We finally have an answer after months (and, in the case of book-readers, years) of speculation: Jon Snow is alive on Game Of Thrones and Melisandre is the one who resurrected him. At least, that's what the final scene of last week's episode would have us believe, in which the Red Priestess cast a spell over Jon's dead body — only to leave in defeat when it seemed not to work — only for it to actually work. But was it Melisandre alone who actually brought him back? Or did Jon's resurrection have something to do with his direwolf, Ghost?
Unfortunately for proponents of that popular fan theory, GoT actor Kit Harington himself seemed to debunk it in a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, when asked how death had changed Jon Snow. (Warning: minor spoilers for future episodes; but blame Harington, not me.)
At first I was worried that he’ll wake up and he’s the same, back to normal — then there’s no point in that death. He needs to change. There’s a brilliant line when Melisandre asks: “What did you see?” And he says: “Nothing, there was nothing at all.” That cuts right to our deepest fear, that there’s nothing after death. And that’s the most important line in the whole season for me. Jon’s never been afraid of death, and that’s made him a strong and honorable person. He realizes something about his life now: He has to live it, because that’s all there is. He’s been over the line and there’s nothing there. And that changes him. It literally puts the fear of God into him. He doesn’t want to die ever again. But if he does, he doesn’t want to be brought back.
The aforementioned Ghost theory states that, upon dying, Jon's consciousness warged into his direwolf, where it stayed until Melisandre was able to revive the Lord Commander's corpse. There's ample evidence for this in George R.R. Martin's books: A Dance With Dragons opens with a prologue featuring a minor character named Varamyr Sixskins who wargs into his wolf when he's killed, seemingly to introduce the concept that this is possible; and Jon's last word after he's stabbed to death is, "Ghost."
But even if this theory was Martin's intention, it appears that showrunners David Benioff & D.B. Weiss have changed things for their adaptation. The fact that Jon's response to what he saw while he was dead is "nothing" implies that he did not in fact warg into Ghost. As we know from Bran's experiences, when you warg into an animal, you see and experience the world through their eyes — meaning Jon would have known exactly where he was and what was happening the whole time.
On one level, this change makes sense; the show has never placed as much emphasis on the direwolves as Martin does in the books, perhaps because of the difficulty of working with live animals (and the effects needed to make them look huge). The show has completely excised the subplot in which Arya often dreams through the eyes of her exiled direwolf, Nymeria, and Jon's warging abilities have remained completely unexplored as well. So while book-readers may have been looking forward to this twist, it likely wouldn't have meant much to casual non-readers.
But on another level, this change is somewhat concerning. If Jon's consciousness wasn't inside of Ghost the whole time he was dead… then where was it, and what might have happened to it while it was untethered from corporeal form? The only other characters who have been known to be resurrected are Beric Dondarrion and — in the books, at least — Lady Stoneheart. (Spoiler if you somehow still don't know who Lady Stoneheart is.)
Catelyn Stark was dead for three days before she was resurrected by Thoros of Myr, and because she had been deceased for so long, she came back "wrong," as a vengeful and murderous zombie rather than the protective mother she had been. Even Beric Dondarrion, who was always resurrected by Thoros almost immediately after death, said that every time he came back he lost a little part of himself.
Warging into Ghost would have been a way for Jon to protect himself from this spiritual degradation; but if his soul was really just trapped in nothingness, will that mean he comes back "wrong" like Catelyn? (It's hard to tell how much time has passed between Jon's death and his resurrection, but given that we see Melisandre go to bed at the end of the first episode, it must have been at least one whole day.) If he does, that supports the theory that Jon Snow and Lady Stoneheart might be combined for the show's purposes.
But it's also sad to think that the Jon Snow we all know and love might really be gone forever…
Images: HBO (2); Giphy