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HBO’s Genius Strategy for Handling Jon Snow’s Resurrection

3 minute read

Spoiler alert for all the deaths and secret identities you predicted anyway

After months of claiming, “Jon Snow is dead,” HBO has done something rather clever. They’ve slapped the face of a very much alive (though bloody) Jon Snow on a poster and teased his comeback in a trailer for Game of Thrones‘ upcoming sixth season. It’s a savvy move that both satiates and intrigues fans.

Because here’s the thing: Jon Snow is alive. Or at least he’s up and moving—his quality of life is still in question. Actor Kit Harington has been reportedly spotted on set in Belfast. And in the words of George R.R. Martin, author of source material A Song of Ice and Fire: “If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire is that death is not necessarily permanent.”

So rather than dragging out the debate—Redditors are still bickering over the topic six months after that adorable traitor Olly shivved Jon Snow—HBO is basically admitting that we will see Harington’s long locks again.

The new trailer shows no new material from season six, instead offering the audience a brief recap of the terrible things our beloved Starks have suffered through while intoning, “The past is already written. The ink is dry.” But just as this statement is uttered we get a shot of Jon bleeding out followed quickly by one of Bran warging. Could they be related? You decide.

While this will surely fuel more debate about Jon Snow’s fate—which can only be good for HBO—it will also put to rest its rather exhausting efforts to trick the audience. Just in the last year, culture fans have been rebelling against the fake-out. They didn’t buy the untimely demise of Glenn on The Walking Dead nor was anyone surprised when Christoph Waltz’s character was revealed to be Bond’s longtime nemesis Blofeld in Spectre. Even writer Damon Lindelof admitted this week that keeping the identity of Benedict Cumberbatch’s character Khan a secret in Star Trek Into Darkness was a bad call. Claims to the contrary felt shallow. Campaigns to fool the audience insulted intelligent viewers.

Perhaps HBO learned from these incidents, but thankfully poor Kit Harington won’t have to field any “But really, is he dead?” questions anymore—just “How is he alive?” questions. It’s a smart decision by a network and show that have already suffered through plenty of backlash. Well done, HBO.


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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com