He is dead, for sure, for now. No quick return to the land of the living for everyone’s favorite bastard, not according the Season 6 premiere at least. No, his resurrection will probably be a dish served cold, or better still frozen. (Pun intended!) Anything short of that would be too mellow and would be sorely at odds in the grimdark world of Game of Thrones. George R R Martin may not have invented the genre, but he is surely the man who has made it mainstream, with no small amount of help from HBO of course.
It must be somewhat of a reflection of the times we live in, that a show like GoT gets the kind of acclaim and adoration that it does. Make no mistake, it is an exquisite creation par excellence, unrivaled in terms of quality of production, casting, acting, directing and all the other creative aspects involved in the process. And no, this is not a mere prudish reaction against all those scenes with unprecedented levels (for TV) of gratuitous nudity, gore, torture and maiming, and rapes, and blood sacrifices.
It is just, something so much more of the mind of the viewer (or the reader, let us not forget those who were to be the original intended victims of GRRM’s work). The story just captivates us, takes us so close to the characters, and proceeds to rip them apart physically and psychologically, while we watch in helpless dismay. Just look at poor broken Theon/Reek, or the Stark girls. One blinded and a beggar, while the other is on the run from a psychopath husband, and one who makes us yearn for the return of King Joffrey at that. Yes, nothing good ever comes in grimdark, not even from the death of much reviled villains. (Someone worse is just around the corner.)
Take a good look at Jon Snow. Not at Kit Harrington’s looks and locks (!), but at Snow, the archetypal hero in a story that has no place for heroes. The old maxim, “you either die a hero or live long enough to become villain” goes all the way to the nth level here. There is no good and evil, well there is, but not of the Tolkien-esque level of dark and light. It is all varying shades of grey. Nominative determinism or not, there has been a certain level of purity to the actions of Jon Snow so far, despite his multiple betrayals. He is too good a hero to be just killed off, that would too nice. There is just too much potential for a trip down the dark side for young Snow.
In the hearts of a vast majority of GoT fandom, there has been a special affectation towards Draenerys Targaryen and Jon Snow. They are two strong individuals who have managed to stand out among an ensemble cast of memorable characters. Although there is no hope in grimdark heaven or hell of a “happily ever after” ending involving these two, there are no better characters to be pitted against each other on opposing fronts. If GoT is to climax in a grandiose climactic struggle befitting of its settings, a scarred (or frozen) Jon Snow shorn of his heroic trimmings and humanity, squaring off against the Mother of Dragons in a cataclysmic struggle would be one way of doing it.
But what do we know? Maybe the White Walkers won’t get to him. Maybe a blood sacrifice from Melisandre is Jon’s ticket to the land of mortals, at the cost of a few fragments of his humanity of course. Or maybe, just maybe, GRRM could spite us all just for the sake of it by keeping him in the land of dead for good! Only time will tell.