“For the Watch.”
With those three words, the worst stabbing in Westeros this side of the Red Wedding commenced, resulting in the apparent demise of one of the heroes at the heart of Game of Thrones: Jon Snow, the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, reluctant ally of the wildlings, dragon steel-wielding opponent of the White Walkers, and bastard son of Eddard Stark.
The final Snow-slaying scene of season five’s finale, “Mother’s Mercy,” is among the show’s greatest triumphs in trolling. A “previously on” segment led viewers to believe that Jon’s long lost uncle Benjen Stark would reemerge in the finale. Instead, he became Benjen bait, used as a ploy to lure Jon out of his office and into an Ides of March-modeled betrayal. Noted Snow detractor Alliser Thorne and Ygritte-killer Olly were among the many brothers in black who plunged their daggers into Jon Snow’s chest, ending the life of one of the few good men still in Westeros — and one of the show’s most easily identifiable hero types.
So, that’s it? That’s all she wrote for Jon Snow? For now, yep.
So, that’s it? That’s all she wrote on Jon Snow? For now, yep.
Game of Thrones is officially caught up with George R.R. Martin’s novel series in almost every single major storyline, with only a few minor stories (and, admittedly, a couple of seemingly major ones) not yet making the leap from the page to the screen, if ever they do. Show-only viewers and the book-reading base now know the exact same amount of information about Jon’s journey — namely, that it ends in tragedy.
Assuming that Jon’s death is the end-all be-all of his story, which isn’t necessarily a safe assumption to make. Readers have had four years to deal with Jon’s last stand, and have found myriad ways in which he might make his return to the land of the living. Melisandre, for instance, is one option; we the viewer and the sorceress herself have both witnessed a disciple of the Lord of Light (Thoros of Myr) breathing life back into a dead man (Beric Dondarrion) in the past. No reason to believe she can’t pull off a similar trick here.
And yet we won’t know Jon’s full fate until the show’s return. The bitter cold off-season is upon us now, and won’t thaw until next spring. Ten months will pass with Thrones fans losing sleep over the death of one of the story’s most central characters. They will debate the merit of Kit Harington’s exit interview, interpreting every detail of how he explains his future with the show. (“I’ve been told I’m dead,” he says, but that doesn’t rule out resurrection, does it?) It will be the most maddening wait for a season premiere since Juliet Burke blew up an atomic bomb on Lost, especially without another novel from Martin in sight.
Still, like Stannis Baratheon, we must march forward, toward victory or defeat, whichever comes first. He’s dead, too, by the way. At least, it seems like he is; the show cuts away as Brienne of Tarth brings a sword down upon his head, yes, and what reason does she have to pull her punches against her longtime nemesis? No reason at all.
Less ambiguous is the fate of Ser Meryn Trant, the White Cloak who has topped Arya Stark’s vengeance list for the past four seasons. He finally met his gruesome end courtesy of Arya’s shape-shifting ninja skills, in a vicious kill scene that felt more like a Tarantino movie than Game of Thrones. Arya doesn’t walk away from the murder unscathed; she loses her sight at the hands of the Faceless Men, her punishment for pretending to be No One when she is still very much someone. RIP, Arya’s eyes.
Jon’s death marks a depressing end note for one of the most depressing seasons of one of the most depressing shows on television.
But not all are lost. Arya’s sister Sansa, for one, is finally free from Winterfell, assuming she survived her Butch Cassidy leap of faith with the artist formerly known as Reek. Elsewhere, in King’s Landing, Sansa’s ex-mother-in-law-to-be Cersei Lannister is alive as well, albeit naked and afraid during her traumatic march through the streets of Flea Bottom. The same can’t necessarily be said for her daughter, Myrcella, who appears to be on her way out the proverbial moon door, thanks to Ellaria Sand’s poisonous kiss. But take the wins where you can, Cersei; at least you have an undead Mountain bodyguard protecting you from this point forward.
Even the story in Meereen is not dead, as much as some viewers would like to wish it away. The great city in Essos is now under Tyrion Lannister’s supervision, with Unsullied warrior Grey Worm and Daenerys Targaryen loyalist Missandei serving as the public faces of leadership. With whispering spider Varys at his side, Tyrion is once again in a position to lead a city through a crisis; he’s in his comfort zone, whether he likes it or not. Likewise, Daenerys is in a comfort zone of sorts, traveling with her dragon and surrounded by countless Dothraki warriors. It seems grim right now, but the Khaleesi excels at winning the hearts of the masses — Meereen notwithstanding, of course.
Still, the triumphs feel few and far between, certainly in their own right, but especially in the face of the season’s final stunning shocker. Jon Snow, the man who shattered a White Walker with a Valyrian sword, the one man actively fighting the only foes that ultimately matter, is dead (if only for now). Jon’s death marks a depressing end note for one of the most depressing seasons of one of the most depressing shows on television.
We enter the off-season with hope in our hearts, but the knives of the Night’s Watch have done an admirable job of mortally wounding our optimism, if not killing it outright.