Spoilers for the series finale of Game of Thrones are discussed below.
Game of Thrones’ final two seasons have not been the kindest to Jon Snow, in terms of ascent. He ended Season 6 on the high of being declared the King in the North, and that was pretty much the last highlight. He inexplicably bent the knee to Daenerys in Season 7, and it was a downhill slide from there.
Nothing could have prepared me for the crushing end in sight. If you thought that his true lineage would mean him ending up on the Iron Throne, you were wrong. In fact, his true lineage was sort of a non-factor. That theme continued when it came to the battle of Jon vs. the Night King, a clash that Game of Thrones had teased for years as a possible one-on-one conflict.
In the end, Jon barely saw any combat. That's right, he did hardly any fighting in the battle he spent seven seasons getting to, and Game of Thrones didn't even let him kill the Night King.
That was the first sign that things were not going to be getting any better for this viewer. For a fan of Jon getting an ending that saw him transcend his beginning, the season started to get shaky. Arya killed the Night King. Not a bad moment, and it seemed to be leading Game of Thrones to yet another turn: Arya killing Daenerys.
Why couldn’t Arya have also killed the Mother of Dragons? Well, that wouldn't have allowed for the twist of Jon basically going to prison by getting sent back to The Wall. Having killed a tyrant and spared the world her reign, Jon ended up being sent back to square one.
When Game of Thrones ended, it was with Jon Snow really not a Stark anymore, except in his heart. The cape that Sansa had made for him, inspired by Ned’s and given to Jon as a gift, was no longer resting on his shoulders. He did manage to keep his sword Longclaw, which bore House Stark’s direwolf on its pommel. In the final moments of the finale, Jon went off with the Free Folk, seemingly to help them make it to their new settlement.
It was a sad and crushing end for Jon, in my book. All of these years, hoping all he endured would result in something life-changing in a good way, only to get Jon back at The Wall. After he had risen from the dead, his first order of business was leaving The Wall, and now he's back.
All of the time spent away from it had not led to any long-term impact on how Jon’s saga would conclude. He was back to where he started in the first season, with the exception that he seemed to be Lord Commander.
Instead, Jon was banned from ever taking a wife or having children. In other words, do not expect a sequel series with Jon Snow’s children running around ten years from now. In the end, Jon turned out to be the last of the Targaryen line. I suppose that is why Game of Thrones gave fans that earlier nod regarding Sam and Gilly’s baby. Before leaving Winterfell, they told him they planned to name their baby after him. Will Jon’s name go on? Maybe. Just not his heritage.
Jon Snow always tried to do the right thing, and nothing felt right to me about his ending. He has been cut off from his family forever. His good friend Tormund is also fading from view.
I am still in a bit of shock over it. Perhaps more distance can help. The thing I cannot reconcile is that Jon Snow spent eight seasons to end up back to the beginning. What did I want to happen? I wanted Jon or Tyrion to be king. Neither happened, which was actually okay with me.
Jon Snow ending up as the King of the Six Kingdoms was apparently off the table after he killed Daenerys. Yes, the minute he saved the world from the rule of a tyrant mass murderer, he was no longer eligible. Once he did that, Game of Thrones had written his fate into a corner. There had to be consequences. Hence, Arya not killing Daenerys.
I would have preferred Jon Snow’s story have ended with him returning to Winterfell as Sansa’s Hand in the North, at the least, or perhaps the leader of her army. Both are jobs he could have done without being a threat to any power in the Six Kingdoms. Remember, the North is independent as of the finale.
Alternately, Jon could have been exiled west of Westeros and sailed away with Arya to parts unknown. That would have been great. Jon and Arya had historically been the closest of the Stark siblings. Having their story end together would have stayed true to that. Besides, viewers only got an abbreviated season of them together again.
All of those endings have something in common. They would have meant Jon Snow remaining a close member of House Stark. Jon never being with the family that he pined for was not the happy ending I had envisioned for him.
When Arya told Jon she would not be visiting him, I was absolutely crushed like a can. How, after all of these years apart, could she and Game of Thrones not give him this one thing to hold onto? He sacrificed everything to save the world, and he gets to live the rest of his life figuratively chained away from it at The Wall.
If he could not return to Winterfell or go west of Westeros with Arya, I would have preferred Jon Snow go to live with the Free Folk. He could get married and raise a family with those living on the outskirts of any kingdoms. Live a life where the family he fought to restore could still be with him.
In a way, Jon's and Ned's arcs crossed over with Jon's sentencing to The Wall. Ned was also supposed to be sent into exile as part of his “treason.” Then Joffrey had him executed. In that context, it is worth being happy that Jon is still alive. But did he have to be separated from the other Starks?
All of the endings I wanted for Jon meant him being able to remain close to his family. After reuniting with them and building his and Sansa’s relationship, it was all over in the blink of an eye. Like his lineage and potential showdown with the Night King, it all ended in no forward movement. None of his siblings can visit him. Game of Thrones did not even give him or viewers that comfort. The possibility of a reunion down the line was destroyed.
Instead, I’m haunted by imagining the rest of Jon’s life as a period where everyone else’s are ellipses. There is no room to imagine anything that comes next. That stings mightily. Jon was pretty much killed off but left alive, which is strange to contemplate.
Other characters are getting to live their happily ever after(s) because of Jon. I think he deserved better. Jon earned a lot more than what he got. That is probably the point. The heroes seldom got their due on Game of Thrones. In many ways, it is fitting.
Some can point to Jon saying that he wished he was going with Tormund in Episode 4, meaning Jon got what he wanted. Well, yes and no. He would have to return to Castle Black after seeing Tormund and the Free Folk off.
In the end, I never imagined his arc concluding this way. As someone who watched Jon Snow’s story unfold for nearly a decade, it feels disquieting. There's a sense of finality that was never quite foreshadowed.
I’m happy for the moments in between and for the triumph that was Season 6. To be this invested means the show did its job, and it did a great one. That said, Jon Snow is the only living character to end Game of Thrones no different than how he started it. Considering how he was not one for ambition, it fits.
He is a guy that spent most his time on Game of Thrones fighting for others to be happy, which they are. For a person like Jon, that is all that probably mattered. As someone who was rooting for him, I’m grateful he got that and his reunion with Ghost. In the end, it is some comfort.