Pretty great final two minutes of Game of Thrones season 5, huh? How about that part where a character you were absolutely sure was crucial to the ultimate resolution of the show—the small matter of a battle between “fire” and “ice”—just got mercilessly snuffed out before your eyes and then the credits rolled?
With Jon’s final betrayal by his Night’s Watch brothers, his TV plotline has finally caught up to his story in the books, where George R.R. Martin stuck us with an excruciating cliffhanger in A Dance With Dragons.
Deaths in the HBO series are usually not wasted. Either a character’s plot has finally run out and it’s time for them to exit (see, e.g. The Hound, Ser Barristan Selmy, and even Stannis Baratheon) or the death is played up to great emotional effect (see Ned Stark, The Red Wedding victims, Joffrey Baratheon, and the Red Viper).
Jon Snow still has plenty of plot left. He still hasn’t discovered his true parentage, which many fans believe will provide one of the climactic moments of A Song of Ice and Fire. If the R+L=J theory—that Jon is the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Ned Stark’s sister Lyanna—is correct, he’s got dragon blood coursing through his veins.
In the novels, Daenerys Targaryen’s trippy visit to the House of the Undying in Qarth presents her with a handful of prophecies, the most tantalizing of which is that “the Dragon has three heads.” Is one of those heads Jon Targaryen-Stark? Probably! And that’s why Martin, Benioff and Weiss can’t kill him off so easily.
But what about the pooling blood, the multiple stab wounds, and the fact that he had just sent away his only true ally in the Night’s Watch, his BFF Samwell Tarly? I mean, he was dead, right? We saw him die?
Maybe! But, as we saw in Season 3 of Game of Thrones, death is not forever in the mythology of this show. Especially not when there’s a Red Priest of Asshai in the picture.
Remember that The Hound very convincingly slew Beric Dondarrion, the flaming-sword-wielding leader of The Brotherhood Without Banners, but he wheezed back to life after a prayer to the Lord of Light.
Remember also that just prior to Jon’s death, we saw Melisandre, the Red Woman, sneaking back into camp at Castle Black after having failed Stannis Baratheon in nearly every way possible. Now that she’s seemingly learned Stannis wasn’t really the savior of the realm, the hero Azor Ahai reborn, what is she going to do?
So, a theory: Melisandre resurrects Jon, the only one with the ability to rally the wildlings, reclaim Winterfell from Roose Bolton, and prepare the North for the coming war against the white walkers.
If you’re not swayed by the narrative logic alone, though, consider this: prophecies hint that Azor Ahai might not be one person—not Stannis, not even Daenerys. It might be the “three-headed dragon.” This story is not done with Jon Snow’s head just yet.
(If you still don’t like this theory, remember that Jon’s direwolf, Ghost, is nearby, and Jon has previously demonstrated some version of his brother Bran’s “warg” powers—the ability to inhabit other creatures’ bodies and see through their eyes. Perhaps his body is dead, but his spirit lives on.)
“We would hope that after seeing the scene and the way it’s shot that the answer to that will be unambiguous in the minds of the people watching it,” writer/producer Dan Weiss told Entertainment Weekly. “It should be pretty clear what happens in by the time you’re done seeing that scene. It’s not an, ‘Oh what just happened?’ scene.’”
“Dead is dead.”
But George R.R. Martin gave the the same publication a very different story a few months ago. “If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire is that death is not necessarily permanent,” he said.
We’ll have to wait until Game of Thrones returns or GRRM finishes The Winds of Winter, whichever comes first, to see who’s bluffing.