At the end of the third episode of the sixth season of Game of Thrones, after hanging the culprits who tried to kill him, Jon Snow relieved himself from the Night's Watch.

How can he do so? One can say he did so because he was once dead, and hence his watch has ended, as mentioned as a loophole in this post. If that hypothesis is true, and his watch had ended right after he died, how could he sentence the conspirators to death as he does not belong in the Night's Watch now?

This question does not have an answer in Loopholes in the Night's Watch oath. It is linked with this question, but it does not give the answer one can expect for this question. The difference is that that question revolves on if Jon can leave the watch, while this question is asking If Jon is no longer part of the Watch, what power/right allows him to order the execution of his murderers?. Related but not dupes.

  • 4
    Interesting observation. Everyone assumes that 'his watch has ended' because of his death, but if so, he indeed stopped being the Lord Commander when he died, which means that he was not in a position to execute the traitors and that makes it more a personal revenge. Alternatively he 'resigned' later, but than, on what basis? Commented May 11, 2016 at 14:11
  • 1
    Chanadler, exactly! That is what my question is about. And @Skooba I have linked the question to this post... Commented May 11, 2016 at 14:19
  • 24
    Who is going to contradict anything said by a man who rose from the dead? Who has a fearsome direwolf? Who is regarded as a god by some?
    – BCdotWEB
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 14:22
  • 3
    @Todd Alliser had admitted it in the prior episode. A public confession means no trial needed.
    – cde
    Commented May 11, 2016 at 18:53
  • 8
    Note that the oath says "It shall not end until my death.", so not before death, but not necessarily immediately after it either. Also, whether Jon is the current or immediate-past Lord Commander doesn't really matter - In S01E01 Ned Stark sentences a deserter to death, so justice is not solely the domain of the Lord Commander anyway.
    – Wossname
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 0:59

5 Answers 5


For everyone but Jon...

...it doesn't really matter what the rules would strictly say about Jon's status:

  • Castle Black has just been, essentially, invaded by an army of wildlings and a giant. He's their chosen leader. It doesn't really matter if he orders the execution as Lord Commander or conqueror, the result is the same. The rules are as irrelevant at this moment as the fact King Robert wasn't the next in line to the throne when he put himself on it. Varys put it rather well:

    Power resides where men believe it resides

  • Alliser could have protested against this, but chooses not to because he still sees Jon as the Lord Commander, and accepts his defeat. From a transcript:

    Alliser: I had a choice, Lord Commander. Betray you or betray the Night's Watch. You brought an army of wildlings into our lands. An army of murderers and raiders. If I had to do it all over knowing where I'd end up, I pray I'd make the right choice again.

    Jon: I'm sure you would, Ser Alliser.

    Alliser: I fought, I lost. Now I rest. But you, Lord Snow, you'll be fighting their battles forever.

    Alliser is very absolute and black-and-white, not the type to quibble about interpretations. He'd probably rather hang than try to get off on a technicality.

  • As head steward, Bowen Marsh (the first of the four) would be the most likely to raise a technical objection - but strict conformity to the rules is clearly not his focus at this moment:

    You... you shouldn't be alive. It's not right.

    He's a bit too distracted by the whole "the man I murdered is back from the dead" thing to worry about whether the man he murdered is, technically speaking, overstepping his authority. It'd take a ballsy lawyer to say "You lost the authority to execute me when I murdered you!".

For Jon...

...it's hard to say whether this would bother him. He's always been someone torn between doing what the rules or honour say (e.g. not joining Robb's army), bending honour to do what he thinks is right (e.g. trying to assassinate Mance during negotiations), and just doing what he wants to do (e.g. Ygritte).

But we've got reason to expect undead Jon to be colder and harder than he was before, based on what Beric said about his own returns from the dead back in season 3:

Every time I come back, I'm a bit less. Pieces of you get chipped away.

Also, in the books:

It seems like the longer someone is dead, the colder they come back. A certain lady who was dead a rather long time, who had been rather compassionate, comes back distinctly stone-hearted... Beric was never dead longer than minutes I believe, this lady was dead for days; it stands to reason Jon would be somewhere between the two.

Jon was never entirely above bending the rules when it suited him, and a potentially vengeful undead Jon would seem to be even less likely to worry about such details.

The way he walks straight out with only the slimmest of attempts to justify himself...

My watch is ended

...is a pretty good indication that he worries less about such details. As is one of the very first things he says after coming back:

I did what I thought was right. And I got murdered for it.

Update from episode 4:

Regarding Jon's status at the Wall:

It's confirmed that there's disagreement and confusion about whether Jon is Lord Commander or not: a Brother delivers him a letter, addressing him as Lord Commander, and he hesitates, denies the title, but takes it anyway. There's also debate about whether his vows still apply.

Regarding Jon 2.0's personality compared to the original model:

Based on his conversation with Sansa, he seems to be more lost than vengeful, compared to his old self: possibly less purposeful and driven, rather than more. It certainly seems like he came back "a bit less", but not in the cold, grim, hard and wrathful way I had suspected based on the analogous character from the books.

  • 6
    TL;DR: Who's gonna stop him? Rules are just words if no one is going to put consequences to them.
    – jpmc26
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 8:51
  • 2
    +1. As for the spoiler section, I wonder if it's the amount of time, the condition of the body, or a combination of the two. Because the lady was lying dead in a river for days, while Jon was dead in a cold, dry environment.
    – kuhl
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 10:58
  • 5
    I'm not convinced the time before resurrection had even anything to do with her changed personality. Remember, she was victim of quite a heavy betrayal (dishonoring an ancient tradition), her husband and three sons were murdered (or so she thinks), 1 daughter presumed dead and the other captive, all because of 1 root enemy. One could go from kindhearted to vengeful slayer for less and she actually killed before dying.
    – KillianDS
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 12:24
  • 1
    @KillianDS that's a good point.
    – kuhl
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 15:20
  • I believe that letter was specifically for Jon Snow, and the person with it used the title out of habit (it might even have been addressed specifically to Lord Commander Jon Snow, but to Jon Snow, not as the person who happen to be Lord Commander, but as Jon Snow. It was the letter from Ramsay Bolton, right?). Commented Aug 9, 2017 at 19:29
  1. During the time Jon was dead, no elections where made thus no Lord Commander was elected.

  2. Jon is then considered the Lord Commander since he was before he died, just like he would have been if he was not killed but severely injured.

  3. Jon executes his last commands (Hang the traitors) as Lord Commander and steps down legally by stating that his watch has ended when he died.

Note: If anyone at the wall would have thought that death = end of watch, maybe at this moment when Jon was revived someone would have said something along the lines: "You died, you no longer serve the watch, you cannot give an order to execute traitors. We will elect a new Lord Commander and he will decide what to do with the traitors."

The simple answer is that Jon didn't lose his Lord Commander title. He simply ended his watch by stating the truth: He died and fulfilled his vows.

  • 3
    I agree with this. Dying released him from his oath. It didn't get him sacked. But having been released from his oath enabled him to effectively resign (after a quick bit of justice). Plus what user568458 said: the law is ultimately defined by what people are willing to enforce. See also: scifi.stackexchange.com/a/108414/1167 Commented May 13, 2016 at 13:54

The strength of the oath is only as strong as those that are willing to enforce it. The Night's Watch was already next to powerless when Jon Snow arrives. I would assume that the penalty for murdering Jon would have been death for those that participated, but the remaining brothers fall back under Alliser's control. Prior to Jon's return from death, they were preparing to kill more brothers who had done nothing more than being loyal to Jon. They are only stopped by the arrival the wildings. It's really the wildings that are holding the murderers prisoner. At worst they are giving the loyal brothers the strength to enforce the rules of the Watch. When Jon comes back to life, he may be acting in a way consistent with those of the Watch, but since he has the loyalty of the wilding army he can do anything they are willing to back. At the point he puts Edd in charge, there is really nothing left to the watch. They don't have the numbers to actually man the wall and couldn't actually stop the wildings or the white walkers. A common theme to GoT, is that power trumps honor. For Jon, doing the right thing is more important than honor.


We will just have to see what happens to Jon, now that he feels that "his watch has ended". There is no precedence for this in-universe. Even though, we did see that Stannis was willing to do that to gain support in the North.

As for being able to carry out the execution order...

Jon Snow was the Lord Commander before he was betrayed, since he is still alive, he would resume that position. Jon was only dead for 24-36 hours and Alliser Thorne was not elected Lord Commander in that time. He was only acting like he was, much like after Mormont's death earlier.

I think Tormund summed it up best when he said:

They think you are some kind of god.

Who is going to challenge Jon's orders? He was targeting those that did. The remaining Brothers are either on Jon's side to begin with, or (now with the return of Wun-Wun) to scared to rise against him.

  • 2
    If Jon Snow were to resume that position, then how could he relieve himself from the Night's Watch after that? Commented May 11, 2016 at 14:37
  • @SiddharthVenu - why wouldn't he? It's a simple "I quit this job". Since his oath is no longer in effect, he can quit whenever he wants.
    – Davor
    Commented May 12, 2016 at 11:13

It wouldn't really make a difference had he lived or died ...Lord Commander or not. They betrayed Jon and wanted to bestow death upon him. And did just that. And just the simple fact that he's gained loyal people for his courage...his loyalty and his honour amongst his men. Hence why they all wanted him to be KING. Their loyalty lied with Jon Snow. And that showed.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .