First things first: If you haven’t yet watched “Home,” Sunday’s episode of Game of Thrones, stop reading this right now, because we don’t want to spoil it for you.
For the past 11 months, fans of the HBO series have put forth all sorts of theories—some of them wishful, some of them solemn, and some of them just plain off-the-wall—about whether or not Kit Harington and, more importantly, Jon Snow, would be returning to the series for its sixth season (after he was brutally stabbed to death in the season five finale). And this past weekend, they finally got their answer: Jon Snow has been resurrected! Thanks to the witchy ways of Melisandre (though something tells us that’s one favor she’ll want to see repaid).
While much of the chatter in the past two days since the episode aired has been of the “OMG” and “WTF” variety, the episode’s director, Jeremy Podeswa (who was also at the helm of this season’s premiere episode, “The Red Woman”), sat down with The Hollywood Reporter to finally break the silence and dish on all the behind-the-scenes maneuverings that brought us to that final, climactic moment where Jon found his way back to the living. Here are seven things we learned from Podeswa’s interview.
1. THE SECRECY SURROUNDING THE EPISODE WAS “UNPRECENTED.”
For the better part of a year, fans have spent hours speculating about what might become of the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch. And given that insider info is at a premium these days (yes, dollars are exchanged for good TV intel), keeping the plot twist secret was vital to its success.
“It was kind of unprecedented,” Podeswa said of the lengths taken to ensure there were no leaks. “Really, we were all very aware that this would be the major spoiler of all time if it ever got out. Everybody was very concerned about retaining the mystery for the audience and giving people the opportunity to discover it for themselves, rather than having it leaked. I think that's ultimately what people want. As much as people were asking me and everybody else on the show constantly if Jon Snow is alive or dead, I think really in their heart of hearts they didn't actually want to know.”
2. BUILDING TENSION WAS THE DIRECTOR’S HARDEST JOB.
When asked about the toughest part of staging Snow’s resurrection scene, Podeswa said that it was really about “establishing the right amount of tension through the scene, so you really didn't know up until the last second which way it was going to go. That was the biggest thing, creating a sense of mystery and magic around the whole thing. We really wanted that scene to be very beautiful, but also fraught with tension.”
3. THE FILMMAKERS LOOKED TO REMBRANDT FOR INSPIRATION IN DESIGNING THE SCENE.
Podeswa and his team looked to the work of Rembrandt—specifically, his 1632 oil painting The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp—as a reference to guide the visuals of the scene. “It had a very rich, textual, moody atmospheric quality. I think we were all in that space for a long time for this scene—while we were shooting all the scenes involving Jon Snow's body, really, but particularly the one where he's resurrected. Even though you're filming something and it's all scripted, there's still a sense of ritual about it because you're filming a ritual. It has all these little details that you want to capture, and a very specific mood and tone. It felt like we were in the process of a little ritual while filming it, actually. And it feels like that when you're watching the scene, in a way.”
4. PLAYING DEAD ISN’T ALWAYS AN ENJOYABLE TASK FOR AN ACTOR.
“I think he played dead really well,” Podeswa said with a laugh of Harington’s purposefully lifeless performance. “The great thing about Kit is he's an incredibly good sport. Whatever is required, he's there, one hundred percent … It's obviously not the most exciting thing for an actor to play [dead], of course, but he knew it was part of the whole arc of what he was going to be doing this season, and he was completely game.”
5. PODESWA IS GLAD THE BIG REVEAL HAPPENED IN EPISODE TWO.
While the director can’t speak to whether resurrecting Jon was always planned to happen in the second episode, he—for one—is glad it did. Particularly from a storytelling standpoint. “I'm not sure if there was speculation on doing it earlier or later. For me, it felt like a great time for it to happen. There's so much in the first episode of the show, so to put [Jon's rebirth] on top of it would have been a lot. I think it extends the tension a little bit longer, too.”
6. MELISANDRE CUTTING JON’S HAIR WAS NOT A CHEEKY NOD TO THE FANS.
Many TV conspiracy theorists believed that the key to cracking Jon Snow’s fate was to obsess over Harington's hair in the off-season. So when Melisandre cut Jon’s hair in the resurrection scene as part of the ritual, some fans wondered whether it was a cheeky way of saying "you know nothing" to members of the Harington Hair Patrol. Podeswa doesn’t think so. “From a ritualistic aspect, all of these things are very important. I won't speak to any sort of magic ritual, but it seems to me that hair and other aspects of the body are all very organic to any kind of magic ritual, especially when trying to revive somebody—that seems like it would be a natural thing to do, whether it's Jon Snow or not.”
7. RESURRECTING A CHARACTER, AS OPPOSED TO KILLING HIM, DOESN'T MEAN THE SHOW IS GETTING SOFT.
If there’s one thing that Game of Thrones viewers know, it’s that no one—not even their favorite characters—is ever safe. Which, for some, is what made Jon’s resurrection almost more surprising than his murder. “I think that the tone is so well-established at this point already that anything can happen at any time to anyone,” Podeswa countered when asked whether Jon’s resurrection was indicative of a larger overall shift in the show’s direction. “I think this is a very particular thing involving a major, major character, but I think the show is already established. There's a world of options.” (For those who want more proof that the show isn't getting soft, just re-watch all of Ramsay Bolton's scenes.)
[h/t The Hollywood Reporter]