Jon's Parentage Reveal In S8 Ep 1&2: Did GOT Get It Right?
Updated: Oct 5
Did Game of Thrones swing and miss, or did they hit this one out of the park? The Pop debates this crucial scene and lets you decide.
Season 8, Episode 1 of Game of Thrones finally provided us with one of the most anticipated and essential scenes in the history of the show: Jon Snow learning that he is not the bastard of Ned Stark but actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen. Though the audience learned the truth of his lineage in the Season 6 finale, “The Winds of Winter,” John has not yet been told through the first seven season. As such, the anticipation of this reveal had been brewing for years in the Thrones fanbase until last Sunday, when our desires were finally indulged.
We here at The Pop were left with some very mixed feelings after watching this massive scene, so we decided to lay out our contrasting opinions and let the people decide (contrary to how things operate in The Seven Kingdoms). Pop contributors Tim Carter and Richie O'Reilly share their opposing takes on the scene after re-watching Episodes 1 and 2 of Season 8.
Swing and Miss
Extremely underwhelmed is my answer anytime someone asks me how I feel about Jon Snow learning his true identity in the crypts of Winterfell in Episode 1 of Season 8. I have yet to meet anyone who was pumped about the reveal, and I think it was a huge swing and miss by GOT.
First and foremost it should be noted, that I completely understand why they chose Sam to tell Jon, I understand the setting in the crypt, I understand the choice to not reveal the truth to everyone at once… I GET ALL OF IT, and I’m still not happy about it. Here are my reasons.
Reason 1: Sam Tarly's crying was too distracting, and the reveal didn’t seem to capture the magnitude of Jon’s destiny. This wasn’t an impassioned scene where Jon becomes angry and refuses to believe what he is told, nor was it a grand reveal where he embraces this new information and all of its glory. It was just this middle of the road “bleh” moment that will soon be forgotten when we look back at great TV moments. Sam is still crying over his lost brother, and it seems like part of his reasoning for telling Jon is to get back at Dany for killing his family. This moment should purely be about Jon, and his future. Instead, almost immediately after Sam tells Jon, he tries to drive the wedge between him and Dany. I understand that Jon learning he is Aegon Targaryen somewhat implies he will have to go against Dany (not necessarily the case), but for me it just moved too quickly from, “You’re Aegon Targaryen to… “Dany isn’t who you think she is.” I wanted more time to revel in the glory of Jon having the best claim to the throne!
Reason 2: I was really hoping for a glorious reveal. I thought something like the dragon ride would have been a much better reveal. Most people know that Targaryens are the only ones who can ride dragons, so this could have been a great way to reveal Jon’s parentage. Maybe there will still be some glorious reveal to the rest of the characters, and in my head I’m picturing something so over the top cool…
Picture this: Mid battle, somehow Jon is in the process of dying, and he gets tossed into a fire. Everyone has this moment of, “Oh shit… Jon’s dead.” But from the ashes rises Jon, and that's when Sam is there to tell everyone that Jon is actually Aegon, meaning everyone must bend the knee. Something like this would be so EPIC.
This wouldn’t mean that Jon would automatically win the Game of Thrones, as in typical Thrones fashion, maybe Jaime stabs in him in the back living up to his name as the King Slayer. I don’t know how it will end, but I wanted the reveal to be glorious and epic.
Reason 3: It was over in 4 minutes. We only have six total episodes so I get the need to move quickly, but this should have been a big deal. Instead it seemed like a minor reveal. If there is time for a 4-minute dragon riding scene, there is more time for this reveal, instead it almost feels like the scene is cut short because they ran out of time. This was not the scene for production to skimp on.
Reason 4: From a strategy standpoint, I don’t understand how Jon telling Dany this earth-shattering news right before the war in Episode 2 fits with his character. He is always extremely selfless, and he would not want to do anything to jeopardize the battle, which is why the timing of this reveal doesn’t make sense. It takes focus away from the impending warfare, and if he were to die in battle then it would only further complicate things for the survivors. There is no way Jon is telling this to Dany on the eve of the battle.
Final Thoughts: Overall the reveal was underwhelming because there are so many glorious ways to do this reveal. Maybe I’m totally wrong and it fits perfect with Jon’s personality and my longing for Jon to be in the spotlight is a fantasy that will never be fulfilled, but c’mon! Give the man his moment! Don’t let his moment be taken away by a crying Sam Tarly. There was no space for either Jon or Dany to process the information. This scene was definitely a swing and miss by GOT.
HOT TAKE: Is Sam becoming Little Finger?
Ground Rule Double
Initially, I was in the same boat as Tim; I was underwhelmed, confused, and disappointed by the way the show chose to handle this reveal of Jon’s parentage. I couldn’t understand why they had selected a crying Samwell Tarly to serve as the messenger of this crucial and inspiring information. I love Sam and believed he was the right person to confront Jon, but his emotional outburst distracted me from the gravity of the moment. However, after giving the reveal a second chance, I’ve come to understand the importance of the show’s framing of the scene. I'm not willing to call this a homerun, as I would have liked a far longer version of this reveal, but given the limited time the show has remaining, I believe it accomplished what it set out to achieve. Here’s why:
Reason 1: While Sam’s outburst of emotions was distracting at first glance, his actions actually provided us with a deeper connection to his character. Sam is a tender hearted man, quick to sacrifice his own well-being for the benefit of others, as we saw with Gilly and baby Sam. Thus, regardless of his relationship with his father, he would have mourned his death. And to be fair, the majority of Sam’s sadness came from hearing that his brother had been killed as well, as the two actually had a relatively strong relationship. Sam’s pain may have been confusing upon the first watch, but looking at his reaction again, it fits with his personality and helps the audience further develop their understanding of his character.
Reason 2: More importantly, this scene helps us learn more about Dany and the effects of her fiery passion. For seasons now, we have seen increasingly alarming “Mad King” tendencies from Dany, including her penchants for burning innocent men and listing all 5,000 titles she has accumulated any time she enters a room (definitely not annoying). She has made it abundantly clear to all that have spoken to her that anyone between her and the Iron Throne is her enemy. Yes, many of these tendencies are necessary for her to demonstrate her power to those who oppose her, but the parallels between Dany and her father the Mad King are becoming too difficult to ignore.
Reason 3: Though we could have done with A LOT more of this, this scene helped us build on our understanding of John’s character and his relationship with Dany moving forward as well. Rather than immediately tying his heritage as a Targaryen to the Iron Throne, Jon’s first reaction is to defend Ned Stark’s honor. Jon is not concerned with his claim to the throne, but rather with the survival of the people of Westeros. As such, Sam’s inquest of Dany’s character is especially poignant when placed adjacent to this reveal. After noting that Jon willingly gave up his crown to save his people, Sam asks an essential question that we should keep in our minds as this season progresses: Would Dany do the same?
Reason 4: Moving beyond the content of the scene, the setting where this massive truth is revealed represented another big win for both Episodes 1 and 2. Before going their separate ways in Season 1 of the show, Jon and Ned spent a tender moment together in the crypts of Winterfell, during which time Ned promised to tell Jon the identity of his mother the next time they spoke. As we soon found out, however, that moment would never come, as Ned was promptly beheaded in the capital for “treason.” Seven full seasons later, we finally got the long anticipated reveal in the same spot it had been promised. As the camera switches between Jon and Sam, we can clearly see the statues of Lyanna and Ned Stark in the background of the scene, a beautiful detail that helped bring Jon’s parentage storyline full-circle.
Reason 5: The framing of this scene helped the show draw out the tension between Jon and Dany as it moved into Episode 2 of this season as well. Throughout the first half of the episode, Jon avoided Dany, not sure how to confront her with this information. Fittingly, this confrontation eventually came where else but the crypts, in front of the same statues that lurked in the background during Sam’s confrontation with Jon. Dany reacted with the fiery anger and shock that we all expected from her as Jon confessed his true heritage. The framing of Episode 1 helped create this drawn out reveal that will continue to affect the arc of the show for the remainder of the series.
Final Thoughts: After giving it a second chance, I found this scene to be quite good overall, as the audience learned quite a bit about a number of our major characters in a short amount of time. The reveal wasn't good enough for me to say they crushed it out of the park, but I'd argue that it had enough power to get the ball over the fence on a bounce. I still would have liked this scene to be significantly longer to give us more time with Jon and his thoughts, but for the limited time we did get, I think this scene told us a lot about where the show is headed with these characters.
Jon’s conversation with Dany in Episode 2 gave us a quick glimpse at her distress with Jon's news, but it was cut short in typical Game of Thrones fashion. Based on these two short scenes so far, it’s more than fair to anticipate a massive riff between Dany and Jon that will either drive them to marriage or leave one, if not both, of them dead in the next few episodes. Expect some fiery interactions between these two in the upcoming Episode 3 of the series.
The Box Score
Overall, we both can agree the scene wasn’t perfect, as it was too short and did not provide us with nearly enough time with Jon as he struggled to understand his identity, but we do not agree on the effectiveness of the scene as a whole. As it did with our staff, the reveal has appeared to divide the opinions of Thrones fans. How did you feel about it? Did they swing and miss, was this a homerun, or was it somewhere in between? Let us know how you felt about this massive reveal in the comments!