Ever since Olly drove the final dagger into Jon Snow’s gut, there was rampant speculation as to whether or not one of the most popular characters on one of television’s most popular shows is actually dead– whatever that word really means in a universe with dragons and snow zombies and black fog monsters that come out of sorceresses va-jay-jays. The Jon Snow truthers, only marginally less infuriating than 9/11 truthers, dug through every detail of the last scene hoping find evidence supporting the notion that the character they’d grown to love would be back. They stalked actor Kit Harrington (let us not forget how #KitHarringtonHairWatch became an actual thing). The surplus of theories on both sides of the “Is Snow dead?” debate unfortunately have dominated the discussion of what was, for the most part, a fine Game of Thrones season. I for one am glad that the time for speculation and hypothesizing has, much like a character on this show, come to a sudden end. HBO has released numerous promotional images/posters for the upcoming season. One of them is the face of Jon Snow. Speculation, over (I think?).
Updated: HBO has CONFIRMED Snow is alive and will be back.
I was of the apparent minority that believed Jon Snow really was gone for good as the season five closing credits rolled. I didn’t have any real logic for this frame of mind. I stopped reading the books long ago because I found them to be overly-detailed and, frankly, a lot more boring than the show. I just believed, as a fan of what I always deemed a very smart show, that the showrunners wouldn’t stoop to this level. I believed they had more respect for their audience than to show a main character perishing as the final frame of a season with full intentions of bringing him back just to get people talking (like we weren’t going to be talking about GOT regardless…). I believed Harrington and the writers when they said in numerous interviews that Snow really was dead. When the internet began to be flooded with images of Harrington with Snow’s hair, I told myself, “Maybe he just likes his hair that way”. Now, with it being all but confirmed that the noble ranger who had sex in a cave that one time will be back, I can’t help but feel disappointed. I’m not disappointed because I believe I was lied to. I’m disappointed because, regardless of George R. R. Martin’s larger plans, closing the season with Snow dying and then bringing him back is a bullshit, exploitative move you’d expect out of a brainless Network TV snoozefest that relies solely on cliffhangers…not a quintessential golden-age drama like Game of Thrones.
I get it. GOT is fantasy. Magic is a part of this show. We’ve seen that the Red Woman and the Lord of Light are clearly capable of resurrection. But this is different. This isn’t some relatively minor character being brought back to reinforce Westeros’ mythos. For all intensive purposes, Jon Snow is the most significant male character on the show. We’ve seen other dudes carry this mantle at various points in time, specifically Starks, and meet their fates in a shocking manner. There is now an asterisk next to those deaths, and one next to any major death that happen from this point on. Let’s say, hypothetically, that Arya was to die this season. How the hell are we supposed to believe she’s gone for good? Whenever the next major death happens on GOT, you simply have to take it with a whole fucking handful of salt. This is a horrible precedent to set for a show that figures to drop many more bodies before it throws in the towel.
The most important factor for speculative genres such as sci-fi and fantasy in determining whether or not the general entertainment consuming public will buy it is to set at least some semi-concrete rules in place when it comes to whatever fantastical storytelling device you choose to deploy- whether it be time travel, magic, resurrection, superpowers, immortality, etc. It doesn’t matter how Jon Snow comes back to life (the prevailing theory is that the Red Woman foresaw this and has traveled to the Wall to save him). Six full seasons into GOT, there was no indication that major characters who had died were capable of coming back. In the books, another MAJOR character who we’ve watched die returns in strange fashion. The show hasn’t even hinted at that, and given the timeline, it doesn’t appear that it ever will (I’ll bite my tongue, just in case.). A show so reliant on an “anyone can die at any moment” aura will now find itself walking a tightrope when it comes to how it handles death. This a potentially devastating blow to the plausibility and emotional resonance of the shows dramatic narrative. David Benioff and D.B. Weiss have to handle this very carefully. They’re very smart guys, so maybe they’ll figure it out and I’ll seem like a paranoid, overzealous fanboy for writing this. Maybe. It wouldn’t be the first time.
Worse than pretending to kill Jon Snow is the way last season was paced; completely based around said pretend death. Much like the deaths of both Stark men, the entire season built up to Snow’s demise both in regards to plot and thematic heft. The writing was on the wall. Ned refused to stay quiet about the incestual happenings that spawned the then-King Joffrey. Robb followed his heart and married Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter instead of marrying into the Frey bloodline and getting access to an integral bridge. Jon showed the Wildlings mercy. Nobility leads to death in Westeros. We’ve been beaten over the head with this theme. Seeing as Jon clearly has a key part in the larger story, unlike Rob or Ned, I don’t inherently have a problem with the series not killing him off. But to build your entire season up to a scene that really means nothing? That’s disrespectful to your audience. It’s a shameless attempt at a cliffhanger by a show that doesn’t need cliffhangers due to its large, loyal, and generally intelligent audience. Besides, did they really think they were fooling anybody? This isn’t The Walking Dead. Your fans don’t need forced “holy shit” moments to make up for the lack of genuine genre.
There is no way in Hell or Highgarden HBO was ever going to be able to keep Snow’s inclusion in season six a secret. We live in the internet age. If Kit Harrington was cast in something major that he couldn’t fit into his schedule on top of GOT, we’d know well in advance. I mean, some person bought a drone and flew it over the GOT set. You’re not keeping anything a secret anymore.
Anyways, I just wanted to share my thoughts on this development. Of all the various topics I’ve posted on, Game of Thrones seems to be the most popular, so I’m thinking about doing some sort of “re-watch” over the next few months and writing about key moments in the early seasons within the larger context of the show.
Happy Thanksgiving, unless you’re PC police and can’t let other people enjoy eating food and watching football and hanging out with their friends/family. In that case, I hope what happened to Oberyn Martell happens to you.