'Game of Thrones' Everything to Know: An Overview of Jon Snow

Game of Thrones 609 - Kit Harington-H 2016
Courtesy of HBO

Welcome to The Hollywood Reporter's "Everything to Know" series. Starting with Game of Thrones, THR's Westeros guru Josh Wigler will offer an in-depth guide about, well, everything there is to know about one particular topic within the complex universe.

There are dozens of key characters strewn about the narrative of Game of Thrones, so many that it feels unfair to single out one as more important than any other. Then again, when someone is definitively killed off and then brought back to life a few episodes later, maybe this character is a little more central than others.

Jon Snow (Kit Harington), mostly dead at the end of season five and now much more than slightly alive, is closer to the core of the show's central storylines than any other character on Game of Thrones. He serves as the audience's eyes and ears on the White Walker threat, dutifully serving the Night's Watch ever since season one. Now, he's a contender in the greater game of thrones, too, as the newly minted King in the North, with at least one more royal twist still on the way. 

And that's not even accounting for the wide array of epic Jon Snow action scenes littered throughout Thrones, as seen in our Everything to Know video below:

From the earliest scenes in the series, Jon Snow was immediately one of the most compelling characters on the board. He's one of several Stark siblings, albeit the black sheep of the family. His history as the bastard son of Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) casts him as an outsider in the eyes of Westeros at large, and even creates some uncomfortable dynamics within House Stark, with Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley) and Sansa (Sophie Turner) especially. Jon's outsider status is further demonstrated when he becomes the proud new owner of Ghost, the albino runt of the litter of direwolves that the rest of the Stark children take into their care. Through six seasons, Ghost is the sole survivor among his siblings, save for Arya Stark's (Maisie Williams) missing-in-action companion Nymeria.

Starting in the second episode, Jon becomes an integral figure within the Night's Watch, an ancient order of warriors who devote their entire lives to defending Westeros from threats dwelling Beyond the Wall, a largely uncharted wintery wasteland where rumors of monsters are starting to grow. While Game of Thrones makes most of its meals in the King's Landing kitchen, the importance of the Wall to the greater story can't be emphasized enough, as it's the only thing standing between the White Walkers and total dominion over mankind.

Jon quickly rises the ranks during his time at Castle Black, first serving as the great Jeor Mormont's steward, and eventually becoming the 998th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch. First, Jon goes behind enemy lines and infiltrates the Wildlings, bending the rules of his vows through a forbidden love affair with the fiery Ygritte (Rose Leslie). Their romance is short-lived, ended with an arrow during the Wildlings' attack against Castle Black.

Following that battle, and following his election to the Night's Watch's top post, Lord Commander Snow implements a controversial agenda in which he allows Wildlings to pass through the Wall and settle in unclaimed territories. Jon reasons that the living need all the warm bodies they can get in their impending battle against the dead. His logic falls on the deaf ears of Alliser Thorne (Owen Teale) and other key members of the order, who see Jon's actions as a shocking violation of Night's Watch norms. They conspire and follow through on an assassination attempt against Jon, stabbing him multiple times and leaving his bleeding corpse to rot in the cold.

Of course, the mutineers weren't counting on a little thing called fire magic: Lord of Light disciple Melisandre (Carice van Houten) manages to use her considerable power to breathe life back into Snow's body, bringing him back to the land of the living after almost a full day spent in the land of the dead — such as it exists, as Jon reports back that he experienced nothing but emptiness during his time of death. Jon's first act once he returns to life is to execute the traitors who stuck their knives in his belly and back. His second act? Turning his back on his brothers in black, which is technically not a violation of his vows since you're only required to serve the Wall until your time of death. 

Jon grows aimless and demoralized in his second lease on life, but quickly gains direction when his long lost half-sister Sansa turns up at the Wall. Through Sansa, Jon learns all about the wicked Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon) and his newfound control over Winterfell and the North. Free from the burden of his vows, Jon rallies as many Northerners, Wildlings and other assorted allies as he can, and successfully avenges House Bolton's crimes against House Stark in a grueling battle known as the Battle of the Bastards. Upon Ramsay's death, Jon quickly rises as the King in the North, at long last receiving the recognition and love as a full-blooded Stark he always sought during his childhood.

There's just one catch: Jon isn't a full-blooded Stark. In one of the final scenes of season six, Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead Wright) uses his veritable time travel abilities to visit the past and witness Jon's birth. Through Bran's eyes, we finally discover that Jon isn't Ned Stark's son at all. He's secretly the son of Lyanna Stark, Ned's sister, the same woman whose abduction incited the civil war known as Robert's Rebellion, ending centuries of Targaryen rule over Westeros. What's more, we now know the identity of Jon's father: Prince Rhaegar Targaryen, by many accounts a soulful man who wanted peace for the realm, and could have instilled it if not for his death in combat against eventual king Robert Baratheon (Mark Addy). Jon has yet to learn the truth about where he comes from, but when he finds out, it's a potential game-changer of the highest level: With both ice and fire in his veins, Jon Snow is among the very strongest candidates to sit upon the Iron Throne at the end of the series, assuming the throne still exists.

Check in with THR.com/GameOfThrones for everything else you need to know about the show, and keep the conversation going with me on Twitter @roundhoward. We'll return in two weeks with a closer look at another corner of the world of ice and fire. In the meantime, check out our previous "Everything to Know" Game of Thrones coverage: 

1. 'Game of Thrones' Everything to Know: A Guide for New Viewers
2. 'Game of Thrones' Everything to Know: An Overview of Westeros