The Moment: Ygritte dies in Jon Snow’s arms
Setting the Scene: As Ygritte and her fellow wildlings storm Castle Black, she sees Jon Snow for the first time since they went their separate ways. Their chance meeting in the middle of the fierce battle has fatal consequences for Ygritte.
Why It’s Awesome: Ygritte brought out the best in Jon Snow—she was the fire to his ice. In the show (as well as in my experience with the books), Jon came alive during his time with Ygritte; she showed him how little he really knew about the world, she challenged him, and—most importantly—she made him happy. In that small moment when he sees her again before her death, we’re given a brief reminder that the fullest and most open Jon Snow smiles have been reserved for Ygritte.
However, Game of Thrones is no fairytale. In this story, the man and woman see each other again, but moments later the woman is killed by an arrow to her heart. The tonal shift from tentative reunion to heartbreaking farewell captured the spirit of grief and shock I felt in the book so well. On a show with so many relationships based on lies and power plays, Jon and Ygritte truly loved each other, and I was so happy to see their relationship’s final moments treated with the tenderness and sense of importance they deserved.
Ygritte’s final “You know nothing” served as a brutally sad parallel to happier times in their relationship, but it also served as a reminder that the Jon who first met Ygritte was a boy. She helped open his eyes to see the world in new ways and to see himself in ways he never would have known without her. Ygritte was so fundamentally important to Jon, and her death serves as a turning point for his character in the novels. It was wonderful to see Kit Harington play the scenes after her death with the gravitas necessary to depict that turning point onscreen.
Without giving too much away for those of you reading this who didn’t read the books, Ygritte’s death (and this whole battle) begins a huge arc for Jon. Her death is is the moment Jon grows from an unsure bastard boy into a man, a leader, who’s loved and lost. It’s Ygritte’s memory that Jon returns to in moments of doubt later in the series. Her death forced him to grow up—it turned him from the smiling young man we saw right before she was slain to the man with the weight of the world on his shoulders but also the weight of authority in his voice who emerges at the end of this episode.
Things are about to get really good with Jon Snow’s story, and I’m so excited to watch it happen. It was such a smart idea to devote the whole hour to Jon’s character arc and the events that forever shape it. Jon always felt like a character who just needed the right arc—the right moment—to make me care about him. This is that arc. This is that moment. And I’m more excited than ever to see Harrington play what’s coming for Jon after seeing the excellent way he developed Jon’s character in this episode.
Honorable Mentions: Sam and Jon talk about his time with Ygritte, Sam and Gilly kiss, Ghost is unleashed