- Share this article on Facebook
- Share this article on Twitter
- Share this article on Email
- Show additional share options
- Share this article on Print
- Share this article on Comment
- Share this article on Whatsapp
- Share this article on Linkedin
- Share this article on Reddit
- Share this article on Pinit
- Share this article on Tumblr
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season six premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones.]
“I can’t believe they didn’t bring him back to life.”
Roose Bolton actor Michael McElhatton said these words to The Hollywood Reporter at the Game of Thrones season six world premiere in early April, when asked to predict how viewers will react to the final scene of the episode. More likely, viewers were distracted enough with the mystifying Melisandre (Carice van Houten) reveal — that she is, underneath it all, impossibly ancient in age — but once that immediate shock wears off, thoughts will inevitably turn toward McElhatton’s suggestion.
Yes, it’s true: Jon Snow (Kit Harington) is dead, and as of now, he’s staying that way.
The season six premiere begins with a long tracking shot along The Wall, swooping into Castle Black, stopping right where viewers last saw Jon: bleeding out in the snow, dead like Ned. Davos Seaworth (Liam Cunningham), Dolorous Edd (Ben Crompton) and other Snow loyalists immediately spring to action, defending the body of their fallen Lord Commander… but there’s no attempt to bring the man back to life, or even mention of the possibility.
During the Game of Thrones offseason, many fans took solace in the idea that Jon would somehow survive his situation. There’s still reason to believe Harington’s hero can reverse his fate, but for now, the show is playing it straight: Jon’s dead, and the people in his life are left with little choice but to mourn and move forward.
For Davos, that means fighting back against the Night’s Watch mutineers, according to Cunningham: “Things are pretty clear cut for him. Even in a confusing world, the answer for Davos is always: ‘Do the right thing.’ He knows what the right thing is for any given situation.”
For Melisandre, that means retirement, if only for the evening. “She had seen a great battle at Winterfell with Jon Snow leading it, and now, he’s dead,” Cunningham said. “Her world’s falling asunder.”
For others, however, it’s business as usual. Showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss spoke with THR about Thrones approaching its final episodes, citing Jon Snow’s death as a prime example of the show’s willingness to do away with common fantasy tropes.
“Was any gambler dumb enough to bet money on Voldemort defeating Harry?” they said. “In traditional fantasy, when the forces of darkness are arrayed against the armies of light, everyone knows who’s going to win. And that’s one of the elements that bored us about traditional fantasy: the predictability of it.”
Kristian Nairn, the Hodor to Jon Snow’s half-brother Bran, backs that position when asked if Jon’s death was particularly unpredictable for the series. “Hasn’t it always been that way? If you didn’t know what happened in the books, you would never be able to predict what’s going to happen on Game of Thrones,” he said.
Even within Jon’s own family, there’s a sense that the character’s death opens new storytelling doors, even as it’s closing a major one. Maisie Williams (Arya), for example, feels the lethal twist will increase the audience’s appreciation for other characters.
“It’s obviously the talk of the town right now,” she said, “but I think people will learn to remember how we left all the other storylines, and how exciting those are as well.”
For his part, John Bradley said he experienced “a double grief” over Jon Snow’s death. Not only does Bradley play Jon’s best friend Samwell Tarly, but he also began his career alongside Harington.
“My first scene ever professionally acting was with Kit,” he said. “When we started out in season one, we really didn’t know anything. Kit had done some plays and I came straight from drama school. The bonds you make when you’re scared and you’re unsure, they’re the bonds that tend to last. It’s sad to see him go.”
Speaking for his character, Bradley believes there was a finality to the way Jon and Sam parted ways in the season five finale.
“Jon’s always going off,” he said. “He went off for Hardhome, for the raid at Craster’s Keep — and he always comes back. It’s an interesting point, that Jon and Sam have said au revoir before, but they’ve never said goodbye. This one felt like a goodbye.”
Then again, there’s hope to be gleaned from Samwell’s own words, uttered in the “Hardhome” episode of season five, and repeated here by Bradley: “He always comes back.” For months, fans of Thrones have clutched those four words close to their hearts, like Davos Seaworth’s lucky bag of finger bones, hoping against hope that the 998th Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch can come back even from certain death. Did the season six premiere rip those hopes away, just as Davos lost his bag of bones on the Blackwater? For some fans, certainly. For others, hope remains alive.
With nine episodes remaining in season six, Jon’s return isn’t entirely off the table — but for right now, at least, it is indeed time to say au revoir.
Do you think Jon will stay dead, or will he return later on in season six? Check back with THR.com/GameOfThrones for more interviews, analysis and videos throughout the season.
Sign up for THR news straight to your inbox every day