Second Looks at Jon Snow: Ned Stark 2.0

Posted: May 9, 2017 by patricksponaugle in Game of Thrones, TV
Tags: , ,

On the off chance that the names Jon Snow or Ned Stark are unfamiliar to you, go watch Game of Thrones or read the book series A Song of Ice and Fire. Otherwise this post will be spoiling the story.

Ned: Thanks to the North’s chilly climate, things don’t spoil too quickly up here.
Jon: Well actually, Lady Catelyn just makes me eat all of the spoiled food.
Ned: There’s that. Wait, did you just “well actually” me?
Jon: Uh, no?

When Game of Thrones first aired in 2011 on HBO, one could not escape promotional material featuring Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark, played by ruggedly handsome Sean Bean.

Typically our man Ned was shown seated and pensive upon the Iron Throne, the symbol of power in the fictional Seven Kingdoms.

Therefore, it came as a big surprise to viewers (those who had not read the books) when the last moment of the ninth episode featured Ned’s actual beheading. Approaching that moment in the story, viewers were expecting some kind of last-moment-save.

Because those are the things that happen when the hero’s life is in danger.

There were even some people who briefly clung to the hope that we’d been tricked in some way, and weren’t convinced of Ned’s death until the first few moments of the tenth episode, when the blade used in the execution was shown dripping blood. Ick.

Ick! Ichor!

In some ways this was almost a surprise to book readers as well, since there was this almost tangible fear that HBO would not be able to commit to the shocking death of Ned the protagonist, and instead would try to adapt the story with Ned still alive.

By killing Ned, the show demonstrated that it was going to try to be a faithful adaptation (eventually it would have to somewhat skew away), that decisions made by the characters had real consequences, and that the viewers should not get too comfortable when characters were put in danger. Major characters, beloved characters, hated characters: no one was truly safe.

A man feels confident that No One is safe.


With Ned dead, some asked who we were supposed to root for now? After all, Ned was the viewers’ focus. But honestly, the show had already established that there would be many protagonists to connect with, some of whom would be in opposition with one another to make things emotionally painful.

One of these characters was off in the hinterlands, Ned’s acknowledged bastard, Jon Snow.

Jon’s storyline appeared to be a distraction from the perceived “real story” of Game of Thrones, the struggle for the Iron Throne. After all, how would traipsing about a frozen wasteland have any bearing on what’s happening in the capital where all the excitement was?

But Jon Snow was in many ways the viewers’ eye-witness to a conflict that promised to dwarf the dynastic squabblings.

Tyrion: I’m not a fan of that word usage. And clearly, I’m the protagonist the viewers should be clamoring for.

With an army of the dead massing north of the undermanned Wall, the stakes of Jon’s story were dramatically increased. The Wall being mostly unprotected is a big deal. The wildling migration south became a big deal. The control of the North is important. And it all revolved in some way around Jon.

With Jon’s story having more potential importance, Jon’s quality of character and recognizably heroic narrative elevated viewer interest in the bastard and his journeying. Maybe here was the hero of the story we’d been promised, back when we thought Ned Stark would be our guy.

Jon: Hey, what the hell am I doing here?
Ghost: Being symbolic as #$@%, man. Just sit there, brooding and pensive like Ned.

And then Jon Snow was betrayed and killed. Boom. Just like dead Ned.

In many ways Jon fulfilled the role of the second coming of Lord Eddard. A little too closely.

  • They were both decent and strove to be honorable, making family sacrifices for the good of the realm.
  • They said goodbye to their home in Winterfell, and ended up in places and situations where they were out of their depth.
  • Both were concerned about the mysterious fate of a loved on (Ned about Jon Arryn’s death, Jon about Uncle Benjen’s disappearnce.) In response, both went off on investigative tracks that led them into danger.
  • They both made some arguably correct decisions that were undeniably politically unpopular.
  • Both were betrayed and killed.

It’s like Ned and Jon were both tracking along in some doomed hero archetype that GRRM had established.

The difference is, Jon didn’t remain dead.


Brought back to life by magic, Jon joined with his fugitive sister Sansa to rally the North against the oppression of brutal House Bolton. With an uncomfortably small army Jon challenged Ramsay Bolton‘s axis of evil alliance with the Umbers and the Karstarks.

The battle went awry and Jon Snow would have died on the battlefield if not for the timely arrival of heavy cavalry from the Vale, coming to support Sansa Stark.

Littlefinger: Compared to Ramsay, even I look good! WINNING!

The end of the sixth season saw the North declare Jon their new king.


With Jon’s return to life and subsequent rise to an even greater heroic status, the idea that no one was safe and the belief that actions had real consequences could now be called into question.

After all, Jon came back. And now that he’s back alive, it just seems weird if he’d die again. So, it’s a given that he’ll make it through to the end, right?

I don’t think that’s a safe assumption. In fact, just like Jon was shadowing major beats in Ned Stark’s story, being a Ned 2.0 in a way, Jon currently might be walking in the footsteps of his pre-death self. King Jon Snow the White Wolf, might just be another iteration of himself.

Jon Snow 2.0. Uh oh.

Let’s check out some major beats on old Jon and new Jon’s stories.

  • Jon at the Wall, feeling betrayed by his family is kind of an ever-present theme. (Specifically, new recruit Jon bummed out that no one told him the truth of the Night’s Watch, and ressurected Jon feeling literally betrayed by his brothers in the Night’s Watch.)
  • Family members are on task to help clear both of the Jons’ minds and force them to focus on what’s important. (His great-uncle Maester Aemon Targaryen in one case, his cousin Sansa in the latter case.)
  • They both prepare, woefully undermanned, for a defensive battle against superior numbers. (Jon taking charge at the Wall against the wildling horde, resurrected Jon hoping to funnel Ramsay’s men into an enclosure.)
  • Both battles result in Jon facing the foe single-handedly. (Jon goes north of the Wall to try to assassinate Mance, Jon rides out after Ramsay in a rage after Rickon dies.) These are both bad plans.
  • Both Jons are saved at the last moment by the appearance of non-northern cavalry. (Baratheon troops in the former, Arryn troops in the latter.)
  • Both are raised up to the top rank after their respective battles. (Lord Commander for Jon in the first instance, and King in the North in the later instance.)
  • Both make some unpopular (but probably correct decisions) and are killed by treachery.

Whoops. That last bullet point might be jumping the gun a bit.

No one has betrayed and killed King Jon. Yet. It might just take some unpopular royal decisions and some shenanigans from Littlefinger though.

Melisandre has been exiled from the North, so if anything befalls the young king, she won’t be around to try and fix him up again.

So the stakes remain high and we shouldn’t be too comfortable the next time Jon opts take on an army single handedly. We can only hope that he’s learned from his close brushes with death, and also from his actual visit to oblivion.

Jon: What the hell am I even doing?
Ghost of Rickon: Avenging me! Don’t get distracted!

Let’s have an improptu survey on what we think will happen to Jon Snow:

If I can be serious for a moment, it’s very satisfying to see all the interest now shown in Jon Snow.

For the longest time, his storyline north of the Wall wasn’t necessarily grabbing people, but I’ve always pinned my hopes on him. But I’ll admit that in many ways, Jon is kind of a stereotypical hero, from the kind of sword and sorcery books I enjoyed in my misbegotten youth.

Speaking of stereotypical hero, there is another difference between Ned and Jon. Ned wasn’t a chosen one. You know what I mean. (You do, right? Chosen One status is totally a thing in YA books.)

The fact that Jon is 99.99% likely to be Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen’s son (I’ll hold back that 0.01% for no real reason – I’m convinced he’s Rhaegar’s lad) kind of puts him into the category of mythic hero and pivotal the plot. If anything gives him plot armor, it’s not necessarily that he already died and came back, but because he’s so much more than just some random bastard. He might be the Prince That Was Promised.

Or maybe not. Daenerys might be the Princess That Was Promised.

Or maybe Hot Pie is.

So Jon might still get killed off and be part of a long con that GRRM is running. Anything is possible in this story.

Besides flipping a coin to see if Jon’ll live or die, I’m always happy to check in on how people feel about the Snow King.

Feel free to tell me what you think about him or his chances: the good, the bad, the ugly. It’s all welcome.


(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome! But if you want to talk spoilery Game of Thrones talk with me (also welcome) I’d invite you to visit my Safe Spoilers page on my backup blog. That way my non-book-reading friends won’t be shocked with foreknowledge.)

Images from HBO’s Game of Thrones (obviously.)

I make no claim to the images, but some claims to the text. So there.

If you liked this article, thank you! I have all of my Game of Thrones related articles on my handy-dandy Game of Thrones page should you want to read more but don’t want to navigate around my site.

© Patrick Sponaugle 2017 Some Rights Reserved

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Comments
  1. writingjems says:

    That’s an interesting comparison of narrative beats between Ned and Jon, and then Jon and Jon 2.0. It’s possible he might be “betrayed” again in some way, but not in the obvious way we might expect. Sansa making an attempt to use Baelish and the Vale to claim the North might feel like a betrayal, even if it isn’t fatal. Or maybe he won’t be betrayed but “die” in a symbolic way, going from Jon Snow to Jon Targaryen.

    I’ll admit, I was one of the people who didn’t much care for the Wall plotline the first few seasons. I don’t think it was until Season 4 where the imminent Wildling invasion started to make the Wall feel pertinent to the rest of the realm. And it wasn’t until Jon took the sensible approach with helping the Wildlings peaceably into Westeros that I started to really respect him. I think he’ll make it to the end, cause dying twice would just feel too cruel. But I guess if I was as shocked by Jon’s death as I was Ned’s, I guess I still haven’t learned my lesson!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I find the idea of Jon Snow dying to become Jon Targaryen very interesting.

      I appreciate that it took you some time to come around to the Jon storyline – no judgments, it’s all good.

      We can hope that Jon makes it to the end, or at least gets a good death, if necessary.

      Liked by 1 person

    • When I started suspecting about Jon being a Targaryen I could almost beg that it will be reveal by him not burning some how (pardon my english)

      Liked by 2 people

      • (Your english is fine! You should pardon my english…)

        Jon’s Targaryen status is sometimes called into question, because his hand is burned when he throws the lamp at the wight who has come to attack Lord Commander Mormont. The show didn’t really play up on that, but in the books, his burned right had is a reminder to Jon about the wights. (It took some time for his hand to properly heal.)

        So I don’t know if we’ll see a fire event for Jon like we did for Daenerys, but regardless if Jon is fireproof or not, I feel pretty confident that he’s a Targaryen.

        Thank you for joining the discussion, I’m always happy to talk about Game of Thrones.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. joanna says:

    Great post Pat 🙂

    You already know my take in regard to the Starks: GoT is all about them, the journey each character takes and the part they must play. I completely agree with the paralleling of Ned – Jon. Jon is a Targaryen Stark but he will always be Ned’s son, doing the right thing and paying dearly for it. Perhaps this was also a Rhaegar trait, making it doubly hard to resist. All the Stark males, and I include Jon in this group, seem to habitually elevate to a position they never sought or even wanted.

    1. Ned – Hand of the King
    2. Robb – King in the North
    3. Jon – Lord Commander & King in the North
    4. Bran – Three Eyed Raven 2.0
    5. Rickon – Ramsey’s favourite bait

    Rashness and a hot temper also appear to be part of the package. If Cat was still alive, she’d be furious to be told Jon resembles her in more way than one.

    The Stark kids all left home a bit silly and spoilt. And they all grew up the hard way. But some things don’t change easily. So the same way Ned couldn’t betray his honour, and when he did, by “confessing” to save Sansa, the outcome remained the same. Anyway perfect heroes are entirely boring and improbable. Jon seems to be the improved version of Ned because he’s young enough to learn and adapt.

    I saw your poll but have no idea about Jon’s destiny. But if he “goes”, I think it will be heartbreaking and spectacular.

    P.S. Personally I loved the Wall plot line from the beginning, the stark contrast (no pun intended), beauty and foreboding.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. erinb9 says:

    I think Jon Snow will hook up with Daenerys and rule jointly–because it’s fire (Daenerys) and ice (Jon Snow)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Haylee says:

    If he’s going to get killed off a second time, I hope it’s right at the end of the final season – I can’t be doing with Hair Watch again! Great observations on the parallel arcs with Ned / Jon original though, it’s a good reminder of the synergy in the storyline.
    I’m enjoying how your spoiler alert disclaimers are getting shorter. My politeness would have wavered hundreds of posts ago and be more along the lines of ‘Seriously, you think I can write all this WITHOUT spoilers?’ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hahah, I think you’re right about them getting shorter. That might have been an unconscious move on my part.

      🙂

      I am so with you on the Hair Watch pain. And I also want Jon to at least make it into the final season.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Haylee says:

        That’s not to say I didn’t also enjoy the longer, imaginatively phrased disclaimers. I just found it funny that they have reduced over time 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, I think it’s because I’ve had to write so many posts this year (twice as many, due to the delays.) When I start a post now, I write

          preamble

          image

          And then I start writing. I usually pick the top image when I’m halfway done, and I go back and write the preamble text last, and I’ll admit to having been mentally done with the post.

          I applaud your observation, miss!

          Liked by 1 person

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