[NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Game of Thrones season 5 and 6]
If there’s one thing that author George R.R. Martin made clear in the first installment of A Song of Ice and Fire, no one is safe – anyone, even fan-favorite heroes, can be killed without any warning. Following a bloody path of shocking deaths across five seasons of premium HBO television (including the beheading of Eddard Stark, mutilation of the Red Viper, and the all-out bloody chaos of the Red Wedding, to name a few), the betrayal and death of Jon Snow at the hands of his Night’s Watch brothers was especially hard for viewers to accept.
It wasn’t long before Snow’s murder led to a number of fan theories regarding how the Lord Commander could return – as well as the character’s importance to the ongoing Game of Thrones series. Speculation that the hero could return was further fueled by images of actor Kitt Harington with his trademark shoulder-length Jon Snow haircut – prompting many viewers to assume that the actor would return, even if the means by which Snow would be resurrected remain unconfirmed.
Now, a new leaked image from Game of Thrones season 6 filming has revealed Harington back on set – fully decked out in battle armor costuming.
Check out the image below (and pay special attention to the co-star under the black umbrella):
Of course, the image doesn’t tell us anything concrete about how Snow will return – just that the actor will appear in season 6.
Before we breakdown the most probable explanation for Snow’s resurrection, it’s worth noting that the usual leaked image “grain-of-salt” is required here. Harington might be on set but that doesn’t mean that Jon is guaranteed for revival. Technically, he could be appearing in a dream or vision of a different character in the show; though, the most likely scenario is also the most obvious: Jon is back among the living.
Unfortunately, fans cannot simply look to the books this time to fast-forward ahead and discover the means by which Jon returns (assuming he is alive) – since the character’s death has yet to be resolved in Martin’s book series. Additionally, over the last few years Game of Thrones has drastically altered events from the novels – saving, and in other cases killing, characters whose fate was quite different in print. That’s all to say that even if A Song of Ice and Fire had already explained Jon’s fate, there’s no guarantee that showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss would depict the exact same set of events on screen.
Nevertheless, many fans will have already guessed that Jon isn’t dead – since his murder just happened to coincide with the arrival of Lady Melisandre, The Red Woman, after the defeat of would-be king Stannis Baratheon. Even though the fate of Baratheon remains unclear on the HBO TV series, it’s safe to assume that Melisandre, who already took an interest in Jon earlier this season, could aid in his resurrection. While audiences have never seen The Red Woman revive a dead ally in Game of Thrones, there’s no question she is capable of supernatural feats – thanks to her unwavering commitment to the Lord of Light. Further proof: a closer look at the leaked image also reveals Lady Melisandre actress Carice van Houten on set next to Harington (under that black umbrella).
Baratheon’s defeat, even after the sacrifice of his own daughter, might lead some viewers to assume that Melisandre is a fraud – and that there is no Lord of Light. Though, we’ve already seen the Lord of Light’s power of resurrection proven on screen – via the many deaths of Beric Dondarrion. Introduced in season 3 of the series, Dondarrion is killed by Sandor Clegane (The Hound) in trial by combat – as Arya looks on. Yet, moments later Dondarrion is revived by Thoros of Myr through prayer to the Lord of Light – who reveals that this isn’t even the first time that Dondarrion had to be resurrected (the event marked the sixth time Dondarrion had cheated death).
While worship to the Lord of Light can succeed in restoring a dead soul, the resurrection is not without its consequences: in addition to his scars, Dondarrion has also suffered memory losses. As a result, if Melisandre prays to the Lord of Light in an attempt to revive Jon Snow, and the god deems the Lord Commander worthy, it’s still possible that the hero may not return exactly as he was prior to his death.
How different Jon might be after resurrection remains to be seen; though, fans shouldn’t expect a significant change in his character. A more likely scenario could see the hero return but partially sidelined for a time – as he attempts to recover his memories or understanding of the threats his Night’s Watch will soon face. Either way, several prominent fan theories require Snow to stick around – meaning that, with Winter now at his doorstep, the Lord Commander has a lot more work to do.
Game of Thrones season 6 is expected to air on HBO in Spring 2016.