‘Game of Thrones’: Dramatic Stakes Die With Big Jon Snow Twist
Warning! Spoilers from Sunday night’s second episode of Game of Thrones are ahead!
For anyone who wasn’t spoiled by the devil’s minions and (ewww) certain websites on Twitter last night, it’s time to talk about TV’s worst-kept secret: Yes, Jon Snow is alive. Although in actor Kit Harington’s defense, he was also dead, just as the handsome fell declared in every interview since last season’s finale. Like dead dead. Like bled-out, on-a-slab dead. Deader than our interest in anything having to do with the Dorne storyline.
Stabbed by a mob of his own and headed for necrotic rot, the Knight’s Watch lord commander was resurrected by Red Priestesss Melisandre (Carise Van Houten), who employed some black magic and manscaping at the urging of Snow’s loyal pal Davos (Liam Cunningham). It was done in a suitably creepy, fire-lit ceremony. It was in the final seconds of the episode. It was kind of thrilling.
And it was kind of toothless. Because even though this season is the first to be produced without a previously published novel as its source material, fans of the books know that author George R.R. Martin always intended for Snow to survive. He even detailed the list of characters meant to make it through the series back in 1993! There were also sightings of the actor on set after his on-screen demise and what a lot of folks believe to be a shot of Snow in battle buried into the season’s big trailer. We had enough reasons to think this guy was not down for the count, beside the refusal to accept that HBO would axe their most-sellable cover boy.
So if we wanted Snow to live so much, why does it feel like a hollow victory? Perhaps it’s because the decision to let Snow return from the dead undoes the idea of “anyone can die,” a trope a lot of shows have been relying on these days but one GoT all but revels in.
Major characters like Ned, Catelyn, Robb and Joffrey have all been sliced off the canvas in shocking moments and we have accepted those losses (in the case of Joffrey, we effin’ celebrated it). Now, we can just say “Well, they can bring him back,” or “Just get a witch to revive them.” If Stannis really did meet his maker at the end of Brienne’s sword last season, maybe he can come back too! And why not just have Roose Bolton rise again and haunt that bastard son, Ramsay? If anyone can die, then anyone can un-die, right?
It’s the same sort of storyline escape hatch that has dulled the stakes on other dramas. The Vampire Diaries has habitually unkilled half of its cast, who were undead in the first place. The Walking Dead let us think Glenn had perished for weeks, only to reveal that he’d escaped a zombie attack by hiding under a dumpster. Arrow can dip someone into the Lazarus Pit if the fans scream loud enough. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham can bring in a mad scientist or an alien to re-animated villain we thought were dead for months. Hell, none of us are even buying the death of Liz (Megan Boone) on The Blacklist at this point.
I’m not saying that Game of Thrones won’t do something awesome with their newly alive Jon. He’s a key figure in the series and it will be great to have Harrington back in action. It’s just that it feels like cheating death on TV is becoming the biggest storyline cheat of all. Maybe we should start calling them Snow jobs.
Game of Thrones, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO.