In six days, Game of Thrones will finally return. And 35 days after that, Thrones will end. In less time than it seemingly takes Littlefinger to zip around to every corner of Westeros, showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will deliver a conclusion to the story George R.R. Martin first introduced 23 years ago—and in that precious time they’ll have to answer half a hundred pressing questions: Who will live? Who will die? Who will tell Jon he’s doing it with his aunt?
Separate from those series-shaping questions are countless smaller but still crucial details that the show may or may not explore in the final season. These are Thrones’ loose ends: the characters, places, events, prophecies, and more that the story has made audiences wonder about over the past seven seasons but has yet to satisfyingly wrap up. In the run-up to the final season’s April 14 premiere, we’ll be digging through these loose ends, looking at why they matter and how they could affect the endgame as we count down the days to Thrones’ long-awaited conclusion.
The Loose End
For a show that has earned such a strong reputation for killing main characters left and right, Game of Thrones brings those characters back to life nearly as often. Thoros of Myr resurrected Beric Dondarrion a full six times, Qyburn reanimated the Mountain, the White Walkers awaken corpses on the regular, and the books brought back Lady Stoneheart (if you don’t know who Lady Stoneheart is, this is your spoiler warning).
Then, of course, there is Jon Snow’s resurrection in Episode 2 of Season 6, an event that changed everything about Thrones. Though similar to Beric’s resurrections (a red priest, some mumbo jumbo about the Lord of Light, and presto!), Jon’s return has been far more impactful, both for audiences and the characters in Westeros. Jon’s death and subsequent resurrection freed him from his Night’s Watch vows, allowing him to march south and retake Winterfell, become King in the North, align with Daenerys, and, potentially, claim the Iron Throne when all is said and done. (And he got a new haircut!)
There’s just one hang-up: Not everyone seems to know that Jon was resurrected. You’d think the Seven Kingdoms would be abuzz with the tale of how the lord commander of the Night’s Watch, who is now King in the North, literally came back to life—but that isn’t the case. What’s going on?
Let’s dig a little deeper into who knows the truth about Jon Snow. Everyone who was at Castle Black when Jon woke up—the Night’s Watch, Davos, Melisandre, and the wildlings—are well aware of Jon’s resurrection. Sansa arrived at Castle Black two episodes later, and while she never has an onscreen conversation with Jon about his return from the dead, Jon references “what happened” in a conversation with her, and Tormund later says that Jon “died for us” in front of Sansa, so she must know. But after that, it gets murky.
When Jon and Sansa go around to the Northern houses to rally support in their bid to take back Winterfell, they never mention that Jon came back from the dead—seemingly leaving a powerful argument for why the lords should follow Jon on the table. Later, at the Battle of the Bastards, Ramsay mentions how Jon ditched the Night’s Watch, but doesn’t seem aware of exactly why Jon’s brothers and so many Northern lords allowed him to leave. Everyone knows the punishment for leaving the Night’s Watch is death, yet Ramsay (Ramsay!!!) is the only person who ever mentions Jon’s apparent desertion.
After the battle, when those Northern lords crown Jon the King in the North, none of them cite his resurrection as a reason for following him nor his apparent desertion from the Night’s Watch as a reason to doubt his viability as king. Instead they reference (1) how Ned Stark’s blood runs through Jon’s veins, (2) how Jon won the Battle of the Bastards, and (3) how he avenged the Red Wedding. Ironically, none of these are really true! Jon has Stark blood, but it’s not Ned’s blood; he was getting swamped at the Battle of the Bastards before Sansa brought the armies of the Vale; and the Red Wedding was facilitated by Roose Bolton, not Ramsay, and was hardly avenged while so many Freys and Lannisters still lived. No one cited (4) “And oh yeah, HE CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD.”
The mystery continues into Season 7, when Daenerys and her crew arrive on Dragonstone and Melisandre soon joins them. The Red Woman tells Dany about the Prince Who Was Promised, but can’t confirm whether the prophesied prince (or princess, shouts to Missandei) is, in fact, Daenerys. “I believe you have a role to play, as does another,” Melisandre says. “The King in the North, Jon Snow.” But when pressed on why she believes Jon to be so important, the priestess talks only about how he united the wildlings and the Northern houses, concluding, “Summon Jon Snow. Let him stand before you and tell you things that have happened to him, the things that he has seen with his own eyes.” It’s not clear why Mel wouldn’t simply say, “Just like you emerged from a funeral pyre unburnt, Jon rose from the freaking dead.” If Mel’s goal is to unite ice and fire, laying out the full context for why Jon is so important would help avoid any chance that Daenerys sees Jon as just some usurper or minor player in the great war to come.
In the next episode, when Davos and Jon arrive to meet the Dragon Queen, Davos at one point begins to tell of Jon’s resurrection before Jon cuts him off: “He took a knife in the heart for his people,” Davos says. “He gave his own—”
Daenerys and Tyrion exchange glances, but neither asks for more detail. Later, Daenerys asks Tyrion whether he noticed the odd moment of Davos’s halted speech, and Tyrion just shrugs it off: “You must allow them their flights of fancy. It’s dreary in the North.” It’s a bizarre hand-wave for a character who is normally so detail-oriented, and Tyrion never questions how Jon was released from his Night’s Watch vows. As Dany’s hand, he should be following up on these things.
Later, Daenerys asks Jon about it directly, and Jon simply says that “Ser Davos gets carried away.” After the mission beyond the Wall, Daenerys sees exactly where Jon took that knife to the heart, and the scars look eerily fresh. The gears are turning in her mind in that scene, but she can’t be sure about exactly what happened. Think about it: If someone you knew had a giant scar across their chest, would you assume that it was just an old wound that healed poorly, or would you think that person CAME BACK FROM THE DEAD? Even if Daenerys suspects there’s something special about Jon, she doesn’t know.
Clearly some people are chattering about Jon’s resurrection, though. When he goes beyond the Wall in Episode 6 of Season 7, Beric talks to him about what it’s like to come back from the dead. “Your wildling friend told me the Red Woman brought you back,” Beric says, confirming he heard the news from Tormund.
That leaves us with seven named characters who definitely know about Jon’s resurrection: Melisandre, Davos, Dolorous Edd, Tormund, Sansa, Beric, and Jon himself. It’s possible that Bran knows, since it’s possible that Bran knows literally everything. But the news hasn’t reached the ears of power players like Daenerys, Tyrion, Cersei, Arya (unless Sansa has said something), or the realm at large. What will happen when it does?
Why This Loose End Matters
The way Jon has dealt with his death and subsequent resurrection contrasts him with Daenerys. If the person who calls herself Stormborn, the Mother of Dragons, the Unburnt, the Breaker of Chains, the Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, and the rightful Queen of the Seven Kingdoms had been brought back from the dead, she’d have sent ravens to every corner of the world announcing it. Meanwhile it’s almost like there’s a conspiracy to keep Jon’s resurrection a secret. He’s uncomfortable with the idea that he’s “some kind of god,” as Tormund put it. Jon asks Melisandre why he was chosen, but she can’t give him a real answer. He doesn’t want to be brought back again, and he’s awkward when discussing it with Beric. He doesn’t want anyone to know his secret—and he himself seems to think about it as little as possible. It’s never been more clear how one of these people has dreamed of a crown for years while the other has always shouldered leadership like a burden.
When the truth comes out, it could be explosive. Characters near and far will soon have to deal with the idea that Jon, once thought to be a bastard consigned to a life spent on the edge of the world, is anything but. He is chosen, special.
Every character—from Arya to Cersei—will have to react to this series-shattering news in their own way, but no one will have more to grapple with than Daenerys. The Mother of Dragons may have to learn about both Jon’s resurrection and his parentage—his status as her nephew and the true heir to the Iron Throne—at the same time. Dany has long thought that she is destined to rule Westeros, and her status as the Unburnt and Mother of Dragons (and all the rest) make her the most extraordinary individual everywhere she’s been. Soon, neither will be so clear-cut. How she reacts could set the stage for her character arc in Season 8.
On the one hand, Daenerys may be in the right mind-set to have an even-keeled perspective about Jon. She seems to really love him, she has also seen the Night King in the flesh, and the loss of Viserion has made her well aware of the power the White Walkers wield. Her priorities did seem to shift after that mission, telling Jon that “If we hadn’t gone, I wouldn’t have seen. You have to see it to know.”
“The dragons are my children,” she continues. “They’re the only children I’ll ever have, do you understand? We are going to destroy the Night King and his army. And we’ll do it together. You have my word.”
Still, Daenerys’s adult life has revolved around her belief that ruling the Seven Kingdoms is both her right and her destiny. Learning not only that Jon is Rhaegar’s trueborn son and therefore ahead of her in the Targaryen succession, but that he also seemingly has been chosen to save the Seven Kingdoms, a destiny greater than ruling them, will affect her own identity. No doubt Melisandre’s prophecy about the Prince Who Was Promised will be spinning through her head. Will she believe the fabled hero is actually Jon? Still her? Some combination of them both?
The audience already knows that Jon is the song of ice and fire given form. R+L=J has been so ubiquitous for so long that he’s always been special to fans of the series. But to the characters in the show, Jon is still a bastard, and he’s only been King in the North for a short time.
It’s also worth considering whether people will even react positively to the news that Jon was resurrected. The North is stubborn about their Old Gods, but it wasn’t the Old Gods who brought Jon back—it was the Lord of Light. Jon has already traveled south and bent the knee to a foreign queen. Jon’s association with magic—which some could see as blood—could create animosity, or at the very least, a feeling of uneasiness. Just think about how Varys feels about Melisandre—he’s likely not the only one suspicious of this type of magic. Combined with the fact that Jon is a Targaryen, some Northmen may regret crowning him the King in the North.
And there’s shame for Jon, too. It’s not enough to just say that he came back from the dead; people will want to know how he died. That will mean admitting that he failed as lord commander, and his own men mutinied against him. Should such a failure really have been rewarded with a crown? Could news of the mutiny ever be used against Jon? Word of Jon’s death and resurrection will open up a can of worms for Westeros—it’s no wonder he’s kept it under wraps.
How Season 8 Could Address It
Jon can’t keep this a secret forever. As Beric’s conversation with him proves, word is already getting around—it won’t be long before the chatter spreads across Westeros. And Daenerys probably has some questions (those scars can’t be fun to look at when, well, you know).
He should probably just get on with it and tell Daenerys about his past, just like he should about his parentage once Sam and/or Bran inform him of his true ancestry. And he should tell the rest of the realm, too—Jon cares about defeating the White Walkers more than anything, and there’s no better argument to getting the different factions of Westeros united behind him than “Hey, I was literally chosen by GOD to do this.”
One way or another, the truth is coming out. The question now is how that truth will shape Season 8.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.