His surname had not had time to settle on his agonised face before Twitter was resuscitating Jon Snow in their imaginations, theories abounding as to how the Lord Commander would rise again to save Westeros. Whilst Jon is one of the few original 'good guys' left, and his passing should be mourned, the complete refusal to believe that he might just be dead whiffs of more than a touch of greyscale.
For starters, Kit Harrington has gone on record saying he is not coming back for the next season- Wimbledon haircut speculations aside (seriously, maybe he just likes his hair like that) I'm inclined to believe him, being backed up by pretty much everyone involved in the show, cast or crew. As for that 'honour the fallen' toy line that he is conspicuously absent from? Ever thought that they might have decided on the line before he was killed, or are deliberately leaving him out just to keep us all guessing? Kit has been spotted in Belfast city airport with fellow GOT actors, which, contrary to conventional wisdom probably makes it less likely he'll be returning to the show. If he were returning, the show would want it to be kept top secret: so are they really going to let him be seen strolling around a busy airport just before filming starts?
Still, if he's not coming back this season, he might come back later on, perhaps rising from the dead in just the nick of time to save Westeros from the Long Night... right? This wouldn't sound so out of place for the Enchanted Forest, but for the Seven Kingdoms it feels just about optimistic enough to get you stabbed in the back. By your banner man. At a wedding.
The most common justification clung on to by Harringtonites seems to be the simple belief that Jon Snow is just too damn important to be killed off. Many writers seem to suggest that Snow is shaping up to be the 'main character' of the show, but GOT doesn't work like that. It's an epic series that thrives off embracing multiple viewpoints- it doesn't and will not ever have a 'main character', just some that live longer than others. No one is too important to be killed off.
Others suggest that we wouldn't have a viewpoint at the Wall now with Jon gone, somewhere sure to be very important in the last two books. For starters, the books are quite happy to take the viewpoints of relatively minor characters, so there's no reason why a lesser known Brother, or even one of Jon's enemies, couldn't take up the mantle of Wall correspondent. Indeed, this seems quite likely given Martin's past record on taking the viewpoint of a previously hated character and making them more relatable (Jaimie in book 3 is a good example): it's another of the things that makes the books unique. Let's not forget, Bran is still being weird under a tree just North of the Wall as well, maybe he'll be keeping us up to date on the Walkers from now on?
Or maybe, with the Walkers seemingly ready to descend on the realms of men and the wildlings on the other side of the Wall, everything we need from the Wall is done: maybe it will no longer be a major source of narrative in the final two books, and the Walkers will pretty quickly begin to spread throughout the North: first stop the Boltons.
There is also the suggestion that this death has 'come out of nowhere'. Bollocks. This death scene has been brewing since at least season 3 when we see Jon take a walk on the wilder side. When Qhorin gave him the dangerous mission of gaining Mance's trust, Jon was already starting on the path towards alienating many of his brothers. He had been distrusted by many ever since returning from the other side of the Wall, and his show of mercy to the wildings was only confirming what many at the Wall already suspected of him. Ultimately Jon was being both sensible and merciful, like a true Stark, and we all know what usually awaits people in Westeros that decide to act like that.
Then there's the objection that Snow can't be dead because he's still got some prophecy to fulfil. Everyone knows that R+ L= J, right? And that he's Azor Ahai to boot? Whilst there's certainly a lot of interesting evidence pointing towards both these theories, they're not quite as set in stone as a lot of arrogant fan theorists like to claim (I'll take these on in another post). But the point is if it were true those fan theorists will have ruined it for Martin: this man knows his success lies in shocking his audience. What do you think he would do if a secret like Jon's parentage was figured out and became general knowledge, a secret he's been building up to over 6 books? I think he'd change the ending, probably by killing a main character, because that's kind of what he does.
Or maybe Martin does still intend Jon to be all those things stated above: but killed him off anyway, just 'cos. Ned was the Hand of the King, Lord of Winterfell, all round top bloke and the only one that knew for certain about Joffrey's true lineage... Robb was set to be the King in the North and was the only one really challenging the Lannisters... they both were loved and both seemingly had important things still to do... but that didn't stop Martin cutting their stories short, merely adding to the sorrow that fans felt at their passing.
And there still remains the matter of how Snow would come back. As a White Walker? There is the theory that these guys are terribly misunderstood and Jon could be the way of bringing about harmony between these icy fellows and the Nights Watch, like he did with the wildlings (and that worked out so well). How would he become a White Walker when he's on the other side of the Wall to them, and would he be all zombie like or an actual walker? Either way it doesn't seem likely if he was returned this way that he'd retain both his sanity and his morality.
Or maybe Melisandre will bring him back? Priests from her religion have shown the ability to be able to do this. We have no evidence that she can do it, although it remains an interesting possibility. Ultimately though I think all this prophecy stuff will turn out to be rubbish: GOT is too down to earth a fantasy to have its entire narrative rest on the prophecies of a religion that births shadow creatures and burns children alive. Look at the mental state of the other person we know who has been returned by this power (crazy Catelyn). Would we want a Jon Snow returned like this, and presumably representing said religion? It seems if Snow came back by either of these methods he wouldn't really be the Jon Snow we know and love anymore.
Maybe, just maybe, we've been so distracted trying to defend Ned Stark's honour that we've all overlooked the most defining feature of these books: the unexpected. Martin thrives off shocking his readers, it's one of the things that sets his books apart. Yes, it'd be an absolutely travesty of justice and a betrayal of fans if Snow was killed just as Westeros seems to need him most, but that's exactly why Martin would do it.