WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere, "Winterfell."
The Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere continued assembling the key players that will be needed for the battle with the dead. There were many reunions, arguments and tears. (We may never fully forgive Daenerys for making Samwell Tarly cry.) However, something spectacular happened that we've theorized about since HBO released the teaser trailer and images for the final season. Jon Snow rode a dragon.
Last season, the series confirmed Jon's true name and identity as Aegon Targaryen, the sixth of his name, and rightful heir to the Seven Kingdoms. Jon's mother was Lyanna Stark, and his birth father was Rhaegar Targaryen, Daenerys' brother. Unfortunately, that information drop occurred through Bran's narration over a love scene between Jon and Daenerys, who's actually his aunt. While Targaryens have a reputation for keeping their bloodline pure and marrying each other, Jon and Daenerys probably would have preferred to know this before hooking up.
Before Jon finds out the truth of his parentage, he and Daenerys go on a fun ride, with she on Drogon, her dragon of choice, and Jon on Rhaegal. Interestingly enough, this is the dragon Daenerys named in honor of Jon's birth father. Rhaegal chose Jon and showed interest in him, as if the dragon sensed the one-time King in the North was family. Jon takes to riding the dragon pretty easily, which makes sense, considering his namesakes.
Aegon the Conqueror
Dragons in Westerosi history are deeply tied to their riders; their names are always associated together. The World of Ice & Fire book tells us the first Aegon Targaryen, who became known as Aegon the Conqueror, had a dragon called Balerion the Black Dread. Although there are several King Aegons, the first one is the best-known among the people and the fans, as we've heard other characters reference him before. Therefore, there is a natural comparison to be made between Aegon the Conqueror and our Aegon Targaryen, Jon Snow.
Aegon the Conqueror was a just man who was harsh to traitors, yet he was “openhanded to former foes who bent the knee," according to The World of Ice & Fire. That sounds a lot like Jon Snow, although Aegon the Conqueror was a lot more interested in expanding his reach than Jon seems to be. Yet, names have always been so significant on Game of Thrones, and the events in their history have a habit of repeating themselves (there's been more than one mad king, for example). So, Jon acting like a Targaryen and riding a dragon could hint at future trouble between him and Daenerys.
Dragons didn't use to be a rarity. They were big beasts, and there were many of the, until the Dance of the Dragons, the great war for the throne between Targaryen siblings. One of those was Prince Aegon II, who became king. In the process, he and Princess Rhaenyra fought in many bloody battles, with dragons attacking dragons.
In "Winterfell," Jon found out he's the rightful heir to the Iron Throne, and arguably the person he trusts the most, Samwell Tarly, insists he should assert his birthright. In Sam's words, “You gave up your crown to save your people. Would [Daenerys] do the same?” If Daenerys and Jon do fight over the Seven Kingdoms, there's a chance it could be reminiscent of the Dance of the Dragons, only on a smaller scale. Dany is the Mother of Dragons, but Jon could have a stronger hold over Rhaegal. She favors Drogon so much that Rhaegal could quickly prefer Jon.
What's troublesome about the Dance of the Dragons, other than how many human and dragon lives were lost, is Prince Aegon fed his sister to his dragon in front of her son. An act of such cruelty is out of character for Jon as we know him now, but on Game of Thrones, characters are allowed to be complex. Arya was also raised by Ned Stark, and is now a fully realized killer. Jon could be a good, fair man like Ned Stark, who raised him, and still have the capacity for darkness.
Jon's Targaryen Influence
Aegon the Conqueror was harsh to traitors, and Aegon II fought against his own family; both of them had dragons they used for fighting. Jon and Rhaegal will likely fight together, but there are options as far as why, and against whom. Those who betray him or the North could be subject to dragon fire, and that could very well include Daenerys.
While last season we were concerned about Sansa and Jon fighting for who would rule the North, the Season 8 premiere makes it clear the real struggle is going to be between Jon/Aegon and Daenerys. At least, when they're not busy fighting the army of the dead. Jon's ability to handle Rhaegal would be helpful in this fight as well, as one of the White Walkers' weaknesses is fire. With Viserion transformed into an undead ice dragon, they will need at least two fire-breathing beasts with riders for the living to stand a chance.
At the very least, Jon's ride on Rhaegal is the beginning of him acting more like a Targaryen. That could be beneficial for Daenerys if Jon keeps his word, and his knee remains bent to her. Jon is the key to the North for her rule. Indeed, she and everyone North of the Wall will benefit from the two of them fighting together against the Night King and his army. Yet, if Jon starts acting more like his namesakes, he could become a threat to her, especially as he has learned how to ride a dragon.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, Game of Thrones stars Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister, Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister, Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen, Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark, Maisie Williams as Arya Stark and Kit Harington as Jon Snow.