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How the Game of Thrones Premiere Tackled Jon's Big Moment

Jon Snow finally knows something, and he isn’t happy.

Warning: this article contains spoilers for the Game of Thrones Season 8 premiere.

The Season 8 premiere of Game of Thrones featured a moment fans have been waiting eight years to see: Thanks to Samwell Tarly, Jon Snow finally learned the truth about his parents, Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, and the fact that he’s actually the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

IGN spoke to John Bradley about shooting the pivotal scene with Kit Harington, and how he found the balance between portraying Sam’s grief over losing his father and brother and conveying this vital information to Jon.

“I knew that I’d somehow have to find a very quick transition from Sam being upset and emotional and crying and being on the edge of trauma, and moving to a much more calm space where Sam composes himself and goes on to tell Jon this very sensitive piece of information in a very calm and measured and deliberate way, because Sam knows that Jon’s gonna be angry,” Bradley noted. “If you say anything about Ned Stark or make out that Ned Stark was not knowable or was a liar or deceived anybody, it kind of feels like blasphemy as far as Jon Snow’s concerned, so Sam knows that he has to calm that down, he has to extinguish that flame in Jon Snow that rises up whenever something that he cares about so deeply is brought into question.”

Jon is given so much important information in the scene, but some fans were surprised that he didn’t react more strongly to the fact that he and Daenerys are related as aunt and nephew.

“It’s an interesting thing – what would be at the forefront of your mind: The fact that your father wasn’t your father, the fact that you’re the rightful king, or the fact that your physical relationship is an illicit one? It’s a three-pronged attack,” Bradley pointed out. “As Sam says in the episode, it’s a lot to take in, and I think Jon’s got enough to deal with when it comes to his entire childhood being a lie. He’s got to compute all that, then he’s got to compute the fact that he’s king, and I can imagine with the incest stuff, that night he’ll sit bolt upright in bed and it’ll suddenly dawn on him in that moment, and then that’s just another problem to deal with. But at the moment I think he’s got bigger fish to fry.”

The fact that Ned lied to him his whole life certainly seems to be the biggest shock to Jon, and Bradley revealed that there was one minor (but perhaps enlightening) change between the script and the finished scene, which involved Ned’s true position as Jon’s uncle.

“The only line that was missing from the script going into the show from our scene was… in the show I don’t think that Sam refers to Ned as Jon’s uncle at any point in that scene, but he does refer to him as ‘your uncle’ in the script, and that was cut for some reason,” he told IGN. “That line, that ‘Ned Stark was your uncle,’ doesn’t make it into the show and I’m not quite sure what the reason would be for that, but it would be interesting to find out why they decided not to keep that information in, because it’s only one line. That’s the only difference I can think of between the page and the screen.”

Exit Theatre Mode

Perhaps it’s simply because showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t want to overemphasize Jon’s complicated family tree in that moment when he was still reeling from the bombshell – or perhaps it’s a line that will be brought back in episode 2 – either way, it’s clear that Jon has a lot to process beyond simply worrying that it’s treason to suggest that someone other than Dany should rule.

Benioff and Weiss also discussed this crucial scene in the “Inside the Episode” featurette after the premiere, noting that one of the challenges of this scene was maintaining drama even though viewers already learned the truth about Jon’s parentage in Season 7.

“The fact that Jon’s real parents were who Jon’s real parents were is not news to us at this point,” said Weiss. “What we don’t know is the way that Jon is going to take this. How is the explosion going to look?”

Benioff pointed out that Sam was the most logical choice of character to relay this information to Jon. “Sam, as a brother of the Night’s Watch and Jon are more brothers than Jon and Bran ever really were. He knows it’s going to hurt Jon and shatter his whole worldview. For all they know, the army of the dead could attack the next day, and someone has to tell Jon before that.”

Exit Theatre Mode

Bradley agreed in our interview: “I’ve always said that if Jon was gonna hear it from anybody he’d hear it from Sam, because he knows that Sam would be A: well-informed and wouldn’t be using unreliable sources, and also wouldn’t be doing it to make life hard for Jon Snow or have any kind of agenda that would be detrimental to Jon Snow or his campaign, so I knew that that was the right way Jon Snow was gonna find out about that.”

He added, “It was a very exciting scene to read because it’s probably one of the most important scenes in the entire series, and as an actor all you ever want to do is feel important, feel that you’re having an impact on things and that a story wouldn’t be going the same way without you. And to be such a part of a scene like that, that’s gonna affect pretty much everything we see from now on in the final season, it’s a real thrill and a real privilege to play it.”

Weiss revealed that they made the decision to frame this scene around Jon’s reaction more than the news itself, exploring his reluctance to accept a truth that deep down he knows to be true. Instead, Jon fixates on the idea that his “father” Ned lied to him his entire life.

Weiss said, “The truth that Samwell tells Jon is probably the single most incendiary fact in the world of the show. We chose to play the whole thing on Jon’s face, because as great a job as John Bradley is doing, he’s just presenting information we know already.”

For more on this week’s new episode, check out the record-setting ratings for the Season 8 premiere, what Benioff and Weiss had to say about Jon and Dany’s epic dragon-riding sequence, all the callbacks to Season 1 we spotted, our theory on what kind of weapon Arya asked Gendry to makehow the episode may have referenced Ed Sheeran, and how the opening credits changed in the premiere.

Jesse is a mild-mannered writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter, or Kicksplode on MyIGN.

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