Monday, June 15, 2015

Dead May Not Be “Dead” on “Game of Thrones”

The entire Game of Thrones watching world is talking about last night’s season finale. So here are my thoughts. Obviously, huge *SPOILERS* to follow if you missed last night’s show.

Last night, Jon Snow played the role of Julius Caesar, apparently stabbed to death by the brothers of the Night’s Watch. Kit Harrington, who plays Jon Snow, has already said that the character is gone, and showrunner Dan Weiss has said the same, noting that “dead is dead” on Game of Thrones. Except when it’s not.

Now, Jon’s “death” happens similarly in A Dance With Dragons, so I’ve had lots of time to think this through. Here’s my theory on why we haven’t seen the last of Jon Snow.

Let me begin by stating one huge assumption – that the show’s writers will not fundamentally deviate for the core of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. If they do, all bets are off. But so far, despite the fact the show has deviated in numerous ways from the books, it has never strayed from the core plot. Every major event that is core to the books, including the deaths of Robert Baratheon and Ned Stark, Dany’s dragons emerging from the stone eggs, the Red Wedding, the Purple Wedding, the fate of the Wildlings and the White Walkers beyond The Wall, has all happened on the show. I cannot imagine the show changing the fundamental story, even if they stick Sansa in Winterfell for a time or have Jaime travel to Dorne.

I have to believe HBO won't deviate from the story's core.
This assumption held true after last night’s episode too. Again, with the exception of Sansa, nearly every character is where they need to be at the end of A Dance With Dragons. Daenerys is surrounded by Dothraki while Drogon takes a nap. Cersei is back in the Red Keep. Sam and Gilly are heading to Old Town. Theon has escaped from Winterfell. Tyrion is in Meereen (he’s nearly there by the end of the book), and Jaime is back to a place where his story could resume as normal if the writers so choose. So could Brienne’s, for that matter, even though she’s taken a detour on the show.

Most importantly, however, Jon is where he ends up at the end of A Dance With Dragons – and so is Melisandre. She’s back at Castle Black, just where she needs to be.

Could she be Jon's salvation?
In A Dance With Dragons, Melisandre never leaves Castle Black, and in fact she takes a rather strong interest in Jon Snow – so much so that we’re left to wonder if she suspects he might be the savior foretold by her Lord of Light, Azor Ahai reborn, instead of Stanis Baratheon. At one point she even thinks: “I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow.” 

So what does this mean? Well, first and foremost, let’s remember that A Song of Ice and Fire is epic fantasy. Everything appears to be leading up to a ginormous battle between the White Walkers and the saviors of mankind, and like every epic, the story’s going to need a hero or two. Now, Daenerys is obviously one of those heroes, and her three dragons will undoubtedly play a big role in the epic conflict to come. But everything we’ve seen about Jon Snow suggests he is one of those heroes too. This is likely one reason George R.R. Martin has coyly stated in reference to Jon Snow, “Oh, you think he’s dead, do you?” 

I simply have to believe Martin has more planned for Jon. Otherwise, the only point of his death is to leave The Wall without a leader, virtually guaranteeing the White Walkers will overtake it soon. And even if this is part of Martin’s plan, all he needs is for Jon to be “dead” for a while – until the savior needs to return. So assuming that Martin still has big plans for Jon Snow in A Song of Ice and Fire, and that the show’s writers won’t deviate from Martin’s core plot, I suspect Jon will be back before the series wraps up in Season 7.

As for how Jon will survive, we can only speculate. But there’s plenty of magic in the world of Game of Thrones to allow this to happen. First, we know that the priests of R’hllor can raise the dead. Thoros of Myr did this to Beric Dondorion on the show and in the books (resurrecting him numerous times). Thoros also resurrects Caitlyn Stark at the end of A Storm Of Swords, turning her into Lady Stoneheart. So, with Melisandre back in Castle Black, resurrection remains a possibility. And, even if she doesn’t make Jon rise from the dead (an outcome that might be inconsistent with Kit Harrington’s comments that he’s not going to be in Season 6), maybe she can preserve his body until the time it’s needed again (say, in Season 7 – Harrington, noticeably, did not mention Season 7 in his interview with EW).

Or might Ghost save the day?
Second, Jon, like his brother Bran, has the power to transfer his consciousness into his direwolf (just like Bran does with Summer, and later Hodor). This is revealed for Jon in the second book, A Clash Of Kings, and he “wargs” into Ghost in A Dance With Dragons as well. Further, it’s revealed in the prologue to A Dance With Dragons that when one of these skinchangers is dying, they can survive by “warging” or transferring their consciousness into the animal they control. In fact, the prologue makes explicit reference to Snow from the point-of-view of a Wildling skinchanger named Varamyr Sixskins:
“He had known what Snow was the moment he saw the great white direwolf stalking silent at his side. One skinchanger can always sense another.”
A few pages later, Varamyr is slain but his conscious flees into a wolf, allowing him to survive. Why would Martin make that explicit connection between a skinchanger and Jon Snow if it wasn’t supposed to play some role in the grander scheme of A Song of Ice and Fire? That’s one reason it’s completely feasible that Jon Snow’s consciousness might live on in the mind of his dire wolf, Ghost. In fact, as he’s getting stabbed in the book, Jon whispers the word “Ghost.” 

And here’s some more evidence. When Melisandre sees a vision of Jon Snow in the flames, this is what she sees:
“His long face floated before her, limned in tongues of red and orange, appearing and disappearing again, a shadow half-seen behind a fluttering curtain. Now he was a man, now a wolf, now a man again . . .”
A man, then wolf, then a man again. Sounds like a prophecy to me. And, as any reader of fantasy fiction knows, prophesies usually come true. Therefore, I think it is possible Jon may reside in Ghost for a while before returning to human form to help save the day. This certainly would not be inconsistent with the genre of epic fantasy. But again, this assumes the show’s writers plan to stay true to Martin’s master plan. Yet I still believe that’s the case.

This stare has to mean something.
In fact, even the show has foreshadowed an epic battle that will involve Jon Snow before it’s done. Just think back to that scene in “Hardhome” where the lead White Walker has that stare down with Jon. That was a classic “you and I will fight mano y mano someday” kind of stare. Why promise that if Jon’s going to truly bite the dust two episodes later? And why reveal that Jon’s sword just happens to be one that can kill a White Walker in a single strike? No one else I can think of is going to swing that sword when the epic battle reaches its climax. 

No one but Jon Snow.

* Images courtesy of Rotten Tomatoes and


Bill said...

I guess my first attempt to comment failed.

Good points, Joe, but I wonder how tied the TV writers feel to Martin, as you've written about. We'll have to see.

I'm impressed by the willingness of the actress who plays Cersei to go through that!

Joseph Finley said...

Thanks, Bill. I read that she had a body double for some of it, but still it was a great performance.