Or rather: He’s alive!
Or better yet: HE’S ALIVE!! I CAN’TBELIEVEITHE’SALIVE!!!
The return of Jon Snow — Kit Harington — was bound to be ushered in with hyperbole, and bound to be part of a million conversations Monday that begin with “did you see?” and ending with “thankgawdhe’salive . . . ” There was no escape valve here, no other viable emotional reaction. A simple shrug wouldn’t do. Either you were all in on the question of Snow’s mortality, or all out — someone who doesn’t even know what a “game of thrones” is and could hardly be expected to muster enthusiasm for its most important plot development to date.
Jon Snow is alive. Let that sink in.
Entertainment Weekly, which has done a superb job covering “Game of Thrones” (as well it should — HBO and EW are part of the same company, Time Warner) has devoted this week’s “top-secret” cover to Jon, or rather Kit. Either/or — doesn’t matter anymore. Kit is Snow and vice versa, and so it shall forever remain.
The moment those eyes opened and that breath was drawn was the moment EW hit the send button on its Snow scoop: James Hibberd, EW’s resident expert — and a top-flight expert at that — had even debriefed Harington.
There was even a video that was posted. Looking a little bit sheepish, possibly (thought probably not) mortified by all the attention the fate of his character has attracted, Harington proceeded to . . . apologize:
“Sorry. I’d like to say sorry for lying to everyone. I’m glad that people were upset that he died. I think my biggest fear was that people were not going to care — fine, Jon Snow’s dead. But similar to the Red Wedding, they had a kind of grief, which meant that something I’m doing on this show for Jon is right.”
A bit of both actually, plus don’t forget the most important contribution of them all: the author’s. George R.R. Martin left Snow in limbo, too, at the end of “A Dance with Dragons,” the last volume of “A Song of Ice and Fire” to have been published to date.
Martin refused to write the words “Jon Snow is dead — forever” and therefore launched an industry of speculation, some of it baseless, some of it informed. (“GoT” hard-core fans are nothing if not informed).
Most knew already that Snow would return because a crazed fan had actually crawled through some brambles to get a shot of him in the midst of a scene, presumably to air later this season.
But that didn’t matter, really. Jon had to return. HBO had no choice, “GoT” had no choice, and Harington had no choice.
Fan ardor is a funny thing, and — in the case of “GoT” — a damn near remarkable thing. At a certain point, this ardor means (and has meant here) that you can no longer simply savor a plot development, but must construct an elaborate system of hypotheticals that suddenly confer a hyper-reality to the development. In “GoT’s” case, that means mining the books for clues, or precedent, revealing details of other return-from-the-dead characters (there are at least two). It means spinning those forward, to a point where Snow does return, and to a point where the person or persons who are instrumental in his salvation (or damnation — the few human characters who do return in “Ice and Fire” return a little worse for wear) is even identified.
Some fans had him back by this season’s fifth episode. Others — in parsing HBO’s judicious and clever promos — had him back earlier. Some figured that “GoT” would do what TV usually does — wait to the last minute of the last episode of the sixth season before pulling him back from the dead.
Bringing Snow back obviously had to be done with the implicit (or explicit) agreement of Martin, who has reportedly shared a number of chapters of the next volume, “Winter Is Coming,” with producers David Benioff and Dan Weiss.
Nevertheless, Snow’s return clearly was a decision driven by the producers, and driven by TV imperatives: “GoT” had no choice but to bring him back, because fans had demanded it. And what TV fans want, TV fans get.
Naturally, in the cold gray light of this Monday, there are certain challenges this return poses. For example, Martin — in his book series — killed off major and minor characters at will. Part of the idea has been to constantly keep fans guessing, and to constantly keep them uncomfortable. The good were punished along with the bad. Don’t assume — Martin seemed to suggest — that just because a character was a paragon of virtue and reason he (or she) would therefore be saved.
Just the opposite.
Get close to someone at your own peril.
Snow’s return almost seems to contravene that rule.
Another challenge — how involved will Jon be going forward? War is coming (as you heard Sunday night). The White Walkers are moving on the wall. A resurrected Jon must be instrumental in those momentous events, but how instrumental — and at the expense of whom?
Also, if “GoT” has thus chosen to re-jigger the mythology of “Song of Ice and Fire,” by deploying Melisandre (Carice van Houten) as the person who resurrects him, then why not use her in other instances? To die in this world now doesn’t necessarily mean forever — or perhaps it just means when fans insist upon bringing the person in question back.
Jon’s return does, in fact, indicate that “GoT” — once closely bound to a book series blueprint that no longer exists — has now almost entered the realm of fan fiction. It’s a work that has sailed beyond Martin’s words, also a work driven by a timetable, and new mandate. Both Benioff and Weiss have indicated the show may have only two seasons left after this one — or roughly 20 episodes (after this one).
If we are getting close to the end — and “GoT” does feel like a series that’s much closer to the finish line than the starting one — then what kind of role will Jon play over this stretch? Best to ask ourselves: What kind of role do we want him to play?
Will he — gulp — die again?
And come back again?
How many times can you play that particular card?
These questions, tough ones and many others, will be addressed, and given the mastery of Weiss and Benioff so far, they will almost certainly be addressed satisfactorily.
But today, we celebrate the return of a beloved character. And he was beloved — someone who captured the nobility of his role as Lord Commander, and who rose above the petty and self-destructive squabbles of the many kingdoms beyond the wall. Westeros needed him, “Game of Thrones” needed him. We needed him.
We’ve got him. Now the tricky part: What do we do with him?