*NOTE: This story was sent out earlier with an spoiler in the title. This careless writer sincerely apologizes for his error and any aggravation it may have caused. The title and images have been corrected.
(SPOILERS FROM GAME OF THRONES SEASON 6!)
Everyone from my mother to President Obama has asked the Question: is Jon Snow dead? A brand new Entertainment Weekly cover story, courtesy of premier Game of Thrones beat writer James Hibberd and released today (the issue hits shelves tomorrow) tackles the Question and its aftermath from every angle in light of Jon Snow’s resurrection at the end of last Sunday’s aptly-titled episode, “Home” (my recap).
“What did you see?” Melisandre asks soon after, according to Snow portrayer Kit Harington.
“Nothing,” he tells the Red Woman, whom has to thank for his second chance at life. “There was nothing at all.”
For Harington, who kept quiet on the twist of Jon Snow’s murder for two years and spent the last year for all intents and purposes living a lie, said the line (which in all liklihood comes from this Sunday’s third episode “Oathbreaker”) is “the most important line in the whole season” for him. Now that the ruse is over and Jon Snow is back in the land of the living, Harington had a lot to say about the process and how death has changed the Lord Commander (in a sign of how far everyone went, all season 6 scripts referred to Jon as exclusively as “LC”).
Like all lies and misdirections, it’s a tale that grew in the telling.
Harington first learned his character’s “death” upon reading the Season 5 scripts prior to production in summer 2014. As teased previously by EW, the scripting was both definitive and ambiguous. Showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss took Harington aside early in the season’s filming to let him in on the secret, telling him not only that Melisandre would bring him back to life but that season 6 would be Jon’s busiest season yet.
He was forced to put on a performance not only for the public, but for the show’s cast, crew and some of his closest friends and family (he was later allowed to confide with his immediate family and on-and-off screen girlfriend Rose Leslie). He even gave a fake farewell speech when they filmed his Season 5 ending death scene, which the episode’s director David Nutter was also led to believe was permanent. It was an experience Harington described as his worst on Thrones, “like being at my own funeral.”
Only Benioff, Weiss, Harington and his confidantes and HBO progamming chief Michael Lombardo knew the truth. Some cast members, like Liam Cunningham and Gwendoline Christie, refused to believe or held out hope. Others like Sophie Turner sincerely believed he was gone while others, Harington said.
“Sophie Turner, bless her, wrote me a really long letter about how much she loved working with me — and I still got it. That made me chuckle. She bought it hook, line, and sinker.”
In the aftermath of the Season 5 finale, Harington cut his hair to sell the illusion, though as last week’s episode revealed, there was a story reason: Jon receives a haircut from Melisandre during the ritual. But what worried him most was all the deceptive effort would be for nothing.
I was most worried people weren’t going to buy it. Or they were going to watch it and go, “Meh, who cares? It’s not as sad as the Red Wedding. We don’t love you as much as those characters.” There’s something inside you where you want them to be sad. I wanted them to believe that I’m dead. And for the most part, a lot of them did. They had a love for the character, and they believed he could be gone. I was glad it had the impact that we aimed for.
Fortunately, beyond a grainy photo of Harington decked out in Stark regalia filming the outdoors scenes of the season’s Big Battle episode, the whole plan worked surprisingly well.
For Harington, the death had to mean something; he could never come back as the same Jon Snow who was stabbed to death by his own men. At the same time, he called most of the other resurrection scenarios – he wargs into his direwolf Ghost or he comes back as an undead creature -“shit.”
Cunningham said quite succinctly how everybody had gotten the Question wrong.
“Everyone is f—ing asking the wrong question! ‘Is Jon Snow dead’? Yes, he’s dead! The question is: ‘Is he going to stay dead.’”
One thing that immediately made Harington question whether the death would stick was the unresolved and mysterious identity of Jon Snow’s parents, as the show has not only cast doubt on his status as Ned’s bastard but hinted heavily at the popular fan theory of R+L=J.
“Why would there be this whole arc about your mother if that was never going to be relevant information because you died before finding out?”
The story, with many further juicy details within, is available online only to subscribers and the issue will hit newsstands tomorrow. For more from Heroic Hollywood, check out our guide to Game of Thrones season 6 and check back every Sunday night for episode recaps.