Jon Snow’s resurrection is unlike anything that has ever happened on Game of Thrones. There have been resurrections before, Beric Dondarrion being the most famous. In fact, it appears that Beric was a character that was only introduced for the sole purpose of setting up Jon’s resurrection. Beric was about as tertiary character as they come on Game of Thrones. In the case of main characters, especially those belonging to House Stark, dead is dead. Yet Jon Snow is among the living or at least he appears to be that way. While fans are celebrating Jon’s miraculous (but much expected) return it is possible that Jon Snow might not be the same one fans lost.
Looking at Past Clues
There is plenty of evidence in the actual episode “Oathbreaker” that suggests that Jon is not quite the same after his death. The most damning information though comes from the background, from past episodes of the show and interviews by Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin.
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Going back to the example of Beric Dondarrion, when the character was introduced in season 3, he spoke about his state of mind following his own resurrections. In Beric’s words every time he came back, he came back a bit “less.” He lost a bit of himself following each return and a shadow passed over his spirit. He was darker and each death changed his outlook and connection to humanity.
Then there is a very telling interview that George R.R. Martin had with John Hodgman in 2011. Among other things Martin talked to Hodgman about his creative thoughts on narrative resurrection and it doesn’t speak well for the future of Jon Snow. “My characters who come back from death are worse for wear. In some ways, they’re not even the same characters anymore.” Martin explained, “The body may be moving, but some aspect of the spirit is changed or transformed, and they’ve lost something.” While Jon Snow has not yet come back to life in the books of which Game of Thrones is based, it is likely his resurrection will follow the exact same description in the show and the text.
So when you take Martin’s words into account and what Game of Thrones set up with Beric Dondarrion, Jon’s actions in “Oathbreaker” take on a worrying perspective. Jon’s section of the plot in “Oathbreaker” had a lot to do with him taking revenge. Jon, after an appropriate period of adjustment of coming to terms with being alive which was about 2 minutes, went about making the traitors who killed him pay. “Pay” in this context meaning hang them from their annoying necks until they were super dead.
I’m sure every fan rejoiced about the death of Ser Alliser and Olly, especially the latter. (Every Game of Thrones viewer had to be over that kid’s constant impression of Warheads wrapper mixed with an expression of extreme constipation.) Jon’s reaction was a lot more troubling. The Jon who executed his killers was a lot colder and angrier than we’d ever seen him before. It’s also telling about how Jon kills the traitors. He doesn’t do it the “honorable” way like Ned Stark taught him, by chopping off their heads in one clean swoop. The traitors are killed by hanging and Game of Thrones made a point to show the bodies struggling a long time before they finally died.
Now granted, Jon has every right to be angry, these guys did literally kill him after all. It’s just not the Jon Snow that we’re used to seeing. Jon was forgiving and compassionate to fault. The Jon Snow in “Oathbreaker” is angry, bitter and violent. Jon was never the warmest of characters, he was always stoic. There is a harsh edge of coldness to Jon post-resurrection that was nowhere in sight before he died.
A Necessary Evil
So if Jon is a different man through either magical side effects of his resurrection or the fact that dying can change a man, there is a question of what it means for the show and the character. On the surface it makes Jon a helluva lot more interesting. This probably won’t be a universal opinion but Jon has never been a personal favorite. He’s obviously important but Jon has been one of the most boring, if not the dullest, characters in Game of Thrones‘ very large cast. A little bit of darkness sweeping into Jon’s noble heroic exterior could do a lot to enhance and add complexity to his character.
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Some darkness could also make Jon a much more effective player at politics. Jon’s line to Davos following his rebirth was a bit on the nose but it’s not inaccurate. All Jon has ever tried to do is the “right thing” and he got killed for it. The reason is Jon, like many Starks before him, doesn’t quite seem to understand that everyone has to agree that something is the right thing before it can be successful. Jon becoming a little bit angrier and a little more violent could keep him alive a lot longer so that a second resurrection won’t be possible. A little bit ot coldness and cautiousness could help Jon survive what seems to be an upcoming battle at Winterfell with Sansa and Jon fighting against (and hopefully killing) Ramsay once and for all.
It does seem a bit too easy, especially on Game of Thrones, for everything to work out as described. Nothing on Game of Thrones ever comes easy. It might seem ridiculous to say that everything that has happened to Jon could be described as “easy.” Even before he died, Jon Snow had a pretty awful life. However, it might feel like a bit too traditional of a story if Jon were to rise again, a little bit darker, but really no worse of the wear and take out all his enemies.
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It would be much more Game of Thrones-esque if Jon’s resurrection completely backfires. “Oathbreaker” could be the first step in Jon’s downward spiral of a very evil journey. Jon might end up defeating Ramsay Bolton by the end of the season but could become just as dark and twisted as those he hunts. Melisandre might think she is bringing a hero back into the world, the prince who is promised, but she could be responsible of Westeros’ next great villain. A lot of fans, myself included, might want to see a new improved Jon Snow on the Iron Throne but it might not ever happen or at least not the way we want.
But what do you think? Is Jon Snow in danger of turning to the dark side?
Game of Thrones airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO.
(Images courtesy of HBO)