Even with several months to go before Game of Thrones starts its sixth season on HBO, the hype train is up and running. This after the release of the first promotional art for Game of Thrones‘ next season, which featured a bloodied Jon Snow looking solemn, but very much alive. Thus, the worst kept secret in Westeros seemed to get its confirmation, but Game of Thrones fans might want to temper their celebrations: it’s quite possible that what’s coming is not at all what they’re expecting.
Typically, this sort of thing would come with spoiler alerts galore, but Jon Snow’s death and subsequent sightings of actor Kit Harington on set have been the stuff of headlines and tweets for months now. Still, if you’re thinking of reading the books to tide you over until Game of Thrones‘ sixth season premieres, you might want to stop here.
That said, it appears that appears that everyone has let out a sigh of relief that Jon Snow has apparently survived the assassination attempt that closed out the last season of Game of Thrones. Fans have been reeling from Stark deaths since Ned’s head went on the chopping block in Season 1, and they’ve had little respite in the four seasons since. Jon Snow’s apparent death at the hands of his Night’s Watch brethren was the last straw for some, with some Game of Thrones fans swearing off the series since it kept killing their favorite characters.
Since last season’s Thrones finale, the producers, writers, and stars of the series have been playing a game of denial, with the last few months filled with continual protestations that Jon Snow is dead. Very dead. Super dead. Doesn’t matter if Kit Harington’s been spotted on set. Doesn’t matter if fan theories point to a resurrection. The Game of Thrones crew has been adamant that Jon Snow has gone the way of the dodo.
— Game Of Thrones (@GameOfThrones) November 23, 2015
Then came Monday’s tweet, and the subsequent joy from all over the internet. Over at Mashable, they’re thanking the Game of Thrones crew for “coming clean about Jon Snow.” At Vox, they’re saying Snow’s revival is a done deal and that HBO “appears to have simply caved.” The thinking is that, with a wave of set reports seemingly inevitable, HBO and the Game of Thrones maesters have decided that it’s best to let the cat out of the bag now and tell the fans that they’ve been fibbing about Jon Snow all along.
But have they?
Fans of the books were disappointed at the ending of Game of Thrones‘ fourth season because one seemingly crucial character — and an accompanying “WTF!” moment — was left out. Had the series followed the books more closely, the fourth season would likely have ended with the shocking revelation that Catelyn Stark, murdered by the Tully clan in the third season’s Red Wedding, had been brought back to life. Her body would have been found by Beric Dondarrion, and Dondarrion would have used the same red magic to breathe life into Cat.
This Catelyn, though, would have been much changed by the experience, having been dead for some time before Beric and his red priest got to her corpse. Gone would be the caring mother viewers had come to love. Instead, Catelyn would be a horrid vision, her face scarred and her throat still sporting an awful gash. She would come to be known as Lady Stoneheart, and she would become the scourge of the Starks’ enemies.
Of course, Game of Thrones‘ fourth season didn’t end like that at all, and fans have been left wondering whether the character would appear in any form in the series. Michelle Fairley, the actress who portrayed Catelyn on the screen, has said time and again that she is not coming back to the show. So, it appears there will be no Lady Stoneheart.
But what about a Lord Stoneheart?
It appears that Jon Snow will be resurrected, but could Harington’s character be greatly changed by the experience of death? Beric Dondarrion, whom viewers have seen resurrected on screen, noted that making the trip to the other side and back isn’t exactly easy.
“Every time I come back… I’m a bit less. Pieces of you get chipped away.”
So, could the same be true for Jon Snow’s resurrection? It’s generally assumed that Melisandre will be the one doing the reviving, using the same sort of magic that brings Dondarrion back, but the Red Woman might not be as skilled in the arts as Dondarrion’s priest, Thoros. Could Melisandre’s novice-level resurrection result in more of Jon Snow being left on the other side than fans are expecting?
Talking about Lady Stoneheart with Entertainment Weekly, Game of Thrones‘ creator George R.R. Martin said that coming back from death isn’t necessarily the sort of thing one would want to do.
“Lady Stoneheart does have a role in the books… One of the things I wanted to show with her is that the death she suffered changes you.”
With that in mind, take another look at that promotional art HBO tweeted out. Does that look like the same Jon Snow viewers have come to know and love, or does it maybe look a bit darker? Changed, perhaps? Maybe Jon Snow is dead after all, and maybe in his place there’s something Game of Thrones fans know nothing about at all.
[Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]