many layers of their interaction is this hilariously inaccurate line from Dany about being the last Targaryen.

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This scene also features Dany talking about how Robert Baratheon sent assassins to murder her when she was born at Dragonstone, reminding us again of the importance of keeping the truth about Jon from him. Later, Davos mentions how Jon is King in the North because "all those hard sons of bitches" chose him as their leader because they believe in him – which calls back to the way Ser Barristan described Rhaegar and his men at the Battle of the Trident.

Later in the episode, we hear Dany actually mention Rhaegar's name to Jon when explaining who her dragons are named after. Dany then talks about Viserion and Rhaegal in a way that could also apply to Jon and Dany themselves.

The same conversation has Jon telling Dany he doesn't enjoy what he's good at – a clear reference to killing people, and another parallel between Jon and what Ser Barristan told Dany about Rhaegar.

Episode 3 also gives us Bran arriving back home at Winterfell, and mentioning his need to speak to Jon.

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He has secrets to reveal! It's unclear why Bran keeps this one close to his chest until Sam arrives in the Season 7 finale, but it's probably either just Bran's general weirdness since the Three-Eyed Raven download fried his brain, or he knows it's explosive and sensitive information he must keep concealed until *just* the right time (who knows, maybe he's even aware that Jon and Dany need to conceive a baby before the truth comes out).

In Episode 4, Missandei questions Jon about why his name is Snow, while his father's name is Stark, allowing him to explain that his mother and father weren't married – and setting us up for a greater impact when the truth is actually revealed three episodes later.

This episode also gives us Gilly discovering Rhaegar annulled his marriage to Elia and secretly married "someone else", i.e., Lyanna.

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It was our first proper confirmation that not only was Jon the son of Rhaegar and Lyanna, but he was LEGITIMATE. And bloody Sam didn't pay attention. At least until much later.

In Episode 6, when Beric and Jon are chatting during their trek north of the Wall, Beric mentions how Jon doesn't look much like Ned.

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Of course, if Jon doesn't look like Ned, he REALLY doesn't look like Rhaegar. He truly does take after Lyanna, and this line from Beric was preparing us for the big reveal, and Jon looking drastically different from his true father.

Which brings us to the Season 7 finale. In the Dragonpit, Daenerys talks about the destruction of the Targaryen dynasty. The conversation – and Jon's response – has a whole other level of meaning, knowing Jon is also a Targaryen.

Later, there's a touching scene between Theon and Jon, in which Jon reassures Theon that no matter what, Ned is a part of him, and he doesn't need to choose between his two families.

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Needless to say, this is EXTREMELY relevant to Jon's own position. Perhaps it's an indication of how he will feel when the truth is finally revealed to him (although no doubt he'll grapple with his identity – and his relationship with Daenerys – at first).

And we get the complete Tower of Joy flashback, now with Jon's real name: Aegon Targaryen.

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No wonder Ned needed to change it to hide the truth. It's a bit of an odd choice from Rhaegar and Lyanna, considering Rhaegar's son with Elia was named Aegon. Rhaegar was obsessed with prophecy, so the name could have something to do with who he believed was the prince who was promised. Hopefully it will be explored further next season.

The sequence ends with by highlighting the ultimate implication of this revelation: yes, Jon Snow (or, er, Aegon Targaryen) is not only legitimate, he is THE heir to the Targaryen throne.

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Trumping Daenerys's claim – you know, his aunt who he currently has his dick inside (only he doesn't know she's his aunt yet). When Jon and Dany inevitably learn the truth in Season 8, it could have huge repercussions not just for their personal relationship, but also their political alliance. It could tear them apart – or, being Targaryens, it might bring them even closer together.

One things for certain – Season 8 can't come quick enough.

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And I will forever cry over the fact that Jon's real parents loved each other and wanted him – and that Ned Stark loved him so much he carried his secret to his grave.

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