In Defense of Boring Jon Snow

Posted: October 7, 2013 in Game of Thrones, Opinion, TV
Tags: , , , ,

Abstract: Some claim Jon Snow’s story (or Jon Snow himself) is boring. They’re wrong! (In my humble opinion…)

This is the second part in a series examining alleged negative aspects of Jon Snow, the acknowledged illegitimate son of Eddard “I’m Too Sexy For My Head” Stark. This was all explained last post. Should you not want to read the whole thing, I’ll summarize: I’m a fan of Jon Snow, and I feel it necessary to respond to criticism of the bastard of Winterfell. Didn’t Catelyn Stark do enough emotional damage to Jon at Winterfell? Seriously!

BoringJonSnow2

The Boredom

Some Jon Snow detractors either find the Jon Snow story-line boring, or find Jon Snow simply an uninteresting character. I’ll admit, I don’t think that the showrunners have made Jon’s television journey into the north as compelling as it was in the books. Of course, it’s always dangerous to stop paying attention to a story-line that seems not all that compelling. After Tyrion’s wedding to Sansa, I remember several podcasters complaining about having to endure another wedding, the Stark-brokered union of Edmure Tully and Roslin Frey. Yeah, the Red Wedding was pretty dull, eh?

I’m not going to try to defend the Jon Snow story as televised. Well, I might. Some of the problems people have are not in fully understanding what is going on and I’ll be taking issue with that.

It’s not fair to say that Jon’s story in the book was better, because everyone’s story is better in the book. Even Jaime and Brienne’s story in the book was better, and the HBO execution of their journey was really well done. So couldn’t Jon’s have been… less boring?

Maybe. But I’ll defer that for a moment. I’ll talk about another aspect of Jon Snow that is associated with boring. His good-guy-ness.

I remember that a podcaster specifically found Jon boring because he represented this D & D Paladin ideal. You know what I mean, the Dudley-Do-Right Super Boy Scout has no moral flaws character.

Jon was alleged to be such a good guy, he’d always just do the right thing and that would not be interesting. If you can always predict what a character will do, then that character is boring.

I guess that’s a fair criticism, but it seems that there needs to be more than a strict adherence to a code to just pigeonhole Jon into such a box. Because we see a lot of characters who follow a code of honor, they stick to that code, and are not considered boring.

Ser Davos is no less a paladin, and neither is Brienne of Tarth.

Davos

I’m Lawful Good! Well, maybe somewhat Chaotic Good. There is that smuggling thing.

Ser Davos, in particular, is an amazingly stand-up dude. Yes, yes. You might quibble that he’s not a classical by the book paladin. He’s a smuggler. He defies his king. But he was a heroic smuggler who was rewarded for braving a siege to smuggle in food to those he felt were in the right. He defied his king as an example of keeping his king on the straight and narrow path.

He’s extremely consistent in his decency. He’s almost Ned Stark-like in his inability not to risk his neck in doing the right thing.

Is he boring? This isn’t a rhetorical question, I’m honestly interested in people’s opinion, because I think Ser Davos is The Man.

It might be because Liam Cunningham is killing it as Davos, and Kit Harrington possibly isn’t killing it as Jon Snow. In fairness to Kit, Liam gets a lot of screen time engaging in debates with Stannis, Melisandre, or Saladhor Saan, all great characters and all portrayed by amazing actors. Jon Snow has to pretty much sullenly keep to himself, so it’s hard to be moved by his performance.

But speaking of sullen and laconic, let’s discuss the famed beauty of the Sapphire Isles, Brienne of Tarth.

Brienne

Is Brienne any less a Paladin? When given an option to choose an honorable choice or an expedient choice, would anyone put money down that she’d take the expediant choice over honor? I wouldn’t. But Brienne is not considered boring. Brienne is often cited as an engaging character, part of a fascinating storyline. (Maybe Jaime is the reason.)

She’s certainly not chatty. She pretty much looms about, the way Jon “glooms” about.

Is it simply because she’s a big scary kick-ass person? I’m choosing my words carefully, and for a reason. Brienne is just like Jon Snow, but she’s a woman. Jon, by nature of his bastard birth, is limited in what he can rise to accomplish. So he choose service to the Night’s Watch where he’d be accepted. Brienne, due to her gender is limited in what she can rise to accomplish, but her physical prowess (and the wealth from being highborn) allows her to choose a life of martial service, first to the pretender king Renly and then to Catelyn Stark.  But when it comes to moral compassing, they’re relatively similar.

So, I don’t get why Jon Snow is considered boring (by anyone) simply for being a good guy.  And that Brienne and Davos are not similarly consigned to the boring bin.

So, unless someone is bored to tears by Davos Seaworth and Brienne the Beauty, I find their ennui in regards to Jon invalid. Or at least full of cognitive dissonance. Which is fine. For them. The insane.

Okay, if we step away from Jon as a boring old paladin (he’s not), let’s examine his boring storyline.

Occasionally, when I listen to a Game of Thrones recap podcast, someone will complain that they don’t care about Jon’s storyline, because obviously it’s Kings Landing where all the action is. With Tyrion!

I grant that there’s a lot of exciting things that happen in Kings Landing. Most of the cast seem to be moving in and out of the halls of power there.

And it’s true that nothing happens in the hinterlands. Like dragons roasting cities. Oh but that’s across the narrow sea where everyone’s darling Daenerys is.

Daenerys gets a pass because she’s a strong character with agency and dragons and a romantic triangle and so on. Nothing ever happens with Jon.

Except for all the things that are happening. Jon’s done and seen a lot.

  • He found a direwolf.
  • He’s made friends and enemies.
  • He’s fought the undead servants of the Others.
  • He’s seen an Other.
  • He’s been clubbed on the head by a daughter-marrying Wildling.
  • He’s killed Wildlings.
  • He’s failed to kill one specific attractive red-headed Wildling…
  • …who seduced him in a cave. (But I’m breaking chronology here.)
  • He’s been captured.
  • He’s killed his superior.
  • He’s seen a giant.
  • He’s met a King and avoided being killed by that king.
  •  He scaled a 700 foot ice wall, surviving an ice fall and rope-cutting attempt on his life. (And he had some cave sex. Forgot to mention that.)
  • He fought against the Wildling raiders holding him captive, had his face slashed by a possessed eagle, and survived being shot three times by a jilted crazy ex-girlfriend.

Dude, I might go back and read the books just for the Jon Snow chapters. How can this be considered boring?

But, to each his own.

There’s another factor involved that I’ve heard: Jon Snow’s story-line is boring because it’s incomprehensible. His motivations are unknown and he seems to act or react without any real stated agenda.

I think this largely stems from people just not paying attention. And they won’t, if they don’t care to. It’s a vicious cycle. Which leads us into the topic for the next post: Jon’s perceived lack of motivation, as manifested by his indecisiveness.

Next post: Jon Snow would never have a political career, because he’s so indecisive. He flips and flops like a pancake! (Or so some claim.)

—————————————————————————————–

Images of Kit Harrington, Liam Cunningham, and the wonderful Gwendoline Christie all originate (before being touched up) from HBO’s Game of Thrones.

I make no claim to any of the artwork obviously, but I do make some claim to the text of this posting. So there.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2013 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. Kim says:

    I find Dany far, far more boring than Jon. Good things happen to Jon, bad things too. Dany is merely around to be the conquering warrior princess — and she doesn’t even have PCs to talk with.

    Yeah, Davos and Brienne and Jon are “boringly good” — they’re people whose fascination comes from where you put ’em, and who you pair them off with (Tyrion, as well, but since he’s smart, we give him a pass for trying to be “mostly” good). But, then again, so is Ned Stark. Ned Stark in the North for a book would have been deuced boring, and you know it.

    Like

    • I’m glad you’re stating that even “boring” characters can be compelling based on their circumstances.

      I agree with your Ned comment, of course. If you get a chance, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my Defense of Ned Stark post.

      Thanks again for the reply!

      Like

  2. Lauren says:

    I second Kim’s opinion that if we were to find a “boring” character right now, Dany would be in the running (and I still love her – she just does….nothing (current as of books)). However, I don’t find Jon to be boring. I find his inner struggles between the honor he was taught and the harshness of life that surrounds him incredibly interesting. Much more so than Robb, who followed the traditional war-for/in-honor/revenge storyline. I actually applaud GRRM for veering from that typical storyline. (P.S. your use of the word “detractor”….coincidence, or no?)

    Kudos to the Brienne being a scary kick-ass person. I see no reason why the “woman” classifier would be needed. What’s the difference between a “scary kick-ass man” and a “scary kick-ass woman?” ….Exactly.

    Like

  3. Denise says:

    I am looking forward to seeing more of Jon from your post. Having only watched 2 episodes, he doesn’t come across as being as emphatic a character as the others, that’s all. I’m glad I’ve read this now, and understand a bit about what he’s like in the original books.

    Like

  4. Adrianne says:

    I feel that most people give Davos and Brienne a pass because their storyline is in the middle of where all the action is and their actions could affect people’s favorite characters. I will hazard to say that I don’t think that people were truly interested in Ned Stark until he died. I say this because the beheading of Ned was the first shock to the audience’s system. Up until that point, all the non-book readers had the assumption that good will prevail. So when Ned actually died, people were so shocked thus the beginning of when Ned became a compelling character to them. I feel that, had he survived, people would not be as enamored with Ned’s storyline, outside of finding out who the mother of Jon Snow is and what made “an honorable man like Ned Stark” do something dishonorable. Finally, I think most of the disconnect with Jon Snow comes from the fact that people do not feel the threat of what the White Walkers can do and how it will really affect the story as a whole. I might say that the show has not done a great job of integrating what happens at the wall as it relates to King’s Landing and the rest of Westeros. Also, when the audience is on the wall, outside of Jon Snow being a good guy and people want to see him survive because of his Stark blood, I don’t think people care what character dies up there, which then makes the audience not care about Jon Snow’s story as a whole. Great JOB!!!

    Like

    • I think you’re right, that people aren’t invested in Jon’s story as much, because early on, the War of the Five Kings was much more present and clear than the bigger story of the things north of the Wall. Very astute observation.

      Like

  5. First off I have no issues with Jon as a character. He’s an integral viewpoint since through him (and by extension Ghost), we get to see what’s happening north of the wall, which is arguably the most important location in the entire narrative of ASOIAF, but I digress. It’s possible that people like and laud Ser Davos and Brienne because they are atypical characters. Davos started out as a smuggler who was upjumped to knight due to his service to Stannis even though Stannis ironically punished him for saving his life (I doubt it would be ironic to Stannis…that guy seems to have way too much of a sense of justice to fit any irony in there even though Stannis does some pretty shady/underhanded things to get what he feels is his due. Ah! Why am I talking about Stannis?? Back to Jon…). So while Davos is a definite paladin type character, he didn’t start out that way. Interesting back story is interesting to the non book reader. I’m going to allow my true geek to show,but I can’t hear the term “paladin” and not think of FFIV (Final Fantasy IV to the uninitiated) and the main character who forsook the path of darkness to find the light inside (he also coincidentally looks quite a bit Targaryenish, but that’s another discussion). It follows that whole change within paradigm that intrigues people. For Brienne the fact that she’s a woman lends a lot of intrigue to her arc. So her and Davos were (and still are in some cases) both at a disadvantage, but they rise above them to be stand up individuals. With Jon a lot of the show watching community see Jon as someone who’s ALWAYS been that way so they put that off as boring and lack of character development. I’m with you in thinking they’re missing the point, but this may be the reason why. Sorry if TL;DR. Pretty much show watching peeps miss integral points about Jon and see Ser Davos and Brienne as people rising above bad situations to be who they are, but they miss that Jon is (so far as has been confirmed) a bastard who was forced into a life changing decision even before he was a man.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right on! That’s a great analysis. And certainly Not Too Long; I Read It All.

      Thanks for talking about Davos and Brienne, and how they both had clearly overcome obstacles which could endear them to people (who would otherwise find the Paladin-archetype boring.)

      I appreciate this response, thank you so much.

      Like

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