Game of Thrones finales are always among the most intense of the bunch, killing off characters left and right. Last night’s “Mother’s Mercy” was no different … right up until what appeared to be the biggest death of the entire series. Now, creator George R.R. Martin, producers and the actor in question all give their take on whether or not that character really bought the big one.

You’re warned of every Game of Thrones spoiler under the sun (or snow) from here on out, but suffice to say, Jon Snow’s prognosis doesn’t look good. The final minutes of last night’s “Mother’s Mercy” saw Jon led outside with claims of a Wildling’s news about Benjen Stark, before Jon’s sworn brothers all plunged a dagger into their leader’s gut, claiming their actions “For the Watch.” The final shot of the season saw Jon bleeding out wide-eyed in the snow, looking pretty … well, dead, but might we be in for some misdirection?

Entertainment Weekly spoke to Kit Harington himself, who despite news of his Season 6 contract leaking last year, seemed to indicate beyond any reproach that “I won’t be back next season.”:

This is my understanding of it. I had a sit-down with Dan and David, we did the Tony Soprano walk [letting an actor know they’re being whacked]. And they said, “Look, you’re gone, it’s done.” And as far as the salary thing goes, that angered me when that story came out. I don’t know where it came from, but it was inaccurate in many ways. It’s going to put questions into your head and into fans’ heads that things are not what they are. Quite honestly, I have never been told the future of things in this show, but this is the one time I have. They sat me down and said, “This is how it is.” If anything in the future is not like that, then I don’t know about it – it’s only in David and Dan and George’s heads. But I’ve been told I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season. So that’s all I can tell you, really.

Meanwhile, producer Dan Weiss seemingly confirmed the kill as well, speaking more to the pressure of eliminating ambiguity from scenes like Ned Stark’s death in Season 1:

Dead is dead. […] We would hope that after seeing the scene and the way it’s shot that the answer to that will be unambiguous in the minds of the people watching it. It should be pretty clear what happens in by the time you’re done seeing that scene. It’s not an, ‘Oh what just happened scene?’

Readers of George R.R. Martin’s books have been similarly left in darkness, as the final Jon Snow chapter of The Winds of Winter originated the Jon Snow stabbing sequence, which itself ended on the somewhat more ambiguous note of Jon passing out. We’ve heard a great deal of Martin attempting to distance his own work from that of the HBO adaptation, though Martin at least offered a much more hopeful take on Jon’s fate:

Oh, you think he’s dead, do you? My readers should know better than to take anything as gospel. […] If there’s one thing we know in A Song of Ice and Fire is that death is not necessarily permanent.

Should Weiss and Harington be staging a Khan-level fakeout (Harington also discussed taking work outside of GoT), any number of avenues might explain Jon Snow’s survival, or if need be, resurrection. On the one hand, Lady Melisandre had just returned to the Wall, seemingly in need of a new messiah, while we’ve plenty of Wights, White Walkers and Weirwood trees to remind us that dead isn’t necessarily dead. Leaked photos of Jon Snow’s fate from late last week also seemed to show the character’s eyes “Warg”-ing over, though it remains unclear if the twist was cut, or the photos otherwise doctored to mislead.

There’s no telling which way the pendulum swings, with the majority of Martin’s published books already adapted, and it may be a while yet before we learn the absolute truth of Jon Snow’s fate. Should Jon prove as integral to the endgame of the books as many fans believe, can the HBO series really endure without one of its most iconic leads?

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