Of course, everyone is talking about the Jon Snow “resurrection” in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.”
However, let's approach the series twist from a Professional Screenwriter POV and ask this question -
Did the series show runners, David Benioff & D.B. Weiss (and of course the original writer of the books, George R.R. Martin) earn Jon Snow’s Resurrection?
Professional Screenwriters know that the word earn comes up during the development of a script or storyline in a TV Series or Theatrical Screenplay. It was once used more often by development executives or producers, but now writers frequently use the word when assessing the the quality of their storyline.
Here are some examples in the way earn (or earned) might be used in development notes on a script —
“I don’t feel like the main character earned the breakthrough in the murder investigation she was working on. I felt like everything she needed to know was handed to her by the snitch character… out of the blue.”
“We didn’t earn this supernatural plot twist to our story. There’s no way we laid enough pipe that the audience will accept, maybe even understand, that this was a possibility in our storyline. And our lack of credibility could cause us to lose a major part of our audience who will check out after this scene.”
“In the scenes where our main character connected emotionally with his wife, I couldn’t help but feel like the breakthrough wasn’t really earned. There was nothing the hero accomplished that would explain his mental leap to a better place. Nor do I believe he earned the wife’s sympathetic reaction. It all felt like I was reading something in the script because it was the place in the script for this to happen.”
Reading the above examples from development notes on scripts, we can see that earn is about setting up a plot beat/and/or/substantial character achievement within the screenplay that is consistent with great storytelling.
Another word I use when I’m evaluating the quality of a storyline is invest (funny how both words are also used in the financial world).
Here are some development notes built around the concept of the word invest (or invested) –
“I don’t think we’ve invested enough time in this character to have her turn out to be the lynchpin of the entire plot.”
“We need to invest more in setting this major left turn in the plot. As it stands now, this twist should be a surprise, but instead throws the audience out of the picture because it feels like it’s the beat from a different movie.”
“Let's consider investing more in the rules of our universe so the audience has no problem understanding that this could happen within the context of our story.”
I'll have more on both Earn and Invest in the next PS Book.
But now let's go back to my original question –
Did the brilliant filmmakers behind Game of Thrones earn Jon Snow’s Resurrection?
From the very beginning of the series, the show has had supernatural elements co-existing within a medieval/fantasy universe. Therefore, Jon Snow’s life after death, through the incantations of a witch, was not only a plausible plot twist, audiences that loved the character, prayed it would happen!
As a fan of the series I remember saying over the years that “I can’t believe they are investing so much time with the Melisandre character.” Last week, like the millions of other fans of the series, I was entertained by how the investment ended up paying off.