My hot take:
It was an emotional return last night, one that we have anticipated for months, and they couldn’t have pulled it off any better. Here is why I am all in on their execution:
The Link with Thoros
I remember watching the season five finale on that fateful June night. Benjen Stark appearing in the “previously on” segment. Already hyped. Been calling for that dude back on the show since he disappeared in season 1. And then it happens. He’s back! Or so we think. It’s a trap! Jon is stabbed multiple times, for the watch, and we get to watch his body expire in the snow. Witness the life leave his eyes. Jon Snow. Traitor to the Night’s Watch. Dead.
It was a punch in the gut, for sure. But I immediately turned my attention to next season and how he would come back. This was no trick. Jon Snow was dead. But with how they built the story, it was clear he wouldn’t stay dead. My theory, which was the obvious theory, was for him to return by the hands of Lady Melisandre. She returned to Castle Black, defeated and questioning herself, after she led Stannis to his death.
That should give us doubt, right? Nope. It did exactly the opposite: it gave us hope. It was oddly reminiscent of Thoros of Myr, who was down on his luck and questioning his faith. Then he saw his friend, Beric Dondarrion, die. He went to him and spoke to the Lord of Light. Asked for him to not let him die, to not let his friend die. And, the Lord answered. And he has answered five more times.
This was a reason to give us hope. Lady Melisandre has been made aware of this power, even though she does not possess it. But she knows. And we know, as an audience, that it’s possible.
Reasons to Doubt
The first reason to doubt I already dismissed, since essentially that doubt of her failing Stannis plays more into Jon coming back than anything.
However, creators David Benioff and D.B.Weiss are very smart and know we know this. I mean, why give us a whole story of the Brotherhood without Banners in season 3 if it doesn’t lead to us believing the dead can be brought back with the Lord of Light? They played this notion to their advantage, as we all knew Lady Melisandre was going to bring back Jon, but then there was reveal of her age. This threw a wrinkle into our brains. Huh, that was . . . interesting? What does this mean? Does it mean anything? Maybe! At the very least, it gave us something to think about while Jon Snow was still definitely dead.
Then there was the fact that Melisandre saw three kings perish in the flames, after she leeched the blood of Gendry. There is great power in king’s blood, but that power only led to the death of two kings (Robb and Joffrey), not three. It can easily be dismissed as coincidence. And even for Melisandre, doubt can creep into the mind.
The Dead Giveaway with Balon Greyjoy
And then Balon Greyjoy was thrown off a bridge and I was positive the next scene was going to be the revival of Jon Snow. This was it. This was the time. You don’t finally kill Balon and not bring back Jon.
In the books, he was killed sooner, affirming Melisandre’s sight in the flames. But he stays alive in the show to play to the angle that maybe Melisandre ain’t all she’s cracked up to be. But finally, with Balon dying, it wasn’t just a coincidence. It was a foretelling. She is not a fraud.
But hey, even though this was exactly how we all knew it was going to happen, it was still done expertly. Director Jeremey Podeswa drew out the tension of that final scene. We were begging for it to happen. We needed it to happen. Just let it happen already dammit!
We got the doubt we expected. The final time she says her words, she finishes with a desperate “please.” One last plea to let this happen. But as the sad, doughy eyes of Melisandre told us, “Nope, I am a fraud. He is staying dead. Sorry guys.”
Then, slowly, the occupants of the room exit one by one, with the camera perfectly positioned to convey the hopelessness in the room. Davos, the last to leave, gives one last look, but he knows a dead body when he sees one. And right on cue, the camera cuts to Ghost, sleeping on the floor by Jon, but that sleep is disturbed as he wakes up, sensing something and that something is of course the return of life into Jon Snow.
Sometimes a television show or movie telegraphs a story and we all see it coming. When done poorly, it feels like a waste of time, but when done well it is the most gratifying of feelings. Last night was the latter. Now, this is Game of Thrones after all, and I have been paying attention, so I don’t expect to be happy much longer, as the joy will shortly turn to ashes in my mouth.
But in the meantime, I am like Oberyn in an orgy. Living my life without a care in the world, when I should really be thinking about what state Jon’s “life” will be like. As we have seen, life isn’t always what it seems. And as Beric has said, a bit less comes back each time . . .