Game of Thrones’ Worst-Kept Secret: Jon Snow’s Fate Finally Revealed
The second episode of Thrones’ sixth season gave us the reveal we all saw coming. [Warning: Spoilers!] What version of the Lord Commander this is, however, remains to be seen.
Like the proverbial Glenn crawling from under a dumpster, Game of Thrones revealed Jon Snow’s fate Sunday, in the exact way everyone predicted it would last June. Melisandre used the Lord of Light R’hllor’s power to jolt life back into Jon Snow’s dead body, just like Thoros of Myr does for Beric Dondarrion—no warging, White Walkers, secret lineage reveals, or other creative twists necessary. All it took to revive the dead Lord Commander was a wink-wink suggestion from Davos (here serving as audience stand-in, touting the same idea we waited 10 months to see tested out) and a half-hearted attempt from Melisandre, who literally just mimics a thing she saw a guy do one time and lo and behold, it works. Jon Snow was too pretty to die after all.When Melisandre began washing Jon’s wounds, I was among those who was sure she’d fail—a decisive, satisfying way for the show to quash that particular theory about Jon’s resurrection (one that somehow felt too obvious to play out onscreen). After Ghost suddenly awoke, hinting that Jon might have warged his way into his beloved pet wolf after all, it felt like a new mystery was ripe for speculation.But in the end, it was the simplest answer the show chose to solve its Jon Snow conundrum: the Red Woman, whose real power we finally glimpsed last week, was the key after all.Was this worth 10 months of half-truths and outright lies from the show’s cast and creators? (For what it’s worth, Kit Harington says he’s sorry, everyone.) Was it worth every predictable beat in that final scene? It’s still early in the season—some storytelling masterstroke may still unfold to justify Jon’s death and the overly convenient nature of his resurrection. Or it might not and we’ve been trolled by yet another genre-TV juggernaut that underestimates its audience.Predictable or not, Game of Thrones’ flimsy revelation at least succeeded where The Walking Dead’s Glenn stunt did not: It may have inspired a few eye-rolls, but it also made viewers want more of the story right away. That's what cliffhangers are supposed to do.Part of the anticipation for next week comes from finding out whether the Snow Melisandre brought back is the same one who left us last season. No one comes back from the dead on Game of Thrones without losing some integral part of themselves. Khal Drogo became an empty shell when a Lhazareen priestess revived him. Even Beric Dondarrion, brought back six times the same way as Snow, tells Arya in Season 3 that he would not wish his fate on anyone. “Every time I come back, I’m a bit less,” he tells her. “Pieces of you get chipped away.”
George R.R. Martin elaborated on Beric’s resurrections in 2011, saying, “Each time Beric’s revived he loses a little more of himself. He was sent on a mission before his first death. He was sent on a mission to do something, and it’s like, that’s what he’s clinging to. He’s forgetting other things, he’s forgetting who he is, or where he lived. He’s forgotten the woman who he was once supposed to marry. Bits of his humanity are lost every time he comes back from death; he remembers that mission. His flesh is falling away from him, but this one thing, this purpose that he had is part of what’s animating him and bringing him back to death.”Just the way Beric is driven by his last “mission” before death, the zombified Mountain now exists solely to serve Cersei (he was mortally wounded defending her in a trial by combat, though of course it was Qyburn not the Lord of Light who brought him back). Will the new Jon’s “mission” be uniting Wildings and Crows to defend the Wall, as he was so determined to do before Alliser Thorne betrayed him?Or will his new purpose be more family-oriented? With Sansa on the way to Castle Black and Bran soon leaving his training with the Children of the Forest, at least a handful of Stark children are poised to finally reunite and, hopefully, retake Winterfell. There’s also the Benjen question: One of the last things on Jon’s mind before he was cut down was his uncle Benjen, whom Thorne and the other Night’s Watchmen lied about finding. (Coincidentally, we were reminded of the long-lost Benjen tonight through the first of Bran’s greensight flashbacks, in which a young Ned, Lyanna, and Benjen Stark talked to Hodor—aka Wylis, who spoke more than one word!)Or Jon could really be Azor Ahai, the legendary figure in R’hllor lore who is reborn after “a long summer” once “the cold breath of darkness descends upon the world” and wields a flaming sword to defeat the White Walkers. Melisandre was once convinced this figure was Stannis; Jon seems a much better fit, for reasons you can get into here.
Jon’s resurrection (and Davos’s coup against Thorne) completed the third major shift in power of the episode. In Winterfell, Ramsay finally got on with the inevitable and murdered his own father, Roose, who dared disagree with Ramsay’s plot to storm Castle Black and kill Jon Snow. Roose’s wife, Walda, and her newborn baby boy suffered an even worse fate. In the episode’s most sickening moment, audiences were treated to the sight of Ramsay’s leering face as a pack of dogs tore the young mother and newborn apart.
You know, just in case you forgot Ramsay is evil. Thanks, Game of Thrones.
Longstanding Greyjoy monarch Balon also toppled from power (and off a rickety bridge) with a helpful nudge from his little bro Euron. Melisandre's blood-leech magic, which she used to curse Joffrey, Robb, and Balon to death, has now completed its course, in case you needed more proof of the Red Woman's power.
"You’ve had your time. Now let another rule,” Euron says. He’s talking about himself—Euron is arrogant enough to call himself the Drowned God—but he underestimates his niece Yara’s devotion to the Iron Islands. Her attempt to win the kingsmoot and become the first woman to rule the Iron Islands (#ImWithHer) is expected to be a highlight of the next few weeks, especially with Theon now on his way to see her.
Theon’s farewell embrace with Sansa was one of the episode’s few moments of unencumbered sweetness. The fleeting half-smile on Sansa’s face as she hears about Arya from Brienne—the first she’s heard of her now-blind, Karate Kid-training little sister in years—comes in close second.
Resurrection gimmicks aside though, it was Tyrion’s unexpectedly touching first meeting with a dragon that won the episode. The dwarf who drinks and knows things resolved to free the depressed Viserion and Rhaegal—a wise move, since two of the three Slaver’s Bay cities Daenerys conquered have reverted back to their slavers’ control. Without those dragons, Daenerys (and Tyrion in her absence) have little hope of holding onto Meereen.
Tyrion, who lost everything before sailing to Essos, takes a rare look back on his past with something resembling fondness. He remembers begging his father for a dragon (“It wouldn’t even have to be a big dragon, it could be little, like me”) and crying himself to sleep after being told that the last dragons died centuries ago. “But here you are,” he says to Viserion, allowing himself a smile. (There are reasons to think Tyrion’s meeting with the dragons could be more than sentimental, but those on the lookout for the dragon’s third head will have to wait for now.)
While Tyrion came face-to-face with some small redemption from his past, Cersei, barred from her own daughter’s funeral by her son, remains in purgatory. Though she now has brute force back on her side (zombie-Mountain smashes people into walls with the strength of literal giants), she’s powerless against the orchestrated might of the Faith Militant.
We have never seen Cersei so defeated. When first faced with the High Sparrow’s verdict last season, there was a sense that Cersei still aimed to scheme her way onto the winning side. After the Walk of Shame and the Mountain’s resurrection, it seemed like vengeance would be her next move. Now, the once-proud queen greets news of her daughter’s funeral with only a question about the color of her shroud. “Good,” she says when Tommen says it was gold, the color foretold for all Cersei’s children. “It was always her color.”
A Cersei resigned to her fate is just one more unsettling part of Game of Thrones’ new world order. Fanatics now rule King’s Landing. Dorne has been taken by coup. Ramsay reigns unchecked while the deserving Yara Greyjoy fights for her crown. And in a room in Castle Black, Jon Snow is back from the dead. Whether he’s here to save the world remains to be seen. We still know nothing after all.
Updated 11:59 a.m. May 2 to update Dothraki priestess to Lhazareen priestess.