Is Mance Rayder's Death A Clue To Jon Snow's Life?

It's no secret that here at Bustle, we're pretty committed to the idea that Jon Snow isn't dead. And that's just not because we would miss the beautiful bastard's face too much if he were gone from HBO's Game Of Thrones for good — there's actually a lot of evidence to support the theory that the 98th Lord Commander of the Night's Watch isn't a total goner. There's the hair, the contracts, the R+L=J, and the fact that actor Kit Harington has even been spotted in Belfast, where filming is currently underway for Season 6. So he MUST be alive, right?! I'd hate to be that guy, but I have to point out that all of this proves nothing — Jon Snow could still be dead as a doornail.

Why do I say that? Take a trip down memory lane with me: Back in the Season 4 finale, Tywin Lannister was killed by his own son Tyrion via two crossbow bolts to the chest. So, when reports came out that actor Charles Dance had been spotted on set for Season 5, theories began to swirl about how Papa Lion could have survived. Dance himself seemed to enjoy stoking the fires of fan angst, promising that, "You haven't seen the last of Tywin Lannister." Of course, when Season 5 finally premiered, Dance's much-buzzed-about appearance was lying motionless on a slab at Tywin's funeral — #trolled.

There are some indications that history is repeating itself for Season 6, and that Harington's appearance in Belfast is only to film Jon Snow's last rites. GoT fan website Watchers On The Wall recently posted some set photos of filming taking place on location in Magheramorne, where Castle Black exteriors are shot. At least one of the photos shows "a fair amount of smoke [...] billowing from the set." You mean like the kind of smoke that would billow from a funeral pyre, which the Night's Watch is known to use to prevent their fallen comrades from turning into blue-eyed wights?

But wait — before you name a leech after me and throw it in the fire, just hear me out. I didn't bring you all the way out here just to rain on your Jon Snow parade. On the contrary, I think this evidence of a Jon Snow funeral may actually be a clue to his eventual resurrection. Allow me to explain.

Season 5 of GoT started with a bang when the writers killed off a character still alive in the books — wildling leader and King Beyond the Wall, Mance Rayder. In both iterations, Mance was burned at the stake by Melisandre and then shot through the heart with an arrow by a merciful Jon Snow. However, in the books it was later revealed that Melisandre had swapped Mance out for the generally loathed Lord of Bones. She had used her magic to "glamour" each wildling to look like the other, had the Lord of Bones killed, and saved Mance for further use. (He was eventually dispatched to Winterfell to rescue "Arya" — aka Jeyne Poole — from Ramsay's clutches.)

On the show, this switcheroo never took place. The Lord of Bones wasn't even at the Wall when the burning occurred — we met up with him later at Hardhome, where he was beaten to death by Tormund Giantsbane. But why did showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss change this storyline, sacrificing a great actor (Ciarán Hinds) in the process? Perhaps because they wanted to save the switcheroo for a later plot — it's really a trick you can only use once.

Many viewers are relying on Melisandre to resurrect Jon Snow, but we've seen no evidence that the Red Priestess even possesses this power. In fact, she herself admitted she didn't even think it was possible before she saw Thoros of Myr resurrect Beric Dondarrion in Season 3. It makes sense that, if she wanted to bring Jon back from the dead, she would take his body to the only person she knows has the power of resurrection.

If that's the case, then whose body is being burned at Castle Black? In need of a ruse to spirit Jon's corpse away from his betrayers, perhaps Melisandre will resort to that switcheroo tactic that was so conspicuously missing from Season 5. The Season 6 premiere may begin with what appears to be Jon Snow's body being burned, devastating millions of viewers in the process, only for it to be revealed later in the season that Melisandre had simply glamoured someone else to appear to be Jon while she spirited the Lord Commander's corpse safely away from the Wall — someone neither she nor the viewers would mind sacrificing all that much if it meant Jon Snow's return.

This could also explain why Benioff & Weiss seem to have cut Lady Stoneheart from the show. (Spoilers!) In the books, Beric sacrifices himself so that Thoros can resurrect the corpse of Catelyn instead, setting the murdered Stark on a quest for vengeance against the Freys. But, maybe Benioff & Weiss were saving Beric's sacrifice and Thoros' power for a different Stark. Like a "gotcha!" switcheroo, the dramatic resurrection of a major character is really a trick you should only use once. And I think most viewers would rather get Jon Snow and his dreamy hair back than creepy zombie Cat.

So, maybe Kit Harington isn't a bold-faced liar after all. Perhaps Jon Snow really is dead — but he'll return to us triumphantly towards the end of Season 6 after having been resurrected by Thoros of Myr, reborn as Jon Stark, released from his vows to the Night's Watch by that little loophole known as death.

Images: HBO (5)