Jon Snow is dead. Or at least that’s what Game of Thrones co-showrunner Dan Weiss and the actor who plays him, Kit Harington, would have you believe.
On Sunday night’s Season 5 finale of Thrones, “Mother’s Mercy,” the man with the most beautiful man-mane in Westeros, Jon Snow, was brutally executed. In true Julius Caesar fashion, he was lured into a wintry clearing by the wildling-hating bastard, Olly, and stabbed to death by his fellow Night’s Watchmen, with Ser Alliser Thorne striking the first blow—and Olly the last, proclaiming, “For the Watch.” They’ve branded Snow a “traitor” for showing compassion to the “free folk,” putting aside hundreds of years of war between the Night’s Watch and the wildlings in order to join forces against impending White Walker doom.
But alas, in politics, people rarely see the bigger picture; they care about the short-term, the “what have you done for me lately,” and lately, Lord Commander Snow had broken bread with the enemy, spared wildling leader Mance Rayder from being burned alive, and saved thousands of wildlings at Hardhome—wildlings that murdered Ser Alliser’s loved ones and massacred Olly’s entire family in front of his beady lil eyes.
The final shot of “Mother’s Mercy” saw Snow, after being stabbed five times by his own men, bleeding out on the ground.
“I had a sit-down with Dan and David, we did the Tony Soprano walk. And they said, ‘Look, you’re gone, it’s done,’” Harington told Entertainment Weekly. “Quite honestly, I have never been told the future of things in this show, but this is the one time I have. They sat me down and said, ‘This is how it is.’ If anything in the future is not like that, then I don’t know about it—it’s only in David and Dan and George’s heads. But I’ve been told I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season. So that’s all I can tell you, really.”
The verdict was confirmed by showrunner Weiss, who told EW, “We would hope that after the scene and the way it’s shot that the answer to that will be unambiguous in the minds of the people watching it. It should be pretty clear what happens by the time you’re done seeing that scene. It’s not an, ‘Oh what just happened?’ scene.”
But A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin, who’s been advising showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss on major plot points—including deaths—this season as the show dovetails with the books, was a bit more cryptic, saying, “If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire is that death is not necessarily permanent.”
Which brings us to the curious case of Melisandre, played by Dutch stunner Carice van Houten. The fiery red priestess of the Lord of Light had, since burning all those bodies on the beaches of Dragonstone in Season 2, aligned herself with Stannis Baratheon, whom she saw as the rightful king in the flames. But when the news hits at the beginning of “Mother’s Mercy” that, following the sacrifice of Stannis’s poor, greyscale-infected daughter Princess Shireen, half of his army had mutinied and left, Melisandre is shocked.
“Melisandre is slightly—or at the very end, completely—confused,” van Houten told The Daily Beast. “I really like the doubt on her face. You can feel it. After Shireen, she thinks that the next day after they burn the child it’s all going to be fine. The snow will be gone. But then we hear the news that Stannis’s men have left and you can see it on her face; you can see her thinking, ‘Oh, fuck.’ It’s the first time you really see her express doubt, and she loses her decorum a little bit.”
So Melisandre immediately takes a horse and rides off to Castle Black. We see her enter Castle Black on horseback right before Snow meets his supposed end. But will Melisandre bring Snow back from the dead?
There’s context for this. We’ve already seen Lord of Light acolyte Thoros of Myr resurrect Beric Dondarrion, the eyepatched leader of the Brotherhood Without Banners—who admits to being brought back to life no less than six times after being killed, including following a grisly trial by combat versus The Hound.
And we’ve seen Melisandre cozying up to Snow all season, from the moment where she looked on approvingly when he spared Mance with his bow to her steamy seduction attempt of Snow earlier on—where she told him, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.” These stories have been colliding, and with Melisandre, again, entering Castle Black just before Snow is butchered, it seems like a likely scenario that she’ll resurrect him—plus, it would fit the claims of Harington, Weiss, and Martin.
“That’s what I like about this season—there’s a shifting going on, and I don’t think she’s even aware of it yet,” van Houten told me of Melisandre’s move away from Stannis. “It’s the same thing with Jon Snow. I don’t think she knows. There’s a certain glow and a certain power and she can sense things, but I don’t think she knows exactly why she wants or needs him, apart from the fact that he’s a very handsome young man.”
Well, he’s also the Bastard of Winterfell and, presumably, may possess King’s Blood (Rhaegar Targaryen?). We know that King’s Blood is Melisandre’s elixir of choice, as she’s used it in the past (see: Gendry and the leeches) to vanquish Renly Baratheon and others with her sorcery. “She also desires King’s Blood because she’s proven that it works,” said van Houten. “First and foremost, she’s a religious priestess who follows directly what the Lord of Light tells her to do. She’s not only a superhuman being, she’s also following orders. She sees in the flames to go after certain things, and I’m not sure she’s fully aware of things herself. She’s a total believer.”
Whether or not Snow is truly dead, or whether Harington merely needs to take some time off from the show to shoot his leading role in Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan—opposite Jessica Chastain and Susan Sarandon—remains to be seen.
As for Melisandre’s Season 6 future, van Houten laughed. “I cannot tell you anything about that! But nice try, man.”