In Westeros, much like in Hollywood, you’ve got your A-Listers: The Starks, The Lannisters and The Targaryens. You’ve got your B-Listers: The Baratheons, The Greyjoys and The Tyrells. You’ve got your C-Listers: The Arryns, The Martells, The Freys and The Tullys. But then you’ve got your D, E, and F-Listers.
Westeros is filled with hundreds of smaller houses that serve as bannermen to the large houses of power–like their posses or entourages. Most of these smaller houses don’t garner mention in HBO’s interpretation of Westeros, but the books are filled with them, and perhaps the most important of these smaller families are the Reeds. If you watch Game of Thrones with a magnifying glass or keep track of every character’s family tree you might recognize the name, because we’ve actually met three members of House Reed. Jojen and Meera Reed sort of mysteriously arrived on the scene in season three as Bran, Rickon and Hodor are fleeing Winterfell. They arrive because their father sent them to protect Bran and help escort him North of the Wall to the Three-Eyed Raven. Yadda, yadda, yadda Jojen dies on the way to the cave, Meera survives and has sort of a weird sexual tension with Bran even though he’s now turned into a creepy fortune teller and is last seen leaving Winterfell midway through season seven to go home to her father. But naturally, you might be wondering who is her father? Who is this guy that cryptically sent his only two children on a suicide mission to protect a random kid?
His name is Howland Reed, and he’s the character that us book readers have spent the past twenty years (since the first book was published) waiting for.
We actually got our first glimpse of Howland Reed last season in Bran’s vision at The Tower of Joy. Howland Reed is one of young Ned Starks’s best friends and he rides with Ned to the Tower of Joy to rescue Lyanna Stark. Of the eight men that fight at the Tower of Joy, only two survive: Ned Stark and Howland Reed.
Howland Reed is there when Ned discovers Lyanna and her newborn son Aegon “Jon Snow” Targaryen. As Lyanna died during childbirth, Ned agreed to protect baby Jon by concealing his identity from the world. Ned kept this secret from everyone in his life: his wife, his children and even his nephew Jon. And with Ned’s death in season one, Howland Reed became the one living person in the world that actually witnessed this historic and world changing event at The Tower of Joy.
So where the hell has Howland Reed been?
Good question. We don’t know where he’s been throughout the entirety of the show, but we do know that right now he’s at his castle Greywater Watch, in the region of Westeros called “The Neck” which is basically the swamplands of Westeros. Greywater Watch is a floating castle that is by all accounts incredibly hard to find, by design. As Meera Reed says in the books: “Our home, Greywater Watch, is no castle like you’ll ever see. And seeing it once does not mean you’ll ever find it again. For Greywater Watch…moves.”
So what role could Howland Reed play in Season Eight?
We know that Meera Reed has returned to Greywater Watch to be with her father and help protect their floating castle as the White Walkers descend upon Westeros.
We also know that Howland Reed is the only person in the world that can give Jon Snow the full story of his lineage, birth, adoption and everything that it means.
And finally, we know that the White Walkers and their army can’t swim (see Jon, Jorah, The Hound, Tormund and Beric Dondarrion trapped on that patch of ice North of the Wall). Wouldn’t a castle that is not only surrounded by water, but literally floating on it, be the perfect place to hide out and plan an attack on the White Walkers?
It feels to me like the entire Reed family plotline would be wasted if it wasn’t tied up this season in a way that connects the past to the present, and perhaps even the future. Howland Reed saved Ned’s life way back at The Tower of Joy. Jojen and Meera Reed saved Bran’s life back in season three. It seems the Reed family is in many ways the unofficial protectors of the Stark family.
Howland Reed protected Jon Snow all this time by keeping Ned’s secret. In my opinion, it would only be fitting for him to be the one to reveal it to Jon.