At this point, we really have no idea who will win the titular game of thrones on HBO’s beloved fantasy series, but a clever callback to a long-dead Game of Thrones character in Season 8, Episode 4 could be a huge hint about how the series ends for Jon Snow.
Potential spoilers follow for Game of Thrones Season 8, Episodes 5 and 6.
One Game of Thrones fan theory posted to Reddit on Monday night has since been removed from the GoT Theories subreddit on suspicion of being a leak. Among exciting alleged details like Daenerys Targaryen becoming a Mad Queen, Arya wearing Jaime’s face to kill Cersei, and Sansa becoming queen is a humble theory about Jon Snow. In short, he’s forced to kill Dany; then he abdicates the throne to venture north of the Wall in search of Tormund and Ghost.
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This might read like really zealous fan fiction, but Episode 4 had plenty of foreshadowing to support the theory, including one very pointed callback to Maester Aemon — you know, that other Targaryen who chose exile as a member of the Night’s Watch rather than assume the Iron Throne.
“The Last of the Starks” (Season 8, Episode 4) opened on a mass funeral for everyone who died in the Great Battle of Winterfell, and Jon Snow’s touching eulogy was more or less plagiarized directly from Maester Aemon’s in the Season 4 finale after the Battle of Castle Black. In light of Jon Snow recently being outed as Aegon Targaryen, this callback serves as an interesting reminder of his relationship to Maester Aemon, who’s actually Jon’s great-great-uncle.
“They died protecting men, women, and children who will never know their names. … We shall never see their like again.”
This might sound like what Jon Snow said during the latest episode, but it’s actually Maester Aemon’s words from four seasons earlier.
Here’s what Jon actually said in Season 8, Episode 4:
“We’re here to say goodbye to … our fellow men and women who set aside their differences to fight together and die together so that others might live. … It is our duty and our honor to keep them alive in memory for those who come after us and those who come after them for as long as men draw breath … We shall never see their like again.”
Jon also called those that died defending Winterfell “the shields that guarded the realms of men.” This is an obvious nod to the Night’s Watch vows.
Apparently the Night’s Watch and Uncle Aemon are both on Jon’s mind these days, enough so that he’s probably thinking more and more about how Aemon once abdicated the throne by becoming a member of the Night’s Watch.
When Jon Snow considers abandoning the Night’s Watch in Season 1 to join Robb Stark’s rebellion, Maester Aemon confesses the truth of his own past. The second son of King Maekar Targaryen, Aemon became a maester, but after his older brother died, many in Westeros thought he should become king. Instead, Aemon enlisted in the Night’s Watch to disqualify himself, and the crown passed to King Aegon V. Eventually, the crown passed on to that man’s son, whom we know as the “Mad King” Aerys.
This important piece of Westerosi history is a solid reminder that when good men shirk their responsibility, terrible things can happen. But it probably also offers a blueprint for Jon Snow’s ultimate fate on the show.
Assuming Daenerys Targaryen does become a Mad Queen just like her father, Jon Snow might have to be the one to kill her, inadvertently fulfilling a part of the Azor Ahai prophecy.
If that does happen, we can’t imagine Jon sticking around to rule Westeros. He’s never wanted to be a leader, and it’s looking less and less likely that he and Dany will rule together. What happens after Dany kills Euron Greyjoy, the Hound kills the Mountain in Cleganebowl, Arya kills Cersei (while wearing Jaime’s face), and then Jon is forced to kill Dany to save everyone?
The only possibility that feels practical would be for Jon to immediately give up the throne, let someone else figure out the politics of Westeros, and go into exile in the North. Again, Game of Thrones may have already foreshadowed this decision.
When Jon and Tormund say goodbye during Episode 4, Jon asks his friend to take Ghost with him, saying, “He’ll be happier up there.”
“So would you,” Tormund says. “You’ve got the North in you — the real North.” In this scene, Jon is convinced it’s the last time he’ll see Tormund and Ghost, but Tormund just shrugs it off, saying, “You never know.” This also establishes that despite Jon’s many crises of identity, he’ll forever be a ranger of the Night’s Watch.
Many GoT fans across the internet were heartbroken that Jon didn’t give his loyal pet direwolf a proper goodbye. What if that’s only because they’ll be reunited very soon?
Game of Thrones Season 8 airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. Eastern.