Despite how many fans may feel about Game Of Thrones finally reaching its conclusion after nearly a decade, the show has, in fact, hit its final note. Game Of Thrones may have made a name for itself by getting fans to fall in love with its brilliant and diverse cast of characters before systematically destroying nearly every one of the beloved characters, but there are some, however, that have been lucky enough to escape the dreaded game without having to pay with their lives.
Jon Snow is not one of those people. While he may have come out (partially) intact, Jon Snow not only paid for his claim with his life, but also with the lives of nearly everyone he called family, friend, and even lovers. Jon Snow may have started out knowing nothing, but in the course of his eight-season journey through the series, he’s certainly picked up a thing or two.
8 Cripples, Bastards, And Broken Things - Season 1
Throughout season one, much like the people of the north and the rest of Westeros, the audience isn't meant to think much of Jon Snow, the bastard of an honorable man. However, what is made very clear from the start is that Jon, much like Tyrion and Daenerys, is someone with the ability to do great things.
In a society based on name, rank, and station, it seems that the best chance Jon will ever have to lead a noble life is to take the black and join the honorable men (some less than others) who are preparing to fight off the armies of winter and wildlings. It seems that in Jon’s mind this is how he can prove to himself and the family he wants so desperately to be apart of that he is, in fact, a Stark. While Jon distinguishes himself very early on as one of the most capable recruits to take the black in some time, he still doesn’t quite get the recognition he both wants and arguably deserves.
7 Beyond The Wall - Season 2
Season two is a time of great change for the shows three main protagonists. While Dany begins to find and display her power in the east and Tyrion begins to acknowledge and revel in his power as the hand of the king, Jon is taking a very different journey. Jon’s journey through the course of season two isn’t so much about him coming into power like those of the others. Rather, Jon’s journey is about pushing his boundaries and growing through his experiences outside of Winterfell, through the people and ideas he’s confronted with.
As Ygritte will say time and time again throughout her time on the series, Jon Snow “knows nothing.” While that may be true at the moment, Jon Snow, like many great leaders, isn’t the type of person to miss out on a learning experience. Jon begins this season seeing the world in mostly black and white, but as the season goes on he begins to learn that what he’s been taught isn't always going to be true. Sometimes living an honorable life can take him places and push him past lines he never thought he’d cross.
6 Fighting For Those That Fight For The Living - Season 3
Jon has formerly seen things only in terms of the black and the wights, but through his time spent with the wildlings and his time beyond the wall, he’s beginning to realize that the only sides that matter are the living and the dead. Through Mance, the king beyond the wall, Jon is able to come to terms with the fact the wildlings have never really been the issue. They’re simply people struggling to survive the many threats beyond the wall. A view very few of his fellow Crows will shares.
While Jon has grown much throughout his time beyond the wall, it is not enough to betray the sense of honor that Ned Stark had instilled in him. He returns to the wall, still a slave to his honor, but a changed man nonetheless.
5 The Watchers On The Wall - Season 4
Season four is a time of great conflict for Jon. While he had envisioned his time at the wall as a noble fight to protect the realms of men from the invading wildlings, the white walkers have changed Jon irrevocably. Jon no longer views the wildings as the outside invaders that the rest of the Night’s Watch sees.
Jon has experienced life outside the wall. He is now fully aware that the only two sides in the coming war are the living and dead. He is also fully aware that if the free folk are left outside the wall, sooner or later they will pick up arms as disciples of the Night King, willing or not. However, Jon still has no place at the table. He doesn’t have the power to convince the men of the Night’s Watch that the free folk are included in the “realms of men.” Even as they attack Castle Black, Jon struggles to for anything besides self-defense.
4 Kill The Boy - Season 5
With Stannis inhabiting Castle Black and Mance Rayder set to burn for his crimes against the kingdom, Jon Snow is again set at odds between love and duty. He knows that his duty is to the Night’s Watch, but in the much bigger picture, his duty is to the realms of men. All men. Including the free folk.
Now that he has the power to makes changes as Lord Commander, Jon struggles with the decision to let the free folk through the gates, but Maester Aemon advises him to “Kill the boy. Let the man be born,” and make the tough decision for the realms of men. The last thing Jon expects is to be betrayed by the honorable men meant to serve him as he commands the Night’s Watch. The boy has indeed been killed. Let the man be born.
3 A Battle Between Bastards - Season 6
Much like Dany has done twice now, Jon has been reborn through the flames. With his watch having officially ended and his duty to the Night’s Watch finished, he heads straight to his home in Winterfell and the remaining family that he has left. Season 6, for Jon at least, is a battle of opposites. While Jon has spent his life pursuing an honorable and steadfast path much like the man who raised him, Ramsey, in contrast, has spent a lifetime seeking power at any means necessary.
Deceit, foul play, and torture are all tools the Boltons have used to amass their power. Not only is Ramsey a perfect foil to the path Jon has taken, but House Bolton itself is the perfect foil to the noble and honorable House Stark. While the Boltons have used any means necessary to claw their way to the top, Jon and his fellow Starks fight and eventually win with honor. A fact the north remembers as they name their new king.
2 The Dragon And The Wolf - Season 7
With the battle of the bastards won, Jon, now the king in the north has little time to focus on anything but the impending war against the dead. With news of Daenerys Targaryen’s arrival in Dragonstone reaching the north, Jon decides it’s time to forge some new alliances. While Jon has never wanted the power or attention that comes with the crown, Daenerys resembles a stark contrast to this disposition. It is, perhaps, important to note that Jon is the only one that has seen the devastation that the white walkers bring in their wake.
From Craster’s keep to Hardhome, Jon, much like the north, remembers. He sees the bigger picture and has no problem giving up his crown if it means the realms of men can be spared the devastation that he has already witnessed time and time again. While Daenerys has tunnel vision and sees nothing but the throne at this point, Jon somehow manages to capture her heart. As the penultimate season closes the dragon and the wolf have become one. In more ways than either of them is aware of.
1 Love And Duty - Season 8
As the final season begins it’s important to remember the long journey the white wolf has gone to get to where he is. From the young bastard of an honorable man to the shield of the realms of men to leading those men followed by returning home to become the king in the north. Jon has grown, loved, experienced, and truly spent his adulthood fighting to save as many people (on either side of the wall) as possible. A fact that will be very important as the series reaches its conclusion. Time and time again Jon has chosen duty over love. Honor over heart.
As the series comes to a close, with Daenerys having decimated King’s Landing with continued aspirations to “free the world from its oppressors”, Jon comes to find that once more he will be forced to choose duty over love. He plunges he dagger into his queen and possibly the love of his life, knowing that he is the only person capable of shielding the realm of men from this threat.