'Game of Thrones' finale: Was a major character really killed off?

Game of Thrones: The season finale for the HBO drama included what seemed like the death of a major 'Thrones' character. Will he return?

Helen Sloan/HBO/AP
'Game of Thrones' stars Sophie Turner (l.) and Aidan Gillen (r.).

The newest season finale of the HBO fantasy drama "Game of Thrones" appeared to show the departure of a major character.

(Spoilers for the “Thrones” season finale follow …) 

The episode's first surprise came when wannabe monarch Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane), appeared to meet his end, finishing his doomed quest for the Iron Throne, but the death that most profoundly shocked viewers came in the last scene. Jon Snow (Kit Harington), Lord Commander of the the Night’s Watch and a character viewers had been following since the beginning of the show, was betrayed by his own men and murdered.

The question is, is Jon really dead? Fans who liked the character would of course want to believe that Jon isn’t gone for good. Harington told Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve been told I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season.”

But book fans know that the phrasing in “A Dance with Dragons,” George R.R. Martin’s novel in which Jon appears to meet his fate, is a bit more unclear. After “Dragons” came out, Martin asked EW, “Oh, you think he’s dead, do you? ... I’m not going to address whether he’s dead or not.”

Meanwhile, “Thrones” co-creator D.B. Weiss said in an interview with EW that it’s tough to make a TV scene difficult to interpret like one could a book scene. “In a show, everybody sees it for what it is,” Weiss said. When asked if Jon was dead, he said, “What are you gonna do? Kit’s a good looking guy. He’s very talented. He’s very sweet, and very easy to work with. It will be a sad day shooting that scene.” 

In an earlier scene, the character of Melisandre (Carice van Houten), a priestess for a god that appears to have brought back people from the dead previously, arrived at the castle Jon commanded. International Business Times writer Charles Poladian suggested that Melisandre could perhaps revive Jon.

However, if the character is really gone, either in the books and on the show or just on the show, is it fair to fans who still have unanswered questions about the character? One of the series' perhaps most important questions is Jon's parentage. Snow was raised as the illegitimate son of the otherwise virtuous Lord Eddard Stark, but his mother's identity has remained a mystery. Harington himself told EW, “The major loss with Jon’s through-line is he never finds out who his mother is and that’s the heartbreaking thing for me.”

However, a popular fan theory holds that Jon's actual parents may be Rhaegar Targaryen, the deceased son of a dead king (making him a possible nephew of aspiring Queen Daenerys, played by Emilia Clarke), and Lyanna Stark, Lord Eddard's long-dead sister. If Jon remains dead, will viewers feel cheated to have these plotlines unresolved – or resolved after his death? 

There’s no release date set for Martin’s next book, “The Winds of Winter,” so the TV show may be the first to answer the question of whether Jon is really gone. If he is, viewers will have one less virtuous character to root for.

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