Many critics in popular media are compiling their “Best of…” lists for 2016, and unsurprisingly, Game of Thrones has landed a spot on many of them. In fact, Winter Is Coming has compiled a list of every publication Game of Thrones has earned a nod from.
Another aspect of that honor looms, which character led Game of Thrones to the pinnacle of its success? Who was the MVP of Season 6? When it comes to Season 6, critics have tended to point to Cersei, Daenerys, Sansa, and Jon Snow as the central figures of the season. So which of them deserves the nod? It is time to narrow the field.
Game of Thrones Season 6’s MVP was not Sansa Stark. She withheld vital military information that cost countless members of her brother’s army their lives, and nearly killed him. In truth, Sansa did not save the battle for Winterfell, she almost brought it to ruin.
Season 6’s MVP was not Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), whose quest for power appeared insatiable, violence her first response to any threat. Season 6’s MVP was not Cersei Lannister. She blew up her enemies and countless innocents in a giant explosion, actions that drove her son to suicide, and conveniently put her on the Iron Throne.
Game of Thrones Season 6’s MVP
To explain what made Game of Thrones one of the best shows of 2016, you have to understand its MVP, and why they were the most valuable player of Season 6.
In Season 6, Sansa (Sophie Turner) was able to flee her vile husband to the safety of her brother, who fresh off his own murder and resurrection, risked life and limb all over again to help his family.
Season 6’s MVP was a leader, who has traditionally hesitated to take up arms but did so to fight for their family. Not because they love violence, or have an unquenchable thirst for “fire and blood.”
One of the best moments of Season 6 came when Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) had won what she has always wanted most, and viewers learned that her reign would be short-lived. After six seasons an alternative and the likely true heir to the Iron Throne was revealed, and they are someone who is actually worthy of it.
Season 6’s MVP was someone, not seeking power, but who had it thrust upon them anyway. All of these moments revolved around one character: Jon Snow, the MVP of Game of Thrones Season 6.
For five seasons, Game of Thrones fans have been clamoring to see Jon Snow finally reach his potential. After watching him thanklessly lead the Night’s Watch and battle White Walkers for what has been most of the series’ run, many were ready for him to leave the dreaded Wall. A place Jon struggled to thrive and for good reason. It was where he would ultimately die.
Most Game of Thrones fans could only discuss one thing during the wait for Season 6. Was Jon Snow dead, forever? Just as chatter surrounding Season 5 ended, Season 6 continued the discussion. One geared towards a character that’s true popularity only became fully realized by spectators, upon his “death.”
Fans had to wait for two episodes in Season 6 before they got their answer. Jon Snow (Kit Harington) would live again. But to what end?
The Bold And The Powerful
Many characters on Game of Thrones, made bold power moves in Season 6, and ascended to the greatest level of authority they have ever held. The difference is they were all working to that end.
In Season 6, Jon attempts no such thing. He acts valiantly to save the life of his little brother, Rickon and to avenge his sister Sansa’s horrifying treatment at the hands of Ramsay Bolton (Iwan Rheon). He risks his life to take back his family’s ancestral home, to cast out the despicable leader of House Bolton, and resurrect House Stark.
Jon Snow is the only character in Game of Thrones‘ mega-successful sixth season, to achieve his new status with no agenda for personal power. Something Cersei and Daenerys are both guilty of.
Rise Of A Hero
In Season 6, Jon risked his newly restored life to help his family. To save one member’s life, avenge another and put their family back on top. Not because he was expecting to be at the helm of their newly restored House, either. The same cannot be said of Daenerys or Cersei, neither of whom acted with a tinge of Jon’s gallantry, or selflessness.
In Season 6, Jon did not act because he believed there was a cushy position awaiting him. He acted selflessly, valiantly, facing enormous odds that offered death as the most likely outcome, and he fought anyway, and not for himself.
When he takes to the battlefield in the “Battle of the Bastards,” he does so knowing that it is not only his and his men’s lives that are riding on his efforts. The lives of his remaining family members are also directly at stake.
The night before the battle, his sister has told him she will kill herself if he is defeated. His little brother Rickon is being held by a maniac. Rickon’s life is also hanging in the balance, and by the thinnest of threads. Jon knows that if he is defeated, all that he is certain remains of his family will be gone forever.
With the probability of death weighing heavy on the scales, he goes to Melisandre (Carice van Houten) on the eve of the battle, asking her not to bring him back if he dies. Why? He never explicitly states his reasons, but with the potential death of his family waiting in the wings, he clearly wishes not to go on without them.
Reborn In Battle
When the time comes, Jon charges the battlefield in a desperate attempt to save his little brother, who is murdered just as he reaches him. It becomes clear in the penultimate episode of Season 6 that a new Jon Snow is born. The Jon, Game of Thrones fans have been waiting for, one who has something worth fighting for.
While he came back to life at Castle Black, Jon Snow started living again on that blood-soaked battlefield. In that episode, Jon acts like never before, unbridled in his determination. He is swept underneath the feet of his own men, trampled and nearly crushed to death. Instead of accepting his fate, he summons his own strength to pull himself up and continue fighting.
That is the defining moment of Season 6. A moment when a character many have longed to see come alive, did, by again showing tremendous courage in the face of ample adversity. The “Battle of the Bastards” marks the first time in Game of Thrones history that Jon has ever been able to fight for his family, and when he gets the chance, he does them and the audience proud. It is everything expectations thought impossible when Season 5 ended.
For all of the talk surrounding Sansa’s arc in Season 6, she achieved her triumph by working with Jon. She would have never succeeded without him. For the first time since her father’s death, she will begin a new season of Game of Thrones alongside someone who actually has her best interest at heart.
When Jon vows to protect her during their final meeting before the battle for Winterfell, she says that “no one” can protect anyone. Well, Jon did just that.
Despite her lack of faith in her brother, he succeeds, and she never thanks him or shows him any appreciation for his efforts. While Sansa dismissed Jon’s contribution to the events of Game of Thrones in Season 6, for others, there is no ignoring it.
To find out what happens to Jon Snow in Season 7, tune in when Game of Thrones returns next summer on HBO.
[Featured Image by Helen Sloan/HBO]