Tower of the Hand

Jon, First and Last of His Name

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Mar 19, 2020, 8:00 AM ET
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Of the characters who lent their perspectives to the chapters of the very first book, six survived to the final episode of Game of Thrones' final season: three Starks, one Lannister, one Targaryen, and one Snow. Throughout the week we'll be devoting a thread to each of these original protagonists, recalling their humble introductions from the book and asking if the show gave them a proper sendoff.

Next is Jon Snow: presumed bastard of Eddard and an unknown woman; actually the love child of Lyanna and Rhaegar; Sworn Brother of the Night's Watch; Savior of the Wildlings; Martyred Lord Commander of the Night's Watch; Liberator of Winterfell; King in the North; Consort/Killer of Daenerys; and Night's Watch brother, once more.

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There were times—not many, but a few—when Jon Snow was glad he was a bastard. As he filled his wine cup once more from a passing flagon, it struck him that this might be one of them.

He settled back in his place on the bench among the younger squires and drank. The sweet, fruity taste of summerwine filled his mouth and brought a smile to his lips.

The Great Hall of Winterfell was hazy with smoke and heavy with the smell of roasted meat and fresh-baked bread. Its grey stone walls were draped with banners. White, gold, crimson: the direwolf of Stark, Baratheon's crowned stag, the lion of Lannister. A singer was playing the high harp and reciting a ballad, but down at this end of the hall his voice could scarcely be heard above the roar of the fire, the clangor of pewter plates and cups, and the low mutter of a hundred drunken conversations.

It was the fourth hour of the welcoming feast laid for the king. Jon's brothers and sisters had been seated with the royal children, beneath the raised platform where Lord and Lady Stark hosted the king and queen. In honor of the occasion, his lord father would doubtless permit each child a glass of wine, but no more than that. Down here on the benches, there was no one to stop Jon drinking as much as he had a thirst for.

AGOT 6: Jon I
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The leaders of the realm were at impasse over Jon in "The Iron Throne." Grey Worm demanded Jon's head for the crime of queenslaying. Sansa and Arya insisted that Jon be freed. Bran brokered a deal that pleased no one: Jon would instead be banished to the Wall. "The world will always need a home for bastards and broken men," Tyrion said about reinstating the Night's Watch. "You shall take no wife, hold no lands, father no children." The words felt as familiar as they did when Jon first recited them, way back in Season 1, but they were sadder now, a bitter reminder that Jon had once been king, had loved a queen, and had come so close to having all the things he never imagined having as a forgotten boy in the Great Hall of Winterfell.

Jon certainly lacked ambition throughout much of Game of Thrones, but he had been awarded positions of authority anyway. Just think of all the times Jon prefaced his speeches with, "I never asked for this..." or "I never wanted to be..." And often with that great power came, well, greater rewards, even if someone else had been more responsible for, say, saving Winterfell from the Boltons or winning the war against the White Walkers.

But Jon showed true agency in the final episode by killing Daenerys, doing something no one else could have done and being solely responsible for the consequences of this act. "Was it right, what I did?" Jon asked of Tyrion. While Tyrion deflected (his "Ask me again in ten years" may be the most useless non-answer answer Tyrion could have given), the show insisted -- and Bran even said as much -- that Jon was exactly where he was supposed to be. So much for agency, I guess.

Looking back at Jon's journey from beginning to end, does it make sense that he wound up back on the Wall? Were there hints throughout that pointed to this destination, or did it seem that he was destined for something else? Are you satisfied with Jon's arc on Game of Thrones? Lastly, would you want to see Jon meet the same fate in the books?

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