Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
18 June 2015updated 08 Jan 2019 11:58pm

Game of Thrones: Trust me, if SPOILER were really dead, they’d have died in episode 9

The sudden death in the last scene of Monday's Game of Thrones was a cliffhanger, nothing more.

By Jonn Elledge

This piece contains spoilers, as the headline suggested. If you’re still reading, it’s your own fault.

I just don’t believe it ended like that.

That isn’t a turn of phrase, a way of expressing my shock and denial about the betrayal and brutal murder of one of the handful of Game of Thrones characters who isn’t basically a total shitmonkey. I mean, I literally do not believe it. Didn’t believe it in the book; don’t believe it now. I do not believe that Jon Snow is dead – or, if he is, I don’t believe he’s going to stay dead for long.

There are a lot of theories doing the rounds as to exactly how Snow (Kit Harrington) might pop back from the other side. Both Game of Thrones and the Song of Ice and Fire books it’s based on may revel in cod medievalism, but they are, nonetheless, fantasy. If the writers want someone who’s dead now to not be dead next week, there are mechanisms for achieving that.

Maybe Jon will turn out to be part Targaryen, so when they burn his body to stop him coming back as an ice zombie, he’ll sit up all sooty but otherwise fine, like Danaerys did at the end of season one. Maybe he’ll warg into his direwolf Ghost, and spend the next season wandering round like he’s in an early modern remake of Woof. And the writers did go to a lot of trouble to make sure that the only Red Priestess anywhere in the north was nearby when Jon snuffed it, didn’t they?

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

(Incidentally, it was at roughly the point when I typed the phrase “warg into his direwolf Ghost” that I was hit by the sudden, overwhelming insight into quite how silly this entire article is. Ah well, style it out.)

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them

But none of this explains why I don’t believe Jon Snow is dead. I don’t believe Jon Snow is dead because the single most important message that this story has repeatedly smacked us around the head with is this: actions have consequences. And this death, in this way, wouldn’t.

Yes, this show has a habit of killing off major characters in shocking and unexpected ways – but they always, always have a knock on effect on other characters and on where the story goes next. Tyrion’s murder of his father sets up both his exile and his sister’s regency. The Red Wedding sets up the Bolton ascendency, and means the Stark kids no longer have a home to go back to. The death of Ned Stark starts an entire war.

Now try to imagine what consequences would flow from Jon Snow’s colleagues stabbing him to death. There aren’t any, are there? No one who cares is nearby to weep over his body. It won’t make the slightest difference to events in Mereen, or King’s Landing, or even in the north (Winter is coming, with or without Jon Snow on the Wall to hold it back). It’s just a cheap bit of shock to end this part of the story with.

It is, in other words, a cliffhanger. It’s the last scene of the series, and, epilogue aside, the last scene of the most recent of George R R Martin’s books. It’s there to give us something to gnaw our nails about until the next instalment arrives. If it was genuinely about taking the story off in a whole new direction, it would have happened in episode nine. 

Oh, and no way would the writers repeatedly make a big thing about the fact someone doesn’t know who his mother was, and then kill him before he gets a chance to find out.

Both Kit Harrington, the actor who plays Jon Snow, and the show’s producers have said this isn’t a feint: that Jon Snow is dead, and he isn’t coming back. But – they would, wouldn’t they? Jon Snow won’t stay dead for long. And if he does, then the last act of this story will have bigger problems than the absence of one pretty boy.