Warning! Major Game of Thrones Spoilers Ahead.
We’re 3 episodes into season 7, and 63 episodes into Game of Thrones entirely, and one of the most talked about characters in the critically claimed television series still has yet to make an appearance – Rhaegar Targaryen.
Season 6 finally confirmed the long-running open secret that Jon Snow is actually the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen and not the bastard child of Ned Stark. Hence the often seen equation, R + L = J. However, a keen eye will notice there have been plenty of clues that have fans hoping they’ll see Daenerys’ eldest brother finally make his grand debut.
Since Game of Thrones came on the air, Rhaegar’s character alone has often been shrouded in mystery but there have many references to provide us with some insight into the type of person he was or wasn’t. As Robert Baratheon told Ned Stark, “What Rhaegar Targaryen did to your sister, the woman I loved, I’ll kill every Targaryen I get my hands on.” But to those who know him best like Barristan Selmy, “Rhaegar never liked killing, he loved singing.” Which narrative is the correct one remains to be seen but all indications are his relationship at least with Lyanna Stark, was genuine. As many speculate, they were even likely married in secret which would make Jon Snow a legitimate Targaryen with arguably more right to claim the iron throne than his aunt Daenerys.
There are plenty of theories of the true context of Rhaegar and Lyanna’s relationship. The often told rumor is that Rhaegar kidnapped Lyanna, at a time when he was married to Elia Martell and she betrothed to Robert Baratheon. Thus launching Robert’s rebellion which is the antithesis before the show’s main plot. However, many people believe that Rhaegar and Lyanna likely fell in love and ran away together. A flashback here would certainly explain what fans have been wondering for decades. *Hint* *Hint* Bran.
The first time Rhaegar was mentioned was in season 1 when Robert and Ned were talking beside Lyanna’s tomb in the Winterfell crypts and again on the road to King’s Landing. He told Ned, “In my dreams, I kill him [Rhaegar] every night”. Jumping ahead to season 5, Littlefinger spoke to Sansa about Rhaegar and Lyanna saying, “When Rhaegar won [the Tourney of Harrenhal], everyone cheered for their prince until he rode right past his wife, Elia Martell, and all the smiles died. I’ve never seen so many people so quiet. He rode past his wife and lay a crown of winter roses in Lyanna’s lap, blue with frost. How many tens of thousands had to die because Rhaegar chose your aunt?”
That’s a lot of talk, it’s time to see some action.
There’s clear indications this may happen sooner than later. At the end of season 6, Bran traveled back in time to the Tower of Joy, which is how we learned about Jon Snow’s parentage. Armed with the knowledge that Lyanna had a secret child, and his convenient arrival back in Winterfell, there’s no better time for Jon to finally learn the truth via a time-traveling scene.
Now you may be asking, “If Rhaegar is in this season, how come we haven’t heard of any actors linked to the role recently?” Game of Thrones only confirms a handful of actors before a season starts and casting Rhaegar would be on the same level of secrecy of casting Lyanna Stark for her revealing scene, as is most of the casting decisions in recent years. For example, Danish actor Pilou Asbæk got one of the more important roles of last season as Euron Greyjoy, but Game of Thrones was only forced to confirm it after it was reported that Euron had been cast.
Game of Thrones isn’t a show that wastes dialogue either and often uses what may seem as throwaway lines as foreshadowing future game-changing developments. It’s no coincidence when Jon arrived to Dragonstone in episode 3 of season 7, he tells Ser Davos, “I’m no Stark.” Then only to be buzzed overhead by the dragon Rhaegal, which is aptly named after his father, Rhaegar.
Come on, it’s time to give the fans what they want!