While fans of the novels saw it coming, the Game of Thrones (2011) television-only crowd experienced a big shocker as the Season 5 finale concluded with Jon Snow’s (Kit Harington) seemingly dead eyes staring up at them from a bloody patch of snow. In the episode’s final moments, Jon’s squire Olly (Brenock O'Connor) led him into the yard at Castle Black under the false guise of information about his late uncle Benjen (Joseph Mawle), trapping Snow in with a gang of fellow brothers ready for mutiny. Olly struck the final blow, and Game of Thrones seemingly lost one of its most beloved characters.
But did it? Showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff, as well as Kit Harington, all maintain that Snow is dead and gone. But who would listen to showrunners? They have a vested interest in protecting their secrets.
Book readers have been discussing Jon’s untimely death for years, since the publication of A Dance With Dragons in 2011. The novel left him in relatively the same position as the television series, making his fate apparent but ultimately unconfirmed in both universes.
The Season 6 premiere has not yet given any reason for hope, but a number of viable theories still exist that indicate we have not seen the last of Jon Snow:
1. Jon warged into his direwolf, Ghost.
This is a popular theory for book readers, since in that world Jon is a known warg, and his final utterance after the stabbings was “Ghost.” But this would be a challenge for the HBO showrunners to pull off since the television version of Jon has never been introduced as a warg. As far as that universe goes, Bran is the only Stark child with that power. Or is he?
2. Melisandre brings Jon back to life.
In both universes, Melisandre (Carice van Houten) is at The Wall for Jon’s death. Though she’s never resurrected anyone on the program before, we have seen a resurrection performed by Thoros of Myr (Paul Kaye) back in Season 3, where Melisandre was present. Being a red priestess, she may have the ability to do the same for Jon.
3. Jon is the rebirth of Azor Ahai ("The Prince That Was Promised").
This is a theory that is more thoroughly explained in the books, and again connects to Melisandre, which centers around Jon being the reincarnation of Azor Ahai. Though hardly mentioned on the show, Ahai is the fellow who put a stop to The Long Night ages ago, a winter when White Walkers almost destroyed the five kingdoms. He wielded a famous sword capable of killing them, and legend says he’s destined to be reborn and save the kingdoms once more. He’s given the title The Prince That Was Promised. Melisandre thought Stannis (Stephen Dillane) was the rebirth of Ahai, but perhaps it’s Snow. She seems to be oddly fascinated by him. The theories that explain this potential plotline are long and complicated, and stem from the way Jon used his sword to kill a white walker, coupled with the possibility that Jon Snow isn’t a Stark at all, but has Targaryen parentage. (Click here and here, respectively, to read those theories if unaware. This Vanity Fair article also presents a good explanation of the show's hints at the Ahai theory.)
4. Jon is reborn in fire.
The Night’s Watch likes to burn the bodies of their dead so they don’t come back as wights. If you’re familiar with the theory about Jon’s true parentage (linked above) and it proves true, then he could be reborn if burned.
5. The Night's King will resurrect Jon.
Although nobody wants to picture Kit Harington’s beautiful face as a White Walker, we’ve seen the power of the Night’s King (Richard Brake). He resurrected the entire wildling battlefield after the fight at Hardhome.
6. Jon still has to rule Westeros with Daenerys.
In The House of the Undying, Daenerys (Emilia Clarke) learns “the dragon has three heads.” While this prophecy comes with a lot of ambiguity, its symbolism is constant - the Targaryen sigil is a three-headed dragon, and Daenerys has three dragons. A popular theory is that Dany is unable to rule alone, and requires two other Targaryens at her side. Jumping back to the above theory about Jon Snow actually being a Targaryen, he could be one of the other heads of the dragon. If that’s the case - one way or another - he’s bound to be back.
7. Jon is dead.
Then again, valar morghulis - all men must die - and this is Game of Thrones. It’s possible that Jon Snow is just dead, as much of a bummer as that would be.