All right, HBO, we need to talk.
I don’t care if Jon Snow is dead for good, dead for the moment, dead in a White Walkers way, dead in a Red Priestess way, or not dead at all. The answer might as well be all of the above—either way, HBO has got to stop talking about it. Despite actor Kit Harington (Jon Snow) being spotted multiple times in the GOT-hosting City of Belfast, the latest to jump onboard the “Let me tell you how dead Jon Snow is!” train is HBO executive Michael Lombardo, who in an interview with Deadline offered this: “Dead is dead as dead as dead. He be dead. Yes, from everything I’ve seen and read, Jon Snow is indeed dead.”
HBO doth protest too much, methinks.
The catchphrase was “Who Shot J.R.?” not “It Totally Wasn’t Kristen Who Shot J.R.!!!!!” HBO sending out representatives to talk about how definitely 100 percent dead Jon Snow is, is the equivalent of when your friends plan a surprise party and spend your whole birthday making hints. You know what surprise parties are actually surprises? The ones where everyone acts completely normal and nobody says a damn thing.
We get it. You’ve got an exciting secret. Just leave the presents under the tree, don’t bother signing Santa’s name, too. Quit spoiling the surprise by being too eager about it.
Granted, HBO is only following in the footsteps of the larger film industry at this point. As movies become increasingly elaborate franchises, based on often popular, but at least easily traced source material, it’s become increasingly hard to keep a lid on secrets.
Part of the problem is the press, as publications can get easy clicks from writing speculative articles about what this costume or this casting decision means for fans. These same publications, which are increasingly spreading out from just the realm of fan sites into mainstream entertainment coverage, can contact studios and look for comment, which they can then run more speculative articles on. It’s an exhausting cycle, but it’s one that studios actively encourage by making comments. Feed a stray and it’ll keep coming back for more.
I think I first suspected things had gotten out of hand when DC started asking Marion Cotillard to lie to the press about her minor role in The Dark Knight Rises. You know who cares about Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard’s role in a Batman movie? People like me who don’t read Batman comics and who never would have known who Talia al Ghul was, had DC not been so insistent on making sure I knew the actress *wink wink* definitely wasn’t going to be playing her.
But since then the problem has only multiplied. There was Benedict Cumberbatch definitely not playing Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (J.J. Abrams later admitted the misdirection was a mistake). Then it was Michael Shannon definitely not playing Zod. The latest is Christoph Waltz in the new Bond film definitely not playing Blofeld, telling The Daily Beast, “I can tell you for sure my character’s name is Franz Oberhauser.” Are we doomed to stew in an echo chamber of rumors and almost admissions until Hollywood finally runs the franchise well dry?
Game Of Thrones has been running on the material from George R.R. Martin’s books for its first five seasons, and despite the occasional clashes between book readers and the spoiler-averse show watchers, speculation was mostly irrelevant. It either happened in the books or it didn’t, there was no need to speculate. But as the series departs into uncharted territory for the first time, it’s up to HBO to mold what the new experience for fans will be.
Will we be able to have our own ideas about what will and what won’t happen? Will fans be able to enjoy the new narrative freedom that being untethered from the books might provide? Or will we be guided to every answer in interviews and late-night guest appearances and press releases months before we get a chance to watch for ourselves? Here’s to hoping HBO can let the off-season be the off-season.