'Game of Thrones': Looking Ahead at Jon Snow's War

[Warning: this story contains spoilers through episode four, season six of HBO's Game of Thrones.]

Jon Snow (Kit Harington) knows more about death than virtually anyone else in the Seven Kingdoms, having brushed right up against its door and bursting back into the land of the living. With the fatal experience under his belt, Jon should have a greater understanding of his frozen foes beyond the Wall than ever before — and yet, for his next act, he's looking south.

The Night's King and the White Walkers continue their march toward Westeros, but for now at least, Jon is putting that war on hold in order to fight another. In episode four of Game of Thrones' sixth season, "Book of the Stranger," Jon reunited with half-sister Sansa (Sophie Turner) and learned that Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) not only holds Rickon Stark (Art Parkinson) hostage, but is going around calling himself Lord of Winterfell and Warden of the North. Needless to say, the children of the late Eddard Stark did not take the news well, and started planning their retaliation accordingly. 

On paper, the odds are not in Jon and Sansa's favor. They boast about two thousand able-bodied warriors thanks to Tormund Giantsbane (Kristofer Hivju) and his wildlings, against House Bolton's estimated five thousand soldiers. But that's not factoring in all the potential Stark loyalists they can recruit to their cause. Sansa convinces Jon that he can win over many of the main houses in the North due to his status as Ned Stark's eldest surviving son, and she might be right — but that's overlooking the fact that House Umber thoroughly betrayed the Starks by gifting Rickon to Ramsay.

Some Valyrian-foil hat theories suggest the Umbers plan to betray the Boltons, using Rickon as a means of securing their place in Ramsay's inner circle. But tell that to Osha (Natalia Tena), killed at Ramsay's hands not one episode after returning to Winterfell; if this is a ruse, it's an ill-conceived one.

That's not to say Jon and Sansa are without allies: Petyr Baelish (Aidan Gillen) marches north with the Knights of the Vale to "join the fray," adding a significant amount of swords to the struggling House Stark's cause. Of course, Littlefinger always has an agenda of his own, and it might not fall in line with Jon and Sansa's desires in the long term — but for the short term, it appears that he's more friend than foe.

Indeed, some fans think Littlefinger already fired shots in this war. In this hypothetical scenario, he's the one who sent the nasty letter to Jon and Sansa, not Ramsay, in a bid to lure them away from the Wall and into battle against Winterfell. It's hard to see exactly how Littlefinger would know about Rickon's imprisonment at this point, but it's easy to accept the man's willingness to manipulate the Starks toward war; it wouldn't be the first time.

Still, view Ramsay's letter as if the Bastard of Bolton wrote it himself. It falls perfectly in line with one of the most sadistic and impulsive characters in the show's entire run, doesn't it? What's more, it's a beautiful historical artifact; by the end of the season, that letter might well be prominently framed in the halls of Winterfell, the restored seat of House Stark.

With wildlings on their side, the possibility of rallying the North together, and the impending arrival of Littlefinger's army, fans have every reason to believe that Jon and Sansa will utterly destroy Ramsay Bolton by the season's end … if not for the fact that this is Game of Thrones, where happy endings rarely occur. Win or lose, Jon will fight on the field outside of Winterfell, just as Melisandre (Carice van Houten) saw in the fires. The Battle of the Bastards is on its way.

All that said, Jon would be wise to keep one eyeball on the Wall as the war for Winterfell rages on — because no matter who wins, the White Walkers will do their best to make sure everybody dies.

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