Join or Sign In

Sign in to customize your TV listings

Continue with Facebook Continue with email

By joining TV Guide, you agree to our Terms of Use and acknowledge the data practices in our Privacy Policy.

All the Ways Game of Thrones Hinted at Jon Snow's Fate

It is known

Amanda Bell

Game of Thrones' final stretch was panned for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it leaned on its scattered instances of foreshadowing to justify certain character developments instead of the meticulous real-time character development one might've expected, as with that rapid Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) heel turn in "The Bells." And lo, making sense of the fate of Jon Snow (Kit Harington) in the series finale also requires a bit of looking back to how this arc developed.

Now that HBO Max is launching to bring Thrones to the top of a new kingdom of streaming options, we wanted to celebrate by look backing at exactly how the series built up to Jon Snow's final moments throughout its run. 

The man who passes the sentence...

For starters, Jon's decision to kill Daenerys himself rings true to his long-held family philosophy, first introduced by his "father" Ned Stark (Sean Bean), that "the man who passes the sentence should swing the sword." As the only person in the world who could best Daenerys' claim to the Iron Throne, it was him alone who could choose to sentence her to death. Perhaps more importantly, he was also the only person who could possibly get close enough to her to make it happen, since Grey Worm (Jacob Anderson) was as loyal as ever and Drogon would never. Thus, it was on Jon to pass the sentence and swing the sword -- er, plunge the dagger.

The Lord of Light's design...

The decision also gives weight to the theory that whomever the Lord of Light resurrects has a designed purpose for being revived. Some might've expected Jon Snow to become the "prince who was promised" as a result of his second chance at life and the revelation that he was the son of Rhaegar Targaryen and Lyanna Stark, ergo rightful heir to the Iron Throne. However, he has always been a reluctant leader, so his lack of ambition for that position is in keeping with his personality throughout the series. Jon was also rendered useless in the Battle of Winterfell, so ending the Night King was obviously not to be his fate either. Instead, it looks like Jon Snow was saved so he could do what he does best: kill. Jon once said that he didn't like doing what he was good at, but the finale positioned him in such a way that he had to end at least one more life before his mission could be complete.

Drogon's decision...

When Jon Snow first met Drogon in Dragonstone, there was a fear that the fire-breather might make toast out of the erstwhile King in the North, but he didn't, and many believed that all but confirmed his Targaryen lineage. It's not clear why Drogon would lay waste to the Iron Throne and not the man who basically prevented his mother from occupying it, but this isn't the first time Drogon has refrained from burning him alive, which may mean he too has at least some dragon blood in his veins which prevented Drogon from dracarys-ing him out of existence.

Taking the black...

The very first time we met Jon Snow, he was well on his way to joining the Night's Watch. He'd chosen to do so because he always felt alienated by his status as a bastard -- which Catelyn Stark (Michelle Fairley)'s constant eye daggers did little to mollify. Little did he know, the real reason Jon Snow wasn't a true Stark sibling was his secret parentage, not a moment of dishonor for Ned Stark, but even from the beginning, Jon Snow was willing to send himself into exile as a result of the stigma that surrounded his status. We've seen before with Jaime Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) how becoming a "Kingslayer," even one who killed a dangerous tyrant like the Mad King, is a scarlet letter that never fades, and now that Jon Snow has become a "Queenslayer," his name (not to mention, his already broken heart) is forever tainted once more. The Night's Watch was the place where broken men like he is now were once sent to live a life of servitude in exchange for their ills, and even in this wheel-ridden world* (*we'll have to take the show's word on that one), it seems that tradition will carry on.

Echoing Maester Targaryen...

It was no accident that upon first joining the Night's Watch, Jon Snow ended up in the service of Maester Aemon, who turned out to be a Targaryen who had renounced his claim to the Iron Throne, giving rise to the Mad King. Jon Snow did something similar by refusing to stake a claim above Daenerys'. On his deathbed, Aemon had a vision of his brother "Egg," a nickname for Aegon, which was also the birthname of Jon Snow, though no one knew it at the time, which also foreshadowed a closer connection between the two characters way back in Season 5. Indeed, this season, Jon Snow echoed Aemon's words during his funeral speech after the Battle of Winterfell, which was another signal that he might ultimately follow in the footsteps of his late great, great uncle and wind up in Castle Black instead of King's Landing. His chat with Tyrion about being "the shield that guards the realms of men" was another reminder of that eventuality.

The watch has just begun...

The Night's Watch might seem obsolete now that the Night King's army has been defeated, and the truce between the northmen and the wildlings appears built to last, but if Game of Thrones has taught us anything, it's that time is a circle, with history constantly repeating. At some point, the Night's Watch may become necessary once again, whether due to dark magic or the malice of man, so having someone who knows its value and potential for abuses could help to defend the original purpose of the Night's Watch while ensuring that it doesn't again become a barrier between the realms of men. Of course, Jon Snow is obviously uninterested in becoming the 1000th Lord Commander right now and has instead decided to maybe possibly become the new King Beyond the Wall -- if that -- or at least try his darndest to be the bridge between the Night's Watch and the wildlings in hopes of keeping the peace.

The true North...

After the Great War ended, Tormund (Kristofer Hivju) informed Jon that he and the remaining wildlings would head back home through Castle Black so that they could roam the wilderness as free folk once more. Jon Snow sent his direwolf Ghost along with him because he knew it was where the pup would be happier and added, "I wish I was going with you." The conversation also continued to drop hints that he might eventually follow his four-legged friend's path, when Tormund declined to accept that this was a true "farewell," and told him, "You've got the North in you. The real North." It wasn't the first time Jon Snow revealed he might have a deeper connection to the wildlings; during his time with Ygritte (Rose Leslie), he developed a genuine fondness for their lifestyle and was later willing to admit, "Aye, I talk like a wildling." One of Jon Snow's most significant achievements on Game of Thrones was to break down the barrier between the people of Westeros and those north of the Wall, so it's a bittersweet end for him to join those former foes who became friends in the end.

Bran the (vicarious) builder...

Game of Thrones fans might have been disappointed that the "Bran is the Night King" prediction never panned out, but there's another theory about Bran Stark (Isaac Hempstead-Wright) that is somewhat serviced by Jon going back north. Some fans have long believed that Bran's time-hopping skills would result in him inspiring the fabled Bran the Builder to construct the Wall during the Age of Heroes. By instructing Jon to re-join the Night's Watch, Bran may be paving the way for Jon to eventually rebuild the Wall, which would satisfy that theory in a roundabout way and also continue the series' overarching trend of history being a circle -- that is, assuming that time is a circle theory leads him back to Castle Black the same way it did last time he began to blend in with the Wildlings. For now, though, he's roaming free with Ghost and the rest of 'em, and we don't know if that gate to Castle Black will ever open for him again.

Game of Thrones is available on HBO and will be part of HBO Max's launch library on Wednesday, May 27.

PHOTOS: Daenerys' Style Evolution From Exiled Orphan to Mad Queen

Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) on Game of Thrones