'Game of Thrones' star on that shocking death
Warning: This story contains a major spoiler about the Game of Thrones season 5 finale.
Et tu, Olly? The story of Jon Snow, the bastard of Winterfell, came to a heartbreaking and apparent conclusion on Sunday night’s Game of Thrones fifth season finale. From the moment of his arrival at Castle Black, Snow never quite fully bonded with the clan of criminals and outcasts sworn to defend The Wall. With each successive season, Snow’s relationship with his brothers in black has become more strained, especially once he brought an army of Wildlings through the gate in an effort to bolster their forces to better protect the realm from the threat of the White Walkers. Tonight, a gang of conspirators plunged their daggers into their Lord Commander, with Snow’s young steward Olly, whose family was slaughtered by Wildlings, delivering the final blow.
We spoke to star Kit Harington about this twist—and whether Snow is really dead.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your reaction when you learned Jon’s fate?
KIT HARINGTON: Like every season, you read something in the script and go, “Oh f–k.” I kind of knew it was coming. I didn’t read [George R.R. Martin’s novel] A Dance with Dragons. But I read the other books and I had heard this is what happens. So I had an inkling it should be this season. I didn’t realize it would be the final shot of the season and that made it extra special. It’s always kind of nice really when you’re the last thing that happens in that episode. I dunno, I loved it. I loved how they brought Olly in to be the person who kills me. I love how the storyline with Thorne was wrapped up. I think it was really well crafted by [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss]. It felt like the right way for it to happen.
Do you think Jon made significant mistakes, or did he do the right thing—but lost his life anyway?
There’s a huge amount of fault. He hasn’t paid attention to the people around him. He’s only looked at the big picture this season. His major fault is a bit like Ned’s in that when trying to do the right thing he wasn’t observing the people around him. He had blinders on. All he could really see is this impending doom by the White Walkers and doing things for the greater good, and what he was missing was Olly and [Ser Alliser] Thorne and some of the men around him. He wasn’t seeing their discontent and dealing with the smaller issues. And because of that, he’s served justice. Olly puts the last dagger in him. In that moment i think he realizes that he didn’t look after his kin, this young man, and let him down.
The Night’s Watch mutiny is definitely justified by the story. But we’ve also see his character grow and evolve as a leader over all these years and so it also just feels like all of that growth should pay off for something greater — more than the other characters we’ve seen die on the show. Obviously he’s accomplished plenty during his time at the Night’s Watch, bu there’s a feeling of, “that’s not what’s supposed to happen, he was destined for greater things.”
Yeah, but we have to go by what Thrones does. And Thrones treats drama as real life. And people die and don’t accomplish what we think they’re meant to in real life. And I think that’s one of the powerful things about Thrones. The major loss with Jon’s through-line is he never finds out who his mother is and that’s the heartbreaking thing for me.
Last year you said the one thing you really want is for your character to learn that.
And he doesn’t. So I don’t know. It’s really the way Thrones does things and I will be really interested to see the audience reaction. I hope it’s not, “F–k yes, thank f–k he’s dead.”
I think they’ll be heartbroken—even those who are like, “Tyrion is my favorite character” or whatnot. You cannot have watched this show, and watch your character grow all these years, and not feel gut-kicked over the way your arc plays out.
I hope that’s the case.
I was talking to Dan Weiss and he said Jon is really dead. But George R.R. Martin left open the possibility the character might not be dead in the books. And then that cast salary contract story came out last year and it had your name among those receiving raises for season six and an option on a seventh. So let me ask you: Is Jon really dead?
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.
What was your last day on set like?
I got a big wrap and, like any of the actors who die on Thrones, I just wanted to f–k off out of there— I got a tear in my eye. I was more moved and emotional than I thought I’d be.
Any parting gifts like Rose got with her bow and arrow?
No! Rose got a f–king bow and arrow and I didn’t get shit! So yeah, I’m definitely less popular than Rose.
What’s next for you?
I’m looking for movies for next year. I’m in a very lucky place—I can turn things down and do what I want to do. There’s a couple movies I’m looking at, but I can’t really talk about them yet. I might take a holiday. I might try writing. I’m trying to figure it out.
One thing actors get excited about after a long time on a show is they can change their appearance. Any plans to cut your hair?
I look like Jim Morrison right now. I don’t know what to do with it. I can cut it if I want, but it’s probably wise to leave long until I know what the next part is. I’ve kind of grown accustomed to it, it would feel weird to change it. [Note: Shortly after this interview was conducted, he cut it.]
What was your fondest memory looking back?
The end of last season. That whole battle sequence in episode nine, it was a great bonding experience for a lot of the cast like me and John [Bradley] and Mark [Stanley] and Rose Leslie—we had a great time shooting that episode. I think that was my favorite moment.
Any thoughts about how Thrones goes on after this?
You build up people’s expectations so high, how do you finish it? I don’t know how they’re going to finish Thrones, but I think I’ve gone out on a great season. I think they’ll have to end it with most epic f–k-all battle TV has ever seen.
EW’s mega-coverage of the Thrones season finale:
HBO's epic fantasy drama based on George R.R. Martin's novel series A Song of Ice and Fire.