Jon Snow's Harsh Choice: "Play the game, or die like Ned Stark"

Jon Snow may have known nothing at the start of Game of Thrones, but he's learned a lot in the past three seasons. And Jon's in a tough spot as season four begins. When we caught up with actor Kit Harington, we asked him how Jon will regain the trust of his friends. We also talked to Esme Bianco, who played Ros.

Minor spoilers ahead, plus major spoilers for the first three seasons...

Here's our interview with Kit Harington:

So Jon Snow has just come back to the Night's Watch after he's gone over to the Wildlings for a season. The other Crows don't necessarily know that he was under orders to go undercover. How is he going to regain the trust of his comrades?


Yeah, that is his journey this season. His journey is to prove to the Night's Watch that he wasn't a Wildling, explain where he's been, and also get over his own feelings of betrayal towards the Wildlings that he did actually care for. So it's a really interesting — is dichotomy the right word? — a really interesting mix-up of feelings for him this season. And he's got to grow up and deal with it. I genuinely can't wait. It's the most challenging season I've done, but those are almost always the most fun to film.

When Ygritte comes back, how do you think that's going to play out? She filled you full of arrows. You have a lot of unfinished business.

She was pretty angry with me, yeah. And I kind of understand that. Jon essentially did betray her. And he betrayed his morals. But he had a different set of morals before he met her, and he stuck to those. So I don't know. It's going to be an interesting season for Jon and Ygritte. There is stuff in there, and it is... it's really a joy to read. I can't wait until you see it.

Jon betrays people, but he's also the only person who stays true to what he believes in.


He tries to. Whether he will forever, I don't know. But essentially the thing that I found very hard is that he said he wouldn't leave her, and then he did. So he has to deal with that next season.

There's a great scene where Jon first meets Mance Rayder, and he says the reason he wants to join the Wildling is because the Night's Watch has allied itself with Craster, who's giving his babies to monsters. And it seems like Jon Snow is sincerely troubled by the Night's Watch doing things like that. He's not just play-acting. Do you think he's been somewhat disillusioned about what the Night's Watch stands for?


Yeah, I think he realizes that not everything in this world is pure, and not everything in this world is simple. And as we grow with the story, we grow [in our understanding of] how this world works. And I think that's interesting to play with Jon: as he learns, you learn. And he knows the Night's Watch isn't simple. It's politics. And politics isn't clean. And he has to start playing the game. And that's what's great about George [R.R. Martin]'s writing. Eventually, everyone has to start playing the game. Otherwise, they'll die like Ned Stark.


Do you think we'll see Jon Snow stepping up into more of a leadership role this season?

He definitely develops, or starts to develop, qualities of leadership in this season. But who knows whether we'll get there or not?


And meanwhile, we also talked to Esme Bianco, who played the late lamented Ros. And she told us her biggest regret about Ros' death.


We were totally horrified by what happened to Ros. How far in advance did you know that was going to happen?
I knew when they sent the scripts in. So I knew about three months before we started filming. Um, and it was tough when I found out.

Did you think your character was going to have a great future as a spy?

Yeah, but at the same time, I kind of suspected. It's Game of Thrones, so I kind of knew it couldn't last forever. I knew at some stage she was going to go out. But I did not think Joffrey was going to be the one to do it.

You were one of the few characters who's not in the books, so anything could have happened.


Exactly! My future was completely unwritten, and then that little blond-haired [makes a face] came along and ruined it all.

It was interesting to see Ros interacting with Shae. Do you think they had a kind of comradeship, because they were both in similar situations?


Possibly. I always felt that, between Ros and Shae, there might have been a bit of jealousy going on, perhaps. But at the same time, that scene they had together was obviously about [the fact that] they're both coming from the same place, and they're both trying to make the best of their situation and work their way up in the world. And Shae is a character who's trying to do that, and — hopefully! — continues to do that for a while, and doesn't meet a sticky end. I don't know when her sticky end comes, I'm hoping it's not for a while. [Laughs]

Your character was the focal point of a lot of the scenes involving sex work in the show. How do you respond to all the criticisms of the gratuitous nudity and the use of sex for storytelling?


Well, it is what it is. At the end of the day, Game of Thrones is entertainment. I personally never felt the sex was gratuitous. I always felt it was part of the storyline. It was entertaining. And it's part of that world. That world is like, it's graphic. It's gritty. There's blood. There's sex. It's not clean. It's not safe. It's very realistic, and sex is part of that. That's what's goes on in the world. That's how we all got to be here. So I can see how people might be offended by it, but that's why HBO are amazing. They push boundaries and they don't take the safe option. So I'm kind of pleased to have been part of [taking] the risqué route. Why not? Someone's got to do it.

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