Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why Jon Snow Had to Die and Be Reborn

Yesterday, TV Guide published an article titled “Game of Thrones: What Was the Point of Jon Snow’s Death and Resurrection?” The article, however, never seriously answered the question. Instead, it concluded that “Jon was killed just for the show to have something to do during its saggy midpoint, and his death and resurrection won't really have a huge impact on the story.” Really?

First off, Jon dies in the books, okay. The show’s writers didn’t make this up. George R.R. Martin did. And for anyone who has read his novels, there is certainly a much larger purpose at play. 

To its credit, the TV Guide article pointed out that after Jon was resurrected two episodes into Season 6, the resurrection didn’t seem to have any real purpose on the show:
“[T]he only question I have after watching the excellent Season 6 is: What was the point of Jon Snow dying and coming back to life? He died at the very end of Season 5. He was brought back to life in the second episode of Season 6. After that, things were remarkably normal regarding Jon and there was no discernible change in his behavior (aside from hanging a kid, he actually came back even more meek than before). He was the same old semi-bland fantasy hero he was in his first life, and when he was brought back he continued on the path he was already on before he died. So death was merely an inconvenience for Jon, like Cersei spilling a glass of wine on her new robe.”
The reason for this, I believe, is that Season 6 was limited to just 10 episodes. And while we didn’t get any overt explanation for his resurrection, we did learn something incredibly important about his parentage: Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark. I’m fairly certain this means something, and Martin had it in mind all along.

Throughout his series, and on the show, there have been references to a prophesied savior called either Azhor Ahai (Melisandre’s favorite hero) or “the prince that was promised.” The gist of the prophecy is that this hero will be “reborn” to defeat the White Walkers led by the Night’s King (you know, the one who in “Hardhome” gave Jon that “You and me bro, mano y mano” kind of stare). There have been some really good articles written on who Azhor Ahai may be on Game of Thrones, whether it’s Jon or Daenerys. You can read them here and here, and decide for yourself.

But I like to go back to the books, and one of the most interesting pieces of book “prophecy” comes from A Clash Of Kings, when Daenerys is seeing visions in the House of the Undying. She sees a man whom she mistakes, at first, for her bother Viserys, though it’s strongly implied to be her older brother Rhaegar. He is with a woman holding his newborn child, when he tells her: “He is the prince that was promised, and his is the song of ice and fire.” 

Could this vision have alluded to Jon, who is literally a child of ice (the Starks) and fire (the Targaryens)? I think there’s a good chance that it did. And if Jon needed to be “reborn” to fulfill this prophecy, that would give his death and resurrection a significant purpose from a literary point-of-view.

Even if this is not the case, some commentators on the TV Guide piece make another good point. Jon lives by his vows and, like Ned, is wont to break them. The only way he could be truly released from his vow to the Night’s Watch was by way of his death. That’s now happened. He’s not a deserter of the Night’s Watch like the one Ned had to execute in the very first chapter of A Game of Thrones. Instead, having been released from his vows, he’s now the King in the North

In either case, his death and resurrection had a purpose. And it wasn’t to boost ratings on Game of Thrones. I’m pretty sure of that.

* Images courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes

1 comment:

Bill said...

Thanks for posting this.

My parents were faithful subscribers to TV Guide and I can still remember the excitement when their edition detailing the new fall season arrived each year. I wasn't even sure they were still around - online only I assume.