New Jersey (USA)
#1 Movie of All-Time
#1 Movie Character
KING Of All Schmoes
Jon's story this season has been about his death. Not the death of his body, which lasted a few episodes and about a single day in the in-universe timeline. This season has been about the death of his spirit, a much more meaningful death than mere flesh. The death of his spirit stretched out with pieces of Jon being chipped away until he had no hope, only fear and despair. That despair comes to a head when Rickon dies in front of him, and its why he charged the Bolton lines all alone. He wasn't fooled or lured out. He was looking for an end.
'Battle of the Bastards' isn't a story about fighting to regain a home or a title. 'Battle of the Bastards' is the story of Jon's resurrection.
People who say that Jon hasn't noticeably changed by coming back from death have missed the change, because they expected the change to be for the better. Jon's behavior this season has been characterized by fear. Fear of death, certainly. But more than that is fear of not having a say in his own fate. Jon's life has mostly sucked for the past 5 years, and then he was murdered by his own men. That would make anybody afraid of the future, that all its going to be is more shit and misery. As he says to Sansa:
Jon: I'm tired of fighting. Its all I've done since I left Winterfell... I've fought, and I lost.
Jon shows that fear every time he is reminded that he can't control his own fate. When anybody mentions his death, he looks like a beaten dog. When Sansa wants to retake Winterfell, he wants nothing to do with it, and he only agrees to it when Sansa presses him with the knowledge that Ramsey has Rickon. Even when he agrees, he looks afraid, like he wants to be anywhere in the world other than where he is, or maybe be anybody other than who he is.
This leads to the discussions the night before the battle. In talking with Sansa its clear that Jon doesn't believe they'll win, but he doesn't have any other choice than to follow the path he is on.
Sansa: Its not enough!
Jon: No its not enough, its what we have!
This is followed by one of the most devastating exchanges I've ever seen on the show.
Sansa: I'm not going back there alive. Do you understand me?
Jon: I won't ever let him touch you again. I'll protect you, I promise.
Sansa: No one can protect me. No one can protect anyone.
Setting aside what this says about Sansa's state of mind, this exchange is devastating to Jon's state of mind. Protecting Sansa is the only task Jon has willingly embraced since dying. Jon is only at Winterfell because of Sansa and Rickon, and now Sansa has declared that he is powerless to do the one thing he wants to do: protect his family.
This declaration of Jon's powerlessness is followed by his conversation with Melisandre where he asks Mel not to bring him back if he dies. Thats Jon trying to gain power over at least one thing: the ability to have it all end for good, and not be forced back into the shit and misery again. Mel won't even give him that, because she has to try, and its up to the Lord of Light as to whether or not Jon is brought back.
Mel: Maybe he brought you here to die again.
Jon: What kind of god would do something like that?
Mel: The one we've got.
At this point, Jon has control over nothing. He can't protect his family, he's on the verge of a battle he never wanted, he doesn't have enough men to have any real control over whether they win or lose, and he can't even trust that death will bring it all to an end. His hope for the future is hanging on by a thread.
Then Ramsey lets Rickon run across the field. Forget all that "Jon is a Stark who is loyal to his family" stuff. This is much simpler. The only thing Jon is living for at this moment is to protect the two family members he can. One of them just denied that he can protect her. The other one is running across the field with arrows flying down. When Rickon starts running across the field, there is only one thing left for Jon: protect his little brother. He has no power, only the thread of hope that he can do that.
Rickon dies, and the screen darkens as the camera looks down at him from Jon's perspective. When Jon looks at Ramsey its not with anger but with despair. The gods keep pouring shit down on Jon, and spat in the face of the last bit of hope he had.
Thats why he charges. True, there were arrows coming down that he was trying to outrun, but they were being released in volleys; he could have tried turning around and escaping between volleys. But he wasn't trying to escape the arrows, or lead his men to victory, or kill Ramsey. He was charging as a challenge to the gods, either to keep him alive or let him die in peace. When his horse goes down, he thinks he has an answer: the gods didn't bring him there to magically pull out a victory, they really did bring him there just to die again. But at the very last second his own men catch up, and he has to fight.
As the battle progresses, he finds himself buried beneath the bodies, the metaphor of the gods pouring misery down on his head suddenly becoming literal. He could have stopped there, give up and suffocate beneath the weight. Thats what makes the 'rebirth' scene so powerful: he claws his way back out and declares that he wants to live. Even Kit Harington describes the scene this way:
“When the crush starts happening, he slows down, and there's that thing of peace where he thinks: 'I could just stay here and let it all end.’ "And then something drives him to fight up, and that moment when he comes up and grasps for breath, he is reborn again. . ."
After a season where Jon has wanted to run away, a season of fear and worry, a season where he has no control, he declares in the face of all of it that he still wants to live. This is followed almost immediately by defeat turning into victory, with the gods sending salvation in the form of saviors from the Vale. When Jon climbs over the bodies and stares down Ramsey, he has a look in his eyes he hasn't had all season, one that I don't think he's ever had on the show: the look of absolute intent, a man who knows what he wants and is about to go take it.
This season has been about Jon's death. First the death of his body. Then the death of his belief, and the death of his will. Then finally the death of his hope.
Only in the final minutes of 'Battle of the Bastards' has Jon truly returned to life, and now we'll finally see the change that everybody expected back when life returned to his body.
Jon always had the ice. Now he has the fire.