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Look no further than King Joffrey Baratheon (Jack Gleeson) as an example, memorably choking to death at the end of season four’s second episode, “The Lion and the Rose.” The first shot of the subsequent installment, “Breaker of Chains,” kept the focus entirely on the wicked boy king’s purple face, extending the viewers’ sense of joy just a little bit longer.
Fast-forward to season six of HBO’s Emmy-winning series, as the show is poised for a similar moment of giving the fans exactly what they want. The second episode of the season, “Home,” finished with Jon Snow (Kit Harington) coming back to life, after spending two episodes in the great beyond. The preview for the coming episode, “Oathbreaker,” sees Jon sitting up in his deathbed, a direct continuation of where we last saw him — suggesting that the very first thing viewers will see in episode three is the very last thing they saw in episode two.
With Jon back among the living, one of the most excruciating cliffhangers in Thrones history comes to an end. Now, new twists and turns await. So much speculation centered on the when, if and how about Jon’s resurrection; less attention has been paid to the “what next,” and that’s where “Oathbreaker” comes in.
Already, there are signs of the things to come for Jon, and it begins with episode three’s title. Several characters are primed and ready for broken oaths — Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) could betray the Faceless Men, for example, while Brienne of Tarth (Gwendoline Christie) could somehow break her Valyrian sword Oathkeeper (although not without extraordinary effort and bad luck) — but none more than Jon Snow, whose resurrection means he’s no longer obligated to the Night’s Watch.
As a refresher, the Night’s Watch oath states: “Night gathers, and now my watch begins. It shall not end until my death.” There is no question at all that Jon died. Technically, Jon’s death absolves him of any commitment to remaining on The Wall. Could Jon end the episode turning his back on Castle Black?
There’s also the unspoken oath between man and nature broken by Jon’s return from the dead. “Dead is dead,” as another show often reminded its viewers, but not on Thrones — not where Jon’s concerned. It’s a notion that’s sure to challenge the people in Jon’s immediate orbit, especially the man himself.
“Jon’s never been afraid of death, and that’s made him a strong and honorable person,” Harington said this week. “He realizes something about his life now: He has to live it, because that’s all there is. He’s been over the line and there’s nothing there. And that changes him. It literally puts the fear of God into him. He doesn’t want to die ever again. But if he does, he doesn’t want to be brought back.”
Finally, it’s instructive to look not just at Jon’s death and rebirth, but his first entry into life as well. Thrones looks likely to dive into Lord Snow’s mysterious origin in “Oathbreaker,” based on the glimpses of the Tower of Joy seen in the preview for the episode. Book readers and conspiracy theorists know this Dornish stronghold as Jon’s possible birthplace — and if that information’s revealed on the show, it’ll clarify one of the most questionable oath-breaking decisions in the otherwise honorable Eddard Stark’s life.
With the question of his rebirth already settled, will Jon’s first birth become the most important enigma on the show? Look toward “Oathbreaker” to either settle the matter, or push it in a mysterious new direction.
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