Game of Thrones season five concluded last night with the shocking but not unexpected death of a major character.
Warning: Spoilers are coming. You should read no further if you do not want the ending of the episode or the George RR Martin book, A Dance With Dragons, spoiled.
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OK, so last night we saw the moment that Jon Snow, played by Kit Harington in the show, was betrayed by the Night's Watch, repeatedly stabbed and left dying a lonely death in the snow.
In the book the assassination seems to be led by Bowen Marsh and is in response to the young Lord Commander vowing to march on Winterfell after being goaded by Ramsay Bolton. In the show the first ranger Alliser Thorne seems to be the ringleader and the 'death blow' is delivered by show-only character Olly. There's no letter from Ramsay to act as the final straw, just continued exasperation at Jon's willingness to shelter and settle Wildlings behind the wall.
It's already painfully obvious to fans of the show or books that George RR Martin has a habit of killing off major characters, especially ones that are popular, but there are many reasons why Jon Snow's death doesn't make any sense, or at least does not appear as it seems.
Here's how Jon might yet return.
1. He's not really dead at all
This is the most straightforward explanation. The old rule that unless you see something happen, you shouldn't accept that it has holds true. In the book (and to a lesser extent the show) we don't definitively see Jon die. Sure it looks bad, but here's how Martin describes it:
Then Bowen Marsh stood there before him, tears running down his cheeks. "For the Watch." He punched Jon in the belly. When he pulled his hand away, the dagger stayed where he had buried it.
Jon fell to his knees. He found the dagger’s hilt and wrenched it free. In the cold night air the wound was smoking. "Ghost," he whispered. Pain washed over him. Stick them with the pointy end. When the third dagger took him between the shoulder blades, he gave a grunt and fell face-first into the snow. He never felt the fourth knife. Only the cold...
Simply put; until we see Jon's burial or more likely cremation, there's a chance he could survive the wounds. Speaking of cremation...
2. He will be reincarnated (part one)
The oldest and most enduring Game of Thrones fan theory is that Jon Snow is not Ned Stark's bastard son, but his nephew. The R+L=J theory holds that Jon is the offspring of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, repeated allusions to both of which have been made in season five. Martin named his literary series A Song of Ice and Fire, which looks to make Jon the singer as the union of Stark and Targaryen. The other prominent Targaryen in the books and show is of course Daenerys, who we saw at the end of season one and book one (A Game of Thrones) experience something of a rebirth after walking into her husband Khal Drogo's funeral pyre and emerging unscathed.
"He was no dragon, fire can not kill a dragon," she remarked earlier when her brother Viserys met a fiery end. Even though the brothers of the Night's Watch are so short-sighted to kill the one man who gave them the best chance of stopping the White Walkers (the Others in the book), they still know to burn bodies to prevent them being turned into wights. What will happen when they try to burn Jon Snow, we wonder...
3. He will be reincarnated (part two)
Both in the book and the show, the presence of Melisandre at the Wall looks to be of huge significance. The Red Priestess might not be everyone's favourite character after eventually convincing Stannis to burn his own daughter alive (in the show) and seemingly having led him to his destruction before the walls of Winterfell (in the show and probably in the books as well), but she probably represents Jon's best chance of survival. While she has never used her abilities as an adherent of the Lord of Light to bring anyone back to life, we have seen how Thoros of Myr, a priest of R'hllor, did so on multiple occasions for Beric Dondarion (and for book-readers, at least one other major character...). Melisandre is seemingly fascinated with Jon, in visions in the books she laments that "all I see is snow".
She also looks to have finally accepted that Stannis is not Azor Ahai, a legendary hero who wielded a burning sword called Lightbringer that defeated the Great Other. Oh did we mention that he's prophesised to return, and that he obtained his magic sword through the death of his loved one. Hm...
4. He warged into Ghost
Who else do we know is at the Wall when Jon is betrayed? His dire-wolf Ghost. The Starks are well-known wargs, skinchangers who can enter the minds of animals.
While Jon's warg abilities are nowhere near as pronounced or practised as say his brother Bran, the show and books have gone to great lengths to show us that a warg can survive the death of his human form by moving into the mind of a beast.
5. He... he just can't be dead
While the deaths of other major characters have been necessary to advance the plot, Jon Snow's demise just doesn't seem to make sense, as there would be no one to advance the storyline at the Wall. The other major prophecy at the heart of the storyline is the prince/princess that was promised, and the three-headed dragon. It's always looked like Dany, Tyrion and Jon were destined to be the three dragon riders; if you remove Jon from the equation who is going to replace him? Sam?
Finally, if George RR Martin intended Jon Snow's parentage to be one of the central mysteries of Game of Thrones, would it really make sense to kill off the only character left around to truly care about it?
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