Warning: Spoilers from the Game of Thrones finale are ahead. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
The ending of Game of Thrones surprisingly puts Jon Snow in the opposite direction of the Iron Throne (even though the Iron Throne doesn’t exist anymore). While we always thought there might be a chance for him to rule over King’s Landing and all of Westeros, that’s not in the cards for him anymore.
Instead, he’s still going to lead, but where is Jon Snow going to do so? Far away from the burning cities he’s left behind and far into the north. The series finale of Game of Thrones ends with Jon joining up with the wildings as they head beyond the wall and back into the forest, final destination essentially unknown. But there are some pieces to unpack.
Jon’s brooding facial features certainly show us that he’s not exactly excited to be doing this, but honestly, the more and more we think about it (and Jon thinks about it, too), this is clearly the perfect ending for him. He’s free from the lords and ladies of Westeros, and he’s now just one of the free folk, himself.
However, everyone back in King’s Landing believes this to be a punishment for the former King of the North. After Tyrion gives up his position as Hand of the Queen, and Daenerys Targaryen has him imprisoned, Jon goes to talk to the last remaining Lannister. There, Tyrion’s words about Dany ruling and destroying all those who oppose her finally hit home for Jon, as he realizes what he’s got to do to save everyone. In order to stop Dany, he has to kill her, which he does when he meets her in the throne room while they’re surveying the Iron Throne and the ash surrounding it.
This does not sit well with Grey Worm who imprisons Jon. But now, there’s no queen, so no one’s really sure who’s supposed to decide Jon Snow’s fate. While locked up, in a role reversal, Tyrion now comes to visit Jon and tells him, “"Releasing you to the Unsullied would start a war. Letting you walk free would start a war. So our new king [Bran] has chosen to send you to the Night's Watch."
It is certainly supposed to feel like a punishment, especially considering this is where Jon Snow started out at the very beginning of the series (talk about coming full circle). Jon even wonders why he’s going there — since the white walkers have been defeated, so is there even a need for a Night’s Watch at Castle Black? As Tyrion explains, they’re always going to need a place for broken men and bastards, and who better to lead them than a man who has dealt with both of those things?
Returning to Castle Black, Jon is greeted by Tormund and his direwolf Ghost — WHO YES HE FINALLY GETS TO PET — and after a quick reunion the three of them set off beyond the wall with the rest of the wildings. With one last fleeting look back at the wall behind him, Jon says goodbye to the North and Westeros.
Where is their destination? The beauty of it is that we don't actually know. Sure, we could say Jon might well find himself with Mance Rayder's old title as the King-Beyond-The-Wall. But, things like that are going to remain unanswered as the last we see of Jon he’s disappearing into the forest with the others. This banishment is very much supposed to be a punishment for Jon, but it’s really his version of a happy ending. He’s free of the pressure of not wanting to rule, and it feels incredibly fitting that he’s back with Ygritte’s people, since she was always his one true love (admit it, it’s true).
Game of Thrones might be over, but it’s clear Jon Snow’s story is not as the series leaves everything opened ended as to where he’s headed next. However, we’re unfortunately not going to see it anymore. But wherever he is, he’s alive and well, and Ghost is by his side.