Beyond The Wall

Jon Snow's Final 'Game of Thrones' Moves Leave Plenty of Questions Unanswered

jon snow game of thrones
Helen Sloan/HBO
This post contains spoilers for all seasons of Game of Thrones. Proceed with caution. And visit Beyond the Wall, our official Game of Thrones hub page for recaps, theories, spoilers, explainers, and the best episodes of all time.

Jon Snow ends Game of Thrones where he began it: headed to live a life with the Night's Watch. But the Night's Watch isn't the same, and neither is Jon Snow.

When this story began, he was on his way to the Wall because it was one of his only options as a (supposed) bastard child, but he was enthused about what adventures were ahead. Now he's seen and defeated (with a major assist from Arya Stark) the horrors beyond the Wall. He made friends with Wildlings and even fell in love with one. (Jon and Ygritte are OTP, of course. Sorry, Jon and Daenerys.) He's been Lord Commander of the Night's Watch, and has learned he was not a bastard at all, but rather Aegon Targaryen.

That final bit of information brings him into conflict with the woman to whom he'd bent the knee and pledged his love: Daenerys Targaryen. Competition and rejection from Jon is a factor in her turn to madness, and he's ultimately the one to stop her. He stabs her as she pleads with him to join her in her quest to lead. It's an act that he's resistant to, but one Tyrion convinces him must occur for humanity's sake. Even once the deed is done, Jon -- imprisoned by Grey Worm -- is full of regrets. "It doesn't feel right," he says.

So he slinks back to the Wall not as an opportunity, but as punishment. But, for Jon, is it really that much of a slap on the wrist? He was always most at home in the North, especially among the Wildlings. He goes back to familiar faces who put no pressure on him to be someone greater than who he is. In fact, as soon as he walks in Castle Black's gates he's greeted by Tormund. Also waiting for him? The direwolf Ghost, whom he finally greets with a nice pet.

Jon Snow as the show leaves him is an inversion of the Jaime Lannister we met at the start of the narrative. Jaime became the Kingslayer, killing a Targeryen who wanted everything to burn; Jon became the Queenslayer, doing the same thing to the Mad King's daughter.

jon snow ending explained
HBO

Why is Jon Snow traveling north of the Wall? 

Jon was always the show's most clearly defined hero, and while Jaime's regicide polluted his reputation and self-identity, it doesn't seem to linger on Jon in the same way. Similarly, while whatever was left of Daenerys' heroic legacy disappeared the instant she went crazy on King's Landing, Jon is not negatively affected by his betrayal of her. He lives with the guilt of his actions, but gets to go back to a familiar place and do...well, what, exactly?

Without the White Walker threat -- or any Wildling fear that the "Crows" had at the beginning of the series -- what purpose does the Night's Watch serve? Honestly, it's unclear, though Tyrion says bastards and broken men always need a home. Whatever it's purpose, it seems like Jon is not long for that organization, or what's left of it, anyway. His "sentence" is merely a way for competing interests left alive to find a compromise. As Tyrion tells an imprisoned Jon, "Releasing you to the Unsullied would start a war. Letting you walk free would start a war. So our new king has chosen to send you to the Night's Watch." Basically, Jon's being told to go as far away as possible, and he can do whatever he wants as long as he doesn't start a war in King's Landing.

The final shots of the entire show find Jon, Tormund, and Ghost leading a crew of Wildlings beyond the Wall. As the gate to Castle Black closes behind him, Jon gives it a forlorn glance. This time he seems to be leaving that world behind for good. Is Jon going searching to make sure all the White Walkers are for sure dead? Is he setting out to take up Mance Rayder's old title as the King-Beyond-The-Wall? That latter option seems like the most likely. Still, Jon's story is open-ended. Almost all the other living characters are settled into prescribed roles, but Jon Snow could go anywhere. It's a moment that winks at the notion that perhaps his story is not totally done in that it screams spin-off potential, but it also reinforces who showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss always considered the true protagonist of this saga. Jon's actions in the finale may be morally suspect, but Jon himself is not. He gets his version of a happy ending.

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her @ezwrites.