You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Game of Thrones’ Cast and Creators Tease Jon Snow’s Fate and Potential Return

Is Jon Snow dead? Unless you’ve been living atop a gigantic wall of ice with no cable or wifi for the past year, chances are you’ve heard someone raise the question. And with less than a week to go until “Game of Thrones” returns for Season 6, fans are desperately hoping we’ll soon learn the answer.

“I have not gone to a dinner party, a social gathering [without hearing it],” admits HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “Often it comes up in pitch meetings that are totally unrelated to ‘Game of Thrones,’ or someone just breaks and says, ‘I have to ask you…’ So I’m aware that it’s a subject that occupies people’s interest.”

As far as Lombardo’s concerned, the fervent speculation is simply a testament to the increasing power of “Thrones,” which netted a record-breaking 12 Emmys for Season 5, including Best Drama.

“People are deeply invested, emotionally invested, in the fates of these characters. It happens in only the most undeniable films and television shows, and I think you feel all of the hopes and fears and dreams when people ask those questions,” he says. “They both want me to answer and are afraid of me answering. So I’ve chosen just to keep walking and say ‘watch this season.'”

And fans shouldn’t waste time looking for clues in the Season 5 finale — which saw Jon betrayed by his Night’s Watch brothers and left to bleed out in the snow — per showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

“People are spending a lot of time looking at his eyes, thinking he’s not dead,” says Benioff. “We spent a lot of time…”

Interjects Weiss, “…We spent a lot of money on his eyes.”

Let’s sum it up this way: If your Jon Snow theory rests on whether or not his eyes are fully dilated, think again.

“Game of Thrones” has never shied away from killing its main characters; the show demonstrated its bloodthirsty tendencies way back in Season 1, when it beheaded its ostensible main character, Ned Stark, and firmly established its grip on the cultural zeitgeist.

“I think the shock of Ned Stark dying was a new phenomenon. No one saw that coming,” says Weiss. “This was a slightly different thing where everybody got the sense that anybody could die at any time. [Jon Snow] was somebody who was so central to the story and had been for so long and their investment in him was so tremendous that, yeah, I think we knew that people would maybe be displeased.”

“People have to understand, though, that at a certain point Kit Harington became such a monster, that writing him off the show was imperative to our sanity and the well-being of the crew — the safety of the crew — because he’s, frankly, abusive,” Benioff quips.

“There’s a certain level of violence, physical and mental, in a human being that you just can’t abide by anymore,” Weiss concurs.

“People look at him and they’re like, ‘Oh, he’s so cute. He must be really nice,'” Benioff adds. “Nope. Monster.”

They’re kidding, of course — and after Harington was spotted on set during production on Season 6, the thesp had a ready excuse, maintaining he was playing his character’s corpse in an interview with Time Out: “I filmed some scenes of me being dead — it’s some of my best work.”

But that couldn’t halt the speculation — especially after HBO chose to use a bloodstained image of Jon Snow as the poster for Season 6.

“I think we always have this conversation: how do we keep the fans, remind them the show is being produced and will be coming back?” Lombardo says. “I think when we looked at the marketing at that point, the noise, the volume, the frequency with which the Jon Snow question was being asked, and the response to his death in Season 5 was so palpable. To ignore that seemed somehow silly.”

As for viewers who felt they were being manipulated by the Jon-centric posters and teasers, Lombardo says it was never the show’s intention to mess with them. “I don’t think it was an attempt to play with the audience as much to remind an audience of where we took them this season and the stakes of the next season,” he insists. “It generated enormous interest in a number of ways, but … we take this show way too seriously and our viewers way too seriously to ever toy with them. I think it was really our intention to remind them ‘You have to come back.'”

Even the show’s remaining stars are feeling the pressure from fans. “The Jon Snow aspect, people are always asking what’s going to happen with the next season,” admits Emilia Clarke, who plays Daenerys Targaryen. “I’m always like, ‘I can’t tell you because a sniper will come out of the bushes and shoot me down if I even try.’ Which means that this season is about to get more intense. I’m like, ‘No way, I’ll get fired. I can’t tell you.’ That’s what it is.”

Jon’s death will certainly have repercussions — both politically and emotionally — for many characters in Season 6. Since the Lord Commander was responsible for bringing the wildlings through the Wall — a move that was met with opposition from other members of the Night’s Watch — his loss leaves the surviving wildlings in a tenuous position.

“We’re not welcome there; even though one person was nice to us — and then was killed — we have threats from the Night’s Watch and threats from the Boltons,” notes Kristofer Hivju, who plays Tormund Giantsbane. “Nobody likes us — we’ve been seen as the biggest threat since the dawn of time. For three seasons, the objective has been to get through the Wall, and we lost some people at Hardhome, so we know what the real danger is firsthand. People in Westeros are fighting each other when the real danger is outside, so I think Tormund knows that nothing is over.”

The Starks have been an endangered species ever since Ned lost his head in Season 1, and the surviving Stark siblings have already suffered plenty of loss, but Maisie Williams tells Variety that if and when Arya learns of Jon’s death, “it’d definitely break her and send her down a path that is not good for her … she’d forget everything Ned ever taught her; she would go off the rails.”

Even after several seasons apart, Williams says that Arya’s hope of reuniting with Jon has been “the one thing that’s keeping her sane. Although she loves Bran and misses Bran to pieces and loves Sansa and misses Sansa to pieces, if someone’s your family, but you don’t see them for years, they’re still your family, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have that bond anymore, and I think that’s how it would be with Bran and Sansa. It’s like, ‘I don’t know you anymore, and I don’t really want to.’ With Jon, there was a connection there, and they would always want to see each other again and that’s what’s been keeping her [going]. So discovering that news would send her down a bad path.”

We’ll find out the full impact of Jon’s death — and whether we’ll see him alive again — when “Game of Thrones” Season 6 premieres on Sunday, April 24 at 9 p.m. on HBO.

More TV

  • Alfonso Cuaron71st Annual Writers Guild Awards,

    Alfonso Cuarón on Academy's 'Inevitable' Reversal on Televised Oscar Categories

    Alfonso Cuarón isn’t exactly surprised that the Academy reversed its decision and will now air all the Oscar categories during the live show on Sunday. Feb. 24. Calling the decision “inevitable,”Cuarón tells Variety that he thinks the Academy should take things even further. “Let’s stop calling them technical categories!” he told Variety on Sunday night [...]

  • Desus Nice The Kid Mero

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Feb. 18, 2019: Academy Awards, 'Desus & Mero'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, the Academy Awards air and Desus & Mero make their debut on Showtime. [...]

  • WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01

    BBC Takes Stake in New Company Set Up by ‘Luther,’ ‘Bodyguard’ Exec

    BBC Studios has taken a minority stake in Firebird Pictures, the new drama indie being set up by BBC execs Elizabeth Kilgarriff and Craig Holleworth. Kilgarriff’s credits include “Luther,” “Poldark,” “McMafia” and upcoming Richard Gere-starrer “MotherFatherSon.” She commissioned breakout drama hit “Bodyguard.” Holleworth will be the new company’s COO, having run business and operations for [...]

  • Punisher Jessica Jones

    Marvel's 'The Punisher,' 'Jessica Jones' Canceled at Netflix

    The last of Netflix’s Marvel shows are officially ending. “The Punisher” has been canceled after its second season, and the upcoming third season of “Jessica Jones” will be its last, Netflix confirmed on Monday. The announcement comes after Netflix gave the ax to its other Marvel series: “Daredevil,” “Iron First,” and “Luke Cage.” “Marvel’s ‘The Punisher’ will [...]

  • SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake'

    SND Boards Comedy Series 'Family Shake' With 'Desperate Parents' Producer

    SND, the commercial arm of the French TV network M6, has acquired worldwide distribution rights to “Family Shake,” a comedy series written by Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc. SND is the latest vertically integrated French film group to start handling live-action series, following TF1 Studio, Studiocanal and Gaumont, among others. Produced by Gaëlle Cholet at [...]

  • 'Super Shiro' Anime Series Inspired by

    'Super Shiro' Anime Series Inspired by 'Crayon Shin-chan'

    The enduringly popular Japanese cartoon franchise “Crayon Shin-chan” has inspired a new animated TV series, “Super Shiro.” “Crayon Shin-chan” has been on air since 1992 and inspired 26 feature films. “Super Shiro” is a fast-paced chase series, for kids, based on original IP by Yoshito Usui and scripted by on Kimiko Ueno.  The series is [...]

  • Us Television Writers and Producers Maria

    ‘Mad Men’s’ Andre, Maria Jacquemetton Set for Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus

    MADRID — André and Maria Jacquemetton, the Emmy and WGA Award-winning writer-producers of AMC’s “Mad Men” and consulting producers on Amazon Studios’ “The Romanoffs,” will serve as Guests of Honor at Series Mania’s UGC Writers Campus, a workshop whose participants include Denmark’s Christina Miller-Harris and Israel’s Noy Carmel. The Jacquemettons will deliver a masterclass and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content