Beyond The Wall

Gilly Confirmed a Huge 'Game of Thrones' Theory Without Even Realizing It

This post contains major spoilers for Game of Thrones Season 7, Episode 5, "Eastwatch," and every episode before it. Visit our "Beyond the Wall" hub for more GoT recaps, theories, and spoilers.

Not every single episode of Game of Thrones'  Season 7 can offer up a fiery dragon battle to set up the following week. Episode 5, "Eastwatch," was fairly tame by the high standards of violence the show has set, instead favoring the return of fan favorite and Rob Baratheon's bastard son, Gendry, and connecting dots on several plotlines destined to converge. 

If you're anything like Sam Tarly, you had your attention on the massive army of dead soldiers marching southward while Gilly was showing off her fresh literacy by reading mundane facts recorded by dead maesters. You know, fun stuff like how many steps are in the Citadel. A BLAST.

But if that's the case, then you, also like Sam Tarly, missed Gilly's inadvertent confirmation of a major Thrones theory that carries a huge amount of weight for Jon Snow and his maybe-burgeoning-but-still-kind-of-awkward romance with Daenerys. Here's what happened.

r + l = j theory explained
HBO

Explaining the R + L = J theory

The gist of the theory in question -- known around the internet as the R + L = J theory -- is that Ned Stark didn't actually father Jon Snow as his bastard, but merely raised by him for his deceased sister, Lyanna Stark. As the story goes, Lyanna was "abducted" (the grand cover-up version of eloped) by Rhaegar Targaryen and gave birth to Rhaegar's son in the "Tower of Joy" (an event Bran witnessed at the tail end of last season). That boy? Mr. Jon Snow. You can read the exhaustive explanation here, but basically Ned promised his dying sister that he would raise Jon as his own. 

Enter Gilly, who's peppering Sam with random facts High Septon Maynard recorded -- the High Septon apparently was fond of writing down every time he took a shit. But among the steps and bowel movements, Gilly asks Sam to define "annulment" which Sam does without pausing to consider what Gilly is saying. She goes on to reveal that Rhaegar got his marriage annulled in Dorne, and was remarried in a secret ceremony. The Tower of Joy is on the northern edge of the Red Mountains of Dorne. See where this is going?

Without mentioning them by name, Gilly has discovered that Rhaegar's first wife, Elia Martell (RIP Martells) was officially cast aside in favor of Lyanna. Had Ned and Robert only known that Rhaegar had married the woman he kidnapped, they probably would've been cool with it and wouldn't have had to stage a rebellion to overthrow the Mad King, right? 

All of this means Rhaegar -- who was the Mad King's son -- was Jon's legitimate father, and that Jon Snow is a legitimate heir to the throne, which means Daenerys is technically his aunt, which means maybe, just maybe, we'll get to witness another one of the incestuous relationships for which Thrones characters seem to have an uncanny affinity. Fun! 

jon snow and daenerys game of thrones season 7
HBO

What does this mean for Jon and Daenerys? 

The R + L = J theory has long been more than a mere theory, having been all-but-confirmed at the end of Season 6 via Bran's vision and a well-timed juxtaposition of Lyanna's baby's eyes with Jon's pair back in Winterfell. As for its implications, that part is still unclear... especially given that George R.R. Martin hasn't even finished the books yet.

Will the relationship have an impact on how Game of Thrones will end? Will Jon and Dany go full Lannister and say, "Screw 'familial ties' and 'common decency,' we're going to get it on anyway!" Will they realize it's always been their destiny to unite the realm of the living to do battle with the White Walkers, who, by the way, are about to launch an all-out assault on the South? 

One thing's for sure: Even when she's not playing a central role, Gilly is still a badass. Keep reading, Gilly. One day someone will appreciate your hard work and diligence.

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Anthony Schneck is an Entertainment Editor at Thrillist. Follow him @AnthonySchneck.